Peter Dutton defining the allegations raised by Brittany Higgins as “he said, she said” is more than dismissal, it’s a deliberate act.

 

 

CW: The following piece discusses sexual violence.

One of the greatest challenges for a political commentator in recent years has been keeping track of the Morrison government’s lies and obfuscations.

These have escalated considerably in the last couple of weeks, since former media advisor Brittany Higgins revealed she had allegedly been raped in Parliament House by a senior staffer.

Since then, ministers, MPs, Senators, their advisors and staffers have devoted an inordinate amount of their taxpayer-funded time to covering their backsides about who knew what and when. According to estimates by the ABC’s 7.30 program last night, there appear to be thirty or more people with knowledge of the so-called “serious incident” in 2019, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison conspicuously excluded from the circle of knowledge.

The latest government member to speak up is Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton. Dutton is, among other things, the minister responsible for the Australian Federal Police, as well as having once served as a police officer in the Queensland Police sex offenders’ squad.

You need this background as the context for what comes next.

In keeping with the government line that neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Prime Minister knew anything about the alleged rape before February 12 2021 and February 15 2021 respectively, Dutton claims he was only informed of the alleged crime by the AFP on February 11 2021, and only because they had been alerted that the matter was about to be revealed by the media.

AFP guidelines require that “politically sensitive” matters such as this alleged crime be reported to the Minister as soon as possible. The AFP first became aware of the allegations on April 4 2019, when informed by Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds. The AFP did not inform Minister Dutton at that time. Indeed, according to Dutton, the AFP did not inform him of this “politically sensitive” incident, despite being required to do so by their guidelines, for another two years.

One might be forgiven for risking the observation that “politically sensitive” and “politically embarrassing” might be interchangeable concepts in this instance.

Amazingly, Dutton also failed to inform the Prime Minister that the excrement was about to hit the ceiling fan, not alerting his office until 24 hours later. The PMO didn’t like to disturb Morrison over the weekend, we know weekends are sacred to him, so they didn’t inform their boss until Monday.

Dutton then went on to describe the rape allegations as a “he said, she said” affair.

Some reasons why this gratuitous comment from the Minister appears to be an attempt to influence both the AFP and the public:

The AFP, who is investigating this alleged crime, is answerable to Peter Dutton. Their Minister has just signalled through the media that he considers the alleged crime to be no crime at all, but a “he said, she said” affair. In other words, Dutton is telling the AFP how to frame and deal with this alleged crime.

“He said, she said” is one of the most invalidating dismissals possible of allegations of rape and sexual assault. It implies, as it is intended to, the unworthiness of a woman’s word and description of her experience. “He said, she said” intentionally minimises the experience of rape and sexual assault, and explicitly favours the narrative of the alleged perpetrator. It is appalling that a former police officer, who worked with victims, would hold and voice this opinion.

The AFP has not yet questioned the alleged perpetrator. Nobody knows what “he said” because he hasn’t said it yet. Unless of course Minister Dutton has had occasion to speak with the alleged perpetrator and knows his side of the story.

Dutton is also, despicably, dog-whistling to the demographic that is his base and the base of the Liberal Party more generally, that women lie about being raped. It’s a “he said, she said” affair, and nobody should take it any more seriously than that. You’re only actually raped if you’re killed as well.

A woman cannot consent to sex if she is falling down drunk, as Ms Higgins claims she was, and as, apparently, both CCTV footage will confirm and the security guards involved will verify. In his “he said, she said” attempt to control the narrative, because that is exactly what he is trying to do by using this phrase, Dutton is attempting to subvert the power of this evidence, prior to the AFP investigation.

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The infamous Steve Bannon, among other things a former advisor to former US President Donald Trump, liked to talk about “flooding the zone with shit.” This is the strategy of saturating the media with disinformation and misinformation, in order to bamboozle both media and the public, to the extent that nobody knows what is real and what is fake.

Make no mistake the Morrison government has adopted this tactic in the Brittany Higgins situation. They are flooding our zone with shit, attempting to confuse and exhaust and gaslight, with the ultimate goal of controlling a complex narrative about power, women, sexual assault, and cover-ups.

 

 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

 

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