Trigger warning: This article deals with the topics of sexual assault and rape.
Scott Morrison has put his foot in it, which likely comes as no surprise to the women of Australia. Especially to those who have been disclosing their sexual assault stories to one another, practising self-care in these triggering news times.
What’s happened? Morrison claimed during a nationally televised press conference, that News Corp was handling a complaint about a woman being harassed in a female toilet.
The problem? One, News Corp claims nothing of the sort happened. Two, he used the non-existent accusation to deflect from a question about the toxic workplace culture apparent in Parliament House — something many people claimed is “weaponising” assault claims. Three? If that claim were to be true, he has no right to air allegations on a nationally televised broadcast.
Following the immediate backlash, the Prime Minister apologised via Facebook. Only it’s really beginning to ring false.
Out of parliament recently — and specifically, the Coalition government — there’s been allegations of staffers committing “lewd” acts inside Parliament House — one allegedly on the desk of a female Liberal MP.
With the historic sexual assault allegations against Christian Porter, Scott Morrison rejected calls for an independent inquiry against these allegations; he did not seek solicitor legal advice from the government’s most senior independent lawyer before doing so.
Also, he can apparently only empathise with a rape allegation if he has female figures in his life — seen with how he handled Brittany Higgin’s accusation, invoking his wife and daughters. Who knows how he would’ve handled it if he was divorced or widowed, or had sons.
Someone in his inner circle is going to have to tell him that women deserve dignity and safety regardless of whether or not he contributed to the procreation of them. People need to realise that having a daughter isn’t a one-way ticket to understanding that rape is bad.
Grace Tame, sexual assault and grooming survivor, as well as Australian of the Year, also criticised Scott Morrison for his comments, saying, “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience. And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.
And in yet another comment he made about women and their safety — or lack thereof — Morrison said in reference to March 4 Justice, a protest against the sexual abuse and harassment of women, that, “Not far from here, such marches, even now are being met with bullets, but not here in this country.”
The thing is, Morrison isn’t the only one who thinks like this, talks like this, speaks out of turn like this — who doesn’t believe women (or needs to be convinced to). Even though, as we’ve discussed, one in five Australian women experience sexual violence, two in five Australians surveyed say women make up false reports of sexual assault — in order to punish men.
95% of sexual assault allegations are true, according to empirical evidence. Evidence also shows that incidences of rape and sexual abuse are significantly underreported, under prosecuted and under convicted.
According to an investigation from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, out of the 180,000 Australians who experienced sexual violence between 2016-17, only 9-14% reported the crime to the police — and for 80% of victims, the investigation was either discontinues or remained ongoing.
At the end of the day, “sexual assault remains one of the most difficult crimes to successfully prosecute.” As the Australian Institute of Family Violence said in partnership with the Victorian Police, “The criminal justice system can be a difficult, stressful, expensive and time-consuming process.” In addition to this, it “requires victims to expose themselves to police and public scrutiny, and potential cross-examination.”
And when the Prime Minister of the country openly disbelieves, scrutinises, can’t empathise and then congratulates himself for not shooting us down — it’s no surprise women don’t come forward.