Radio shows, judges and a sexist society

Issue 

2DayFM's Kyle and Jackie O radio show hooked up a 14-year-old girl to a lie detector, as part of a competition to win tickets to a concert, on July 29. When the girl was asked whether she'd ever had sex, she revealed that she had been raped when she was 12.

Listeners heard the girl say that she felt scared at the start of the interview. It was clear she didn't want to be there and she only admitted to being raped because she felt she had no choice.

Although it was her mother asking the questions, it was the radio station that set it up. Regardless of whether the station knew about the rape, its purpose was to senationalise young people's experiences with sex and drugs.

More outrage was caused by Kyle Sandilands's unconcerned response immediately afterwards when he said: "Right, so is that the only experience you've had?" Sandilands has now been sacked from his job hosting Australian Idol, and the Kyle and Jackie O show has been taken off air until a review has been done.

Yet despite advertiser threats to pull dollars out of the station, 2DayFM owners Austereo announced the show would be back on August 17, said the August 8 Sydney Morning Herald.

Sandilands's response emphasises how rape is often treated in our society as trivial, instead of the aggressive sexual assault it is.

Like other kinds of violence against women, rape is often hidden or ignored and when it does become public it is often the victim who is blamed for the abuse.

This same attitude was also shown recently when two judges spoke out about what they saw as unfair sentences they had to give in two separate rape cases.

Adelaide judge David Smith deferred sentencing a man for rape on July 22. Smith described the assault as a "technical" rape — even though the man pleaded guilty.

Smith said the rape was "technical" because, although the woman was unconscious while the man raped her, she had consented to sex before she passed out.

Angela Kamper pointed out how insulting this was to the rape victim in the July 24 Daily Telegraph: "Using the term 'technical' implies she was a robot and didn't know what was going on, so it didn't really happen.

"It implies she woke up the next day with nothing more than a hangover. The shock and disbelief, the nightmares, the shame, the belief you could never trust someone again, are just a few of the issues a victim of rape can face after the event."

However, the South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson publicly endorsed the judge's decision as "sensible".

In the same week, in Tasmania a teenage girl, who had stayed overnight at the house of an older male friend, pretended to be asleep when the man climbed into bed and raped her; he only stopped when she eventually hit him.

Sentencing judge Chief Justice Ewan Crawford also questioned the seriousness of this rape.

In these cases it seems the men thought it was acceptable to have sex with women who hadn't consented or weren't able to consent. By presenting the rapes as though they weren't serious offences, the two judges reinforce these sexist attitudes.

A study into the sexual health of Australian teenagers released on August 4 reveals that 32% of respondents, mainly girls, had experienced unwanted sex.

The two most common explanations were pressure from a partner and being taken advantage of while drunk. The study by the Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society said the number of sexual assaults had risen since the last survey seven years ago.

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