International Day of Action
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
For Communities Respond to Sexual Assault
November 30th 2007
We are calling for people to organise in their own towns and cities to take action on this day. This means whatever it means to you – maybe organising in your school, occupying an office or a court or a police station, holding a rally, making a publication, talking to people, or anything you can think of.
The government has used sexual assault to justify the military invasion, removal of land permits, and denial of Indigenous autonomy in the Northern Territory. But this is not a way of dealing with sexual assault – fear, intimidation, and military and police presence as a “solution” shows no understanding of sexual assault or ways of dealing with it. The police and military have been perpetrators of sexual assault in communities around Australia, in Iraq, around the world. Some communities have themselves called for police involvement in dealing with sexual abuse, but not all. What is most important is that communities themselves direct the way they want to deal with sexual violence.
The Northern Territory intervention is a racist intervention. It is ridiculous that our white government thinks that Indigenous communities are unable to respond to sexual assault themselves, with their own processes and understandings, especially when we look at the way sexual assault is dealt with across the rest of Australia, by relying on an alienating, adversary and difficult to access legal system.
Almost no sexual assaults are reported to police, and most reported cases result in no conviction. This is not because they are “false claims” but because the legal system forces someone who has been assaulted to try to “prove” their claim, doubting them, disbelieving, pressuring them to relive their assault and undergo invasive medical examinations. Most assault happens in private – it makes it the survivor’s word against the perpetrator’s. The court system is designed so that survivors of sexual assault are attacked and broken by defence lawyers who only want to win their case. In the rare case that a perpetrator is convicted, prison does nothing to confront and challenge the behaviour and underlying assumptions and understandings that foster a culture of sexual assault.
We want a day of action calling for community – not military, not legal – responses to sexual assault. Our government shows no interest in trying to engage with the real issues of sexual assault and how to confront it, so we need to do it ourselves. We are calling for support for survivors of sexual assault, and a process of community response that prioritises their needs and safety. We are calling for processes that try to change the underlying myths and power dynamics that lead to assault, before it happens. We want processes that deal with perpetrators in a way that challenges their beliefs and behaviours, and gets them to take responsibility for their actions and trying to change.
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