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You need to know this: safe sex isn’t just about condoms anymore. It’s also about webcams.

The cadet at the centre of the latest military sex scandal.

The sex was consensual but the horrendous breach of privacy was not. As an 18-year-old defence force cadet, Kate* had sex with another cadet she had no idea what she thought was a private encounter was being broadcast live via webcam to six other classmates in another room.

Still photos of the video were then circulated among cadets using mobile phones.

And then she was asked to apologise.

David McLennan writes in the Canberra Times:

“The incident happened Tuesday last week, but the woman said she only became aware of the broadcast when defence investigators approached her.

“It was like my whole world came crashing down,” she told Channel Ten.

“I had to ask to be excused from the interview. I felt physically ill. I threw up.”

Astonishingly,  the defence force held a hearing into unrelated disciplinary action against the girl yesterday morning (for the minor offenses of being absent without official leave and drinking). Of all the days. Kate plead guilty. When he heard about this, Defence Minister Stephen Smith intervened. He said that the defence force, going ahead with that disciplinary action, was either incredibly stupid or incredibly insensitive.

Neither of which are glowing endorsements of the way the incident has been handled.

Mr Smith, in his press conference earlier yesterday, looked livid at the circumstances leading up to the events going public and beyond, though said the girl in question had every right to go to the media.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith

“Mr Smith revealed this afternoon that the woman had faced a hearing about unrelated disciplinary action – relating to being absent without leave and drinking – this morning.

The woman agreed for this morning’s hearing to take place and plead guilty, however, Mr Smith called for the conviction to be quashed. “On her own admission she is in a deeply-distressed state,” he said.

The incident is yet another in a line of problems for the defence force which is battling claims inside and out that it hides or just plain doesn’t know about a culture of sexual ‘deviancy’ in the forces. An investigation into sexual exploits and drunken behaviour in the Navy has only recently resulted in the chief threatening the use of breathalysers to ensure sobriety.

Now here’s the really interesting part.

As the Federal Police investigated the initial complaint from the girl at the centre of this scandal, they found that no ACT territory law had been broken. Despite this girl being filmed without her consent. Despite the footage being circulated without her permission.

When he heard of this bizarre finding, Minister Smith, a former lawyer, said he was convinced Commonwealth Law had been broken. A second investigation is underway.

As the story unfolds it has also been revealed that the girl had shaving cream sprayed on her door yesterday – after going to the press on Tuesday – and had suffered some kind of retribution for going public.

Ian McPhedran wrote in the Herald Sun this morning:

“Sources close to the woman said she had been verbally abused since by fellow students for breaking the written code that forbids unauthorised contact with the media.

It was reported she had been asked to apologise to fellow cadets for going public.

Peter Reith, a former Howard Government defence minister, has hit the airwaves and claimed that the defence force does a decent job at the top…but that women aren’t treated well within it.

There are so many issues to unpack here, it’s hard to know where to begin.

First of all, let’s talk about the six men who watched this girl having sex with their mate. Did none of them have sister? Girlfriends? Female friends? Mothers? Is there view of women so utterly contemptuous that none of them thought to say “hey, this is wrong.”?

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It appears not. And what of the guy having sex. Is his lack of respect for Kate and for women so completely lacking and he was comfortable and willing to betray her so completely? For what…a laugh? Sexual kicks? Anyone else find that difficult to comprehend? I love my friends very much but I don’t want to see them having sex. Nor do I want them to see me. What’s THAT about?

Is the macho world of defence forces to blame for this? Is this a similar situation to past sex scandals involving football players? Do strange things happen when adult men are in groups, without women around?

And if you are sexually active – or have daughters who one day will be – how can we protect ourselves and each other from this kind of outrageous sexual exploitation in the digital age?

UPDATE: Rick spoke with Karen Willis, Executive Officer with the New South Wales Rape Crisis Centre, about the problem with laws and how they differ across states.

“In the Australian Capital Territory what has happened here is not a crime and yet in New South Wales you would have a very clear cut case of, essentially, indecent assault because it is illegal to involve someone in pornography without their consent,” she said.

“Of course Defence Force land is subjected to Commonwealth Laws which do not include a sex crimes act and deal mainly only with threats and crime against the nation such as terrorism.

“The defendant in a case like this in New South Wales would have to prove and identify the steps he or she took to gain the consent of the victim before publishing pornographic material to a third party and that would be very hard to do in this case.”

Ms Willis said Australian law had failed to keep step with technology.

“Basically what we need is a uniform set of crime laws across the country that apply no matter what slice of land you might be on because this is not OK.”

She also noted that the attitude that ‘women are sluts and men are heroes’ was not unique to footy codes or the defence forces but that it was ’embedded across society’.

“You see it everywhere, this sense that we have to blame the victim,” she said.

“And of course, at the end of the day, that just serves to keep victims quiet.”

If you require counselling for rape or related issues, phone the counselling hotline at the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017.

Nina Funnell draws our attention to a very interesting point: Does anyone remember that little movie American Pie? Where EXACTLY this situation happened? That movie was released in 1999. Twelve whole years ago. It’s not as though this is some new problem that has sprung out of nowhere and caught us all off guard. The laws are woefully behind the times and there really is no excuse.

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