Saturday, January 02, 2010

Name Suppression

So Whale Oil is the first blogger to be charged with breaking name suppression in relation to a rape case.

It's strange. It's almost 4 years ago that this post broke name suppression orders around the police rape cases. I didn't write that post to get attention, or to make a point. I wrote it because I was furious - I was politically furious. Throughout the trial Louise Nicholas's past had been brought up, under cross examination and in every paper while the men who raped her were being protected.

I still don't know what I think of name suppression, or of breaking it. I think, in balance, the breaking of name suppression that went on around the cop rape case was useful. I think it disrupted the image of poor hard done by cops and it was a way of getting a really public message of support and solidarity out there, not just to Louise Nicholas and the other women who had been raped by Clint Rickard, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton, but to the many women for whom the attacks on Louise Nicholas felt very personal.

As an action, it wasn't without risks, some of which were not mine to take. Most importantly, the trial that took place the year after that (when they were again acquitted) could have been thrown out.

I don't really have simple thoughts about name suppression, or short answers. I certainly don't oppose name suppression on principle, except insofar as I oppose everything about the criminal justice system.

But breaking name suppression just to do it? Without any political point? As part of some kind of guessing game (as Whale Oil apparently did)? That's juvenile.

One of the people Whale Oil is supposed to have named is the Olympian who raped his wife. He has name suppression not because he is famous, but because she has automatic name suppression.

As a feminist one of the things I'm fighting for is a world where victims of sexual violence don't need automatic name suppression. Where there is no shame in being abused, just being abusive. But we are so far from being there.

If the rumours I have heard about the identity of the comedian who sexually assaulted a girl (who also has name suppression because of the identity of his victim) and the identity of the Olympian are true then there are political points to be made about both of them. There are points to be made about the nature of rape culture, and the way women's lives are prioritised. But the only way to make those points is to name the abuser, and therefore out the person they abused. Political arguments about rape must never be made if you have to tread on victims of abuse to do so.

In the end it's not surprising that it is a right-wing anti-feminist man who has been the first blogger to be charged for breaking name suppression relating to sexual abuse cases. For me, the fight was never about name suppresison, it was always about rape.


  1. Maia, I didn't do those posts for jollies, I thought very carefully about each one and I haven't named the comedian because of the age of one of his victims.

    I certainly didn't do it for a guessing game. I was angry that some people seem to have a sense of entitlement over name suppression.

    Like all things that were a good idea at the time of introduction they have been watered down by over-zealous judges trying to protect the reputations of criminals rather than vicitms.

  2. Saw a post of yours on "Angry for a reason". Wondered if you mind talking to me about your experience.
    Kiwi Girl looking for support. (natural Termination)

  3. Anonymous6:34 pm

    They should suppress the relationship of the abuser to the abused. Then they could name the abuser without it affecting the name suppression of the abused.