Aussie Defence Minister speaks out against sexual harassment at defence academy

OK, so here’s what happened. Two people had consensual sex, and one of them, without the other’s knowledge, filmed the encounter, then distributed the video to a bunch of his friends.

Those two people happen to be cadets at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Unsurprisingly, when “Kate,” the young woman who was filmed without her knowledge or consent, went to her superiors at the academy, she didn’t get a whole lot of sympathy from him. It appears that the ADFA Commandant Kate approached offered her no counseling or other form of support and Kate, suspecting that the incident would be covered up, went public.

The ADFA has a rule about “fraternizing,” and about talking to the media, and Kate broke both those rules. Now, in addition to facing potential official punishments from the academy, she’s being punished by her fellow cadets. According to Nine News,

She has since told friends she is now being verbally abused with taunts of “slut” from fellow students, the Herald Sun reports.

The door to her room at the academy has also been defaced and she has been targeted by people angry she broke the written code forbidding unauthorised contact with the media.

It was reported yesterday she had been asked to apologise to fellow cadets for going public.

That’s right, a young woman who had the temerity to have consensual sex and then ensure that a violation of her privacy was not swept under the rug, is the one being culturally punished – not the young man who also fraternized, and who violated the privacy of his sexual partner. Awesome.

Earlier this week, the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, stepped in to speak out against the way Kate is being treated. At a press conference, he said that he had no problem with her decision to go public. “I believe a public airing of this issue in all of the circumstances was appropriate,” he said yesterday. “I don’t believe the young woman concerned should be viewed poorly or dimly as a result of bringing this matter to public attention.”

Smith has garnered praise for his comments, and for having his priorities straight, from Australian feminists. “Young people having sex is going to happen,” writes Mindy at Hoyden About Town. “Young people filming sex and sending the video around their mates without their partner’s knowledge or consent – not going to happen on this Minister’s watch. I think he has his priorities right.”

Mindy sees Smith’s actions as part of a larger national trend toward cultural gender equity, whch she believes would not be possible without a feminist Prime Minister. “Any conduct that treats a woman in a way that her dignity is pushed aside, that engages in misusing trust, breaching trust, going out of the way to embarrass her dignity and sense of self-worth, is disgusting conduct and we would all repudiate it,” that feminist PM said on the radio this week.

Well said, Ms. Gillard. And well said, Mr. Smith. Now if only the men of the Australian Defence Force Academy could behave half as honorably, we’d be set!

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/chickachicka90/ Chavez

    Does the name Karen Owens ring a bell?

  • http://feministing.com/members/femdish/ Trish

    Oh! So this is why the Aussie guys I know are constantly belittling Gillard. She’s a strong feminist willing to act out against sexual harassment! Well, at least she got elected.