Below is an extract from the author’s account of her Select Committee submission at Parliament for a proposed bill of rights for sexual assault survivors:
‘My name is Catriona. I was violently raped a long time ago by a person known to me who broke into my house in the middle of the night.’
I told them (the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill 2019 Select Committee) that I made an historic rape complaint which did not reach the prosecution threshold, that I had been diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic amnesia from the rape and that after the failure of my case I had lobbied government ministers for a law change, not the Bill before them (passed into law in December 2021), but a measure I felt could be an important way of empowering rape survivors from the day they reported a rape to the police.
My suggested Bill of Rights for Rape Survivors could (have either been) a new Bill or sit as an adjunct to the (proposed) legislation before them. I sought to include rights for rape survivors that went beyond the Victims of Crimes Act 2002, one where the complainant’s rights were not just reliant on and tucked out of sight in police protocols or in complex laws whose language and intent the average person has trouble understanding. There is nothing enshrined in the law that the victims of the crime of rape can actually recite and cling to. I have never heard of a rape survivor who said ‘I know my rights.’
I believe that (prior to the new Act) the power wielded over rape survivors and the discipline of the law that is so unfairly weighted against them should be more equal. I want women, men and children regardless of their educational achievement to comprehend and know their rights in concise, modern language that they can easily access and remember. I want to give survivors a better chance of getting their cases to court.
I told the Select Committee that in the last months of his presidency in 2016, United States President Barack Obama had, under executive power, signed a Bill of Rights for Rape Survivors. The law was not good a good fit for the Westminster style of government or our prosecution process as it focussed on the long-term storage of DNA evidence in rape kits. But one article from the American legislation stuck in my mind: the right for survivors to be read their rights.
I launched in: ‘The first on my list is for survivors to have the right to be read their rights. Imagine if girls and boys up and down the country were taught their rights while they are still at school, to know them should they become victims of sexual assault. To protect their rights, alleged offenders are formally cautioned by police but not their victims.’ In the face of the filthy bastards inflicting so much pain on such a significant percentage of the population when it comes to the ‘don’t you dare tell’ or ‘no one will believe you’ moment, I want people to be able to say ‘I know my rights’ to offenders, and police alike.
At the back of my mind was the shame and sensitivity that victims of rape are encultured to feel and the way we hang our heads just as I did, involuntarily, a few minutes earlier. At present we are just road kill, so many poor little creatures that have been run over by bad guys on the highway of life. We rarely get to court because we have no list that we can memorise and use to stand up for ourselves and be strong when we face the police, who may not always follow the rule book; when the mud slung by perpetrators, and the questions and the investigation are not fair. I want complainants to be able to confidently say to the police, when a question is below the belt, ‘I am not, by law, required to answer that.’ At present we are too vulnerable and overwhelmed by the authority of the police.
The above excerpt from the book The Madwoman’s Malady, (copyright) by Cat MacArthur (Victrix 2021) from the chapter ‘And so to Parliament,’ is reprinted on Help Auckland’s website by kind permission of the author.
Ms MacArthur, who was encouraged to complete her book by HELP throughout her journey from victim to survivor, is a long-term HELP supporter. The book is not for sale but is available at selected regional central libraries, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, so that people rich or poor can read it. In Auckland, it is available to loan from HELP. Contact us on email@example.com