Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Believing Louise Nicholas

I've decided I'm going to write a review of Louise Nicholas's book, and then. But before I do that I want to comment on Louise Nicholas's interview on Nine to Noon on Monday (available by download here)
I usually like Kathryn Ryan, but I thought she did a really awful, and somewhat inexplicable, job.

The fundamental problem was the position Kathryn Ryan took, which was that she was giving Louise Nicholas the opportunity to explain herself to this huge mass of public who didn't understand, or believe her.

Do those people exist? I'm not talking about raging misogynists, or members of the rapists' immediate family. I mean otherwise decent people who say things like "I don't understand how that could happen." Kathryn Ryan was talking as if there were vast numbers of people who thought like that out there.

I don't think that's true. I think most people believe Louise Nicholas and know exactly how it happened. I've been paying attention, in all sorts of ways to the discussion around this issue. People know that I care, so they tell me what their parents say, how it gets discussed at work, or what they overhear at the pub. I know that support for Louise Nicholas extends well outside my own social circle. In my experience anyone who has a smidgeon feminist analysis, or any experience of being powerless knows exactly what happened.

But worse than that was Kathryn Ryan's tone near the end of the interview - where she implied that Louise Nicholas should at some stage put this behind her. That what she was doing at the moment wasn't putting it behind her, and therefore a problem.

The strongest, most generous, thing any of us an do with our pain, oppression, and trauma, is what Louise Nicholas has done. She has fought so hard for the women coming next. She can't change what happened to her, but she can fight to make today's thirteen year old girls safer than she was. To look away, to try and avoid, is understandable, but it's also leaving generations of girls on their own.

If Louise Nicholas had 'put it behind her', Clint Rickards would still be Assistant Commissioner of police, Brad Shipton would still be a Tauranga city councillor, Brad Shipton would be free and raping still more women, there would have been no commission of inquiry and there would have been much less discussion about the meaning of consent around the country these last few years. Every woman, every person, in this country has reason to be grateful that she didn't run from what had happened to her, but fought for us instead.


  1. Anonymous9:10 am

    Someone at the Auckland talk asked Louise that exact question about Kathryn Ryan's interview - about Ryan's insistence that Nicholas "get over it". Louise's response was very similar to what you have written above.

    When bad things happen to us forgetting about them is not usually the best way to deal with them, because actually we can't really forget. They become a part of our history, a part of our make-up, and part of the person we become next. I think this idea of "getting over it" is a very male approach.

    I am thinking particularly of a person who is very beloved to me who in the last eighteen months started to remember a horrifying incident of rape, and then forced miscarriage at the hands of the friends of the rapist, that happened fifteen years ago. Having forgotten about it didn't help, because she always knew something was wrong. The rapist and his friends were still in her life and they had not forgotten - in fact they were still doing little things that reinforced the violation, but the woman didn't understand them in that context because she had forgotten. Because she could not remember she even let her young daughter stay over at the rapist's house.

    Now that she has remembered it's my observation that although it is a traumatic thing she can make more sense of her life and many things that have happened in the intervening years. She can start to deal with what happened. "Getting over it" would deny that it is part of what makes her the woman she is today.

  2. Anonymous4:18 pm

    Great post!

  3. Anonymous3:53 pm

    Clint should be reinstated to his former position as a matter of natural justice.

    Although you may beg to differ but then lynchmobs usually do.

  4. anon #2:

    Clint Rickards is unable to perform his job. He has been found innocent by our legal system of raping Louise Nicholas, true. However his actions otherwise have made him unfit to serve in the police. Rickards should be held accountable via the disciplinary process and then be fired.

  5. Anonymous12:19 pm

    If Clint is fair game for morals accusation of unfairly using his position then why not everyone in the public service. There should be rules set up to forbid any type of intimate relationship between a superior and subordinate. I suspect there will be a lot of nervous MP's around if this was the case.

  6. My personal views on Rickards' moral conduct are irrelevant. In my opinion he is an abusive sexual predator. But that is merely my opinion.

    His outburst against the police investigation into him and his support for convicted rapists pretty much disqualifies him for police employment.

    But let's be frank about the role of police. Other members of the public service can't force you to have a cavity search. They can't arrest you, nor do they carry weapons.

    Aside from customs, police have a special role to play in society and as such need to be held to account and must be seen to be trustworthy because of their greater powers.

    Clint Rickards is not fit to be a police officer and should be fired in my opinion.