Trigger warning: this post contains details of rape and sexual harassment, so may be triggering for some readers.
The magistrate who recently told a sexual harassment victim it was a “vast overreaction” for her to report and publicly expose her abuse is the same magistrate who let Sydney Siege gunman Man Monis out on bail after he was arrested in relation to the stabbing murder of his ex-wife.
Magistrate William Pierce released Monis back into the community in 2013, despite him being charged for orchestrating the murder of his former partner and mother of two, Noleen Hayson Pal.
Ms Pal was stabbed 18 times and set alight, yet the judge released Man Monis on a $10,000 bail securement.
“If there was a threat it was to this one woman who was murdered – if, there was a threat,” Mr Pierce remarked in Penrith Local Court in December 2013, adding that Man Monis was “[not] a threat to other people”.
But within a year of being released on bail, Man Monis was charged with more than 40 sexual assault charges against at least six different women, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault.
Again, he was released on bail. It was in this time the Martin Place Lindt Café Siege occurred.
Now, the same magistrate who first released Monis has stated that Paloma Brierley Newton “overreacted” when she refused to back down after receiving what the judge described as “a few mildly explicit comments.”
“I’d rape you if you were better looking”.
“You know the best thing about a feminist they don’t get any action so when you rape them it feels 100 times tighter.”
“You’ll be eating my cock till you puke”.
“You c*nts deserve to be taken back to the 50s where you will learn to know your role and shut your damn mouth.”
“It’s people like you who make it clear women should never have been given rights”
“You’ve proven the only thing good a women’s mouth is useful for is to get face fucked till she turns blue then have a man hot load shot straight down it”
“You’re clearly all fucking basic sluts who clearly couldn’t get pipe even from a plumber”.
“So shut the fuck up and take a load to the face”.
And those are just eight of the 55 “mildly explicit comments” sent by Zane Alchin, a 25-year-old Sydney man. (One would hate to see the judge’s idea of a “strong, explicit comment”).
The judge also noted that Brierley Newton’s “vast overreaction” (of refusing to passively absorb his abuse) had “caused [Alchin] to experience a great deal of pain, which [he] didn’t deserve.”
Watch: Paloma Brierley Newton speaks about the case on The Project. (Post continues after video.)
Equally nauseatingly, Alchin’s lawyer Sophie Walsh commented that the abuse was “a couple of hours out of an afternoon of a young man’s life who was of completely good character until that time.”
These comments are strikingly similar to those made by Dan Turner, the father of the Stanford rapist, Brock Turner, who described his son’s sexual assault as just “20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” Turner Snr also described his son as being of good character.
So what exactly are women supposed to do if we receive a barrage of rape threats online?
As Brierley Newton herself points out, telling a woman to simply block and unplug is not helpful, especially since this advice (wrongly) presupposes that sexual harassment and violence doesn’t also take place in the offline world. (Nor is it acceptable to just expect women to retreat from public space.)
The fact is that women in this country face a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted in their life. And while obviously not all women will be raped, all women do carry the fear of rape and harassment within us.
We carry it when we cover our drinks at bars, or choose to sit in the backs of taxis. We carry it when we avoid eye contact with strange men on the street, or when we sit in the guard’s carriage at night. We carry it when we thread our keys between our fingers when we walk to our car at night, or when we make a friend accompany us to a public bathroom. And we carry it every time we hear in the news that another woman has been raped or sexually assaulted.
— Elle Hunt (@mlle_elle) June 20, 2016
Men — including middle-aged male judges — do not appear to carry this same fear of rape.
Why would they? Magistrate Pierce does not live in a world where he faces one in five odds of being raped or sexually assaulted in his life.
As a male judge, it is highly unlikely Magistrate Pierce worries about sexual harassment every time he goes for a jog or walks past a construction site.
As a male judge, it is highly unlikely he worries about being leered at, taunted or even touched when he waits for or catches public transport (heck, if he even catches public transport).
Just look around; what you will notice is that middle-aged male judges are not carrying mattresses to courtrooms to highlight the appalling rates of sexual assault against judges in chambers.
Male judges are not forming support groups to discuss the sexual harassment they experience online.
Male judges are not blogging, making hashtags and sending out press releases in the desperate hope that they can make the world a safer place for other male judges.
Male judges are not doing any of these things because male judges are not the ones who are experiencing sexual violence and they are not the ones who carry the fear of sexual violence with them through life.
So when a male judge has the hide to turn around and tell a young woman she has “overreacted’’ to a man making rape threats, my reaction is to tell the male judge to sit down, take a seat, and learn to listen.
Because women should not be expected to absorb the violent outbursts of angry men. And when you tell us to ‘calm down’, ‘block and unplug’ or ‘switch off’, all you’re really telling us is that you do not understand the realities of young women’s experiences.
After all, we cannot shed our fears any more than we can shed the odds of being assaulted. So don't tell us to lighten up or switch off.
Tell that to the abusers.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual violence, support is available at 1800 RESPECT.