By Pam Corkery
New Zealand–There is very little a man can say that will shock a woman with more than a few decades up.
This isn’t man-hating or attack-feminism, it just is.
Women’s tolerance of the chromosomally challenged gender mostly springs from love; if not love, then compassion.
Declaring that men are stupid is a social ice-breaker within the sisterhood.
But there’s stupid and then there’s Central District police commander Superintendent Russell Gibson.
Mr Gibson managed to shock the hell out of me, and women mates, when he appeared in a TV3 news report on Sept. 27.
I’ll recap because the details are mystifying.
The repetition is also necessary as the report didn’t lead the bulletin, come near the top of any radio news I heard, nor was it a hold-the-front-page situation.
He would drive the girl to secluded locations, rape her, and sometimes photograph her.
Finally, after two years of sexual abuse, the young victim told her even younger sister, who alerted the rest of the family.
Abraham was arrested and pleaded guilty to two representative counts of sexual violation by rape. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He sobbed throughout his court appearance.
Abraham was supported by his wife of 25 years, the mother of his seven children.
Also present were the girl’s family. They also cried. One sibling bolted from court when the evidence became too graphic.
In impact statements, Abraham’s victim talked of being confused and angry, of having flashbacks and feeling scared and betrayed.
The girl’s mother spoke of guilt; of blaming herself and now being paranoid about visitors. She had started to wrap her children in cotton wool, forbidding them from walking to school or going to the corner shop alone.
The raped girl suffered physical and psychological damage.
She self-harms, puts herself in danger, and has been diagnosed with the early stages of bipolar, a disorder symptomatic of child abuse.
Recently, Abraham’s wife wrote to Mr Gibson asking for information on the status of consent in her husband’s case. Her husband tried to appeal against his sentence but was turned down.
Area commander Gibson’s reply to Mrs Abraham included the accusation: “There is evidence contained within the file which clearly establishes that the young girl was a willing party to these instances, but as I explained to you, this is irrelevant in terms of the charge.”
Willing! Evidence? A clinical psychologist told TV3’s Rachel Tiffen that a child of 10 or 11 isn’t competent to be sexually willing.
The victim was and still is a child – a child damaged by a middle-aged man trusted by her family who hosted him in their home.
During the TV3 report, Mr Gibson declared himself embarrassed, deeply embarrassed, at his poor choice of language used to describe the law of sexual consent.
The senior policeman’s overriding emotion is embarrassment.
He says it three times.
He briefly apologises but with the level of enthusiasm reserved only for those operating under the misapprehension that they are doing the right thing.
Mr Gibson makes no admission of shame, nor is there any explanation offered as to his thought processes before writing down such an ugly statement.
Watch the interview on demand.
Mr Gibson shows no awareness of the wrongness of his comment or the emotional fallout.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m embarrassed by that letter, more so I’m embarrassed that I caused distress to a family,” he told 3News.
“But even worse, we’re talking about an 11-year-old girl who I have re-victimised, and I’m really embarrassed and sorry about that.”
Mr Gibson said his error was not a reflection of an attitude within the police service.
He had written to the girl’s family to apologise for the statement but they said that was not good enough.
“It makes me question the police system, it makes me question the court system, and it makes me question what we call … justice,” a family member told 3News.
There has been fallout. An employment investigation has been launched and a a spokesman at Police National Headquarters said, “The comments are in no way reflective of police’s commitment to supporting victims of sexual offending and holding those responsible for such crimes to account.”
The girl had already endured a letter from her attacker, Abraham, who wrote from prison declaring he meant her no harm.
Lord knows how this correspondence – described by family as “patronising” – slipped through prison screening.
The greatest shock of all is the no-show by Police HQ or the Minister of Corrections and Minister of Police, Anne Tolley. Yes, a woman.
If she and the police bosses take the appropriate action to offset this blindingly stupid comment by their area commander, they could possibly make a difference to a child whose innocence was taken.
This girl deserves amends.
Better late than never – the latter, I suspect, is what police bosses are hoping for.