This was submitted to Nexus at Waikato University, for the Crime issue.

Nexus decided not to use it, oh well, too bad, here it is anyway.
2016 is a big year in my timeline, because the recently defunct TIB campaign has had a new lease of life.

I’m that occasionally grumpy woman some of you may have seen around campus last year, wearing an oversize black hoody with a bunch of text in white on the back of it, and “Thursdays in Black, demanding a world without rape and violence” in a small logo on the front.

When I first arrived on Waikato campus from Wellington, I was used to wearing my TIB hoody (or a t-shirt in summer) every Thursday, and thinking nothing of it – but in Hamilton, it was something that got me comments from strangers, who had literally never seen one before.

That was when I realised that the disappearance of the WRO position from WSU exec about a decade ago had meant that TIB had also vanished; around seven years earlier than the campaign folded in Wellington during the NZUSA presidency of Max Hardy, in 2011 (update: He says it was still going then, with help from NWRO Caitlyn Dunham. I stand corrected.) 

But there was definitely no merch by the end of trimester two, 2012. I knew when I moved up here that the stock of TIB merchandise at VUWSA had vanished (I had tried to buy another t-shirt before I left town), but it wasn’t until I looked up the NZUSA website in preparation for this story that I realised the campaign had been folded nationwide.

Backtracking a little: what is TIB, and where did it come from?

Thursdays in Black is coordinated by Tertiary Women NZ, a branch of NZUSA, and seeks to transform the policies, practices, and culture that perpetuate and normalise sexual violence. A little of the backstory has been told in launch events around campuses – Craccum, Salient, and the Otago Daily Times have all run stories during O-Week 2016 for the re-launch – basically, it began during an upswing in radical feminist activity that saw campus women’s groups re-started after a post-’70’s slump. Jan Logie was an early mover of the concept of a campus-backed rape crisis service, and Thursdays in Black was born.

The name harks back even earlier, referencing the ‘Mothers of the Disappeared’, women who paraded in the Plaza del Maya demanding information about the whereabouts of their missing family members, wearing black in mourning and anger. This was in Latin America during the 80’s, a very dangerous time for political dissenters in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.

By 2001, there was a regular presence on many campuses around NZ, with sales of t-shirts, singlet tops, hoodies, long-sleeved tees, and eventually even trucker caps making an appearance. Lunchtime stalls on Thursdays and O-week promotions kept women’s group members busy in term-time. My own personal involvement in the campaign in Wellington included at various times writing about what TIB means. 


In the past, merchandise was sold to help fund Wellington Independant Rape Crisis (WIRC), since around the mid-90’s; each campus around the country chose where they put the funds raised from TIB, so in other areas, survivor support NGO’s were assisted as available.

There were also gigs to support TIB, run as fundraisers during Women’s Festivals on campus, featuring among others Plum Green (goth/folk singer) & Anika Moa in 2006. That was also the year the White Ribbon campaign hit NZ, with a joint TIB/White Ribbon campaign event at the Southern Cross Tavern in Te Aro, Wellington, raising funds for WIRC.

White Ribbon was later picked up by Police National HQ under Commissioner Howard Broad, during the ‘damage control’ phase after the trial of then Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and his mates, former police officers Shipton and Schollum, for historical charges relating to rapes endured by Louise Nicholas. Rickards, Shipton & Schollum were acquitted; not so their colleague John Dewar, the investigating officer who was convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice later that same year, 2007. Shipton and Schollum were already convicted and serving time for another, more violent and brutal rape at Mt Maunganui, a fact of which the jury acquitting them was unaware.

TIB campaign was very popular in the wake of both the acquittals and the later conviction, as the public at large began to be aware of historical cases coming into the Rape Crisis networks all over NZ. Many women came forwards for the first time to disclose historical assaults, triggered by the media publicity surrounding the trial in Auckland.

Police attitudes have shifted markedly since that time – Louisa Nicholas now gives seminars and lectures at the NZ Police College, and has assisted production of guidelines for interviewing sexual assault victims, so that vital evidence is not lost by inept interviewing procedures.

The other big change in survivor support has been the acknowledgment of the extent to which men have been abused, either as children or adults, in contexts where rape has been used to control or coerce, such as prisons or long-stay mental health institutions. In the Waikato, Tokaanui Hospital in Te Awamutu was a site of child and youth mental health long-stay care, and stories are now being validated about abuse of minors in that facility by orderlies. There is an increased need for community services that help those who were not acknowledged as rape victims in the past, to enable them to come forwards and be supported. Some survivor support services were predicated around being ‘women only spaces’, and this is being complemented by services that cater to men and boys, either in the same service provider or through a separate service.

Thursdays in Black has a place in this journey to healing; firstly by simply bringing rape out into the open, by acknowledging the 1 in 4 women who will experience sexual assault at some point in their lives, and the approximately 1 in 7 men, and seeing this as a symptom of a society that has not historically given consent a high priority in our understanding of sexual relationships. It’s too easy to point to alcohol, to say it wouldn’t have happened if one or other was not drunk or drugged at the time, out on the town. The reality is that we have a rape culture, an acceptance that ‘boys will be boys’, and that women are seductive, flirty, encouraging attention, so “what’s the problem?” Getting beyond that rape culture was the point of ‘Slutwalk’ in 2012, challenging the victim-blaming narratives and placing blame and responsibility for their actions squarely on the shoulders of the rapists.

For every guy who says #notallmen there are women asking for consent to be discussed, and the various myths around how rape happens to be debunked.

Rapists target women they happen to find – it’s a predatory thing, not a woman ‘asking for it’ because she was walking around town, to the shops, going for a drink with mates, wearing a pretty dress on a night out.

We need, as a society, to get over this idea that men are ‘uncontrollable’ in the sight of a pretty woman; it’s just not a thing guys, so if you are tired of women being all defensive about this, then get used to saying to that one guy you know who is a bit of a dick when you’re out, “hey bro, she’s not interested, leave her alone”, when he pesters the living daylight a out of some intimidated young woman.

Since 2009 the National Government has reduced funding available to NGO’s dealing with Domestice Violence (DV) or survivor support groups like Rape Crisis, Women’s Refuge & Te Whare Rokiroki – so for many of these peer-to-peer support groups, staff have been reduced, or services limited to only a few days a week.

The latest Budget in May 2016 has further reduced funding to Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis and others, including the nascent Men’s Refuge developments, which have not got off the ground due to funding challenges.

New agencies have sprung up – Aviva is one such – in response to the changing funding environment.

In Hamilton, SAATS is the first responder (Sexual Assault Assessment Treatments Services), based in Anglesea Clinic in the CBD, and they liase closely with the Police, as well as running a 24-hour phoneline on 07 858 0800

This year, TIB merchandise is available  via NZUSA’s Thursdays in Black TradeMe page, and you will see students wearing these shirts on campuses all around the country. (So far, t-shirts in men’s and women’s sizes, made with organic non-toxic dye, printed in Wellington on fair trade certified t-shirts, text available in English or Te Reo.)


“Thursdays in Black Aotearoa” on FB and @ThursInBlackNZ on Instagram and Twitter post images from the campaign, and crowd-sourced selfies every week.

Tertiary Women NZ contacts: Izzy O’Neill, current National Women’s Rights Officer, nwro@students.org.nz

There’s a FB page, NZUSA Tertiary Women’s Focus Group, they tweet @_TWFG and can be found on http://www.students.org.nz/twfg

#TIB selfies can be posted to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to show your support for students’ right to safe campuses in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Check out Thursdays in Black , on Facebook here , or the merch On TradeMe here .

Today is very special for me. I’m a random tourist, doing some post-post-grad research in Dunedin currently, so I’ve been on Otago University campus a bit lately. Hocken Library is a national treasure, btw.

Today, OUSA Welfare exec Bryn Jenkins managed the Otago Uni re-launch of Thursdays in Black, the anti-violence campaign dating back to the 1990’s, formerly managed by the Tertiary Women’s Focus Group of NZUSA. It’s been in abeyance for a few years, due to funding shortfalls at NZUSA. Call that an outcome of the intersection between the incoming National Government in 2008, and the passing of the VSM legislation through Parliament, supported by ACT.

Violence, gendered and aimed at both biological sexes and most of the LGBTI+ spectrum, has not abated at the same rate as the funding to counter it. If anything, DV rates and alcohol-fuelled aggression have increased in proportion to the funding cuts announced in the devilish detail of every Bill English Budget since 2009.

I rant on about this stuff incessantly, offline and face-to-face with my feminist friends. I’ve written about issues around violence a lot. Seeing a fresh bunch of young people taking up the task of challenging NZ’s culture of violence inspires and energises me. 

There are many other initiatives out there as well – Shama in the Waikato, Shakti in Auckland & Wellington, to specifically address ethnic violence within their own cultures, youth support programs, Queer DV support networks; we need all of these groups. Getting TIB back up again on campus is a major win, though – because for many young people, this is their entry into thinking about consent, violence, social culture in NZ, the whole bowl of spaghetti.

  
Here’s Bryn, on the far right of the picture, with his fantastic vollie crew. Naww, aren’t they lovely!

White Ribbon Pledge

White Ribbon Pledge

I’m going to head off on a short rant about entitlement and privilege. Trigger warning, this one may ramble all over sexual assault, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and how completely fucked-up the media narratives around power and control are, to do with personal boundaries around women’s bodies and women’s lives. 

What set that off, you ask? Oh, #ponytailgate, Mike Hoskings in general, his comments about the blogpost Amanda Bailey wrote for TDB in particular, and a multitude of instances of male appropriation of the narratives around what women find offensive, whether that should be so, and why they (males) don’t think it’s all that much of a problem. 

Of course, if you happen to belong to the demographic of the 1-in-4 women who (across the whole-of-lifetime) has been sexually assaulted, not to mention the subset who have survived multiple assaults, by various predators, across the span of their lives, then you will find it pretty bloody disgusting that there are a large group of media people who minimise, deny, obfuscate and manipulate, to create the public opinion that says, ‘women who don’t take care of themselves adequately get abused’. The truth is that those 1-in-4 come from every walk of life, are mothers, daughters, wives, grannies, aunties… 

And sometimes, it’s a man you know, who was sexually abused as a child or teenager, who has grown up with fear, anxiety, shame, pain, who has ‘odd’ reactions to incongruous situations; because they are situations that trigger memories of abuse, and bring to the surface those fears of the abuse happening again. 

Our rates of reporting and conviction for sexual assaults (child or adult) are not great. The ‘best guess’ was about one in ten rapes of over-16-year-olds are reported. Child sexual assaults are under-reported, although reporting by medical surgeries who diagnose STD’s in children is increasing the reporting rates. Some areas have epidemic levels of medically-reported child abuse; CYFS and Police do not have the capacity to clear anything like the amount of historical cases, either. Neither do ACC, whose criteria for ‘sensitive claims’ casework has been revised after an avalanche of new cases, some involving abuse going back decades, have been reported in the wake of Clint Rickards’ trial and acquittal for abuse of Louise Nicholas in 2007. 

Meanwhile, abusers drift from town to town, sniffing out the vulnerable and manipulating their way into another situation they can take advantage of. Precarity of housing, jobs, and benefit access, mean that vulnerable people will be targeted by those who have no scruples, who will rip off and abuse where they can get any toehold. There is a growing pattern of elder abuse happening, as middle-aged abusers target their own families in scams set up after ‘moving home’ due to job loss or some other event that has made them temporarily homeless. 

Police are not keeping up with the sociology of abuse. ‘It’s not ok’ defines relationship abuse solely in terms of sexual-partner abuse. The abuse by a dominant adult ‘child’, or the bullying that happens in some flatting situations, is not on their radar; policy around Policing is still reliant on a mid-20th C family dynamic that assumes nuclear, heterosexual, monogamous families, and fails to address modern households comprising multiple generations, extended friends-and-family houses, the post-student-loans indebted 30-somethings who are still renting-with-friends to survive – all of these non-normative households are also sites of dispute, fraud, assault or violence on occasion, and the law has no real regard for the plaint of individuals whose lives do not fit the templates. 

Wait, how did I get here from ‘entitlement & privilege’? Heh. Because every abuser I’ve ever met (a long and inglorious list) has had one thing in common with all the others: an overwhelming sense of entitlement, a conviction deep inside that s/he deserves everything his/her heart desires, and the privilege of having had no wait for gratification of those desires imposed, ever. Dinner on the table, someone else to clean up the mess, and sex on-demand, livestreamed, no concerns about ‘consent being sexy’, because the only person who matters in these exchanges is the narcissist, the psychopath, him/herself. 

‘Femicide’ was the name I labelled a file in which I kept clippings of domestic violence related killings, for one traumatic twelve-month period. I had to give it up (it was research for a tentative writing project), because the sheer scale of the number of incidents overwhelmed me. Because so many of these events involved murder-suicides, there were constraints on reporting the crimes; thus, the stories sank quickly from view, and the general public, readers of media, fail to note the severity or frequency of domestic violence killings. 

A pony-tail pull seems infantile, innocuous by comparison with the previous paragraph; but the underlying principle is the same: unequal power, use of that imbalance to impose upon another person’s body without their consent, and the sense of entitlement that gives the abuser permission to deny any agency to the person being so abused, in the expression of the gratification of the abusers desires. It seems that ‘top-down’ change in the attitudes of the NZ male around abusive behaviour is not going to happen. 

Laydees, looks like it’s up to us to enact ‘bottom-up’, grassroots (or flaxroots, if you prefer) change, to break the power binary, to stop the abuse in our communities. Those who control the narratives (Police, media, politicians) are not doing enough to prevent abuse, nor to hold abusers to account. Now it’s our turn. 

Resource: Power and control wheel 

All of these headings, the segments on the wheel, are forms of abuse, behaviours used to control, manipulate, and break the spirit of a victim. To become a survivor, the victim has to escape the abuser. For some, this never happens; the period immediately after leaving the location of abuse (home, workplace, school) is often the time when the victim is most vulnerable to further abuse. The media court the ‘powerful’, and the narratives around ‘victim-blaming’, ‘slut-shaming’ and the like allow abusers to continue to perpetrate crimes by walking away from their abuses, and on to the next victim.

Feministy round-up for 2012

December 30, 2012

I’ve been a bit short on interwebz for a while, so not much posting here has been going on.
Thankfully, there are others who rant more than I do, who’ve been keeping their end up, so I’m gonna chuck a bunch of links atcha.
I’m too hot, it’s mid-summer, and I’m nowhere near a beach, but suffering from limited net-surfing capacity.
Sorry, there are no pictures today!

So, here’s some of the low-lights of this year for me, mostly from the last two months, in no particular order, and some linky-love to people I respect who write far more consistently than I do.

There was an appalling incident of gang-rape in India, reported on desultorily in NZ until it became mega worldwide, when the Herald finally published this. I have no words to describe this tragedy, other than it is appalling that such events happen, and the result is debate about whether laws need to be changed, in the face of huge popular demonstrations by women all over India. The time has come for Indians, whether Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or Christian, to come to an agreement that rape is not the fault of the victim, it is a crime by the rapist.

The Hand Mirror has been fighting fires with logic and reason, notably over the responses to the Sandy Hook mass murders. Autism has become a hot topic, when one would imagine gun control and a review of the ludicrous NRA-sponsored gun laws in the USA should be the concern. More here.

And still with THM, Stargazer had pertinent things to say about the apparent suicide of Jacintha Saldanha in the wake of an Aussie radio DJ’s prank. She also wrote a great post about harrassment women bloggers receive, referencing Anita Sarkeesian’s TED talk.

Not to be seen to be playing favourites, Luddite Journo has also had some good rants, here on consent, and here on Out in the Square. I’m missing Wellington already ….

ALRANZ blog has been busy chronicling activism in – wait for it – Invercargill, as the local fundies try to shame women and Doctors attending the clinic at Southland Hospital. Just to show that shallow thinking and illogical actions are not merely the province of ill-educated american fundamentalists. I applaud the gutsy women who are picketing in the face of right-to-lifers who can’t see the contradiction in terms between their stance on abortion and their stance on supporting women to have decent lives, with a capacity to feed the children they give birth to. *sigh*
I’d be slapping stupid faces by now, I’m just over the specious arguments …. which is really why it’s a good thing I’m not in Invercargill right now.

NORML protest poster 29 Oct

NORML protest poster 29 Oct

Billy McKee is facing four charges of selling small quantities of cannabis to an undercover policeman, and one of cultivating the plant. He is being sentenced 30th October at Palmerston North High Court.

So here’s the plan, we are arriving at Palmerston North High Court on 29th October by 4:00 pm for a public display of non-violent civil disobedience at 4:20 pm, we will then picket the courthouse until 8pm at which our overnight candlelight vigil will begin, devoted to Billy McKee and in solidarity with all medical cannabis users around NZ and the world.

From 10am on 30th October we will picket the courthouse and sit with him in the courtroom until he is sentenced and freed.

Everyone is encouraged to come along. We need to people to share this event and invite their friends, social media is a very powerful tool so let’s use it!

We are traveling from around the country to support Billy McKee, who is a medical cannabis user, amputee and director of GreenCross.org.nz

Recently Green party co-Leader Meteria Turei wrote a post on frogblog about Billy’s case – Billy McKee should be discharged.

Brooklynne opening the panel discussion and welcoming participants

Brooklynne opening the panel discussion and welcoming participants


St Andrews on the Terrace was the venue for an oversubscribed panel discussion (don’t worry, more chairs were poached from another room) on Friday evening, organised by Brooklynne Kennedy with help from many who attended.

The hall filled up very quickly, and after each panelist had spoken about their reasons for being part of the event, a lot of very interesting discussion ensued between panelists and audience members.

The panel comprised Brooklynne Kennedy, Nicole Skews, Joseph Hapgood and Griffin, and covered many aspects of the offense that Germain Greer, currently in Wellington for Writer’s and Readers’ week events, has caused to members of the Trans* community over the years. Feminists of many stripes attended and contributed to the discussion, as well as members of the trans* and intersex communities.

This is not the only event being held around issues of transphobia during the week, so if you missed this panel discussion, do try attending Gender Trouble, a Queer Avengers discussion group, to be held at Anvil House, Wakefield Street this Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm.

There’s a facebook event here, with info like a reading list of links if you’re keen.

March White Flag event.

March 5, 2012

It’s time for a monthly activism event for cannabis legalisation.

WHAT?
NORML White Flag Meeting

WHERE?
NZ Parliament Buildings
Molesworth Street
Wellington 6160
New Zealand

WHEN?
6th MARCH, 01:00pm at the Richard Sedden statue.
Assemble in front of Cenotaph at 12:45pm

WHY?
To demand the immediate release of Dakta Green from Mt Eden prison.
To highlight the Law Commission Report on the review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.
Also, continue to request compassion, and common sense cannabis law reform – and an Armistice to end the War on Drugs.

HOW?
We carry with us, the international symbol for peaceful dialogue – The White Flag.
We will walk from the Cenotaph at 01:00pm up to the Richard Sedden statue. Once there, we will pause for a One Minute Silence for the victims of the global War on Drugs.
Following that, will be a few words spoken regarding our actions, and our intentions for these meetings, with a reading of the letter, and then a photo or two..

NORML members, and also non-members are all welcome, a desire for sensible law reform is all that is required.

Le Matt Juste

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