And in case you hadn’t guessed from the title, I’m pretty angry about it.
You know what New Zealand? Before you go getting all fucking excited about celebrating a sport which has the most abhorrent track record of player-perpetrated violence against women, and is actively encouraging gambling, high alcohol consumption and will without a doubt in my mind directly result in a huge rise in assault and sexual violence, I just want you to have a read a wee timeline I put together:
*Trigger warning for violence, sexual violence, racism and murder*
In 1997 former Waikato Chiefs player Roger Randle was accused of rape while on tour in South Africa.
In 1998 South African player Toks Van der Linde called a woman of colour a “kaffir” in a New Zealand bar.
In 2002 former Welsh player Hywel Jenkins was charged with the rape of a 28 year old woman.
In 2002 an unnamed Japanese player was accused of rape.
In 2004 former Scotland player Bryan Gossman was charged with the rape of a woman in Northern Ireland.
In 2004 former French captain and “national hero” Marc Cecillon shot his wife in the head in front of 60 guests at a party.
In 2004 an All Blacks player was granted with permanent name suppression after being charged with assaulting his pregnant wife. He was given diversion.
In 2005 Wales Captain Gareth Thomas was one of a number of players found guilty of “violent affray or sexual assault” in a French nightclub where a woman was sexually assaulted and punched.
In 2006 Welsh player Jordan Reese strangled his 18 year old girlfriend to death after she spoke to her ex boyfriend at a party.
In 2007 All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu admitted assaulting his wife. He was discharged without conviction.
In 2008 during the English tour of New Zealand a woman pressed charges of sexual assault by several English players, but all charges (except for misconduct) were dropped.
In 2008 Argentinean players were accused of stripping a twenty year old woman and subjecting her to sexual assault in a South African nightclub. No one was convicted.
In 2008 the South African Ruby Sevens captain Mzwandile Stick was accused of pushing over a woman, and punching and kicking her while she was on the ground. He later denied the punching and said he had “only kicked her out of anger.”
In 2008 former Welsh star player Darren Daley pleaded guilty to charges of grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm against two women.
In 2009 New Zealand player Toka Liku was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment after assaulting and raping his wife following post-match celebrations.
In 2009 Springbok coach Percy Montgomery faced assault charges after attacking his wife.
In 2008 English player Lee Robinson was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend. He was later found guilty and discharged.
In 2010 Former All Black Robin Brooke harassed two teenagers while on holiday in Fiji in January, grabbing the buttocks of a 15-year-old girl and assaulting her 17-year-old male friend who came to her aid. A further allegation was made in June 2010 that in 1998 Brooke had sex with a drunken and comatose teenage woman.
In 2010 Former South African player James Dalton appeared in court charged with the attempted murder of his ex-wife.
The full list of Rugby Union incidents is available here.
The Rugby World Cup-triggered rise in sexual assault (and violence in general) won’t just be toward women, and won’t just be perpetrated by men, but as usual women and children will be disproportionately on the receiving end, and men will disproportionately be the offenders.
Nobody wants to talk about the history of violence toward women by players, coaches and supporters of Rugby Union. Apparently, sticking some sportsmen on White Ribbon posters and anti-family violence campaigns means that we can just get on with pretending that the culture surrounding this sport (and many sports in New Zealand) is harmless, blokes being blokes fun.
You might think that this list is somehow invalid because there are no current All Blacks on it (except for potentially the one with permanent name suppression), so here’s a little look at some of ‘our boys’ this time round:
Andrew Hore killed a fur seal earlier this year for shits and giggles in Otago.
Ma’a Nonu received diversion for fighting in a public place.
Jerome Kaino was convicted of drunk driving.
Jimmy Cowan has been arrested twice for disorderly behaviour.
On the subject of the latter, former All Black Murray Mexted said that Cowan should be left alone because “maybe that’s part of being a free spirited young man growing up.”
Axed New Zealand Rugby World Cup Ambassador Andy Hayden said earlier this year that stories of alleged rape by sportsmen had “two sides to them”.
“There’s a bloke called Hugh Grant. He got into a bit of trouble like this and I think if the cheque bounces sometimes, they only realise that they’ve been raped, you know, sometimes,” he said.
“It’s an equal society now, some of these girls are targeting rugby players and targeting sportsmen and they do so at their peril today, I think.”
Oh yeah and he also called people of colour “darkies”.
When are we going to wake up to the fact that the culture surrounding this sport is harmful to everyone, and pretending that it’s not is just making it worse – because people feel that they shouldn’t dare criticise it. They shouldn’t dare be the buzz kill at a party after a game by wondering how Women’s Refuge is faring that evening. They are ‘bad New Zealanders’ if they don’t actually want to get super fucking excited about spending millions and millions on advertising, and making onion fucking dip packets black, and making a ‘cloud’ party zone which looks like an evil caterpillar on acid.
We are rebuilding a city after a national disaster, we have the world’s worst suicide rate for young women, we have one of the worst child poverty and child abuse rates in the world. A quarter of all of the women you know, and 1 in 8 men will experience distressing and unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime. Every fucking woman you know has felt unsafe in the streets simply because she is a woman. And I will be even more scared in the streets, particularly in the central city, as of tomorrow night. And what are we collectively doing as a country? We’re covering our ears, drinking our black fucking Powerade and cheering for the boys.
I cried when I wrote this, because in researching the incidents I saw a photo of the 18 year old girl killed by Jordan Rees. Her name was Becky and she was really beautiful. And the article had ‘killed girlfriend’ in inverted commas. Like, you know, maybe somehow his strangulation wasn’t the contributing factor in her dying.
I also cried because this list is going to get bigger after this year. But not much bigger, because the bulk of the victims of this fucking Rugby World Cup won’t be assaulted, raped or killed by players themselves. They won’t be important enough to be named in this list. It’s unlikely anyone overseas will read their names. And it’s even less likely that the Rugby World Cup will be criticised for not investing enough in resources to combat and respond to these issues.
Because, like, there’s a PARTY ZONE IN EVERY CITY GUYS.
Edit: Just in case it isn’t clear enough in the post above, I just want to reinforce that my issue is not with the game of rugby union itself. I admire the hard work of the sportspeople involved, and the passion of the teams and supporters. I think this will be a really exciting time for New Zealand. However, we cannot keep ignoring the fact that the hyper masculine, excess drinking, violent, boys-will-be-boys, hard man culture surrounding this (and other sports) is harmful, particularly for women and children. This huge event has all eyes on New Zealand, and it seems like we continue to pretend that we don’t have an appalling record of major rugby union games affecting violence rates. It is irresponsible and remiss of us not to do something about it, not to acknowledge it. That is why I struggle to get on board with this huge event. Because unfortunately it’s going to be huge in both the best and worst ways.