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To Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Attorney General Australia

Posted on June 11, 2013 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (12)

***UPDATE - Sarah has made her letter into a petition to sign and share! You can co-sign Sarah's letter by clicking here***


Below is a very moving letter written by Sarah Langston in light of the recent information released around the murder and rape of Jill Meagher. Sarah provides us with the voice of just one of the many women struggling to come to terms with this horrific crime. Please leave a message in the comments if you would like to show your support.


***TRIGGER WARNING - CONTAINS POTENTIAL TRIGGERS FOR VICTIMS OF VIOLENT CRIME/RAPE***


To Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Attorney General Australia 

I write to you in response to the appalling information released today regarding Adrian Bayley's prior offences before he raped and killed Jill Meagher last year.

 

 

According to information detailed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation today, Bayley's criminal history consisted of a lifetime of atrocities against women beginning from the age of 19, with a horrifying slew of sex-crimes marking his life to date.

 

 

Previous to Jill Meagher, these include sex crimes such as the rape of a teenage backpacker and the imprisonment of women in his car while he repeatedly raped them. These, I wager, are just the crimes we know about since rape is under-reported. According to the Crime Victimisation Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2009-2010, only 36.6% of most recent incidents of sexual assault were reported to police. And given Bayley's egregious propensity to rape women, I would not be surprised if he has created victims below the radar.

 

 

And how has the judicial system responded to his repeated violations of women in the Australian community? With great leniency.

 

 

Given that rape is a horrendous act that erodes the very sense of safety, dignity, selfhood and freedom that we all need to operate as whole human beings, you would think our judicial system would come out swinging. You would think that it would recognise the deep loss, the scars and the ghosts that haunt survivors of rape. You would think it would see the lifetime of damage, the screaming nightmares, the injuries to intimacy and self esteem and work and family.

 

 

You would think it would know better than to believe that men like Adrian Bayley can be rehabilitated. Described as clever, manipulative and able to fake his way through a sex offenders program, Bayley is evidence that rapists cannot be rehabilitated.

 

 

You would think. Instead, Adrian Bayley served only eight years for the repeated rapes of women in our community and was out on parole when he raped and murdered the clever, beautiful, loved Jill Meagher in an alleyway. Because he was on parole, because the judicial system believed he had a right to freedom, Jill Meagher lost her right to breathe. And now, her family have lost a daughter and a wife and a sister.

 

 

As a teacher and as a woman who wishes to have children, I demand a future with stronger sentencing for rape. The girls in my care deserve a society that is safer for them. But first, I demand a society from you and the judicial system that is safer for me.

 

 

Last year while walking in the early evening, I was violently assaulted by an unknown man on Sydney's streets. Though I now live to write this to you, it may not have ended that way. As I read the details of Jill Meagher's case I am beset by a deep despair that burrows in and doesn't go away. I am sure countless other women who have been assaulted, raped, or violently attacked by men feel the same prickling on the back of their neck.

 

 

There are too many of us. We have a right to safety and it is your responsibility to engineer sentencing that reflects that right. When we have sentencing that allows a man like Bayley to walk free, we have sentencing that is broken.

 

 

I require you to fix what is broken – for myself, and the girls I teach every day.

 

 

Sarah Langston.

 

Co-signed by Jo MacDonald, Imanadari Counselling.

A small step towards gender neutrality

Posted on April 19, 2012 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Sweden has taken a step towards gender neutrality with the introduction of their gender neutral pronoun "hen".

The English equivalents, that are as yet not formally recognised, are ze and zir (as opposed to he/she and  him/her). Other options for english speakers include referring to individuals with the non gendered "them"and "they", or simply using an individual's (gender neutral) name.

Good on you Sweden :)

Polyamory in the news

Posted on December 9, 2011 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Check out the latest article on Polyamory in the Australian 

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/three-in-marriage-bed-more-of-a-good-thing/story-e6frg6z6-1226218569577

The article is about the Polyamory Mardi Gras float and polyamory and gay marriage, including some comments from myself on the issue. 

They have equated community support for gay marriage as a push for poly marriage, but that wasn't unexpected by myself and the other commentors. There is a common joke among the poly community that the argument seems to be "first gay marriage, then group marriage, then goats!"

However, I think it's a sign of the times that even a conservative paper like the Australian felt the need to be respectful and give us a voice at all - it's definitely a positive move forward for everyone. 


A word on privilege

Posted on November 24, 2011 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The Impacts of Environment on Health

I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about one particular individual that has taught me a lot about environmental impacts on health - my axolotl Charlie.

Charlie has not had the best run in life - he had a hard time at the pet store when he was growing up, and for the first few years after coming to live with us he suffered from numerous health problems.

Whenever we would take him for treatment, the vet would immediately tell us to check the environment first. Are the water conditions right? Is there enough sunlight? Is Charlie being fed the right food? Only then, after we had ruled out everything in the environment that could be making Charlie sick, would the vet begin treatment.


What About Privilege?

Until recently, I thought I had a pretty good handle on what environmental factors could be making a person "sick" - are they exercising? Are they eating right? Are they living in a stressful household?

But then someone directed me to this article on privilege, and it served as an important reminder that there are many, many layers of environment to consider when you are dealing with problems with your mental health.

I've ummed and ahhed for a while about putting it on the site because privilege is not something that is generally talked about outside of activist circles. However, when you're talking about mental health, privilege is a very big deal.

There are two ways in which privilege can impact you if you have a mental health condition.

First, not having the privileges that many people take for granted (like being able to read and write, being able to drive a car or being able to speak english) makes it harder to get help.

Second, living in a society that is still not built to embrace difference means that if you fall outside of the norm in any way, you still need to deal with the stress of operating in a society that isn't built for your specific quirks.

Privilege effects us in other ways too - recent research has shown that being female, young, of lower education level and lower socioeconomic status are all risk factors for developing post traumatic stress disorder.


Acknowledging Privilege

What does this mean for you as someone struggling with mental health issues? Becoming aware of privilege can help you understand that your difficulty in dealing with your illness isn't your fault. Most likely, you live in a world that is just not designed for you - yet.

There is some good news - as society becomes more aware of mental health issues, the cultural environment is changing too. Take for example this company in Chicago - a computer company that is designed to help people with Asperger's Syndrome make the most of their strengths.

The next time you are struggling with something, take a different view. Ask yourself - what would my world look like if it were built for to make my life easier, rather than harder? Is there some way that I can change my environment to make it easier for myself? How can I put myself in an environment that plays to my strengths rather than my weaknesses?

If you are an employer or a friend of someone who is struggling, ask yourself - is there anything I can do to make this environment more inclusive? Are there any small changes that I could make that would really help this person?

Reframing your diversity as a unique and positive aspect of yourself will help you find ways to play to your strengths, rather than focusing on your weaknesses.