Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Cross posted from my place.
This is a link to an article about Zac Guildford returning home and apologising for some his inappropriate behaviour while in Rarotonga.
I think Zac Guildford’s apology regarding assaulting two men is a very good one, and I am really pleased to see that he is open about needing to put steps in place to get well.
However, I really wish while publicly apologising for his first inappropriate incident, he had also apologised for harassing a female athlete – other than just mentioning he “tried” to meet with her and “she declined”. I’m hugely disappointed that this incident is seen as being less worthy of apology than him punching two men.
The woman who reported being harassed has talked about fearing for her safety after she asked Guildford to stop yelling sexual obscenities and comments about her body while he followed her in his car as she went for a run. She has talked about how he became aggressive, and how she hid in a shop until he left.
Since then not only has she been pressured to meet with him by his manager (really empathetic move to try and push someone to meet with the person who harassed them and made them feel unsafe, thanks All Blacks management), but she has been pressured to drop the charges by All Blacks management and had Acting Police Commissioner Akatauira Matapo refer to her complaint as a waste of police time.
It seems to me that Guildford is a clever guy who understands that he’s in a bad place (especially in regards to his relationship with alcohol) and that he has let a lot of people down with his actions. I’m not sure whether not specifically apologising for acting in a deplorable way toward this woman is due to a decision by All Blacks management or Zac Guildford himself, but I hope that her refusal to meet with him, compared with the men he assaulted agreeing to meet with him, is not the reason why she has not received a public apology and they have.
I also have to question the mentality behind All Blacks management pressuring the victim of harassment to meet with her harasser. In the interests of wanting to deal with this in a tidy, private way, they have effectively attempted to erase her right to lay a complaint and let the police deal with it. They have ignored the (fairly common sense) need for distance from the person that made her feel unsafe, and THEN publicly discussed her refusal to do what they asked, which is a judgement on her ‘willingness to cooperate’ regardless of whether they frame it as such.
All Blacks management pressuring her to drop the complaint is further harassment as far as I’m concerned. It’s the big boys vs one lone woman, whose own police commissioner thinks her grievance is not worthy of anyone’s time.
People with power trying to silence women who have experienced harassment or abuse is not new, but frankly I feel that Zac’s attitude is new. In the hyper-masculine culture of Rugby Union in New Zealand, it’s rare to see someone mess up and talk frankly about needing to put steps in place, draw on his support systems and take one step at a time to get better.
So I hope with all my might that Zac will realise he has every young rugby fan watching him. He has office workers discussing him over the water cooler, and radio commentators filling their inane timeslots with every juicy detail of his fall from grace.
I hope he realises his lack of apology makes women who get harassed on the street every day feel like even if their harasser is famous no one will care. And that his comments about her refusing to meet with him make women feel like we are obligated to face the people who make us feel unsafe or else we’re not ‘moving on’ or ‘being fair’.
All Blacks management might continue to throw their clout around and try and nip ‘problems’ like this in the bud while denying victims justice or due process, but Zac actually has the power here. If he apologises as openly and genuinely for harassment as he has done for assault, then people might actually start to see that harassment is violence.