Attitude change to sexual violence needed, council says

The National Council of Women of New Zealand says the commentary around Malaysian diplomat Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail’s assault on Tania Billingsley should be a wakeup call for New Zealanders to change their attitudes to violence.

National President Rae Duff says several commentators criticised Tania, who spoke out after details of her case became public and made into a political football by others.

The comments that she led her victim on are part of our culture of victim blaming. Claims that by speaking out she exploited her misfortune and didn’t act in a way that was expected of a victim show a stereotype around how victims should behave.

“We see victim blaming occurring all the time and it needs to stop. The criticism that victims attract contributes to the alarmingly low rate of reporting of sexual violence. The latest Ministry of Justice Crime and Safety Survey showed only 7-9 per cent of offences against adults are reported to Police. Match this low rate with our disturbingly high incidence of violence against women and New Zealand has a problem no-one should ignore.

“Anyone who makes jokes about rape or assault or comments around what women should and shouldn’t do to avoid being attacked need to stop. We need to put the focus on changing our culture towards women which currently leads to many men hurting women. We ask people to consider their public and private comments in the wake of today’s sentencing.

“A silver lining in the publicity around this case is hopefully an opportunity for people to discuss the issue. Given our high rates of violence we are concerned New Zealanders are becoming immune to ‘just another case’ of domestic or sexual violence.”

“We wish Tania strength in her recovery from this assault. We commend her bravery and dignity through and after the terrible event she experienced.”

ENDS

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