The Wider Issue

Recently the world has been alerted to the presence of the Roastbusters. These ‘too cool’ teenagers, who have formed a gang dedicated to sexually taking advantage of drunk and often underage girls, have sparked a national and international furore. Amidst allegations of police corruption and threats of vigilante justice the Roastbusters have been forced to go into hiding.

It is altogether good that we as a country are outraged at the behaviour of the Roastbusters. If a nation wasn’t angry at systematic and planned sexual abuse occurring on a regular basis I wouldn’t want to live there.  However, I’m worried that many people are looking at the Roastbusters case the wrong way. While these boys have committed travesties, and probably deserve to be sent to prison, we need to realise that this would only solve one small part of a much larger problem. The real issue that needs to be addressed here is the entire rape culture of New Zealand.

It seems that because the Roastbusters case has been one of the most highly publicised rape cases we’ve seen, people are assuming that it is a semi-isolated incident and the problem will go away once the gang is dealt with. It won’t. We have an enormous problem in New Zealand with sexual abuse. Women’s Refuge statistics say that three in four girls in New Zealand have reported incidents of unwanted sexual activity. It is estimated that one in four females will experience sexual abuse in their lifetimes, many before the age of 16. And almost 30% of Women’s Refuge clients are under the age of 26. There are many more statistics that detail more home and sexual abuse, towards men as well as women but those were the ones that stood out to me as effectively demonstrating the rape culture in New Zealand. This problem is created by so many factors, not least of which is the binge drinking culture that goes right back to the early pioneering days and is spreading amongst youth. The culture is manifesting itself at younger and younger ages, and the Roastbusters are a product of this, not the cause.

It is perpetuated across New Zealand society. John Tamihere and Willie Jackson are a perfect example of this. Their flippant ‘boys will be boys’ attitude towards a rape victim who appeared on their show demonstrates that our rape culture is ingrained into public consciousness. The Roastbusters have just served as an unwelcome reminder to many that New Zealand is not the super egalitarian nation that we think it is. We can’t sweep it under the rug by assuming that once the Roastbusters go away then the problem will too. Howling for the blood of these teenagers will not stop the culture that has created them.

Right now some groups have been set up that aim to do just what I’ve been saying – use the Roastbusters to elevate the wider issue of rape culture into the public eye. Groups like the Misogyny Busters and the Campaign for Consent want to make all New Zealanders aware of the huge and systemic problem we have.

Please look for them on Facebook and in your city, and make sure that we can get some good out of this terrible situation – widespread awareness and a drive to stop rape culture in New Zealand.

And remember that yes means yes, and that a drunk person is not capable of fully consenting.

Also that the clothes a woman wears does not signify her willingness for sex.

Come on New Zealand, this isn’t rocket science.

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