Trigger Warning This content explores rape and injustice after rape.
Support is available from:
NSW Rape Crisis: 1800 424 017
Rape and Domestic Violence Services: rape-dvservices.org.au
Sexual Assault Support: au.reachout.com
Here is a story:
A Friday night in 1970. Top floor of Cremorne Travel Lodge. Large windows – Cremorne Point in the distance. A crush of twenty-somethings search for their perfect mate. Look their best. Laugh and flirt.
Ah well, not tonight. But hey, the chance of a lift home! Nice car too. She can see he’s proud of it. Proud of his biceps – a footballer and aspiring firefighter. He’s got it all, he’d say.
But wait. Why is he driving down here? Dark, bushy, moonlit water. Ah, she gets it. He wants sex. Does she? No? Whack! Now does she get it? Then he does the honorable thing and drives her home. Teeth clenched, eyes glistening, she scrapes away at his upholstery with her nail-file and when he pulls up outside the flats in Carter Street she furtively kicks his portfolio into the gutter.
Her distress is obvious; as is the swollen purplish eye. Her flatmates are incensed and persuasive. She’s got his work details. They’ll take her to the police station. But she knows what that means. No! She wraps it up tightly and puts it away – the shame, the guilt, the fear, the revenge.
Here is another story:
1963. Relieved to get a lift home. How about a coffee? Shhhh! Parents asleep. She leads towards the kitchen and the light-switch. A sudden movement in the dark hallway and she’s down, squirming, twisting, trying to get him off her. All the time worrying that her parents will hear. He’s strong and he’s quick. And he’s up and out of the house without a word. How? Why? She creeps into her mother, not knowing, just wanting comfort. “Go to bed!” Her mother is crying. She goes to bed. Sobs quietly. Ashamed. It must be her fault. She wraps it up very, very tightly and puts it away.
Here are other stories of girls and women:
A list of all rape cases held at Mudgee Quarter Sessions in the first three decades of the twentieth century, as reported in the New South Wales Police Gazette on Trove. Mudgee Quarter Sessions is where all serious local crimes were heard, including those committed at Rylstone, Kandos and Dunedoo.
April 1902: Thomas Seaman, carnally knowing a girl above 10 and under 14 years of age, Lucy Agnes Bruce. Acquitted.
April 1903: Theo Purtell, indecent assault, Mabel Alice Wade. Nine months hard labour Bathurst Gaol.
April 1904: Sydney Stanley Morrison, carnally knowing a girl aged 13 years and 9 months, Blanch Grace Willis. Acquitted.
August 1904: James Potts, indecent assault, Elsie Smede. 18 months hard labour.
June 1905: John Henry Garland, assault with intent to commit a rape, Mary Jane McManus. Hung jury, retrial.
November 1905: John Henry Garland, assault with intent to commit a rape, Mary Jane McManus. Acquitted.
July 1915: James Thomas Hawkins, charged with indecent assault and assault, Ada Atkins. Pleaded guilty to the second charge. Bound over for £40 for three years.
October 1917: Harold Tubbenhauer, assault with intent to commit rape, Annie Blanch. Acquitted.
March 1919: Edgar Hurcum, assault and intent to commit rape, Martha Freeman. Acquitted both charges.
March 1922: George Fitzgerald, Ernest Graham and William Cottee, carnally knowing a female under the age of 16, Florence May Caines. Postponed to next Mudgee sessions.
April 1922: Attorney-General declined to proceed further against George Fitzgerald, Ernest Graham, and WilliamCottee.
March 1922: Norman Kreutzberg, carnally knowing a female under the age of 16, Muriel Levin. Postponed to next Mudgee sessions.
April 1922: Attorney-General declined to proceed further against Norman Kruetzberg.
March 1922: Horace William Watts alias Vernon, carnally knowing a female under the age of 16, Muriel Levin. Acquitted.
March 1922: Jack Rawson McCallum, assaulting a female under the age of 16 with intent to carnally know, Janet Ida May Brown. Acquitted.
March 1922: Cecil James Sharrock, carnally knowing a female under the age of 16, Florence May Caines. Acquitted.
March 1922: George Alfred Rope, carnally knowing a female under the age of 16, Alma Waters. Acquitted.
March 1923: Harry Smith Howes alias Harry Howes alias Charles Frederick Cooper, assault with intent to commit rape, Thelma Williams. Two years hard labour.
May 1927: Arthur Henry Nicholls, carnally knowing a girl under the age of 16, Erma Kathleen Birtles. Remanded to next Mudgee sessions.
May 1927: Attorney-General declined to proceed further against Arthur Henry Nicholls.
May 1929: George Jack Jackson, assault with intent to commit rape, Rosetta Amelda Lennox. Acquitted.
Those details above show that over a period of thirty years, twenty men in the wider Mudgee area were charged with rape, (often a reduced charge in court). Ten were acquitted. The Attorney-General declined to proceed against five. Four men were found guilty. Three went to gaol for nine to twenty-four months; one was put on a bond for three years. This was at a time when rape was a capital offence, like murder.
Fifteen females reported rape, two of them reported multiple rape.
Seven were under sixteen. None of the men, whom those girls reported, were found guilty.
The community at that time kept a hushed silence about rape. Such crimes appeared in the Police Gazette, but they were rarely mentioned in local newspapers.* Unfortunately silence about rape disguises the extent of it and encourages rapists to continue raping. There is no doubt that rape is part of the history of millions of women, over time and across the planet, in wars, in poverty and in thriving democracies.
So why were there so few cases in that first three decades of the twentieth century? Why were there so many acquittals?
Because then, as now (to a lesser extent), the myths associated with rape are so powerful and so widely accepted. Those myths were/are reinforced from the pulpit, in the class-room and home, by the media and the courts, on social media.
Here are some of them:
Women cause rapes because of their behaviour. They ask for it by drinking too much or wearing provocative clothes or being flirtatious.
Women get raped because they take risks – by walking at night, or in a park or accepting a lift from a stranger.
Men can’t help themselves. Their sexual urges are too strong. Women lead them on.
Women cry rape to get back at men.
Good girls don’t get raped.
Women don’t report rape today, and didn’t in the past, because experience showed them they will be blamed or not believed, the perpetrator will likely get off, and they will have to go through a humiliating interrogation to prove their innocence. In the decade 2007 to 2017, one hundred and forty thousand sexual assaults were reported to police in Australia. Of those, forty two thousand led to an arrest but only ten percent that went to court resulted in a conviction.
Criminology reports today indicate that one in six women have experienced sexual assault; and one in twenty-five men. Other studies show that most people, who experience sexual assault, don’t share their experience for decades, because their overwhelming response to the event is shame and self-blame.
Women over the centuries have endured rape in silence. But this last month the most talked about topic has been the sexual abuse of women, their hesitancy in coming forward, their fear of not being listened to. The March 4 Justice emboldened women. Only when women tell their stories will men grasp the true extent of some men’s shameful, predatory behaviour.
Women are stepping up to tell their stories. Will one in six men step up to admit theirs? Will five out of six men start calling out the others?
Two relevant movies that might interest you:
Brazen Hussies – a documentary on ABC iview which traces the Women’s Liberation movement in Australia
Promising Young Woman – a feminist revenge thriller currently in cinemas and up for an Oscar.
* Two alleged rapes appeared in the media. One was the alleged assault of Rosetta Lennox, a waitress at the Post Office Hotel Mudgee, by George Jackson. The judge cleared the court of those “who had no business in the court”. A detailed report appeared in the Mudgee Guardian.
One case got notoriety in Kandos. In 1951 William Blick, a rigger living at the Kandos hotel, and a local footballer, was charged with the attempted rape of Mrs Patricia Maddocks. The case was heard initially at Kandos Court. Blick was committed to Mudgee Quarter Sessions where the case was not proceeded with, and Blick was discharged.
The featured image is of Mudgee Court House 1861.