On Friday, a second woman alleged she had been raped by the same assailant who allegedly raped media advisor Brittany Higgins in then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019, shortly before the May election.
Ms Reynolds was promoted to defence minister in the returned LNP government.
The second victim/survivor was attacked in 2020 and understandably feels that had the first alleged crime been better handled, the man would not have been free to rape her, and any other women who might not have come forward.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reaction to news of this second alleged rape was to declare himself “sickened.” He also said this:
“I’m very upset about those circumstances and particularly for the young woman who I don’t know who that is, and nor do I need to know who that is, that is a very distressing event.”
Journalist: A second woman has been raped. Prime Minister: I don’t need to know who that is.
Imagine for one moment the tremendous privilege Mr Morrison enjoys that allows him to choose not to know.
By any measure this is a bizarre reaction to such news, and one wonders why the Prime Minister felt compelled to let everyone know that he doesn’t know the name of the second victim, and, even more oddly, that he does not need to know.
Our names are a signifier of our humanity. This is why oppressors use numbers, not names, a practice Morrison is more than familiar with after his term as immigration minister. A refusal to know someone’s name is an act of hostility. It says: you are irrelevant to me. It says: you aren’t fully human to me.
When someone is not seen as fully human, anything can be done to them.
Anyone who refuses to know our name should be treated with the utmost caution.
Perhaps Morrison is broadcasting a warning. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Keep it as far away from me as possible. Give me plausible deniability in case I need it. What I don’t know can’t hurt me.
The Prime Minister wants to efface the second survivor, to make her appear insignificant, the crime against her inconsequential. He wants to delegitimise her suffering. He wants to entrench the power imbalance that gifts him the privilege to decide he doesn’t want to know.
Victims are the problem for Mr Morrison. They’re the ones causing him trouble, in his world-view.
Refusing to use someone’s name is a classic dehumanising tactic. Raping a woman is also dehumanizing her. You can’t dehumanise someone just a little bit. Morrison’s dehumanisation of the second woman is no different from the rapist’s. It is expressed in a different way. Dehumanising is an all or nothing process. There’s no such thing as a sliding scale.
Refusing to use someone’s name is also an expression of profound contempt, and a signifier of the disgust in which the deliberately un-named is held. It’s also a decision to deny publicity and notoriety. The decision not to name terrorists is an example of this.
There are no good reasons for deciding, “I don’t need to know their name.”
What has become sickeningly obvious since Ms Higgins went public just a few short days ago is that politics trumps everything, and politics especially trumps rape. It hasn’t been the crime that is the focus, not for politicians and their advisors and with a very few exceptions, not for the media. It’s been the politics. Morrison, in his declaration, did not hesitate to very publicly put his needs before those of the victim. He needs to keep his distance, it’s politics. He’s willing to dehumanise her in order to achieve his goal.
Rape is a crime. Rape is a serious crime. It isn’t a sex scandal. It isn’t consensual bonking in Parliament House. It isn’t a “serious incident.” It is a crime.
Scott Morrison doesn’t want to know the name of the latest victim of this crime. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s the vibe.
This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.
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