And you thought we'd moved on as a society...
I'm sure that most people are by now aware of the court case concerning a former student of TARA, an expensive all-girls Anglican school in Parramatta. The student in question claimed that she was gang-raped in Italy during a school excursion* in 2001, and that the school treated her in a less than christianly manner. Initially accusing her of making the story up to avoid punishment for breaking curfew, they then made her pay for a dose of the morning-after pill, and the taxi to the airport, from where she was sent immediately home. She was accused of leading the attackers on, and forced to sign a statement to the school saying that the incident was consensual. This was also the story that her parents were told.
The girl decided, with the support of her parents, to take the school to the district court, in a civil action, for dereliction of its' duty of care, and claiming that she now suffered from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Obviously having been through the most harrowing incident, the decision to take the matter to court was not made lightly. So how did counsel for the school, who's vision is "Education grounded in Christ's Teaching", try to discredit the plaintiffs' case?
By suggesting that because she was photographed, by a private investigator hired by or at least authorised by the school, that she couldn't have any problems
Cross-examining the teenager, Ian Harrison, QC, showed her a series of photographs, including one that he said showed her apparently "relaxed" while "in a public place". Questioning her claim that the rape had left her with low self-esteem, he said that "to sit on a bar stool ... with a skirt as short as that takes a lot of confidence".
"You weren't embarrassed by the attention it might attract?"
She replied: "It's not about confidence. It's about wanting to look like everyone else when I go out. On the outside I try and look like nothing has changed ... no one knows what happened."
He then produced a video of the girl drinking alone in the Lansdowne Hotel. Which proved what, exactly? And then went on to try and attack her for having had the audacity to carry a condom with her on the trip to Italy.
Mr Harrison asked her to explain why she had a condom in her wallet during the trip to Italy. She said it had been in her wallet before the trip. He asked her if she took it to Italy because she thought she might have sex. "Yes, but it wasn't likely," she said.
"If I had of chosen to have consensual sex then I would have had it to protect myself." (from SMH.com.au)
This made me just unbelievably mad when I read this - surely as a society we are beyond the stage of trying to portray women as "asking for it". Women (and men) have the right to wear what they want, act how they want, and not to get hassled or assaulted for it. In a civilized society we allow people the freedom to wear what they choose. No still means no. Rape is still a crime.
So was Ian Harrison, QC (does QC stand for Quivering C?) acting on the direction of his client, or just freestyling? Were these his own personal opinions, or is he merely a good lawyer / actor / attack dog? This line of questioning is so far out of line in today's society, that I can only think of one possible explanation:
*puts Ian Harrison, QC, in the witness box*
Mr Harrison, I put it to you that you work in the legal profession?
Yes, I do undertake the practice of....
Mr Harrison, just a yes or no will suffice, thank you very much
Mr Harrison, I put it to you that many members of your profession have a predilection to getting on the turps
Yes, but I
Just yes will be fine. Now I put it to you that at the time of your atrocious questioning of the previous witness, you were actually so drunk that you had no idea what you were saying. You were mouthing off mindlessly.
Come on Ian, fess up. The Law Society is happy to take Jeff back after he gets treatment. You might be able to be rehabilitated successfully as well. But remember, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
The good news is the school settled once it was named. Funny how they seem to care a lot more for their reputation than the welfare of their students.
* how come our school excursions were to places like Lane Cove instead of Italy?? The price of a public education I guess.