Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, here or elsewhere. Mostly because I’ve been out of energy, but there have been some pretty interesting things going on.
You will have heard of the Roast Busters – the young men who used a Facebook page to upload videos of themselves talking about raping and gang-raping young women, some as young as 13. The issue has generated a lot of feeling in the community, and there has been a lot written about the issue. It wasn’t just the crimes themselves, but the surrounding factors around police inaction, media coverage, and a real in-depth look into the culture that allows such events to happen.
I haven’t seen such a strong expression of anger against the whole justice system and the culture which allowed these events to continue to happen over a period of 4 years. There were demonstrations across the country on November 16, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the organising committee for the Hamilton march.
There was a strong sense amongst the people involved that we wanted to focus on the wider issues, rather than just this particular case of young men in one part of the country. And there are so many issues around victim-blaming, images of women in the media & pornography, a societal willingness to excuse or minimise the actions of rapists. But we decided that it was more important to focus on one particular issue, so that the message was more effective.
That’s why the Hamilton march was called the “Campaign for Consent”, with a focus on positive, active consent as part of sexual engagement. And we wanted to reinforce the message that clothing, alcohol or any other form of incapacity was not a measure of consent.
I was really heartened by the response in Hamilton. There were so many people who wanted to be involved, who offered to help out. We had a lovely banner-making session at the Trade Union Centre, we had a big banner at the march where people could write their own messages. We had a silent, candle-lit march to the police station, where we were met by Detective Inspector Rob McKay. The march ended on such a positive note. But we know that the work is yet to be done.
That’s why, in Hamilton, we are following up with a public meeting on 10 December, at the Hamilton City Council Reception Lounge, starting at 7pm. We have some wonderful speakers, including Louise Nicholas & Dr Neville Robertson, and Catherine O’Kelly from the Rape & Sexual Abuse Healing Centre. We hope to have an open forum as well, and I am a bit nervous about this because feelings do run high on these issues. There are many people who are hurting in our community because of sexual violence and abuse. I’d really recommend the website iamsomeonenz, where people have documented their own stories – but with a huge warning. It is difficult reading.
So, the march and the public meeting have been keeping me busy, but in a good way. It feels pretty rewarding to be taking action on this issue, at a time when there is considerable public momentum supporting change. The 3 things I have been focusing on as part of the campaign are:
- improvements to the justice system so that victims have access to justice without being traumatised further
- education, particularly targeted at young men & delivered via secondary schools, which focuses on the notion of active & positive consent
- increased funding for organisations which provide support services for victims of sexual violence & abuse.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing I’ve been busy with! Work continues with the ECE centre at our local mosque, and it’s a big project. Also, we are going through a pretty thorough assessment at Shama (Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre), which will hopefully help us to move forward in a positive way, and grow our services.
I attended the Muslim World Forum this last weekend, and the keynote speakers were particularly good. Both Irfan Yusuf & Ali Ikram gave us alot to think about, particularly when it comes to issues of identity and the creation of a uniquely local Muslim identity. You can read Ali’s speech here.
The next month is looking pretty busy with all the usual end of year functions, but plenty of other things as well. But I am looking forward to a break at year end.