Women and Justice? Not in NSW

Recently, we witnessed another disturbing miscarriage of justice as another (white straight cis) male was punished for groping a woman at the Defqon.1 music festival. Mitchell James Willey, is a police constable with the NSW police force and decided to randomly attack a woman by grabbing her vagina. When she screamed “don’t touch me”, Willey allegedly laughed and kept walking until he was collected by another police officer.

While these scenarios happen so often that I fear there is a desensitization occurring, let’s highlight a few points already in case you missed them;

  • Man violently gropes a random woman
  • Man laughs off the assault and attempts to go about his day

This disgusting creep is a NSW police officer, who has committed a portion of his life to pursue a career in justice. A career that’s supposed to be about upholding laws in the name of creating a safer world for the public.

Instead, this man decided that it was appropriate to randomly target a woman and physically assault her, by violently grabbing her genitals. In this scenario, you would hope that a police offer would be the one who witnessed this act and quickly acted to reprimand the offender, but instead, the offender and the officer were one in the same.

But he got caught right, so what’s the problem?

Here’s the problem. The “punishment” for this dirtbag was a two-year community corrections order. And while he waited for this slap on the wrist, what was he doing? He was suspended for over a year, with pay. HE WAS GETTING PAID FOR DOING NOTHING FOR OVER A YEAR for assaulting a woman.

What message does this send to the public and particularly to women? Police constantly victim blame when women are assaulted, raped, or murdered by attacking the way they were dressed, how they act, or how many drinks they have.

Why are women placed so low in the public’s eyes that they aren’t allowed to have the same freedoms of men? Why is it that when a woman is brave enough to come forward with an accusation of assault that she’s instantly put under the most vigorous of microscopes? Why is her story less believable than the one told by the man that allegedly assaulted her?

Why, after what must be one of the most terrifying and soul-destroying experiences in one’s life does a woman have to risk her friendships, career, mental health, sense of security and sense of belonging in the world just to get a modicum of justice while the man can just continue on.

Why is a man’s life more important than a woman’s?

Let’s take a look at the people sworn to protect the public in NSW. As of 2014/15, the NSW police force consisted of 22,045 employees. Of those, 26.9% are female officers, and women in all elements of the NSW police force make up just 35%.

So of the 22,045 employees, over 16,100 are men.

Of the 23 commissioners and/or inspector generals that have served as the since 1851, all have been men.

With a significant majority of officers being men and every single leader for the past 167 years being a man, you can start to understand why the protections of women have been given such a low status. Essentially, it’s never had anything but.

If men were assaulted, raped, and murdered as frequently as women, there is no doubt in my mind that they would do everything in their power to make real changes to lower the rate of violent crime.

Willey’s lawyer, Ben Clark, claimed that “he’s not Weinstein” as if that was a defence of his actions. As if measuring him against a recent and very famously outed sexual predator was a proper response to a police officer groping a woman.

It’s not only a disgusting response, but it’s also one that lacks so much understanding, respect and care that it’s devastating to think that this man thinks it’s an appropriate response.

The result of this case is yet another dot point in the laundry list of examples that prove the justice system in Australia is a patriarchal mess. The notion that a man’s livelihood post-accusation is more important than the deep physical and/or mental damage done to a woman is more important is immensely destructive.

This “officer” should lose his job. He deserves to lose his job. He’s committed a sexual assault, and done so as a member of the NSW police force. What part of that sentence isn’t getting through the courts?

How are women supposed to feel safe, protected and cared about when this is the quality of officers walking the street.

Make no mistake, not all police officers are sexual predators or will commit a sexual assault, but this case and others like it prove that the bar for police officers may be a lot lower than a lot of us thought and that the idyllic notion of police officers being a cornerstone of society may only be so for half the population.

As a side note and a bit of a PSA – If you commit the act, if you defend a man that does, if you stand by and stay silent, if you fail to help a woman in trouble or fail to stop your dipshit friend from assaulting a woman then yes, you are responsible, you are the problem and you need to change.