Earlier this year, as you might recall, a scandal broke at the Australian Defence Force Academy: several male cadets were disciplined for filming a consensual sex act between two of their peers and distributing, without the consent of the woman in question, via Skype.
Today news broke of yet another sexual assault or harassment scandal at the ADFA, and this one involves technology, too. The Herald Sun reported today that “ACT Police were called to the academy late on Thursday night after a 21-year-old female cadet found a mobile phone hidden in a vent above her shower cubicle. The phone’s video camera had been filming her.”
The Australian reported that the cadet has been charged with “an act of indecency in the presence of a victim.”
To say that it has not been a good year for ADFA would be putting it very lightly indeed. During investigations into the Skype scandal, however, it was alleged that the accused cadets were manhandled and denied sleep by investigators. Six separate inquiries into the culture of the Academy and specifically into the treatment of women, were launched in response to the Skype scandal.
In the months since ADFA made the call for cadets to come forward to register complaints about sexual misconduct at the Academy, more than 1000 complaints have been made. In June, a former cadet came forward to say that she had been gang-raped by three fellow cadets, and that when she reported the rape to investigators, they threatened to ruin her career unless she stated on the record that the encounter was consensual.
This latest incident should serve as a reminder that enquiries and commissions and committees to advise and so on and so forth are great first steps toward changing a violent and misogynistic culture. But that’s all they are: first steps. Forming a committee won’t stop men from violating their peers. Only changing the culture in which that violation is encouraged, expected, allowed and ignored will do that. And changing a culture takes time, and patience, and the kind of two-steps-forward-one-step-back that this incident represents.
That’s not to excuse what this cadet did, of course. It’s simply to say that we should not be surprised that, a few months after the lid was lifted on this ugly, violent culture, the sunlight hasn’t entirely disinfected it yet.