Sunday, 2 November 2014

Rape Culture // Investigative Journalism

Anneké was just nineteen years old when she first became a victim of sexual violence and rape culture.

A final night out in Thailand to celebrate new friendships and fun rapidly turned into a nightmare; Anneké had been separated from her group at a tourist-populated club when she met two Canadian backpackers.

The men, who at first appeared genuinely friendly, had spiked her drink and insisted they knew where her friends had gone.

As Anneké began following the men throughout the club, towards where she hoped her hostel friends would be, she began to see signs of trouble; the dizziness and faint feelings she was experiencing clued her in on the poison in her drink.

The men were insistent that they were taking Anneké to her friends, but as they climbed the stairs of the club higher and higher and shoved Anneké into an office-like space, she really knew she was in trouble.

"I felt like I was going to collapse as we moved through the club... the two men pushed me into a room and I hit my head on the desk: I got knocked out.

And then I woke up, with one of the guys standing on both of my arms and the other guy was... raping me", says Anneké. 

Women Against Violence Against Women define rape culture as, "the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalised male sexual violence".

"Rape culture is all around us, including in mainstream media, music, institutions, schools, language, popular culture and religion", says Michelle Dang, a community educator from Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre (BRISSC).

"We know that women are constantly bombarded with message that they are responsible for being assaulted, that they somehow brought it upon themselves, provoked men into assaulting them or should not have placed themselves in a situation where the assault is likely to happen... Women have to constantly monitor what they say and do in rape culture; their freedom is restricted because they know they can be easily shut down and ostracised for speaking up", Michelle says.

Anneké came out of her ordeal with a broken wrist and ribs, and soon realised she was a victim of such culture the following day when she sought help from a doctor at the airport; "When I went to the doctor, he called the Thai police... the police were speaking English very fluently, asking if I had had money stolen or anything of the sort.. when I declined and began telling them about being raped, they pretended they didn't speak English and didn't want to deal with it".

Living Well is an organisation that caters and offers support to men who have become victims of sexual violence; Cate Harvey, a counselor for the organisation urges more communication and discussion about sexual assault and the culture that surrounds the victims. 

Cate argues that this culture needs to be dismantled and that change needs to happen in order for victims of sexual violence to come forward and seek support; "It's really important to have these conversations, and that people converse on a variety of different platforms in a variety of different places; ask questions, approach services and create more awareness of rape culture and sexual violence".

Katrina Weeks, from the Centre Against Sexual Violence (CASV), says that one of the major effect of rape culture is that survivors will often not seek help and that victims often blame themselves; "A myth often portrayed in the media is that only dirty old men who are strangers are the perpetrators; this makes it very hard to make sense of it if the perpetrator is your boyfriend, or a cousin who is 18 years old".

"Rape culture often silences those people who would speak out, it stops people from being good bystanders... Part of the work I do in schools around preventing sexual abuse includes trying to empower men to stand up to abuse when they see it happening", says Katrina. 

Anna is another victim of sexual violence, and can recall moments throughout her childhood where a family member sexually abused her; she became a victim of rape at 18 years old when she went to meet a friend at a local bar.

"I hadn't been drinking as I was planning on driving home and within the hour of meeting him I was gagged and being dragged back to his family home", Anna explains.

"I was completely dehumanised for hours on end by physical, sexual and verbal abuse... I was tied up and he eventually pulled a knife; I thought he was going to stab me, but instead he cut the duct tape and ropes and raped me", she says.

As a result of the abuse Anna has suffered throughout her life, she now endures a plethora of disorders such as DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder), and C-PTSD (Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

"I've had psychologists ask me what I was wearing, and police asked me if I was drunk... as if that excuses how I was treated", says Anna, whose ordeal affects her in every aspect of her everyday life.

Anneké, who is now 20, has received support from her best friend and partner; she still struggles, but is happy at her job as a chef at a popular South Bank bar; "My best friend and boyfriends have been so supportive... there are still days where I'm sad for no reason and it always relates back to that... but I'm coping", she says.

Michelle believes that Australia needs to think more critically about its ideas of gender, gender roles and what masculinity and femininity means in order to dismantle the current existing rape culture, "Challenging this culture can be done through many ways; challenging sexist, misogynist and patriarchal languages and attitudes is important; we need to create an alternative, a culture that is about respect and consent... We need to stop monitoring and controlling how people want to live their lives and we need to collectively take responsibility for looking after each other". 

** This story was undertaken by me as my final piece of assessment for my Investigative Journalism course at uni; I conducted a series of interviews and had to create a data visualisation and write a story on 'Human Tragedy'. 


  1. Those statistics are terrifying

  2. An extremely powerful article Tayla! I loved that quote by Michelle ; 'We need to create an alternative, a culture that is about respect and consent'. And that table at the end is really impacting.
    If you don't mind, I'd like to share an incident that previously occurred with me:
    I recently attended one of my church's Sunday services. The majority of the mass was great. However towards the end of the mass (the weekly announcements), the pastor pulled out a bad of beautifully crafted, aqua blue, silk scarves that had the image of the Virgin Marry embossed on them. This otherwise knowledgeable and open minded Christian pastor informed the church that summer is upon us and because of such, we have begun to wear less clothing. To my utter shock, he went on to imply that these scarves were for the congregation, and I quote "Especially, especially for the women" end quote, to use cover too much revealing skin. Now as a I strong (yet still growing) believing and practicing Christian, who reads the bible and is familiar with this traditions of this particular church, I have never came across such a topic or notion of sorts; that a women must 'cover up' in order to show respect. If I women (or man) willingly wants to cover up parts of their body in order to humble themselves for a religion (like in Islam) or other reasons, I have no, and I repeat, no problem with that (nor do I really have a I say in it for it is their own decision). However to force something like a nonexistent, so called 'religious dress code' is completely out of place. To me, this event was just a reminder of how integrated rape culture is.
    I remember at the time trying so hard to contain my frustration (which I now regret) and trying to justify to myself that this form thinking hasn't plagued everyone. That is when I look to the countless men and women (like yourself) speaking out and wanting to make a difference.
    So thank you!
    (my apologies for the long nature of this comment)

    1. Thank you very much Paul! I loved that comment too; I had so many wonderful people help me out for this story, I wish I didn't have a word limit and that I could include them all!

      Thank you for sharing that Paul; like yourself I am genuinely shocked at the pastors actions. Once again, I agree with you- I have no problem with people CHOOSING to cover themselves up (whether that be religion or personal beliefs/likes), but then it's implied a female should be forced to cover up.... that's when we have an issue.
      I love reading your comments Paul! hahaha they're always great! :)

  3. Very good article! As a feminist, I'm always looking at these kind of posts and I can't believe people in this day and age can treat a woman with such lack of respect. I'm aware it happens to men too (on much rarer occasions) - I don't understand how people can be so horrible and disgusting!
    alicekatex ♥

    1. I completely agree! That is one thing Cate Harvey discussed with me, that it DOES happen to men and we need people to start accepting that it does and can affect men the same ways it does women. Lots of women and med are too scared and embarrassed to speak up about assault. Imagine if every single person who was assaulted spoke up... I wonder what the statistics would look like then!