Demonstrators participate in the #MeToo Survivors' March in Los Angeles in 2017. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

When will men start believing women?

A new survey of 1,025 New Zealand women found that 82% had experienced either sexual violence or harassment. Compelling evidence – but will men ever believe it, asks Emily Writes.

Content warning: This column describes instances of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

I read in resigned horror about Bauer Media’s survey of sexual violence against New Zealand women, which found that 82% of those polled had experienced sexual violence or harassment. Two thirds of them described the abuse as being of a physically aggressive nature. The results didn’t surprise me, but they did break my heart. I didn’t see statistics – I saw the faces of my friends, my sisters, my cousins, the little girls in my child’s class. It is devastating. I mean how could you read that headline and not feel pain?

Gosh, I guess I’m just very naive. Because pain was not what Stuff commenters felt while they sat red faced scratching their balls through their jorts, frothing at WIMMIN and FEMINAZIS who had clearly HACKED this poll in a nationwide campaign against all the Daves and Steves of the world.

Straight away, these helpful men shared their thoughts in the comments section. If you’d thought they’d be horrified by the stats you’d be wrong. They quibbled over whether cat-calling is abuse. They spent time on the Stats NZ website looking for reported sexual abuse rates. One comment that was actually published on Stuff, a national news website, said: “but please expect if out late in the wilds of town, where sexuality and hormones are burning like wild fires, that your going to get offers…surely as you are lovely…without offers what a loss of the night, the emptiness eh.”

Then there were those who needed to tell women that if they put their hand down a woman’s pants, or groped her breasts, that’s not THE SAME as a proper rape y’know? It’s not as bad. It’s not rape rape.

Oh the energy they spent, looking for ways to discount these women and their experiences.

If only they had that same vigour for actually stopping sexual abuse. It’s almost like it’s….misogyny?

What does it take to have men believe women? Video evidence doesn’t seem to be enough. Women who say they’ve been assaulted need to be dressed like a Gloriavale extra but even then that’s not enough because why did they hang around on the compound if they didn’t want it? They must remember every detail meticulously. Cry at the right time. Show trauma – but not too much trauma lest they’re viewed as crazy bitches who just want to ruin the lives of men. They need to be someone’s daughter, someone’s wife. Not a sex worker – someone with a respectable job according to John who is currently “between jobs” and spends his days commenting on Stuff. It must be violent; they must say NO in three different languages. But they can’t be in “town” or walking anywhere. Even then, did they say NO enough? Body language too? They must be stone-cold sober. If they’re nabbed off the street – even if they’re murdered – why were they out walking at 2am anyway?

This is identity politics, they say. Violence against women doesn’t really exist – it’s snowflakes, radical leftists, political correctness, dreaded hateful feminists who hate men (and if we did hate men, could you fucking blame us?)

Maybe he, sweaty Stuff commenter, doth protest too much. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on my own with a man who thinks sexual violence is an invention of the Labour Party. How convenient for them. I guess they’ll never have to look at their own behaviour if they view all of this as just a collective figment of the imagination of almost all women.

I asked some friends whether they thought the poll was true to their experiences of living as a cis or trans woman or non-binary person. If you’re a woman or gender minority the results won’t shock you.

*

This is bound to be a pretty good estimate of the scale of the problem. Given the high rates of gender violence at the more extreme end, the size of “less serious” harassment will be relative to that (there will be a drop off as the crimes become more serious). I had my vulva grabbed and prodded when I was 8 by a 16 year old in a public pool (twice), and have lost count of the times I had my arse pinched when I was doing my job as a waitress. See also my sister, and mother etc etc.  – heterosexual woman, 40

I absolutely think this survey is correct. I was sexually abused from age three to ten. It was only when I went for therapy with my ACC psychologist, that I realised what happened to me after I was raped on a night out when I was 22. My boundaries were so screwed up I didn’t know it was rape. – bi woman, 34

At my old workplace, Community Law, I heard many stories of rape, gang rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and the really shocking thing was that these stories often weren’t the reason women were at Community Law for help. They may have been looking for help with WINZ, or a landlord, or immigration, or the family court. Their stories, and their stats, aren’t recorded anywhere. – Anon

I was out drinking, drugged by two guys and raped back at my auntie’s apartment. The neighbours called the cops and I was so scared of being in trouble for the mess they had caused I never laid a complaint even though the policewoman with kind eyes asked many times. Never really identified it as ‘raped’ because I was so out of it, and I went with them ‘willingly’ and can only remember bits and pieces and my overwhelming feeling associated with it is shame. – Emily, 18

I was groomed, kissed and petted from 10-16 by a music teacher’s husband. A boy at high school grabbed my crotch. A random at uni grabbed my boobs. Nothing came of it for any of them (except I chucked a jug of beer on the uni guy). – Kirsty, 36

I was ‘groomed’ by several older men from the ages of 11 to 16-ish as part of church youth programmes, (they were ‘father figures’), and I was raped three months ago by my boyfriend. – Rachel

I think it’s true. I’m 32. I was first violently raped at 14, when I was still a virgin. Then again repeatedly from 16-18 during an abusive relationship. Then again at 24 after a bad date turned violent. – Jane, 32

I was groomed and inappropriately touched by an uncle from 10 to 15. He said he felt sorry for me, as I had protruding teeth and was not pretty. I left home on my 16th birthday because of him. – Anna

At 14 raped by my best friend’s boyfriend, later that week his sister came to my house to beat me up (unsuccessfully). At 21 I was raped by my first cousin. – cis woman, 34

I think this survey is very accurate. I was raped at a church camp, aged 16, by a youth group leader who (upon reflection) had been grooming me for quite some time. – Kate, 47

I was repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted by a cousin from the ages of three to nine. It stopped at the age of nine when he was convicted of sexually assaulting another family member and sent away to a reform house of some sort as his punishment. When I was 20, I was drugged and raped by a guy I went out on a date with – I found this experience more horrific than what happened to me as a child. Also coerced into having sex when I was married to my ex-husband; it got to the point that I didn’t physically resist when he wanted sex after he punched me in the eye one time when I tried to get away. I now have a traumatic cataract in that eye. – Celia, 34, bi cis woman

I hear stories of sexual assault and rape maybe twice a week in my work with high school students. The prevalence is horrifying but I’m no longer shocked. Those stats seem all too accurate. – Louisa, 39, cis het woman

When I was a very naive and inexperienced 18 year old (with both sex and alcohol and life for that matter), I was ‘taken advantage of’ (such a euphemism) while drunk by a much older and trusted family member (not blood relative). – Elle, 42

I was sexually assaulted by another teen boy at 16. – Leigh, 32

I was groped and raped, repeatedly, throughout my marriage. – Linda, 49, cis het woman

When I was 26 I was raped by a man I knew and had invited into my home because he was my teacher and I trusted him. I have only just told my husband this. You are the first other people. Add in three years of sexual abuse as a child. All the usual sexual harassment that every young woman goes through. I resigned from my first job because my boss was harassing me but there weren’t words for that in 1985. After this I got fat. That protected me a bit. – Chris, 55, cis het woman

*

Now, imagine if men read these and were horrified, What would the world look like then? What if they believed women? What if they were so disgusted by the behaviour of their fellow men that they were called into immediate action and marched on the street for change, for protection of women?

I guess we will just have to imagine. Because I have no faith it will happen.


The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.

Sign up now


Related:


The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.