I have been intending to write an article about the speaker this week, mainly because everything seems to have gone quiet on his accusations of rape against a parliamentary staffer. It both amazes and frightens me the way no one in this government ever seems to be held to account, even in cases where lives are damaged or destroyed.
You will all remember the Young Labour camp last year where there were accusations of actual sexual assault. No one was held to account for that, and the perpetrator still has the shield of anonymity. There is also anonymity in this case; Mallard accused an unnamed man of rape when it turns out that all he was guilty of was an apparently unwanted hug.
I am writing about this because no one in the media seems to be doing so… even though Barry Soper interviewed the man in question and clearly had some sympathy for him. Let’s recap what Soper said at the time.
The man stood down from Parliament after Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape says he feels bullied out of the building and wants an apology for what he described as the Speaker’s “slanderous” comments.
They are slanderous all right, and totally unjustified. I can only assume Mallard got the wrong end of the stick here and sympathised with the complainant, even though he was not in possession of the full facts. To claim a hug is rape though is off the planet. No one can ever hug anyone again without risking being subjected to a similar claim. This is the world we live in now.
He was stood down after the publication of last week’s Francis report into bullying and harassment in the Beehive, which revealed three serious allegations of sexual harassment.
Shortly afterward, Mallard said these alleged incidents were tantamount to rape.
Tantmount? Rape is rape. It requires penetration. The only question that arises with rape is about consent. A hug is not rape. A hug is a hug.
The hug may have been unwelcome, and to be fair, we all find ourselves in situations where we don’t particularly want to receive a hug, but you accept it with good grace and move on with your life.
Ardern refused to comment on the nature of the allegations in the Francis report. All information given to the Francis report was anonymous, she said.
Herein lies the problem. I understand that some people may want anonymity if they are making accusations against a dangerous person likely to retaliate in some way, although such anonymity is not generally given in the court system. There is a reason for that. The problem with anonymity in cases like this is that anyone can accuse anyone of anything, safe in the knowledge that they will never be held to account for what they have said. That can be dangerous.
I would bet my bottom dollar that, if there had not been a guarantee of anonymity in the enquiry into bullying at parliament, the ‘rape’ accusation would never have been made. Not that we actually know that the complainant made any such claim. We only know that Trevor Mallard did.
Well, for me, if a complainant is going to make an accusation against someone that could ruin his or her life, they had better be prepared to front up. If they are not, then questions must be asked about the motives of the complainant. In some cases, the motives will be malicious, without due cause. That might be what we have here.
I have a lot of sympathy with women who are genuine victims of sexual attacks, but an unwanted hug does not fit into that category. Yet this is the world we live in now. It may have been well intended originally, but the #metoo movement really does have a lot to answer for.