HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW BILL?
Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.
I cut my teeth in journalism a half century ago interviewing and sketching famous figures for the Canberra Times and I quickly learnt how to smell bullshit a mile away. I set in stone the advice of my first editor, John Allen, when he looked me in the eye and said, “Never say anything you aren’t prepared to defend to the death.”
Even now I do not believe that Bill Shorten was “arrested”. I believe that he was asked to come in for an interview.
Up until my interview with Kathy two weeks ago, I was firmly in the sceptics camp and had fully expected the interview to go nowhere when Kathy arrived at my front door to tell her story for the first time.
Rape is a red line that must never be crossed, but “no” can sometimes mean “yes”. Let’s be honest here, both women and men can be excited by the element of “consensually forced” sex and if that were not so, ropes and handcuffs could never have been part of the game of sex.
I have known women who insist on feigning a struggle before succumbing to the “inevitable” with a climactic sigh of surrender.
People enjoy sex in many different ways but every man knows what the word “consensual” means and every man knows when the word “no” actually does mean “no”.
Often Judges and juries have not understood the subtleties of sexual encounters and a man will wear the rapist tattoo for life because a woman had changed her mind in the cold light of day. Equally, a woman’s life can be shattered when her legitimate claims are doubted.
And that’s why police are reticent to take accusations of rape to trial. A rape kit with a DNA sample will show what happened but not the circumstances under which it happened.
Kathy’s case is not about gang rape or unmitigated violence, it’s about a person who invaded her body against her will and in our culture that’s a criminal offence.
In other cultures such as Islam, which is underpinned by Sharia Law, a woman can be stoned to death for the act of simply reporting a rape... and it’s not just Sharia law, 500 years before Sharia existed Jesus said, when confronted by the stoning of a woman, “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone”, so stoning of women for sexual demerit has historical legal significance, and well before Islam’s Sharia Law.
But we live in the here and now and respect for each other’s sexual wont is protected and enshrined within our law, as it should be. So what is to be made of Kathy’s claims?
Was the instance she recalls with such incredible clarity just a part of a drug-induced sex romp? No, it wasn’t.
Of course Bill Shorten is entitled to the presumption of innocence due to insufficient evidence but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It most certainly did happen and very close to the circumstances in which Kathy claims it happened.
Many of the people who were there that night are now Labor identities and unlikely to testify in support of Kathy.
I simply allowed Kathy to tell her story, and I believed her, as would have any reasonable person. Of course she was unhappy with my final comment but it’s a shame that we will most likely never hear Bill’s version because he denied it ever happened.
Well Bill, here it is again. Steel yourself in a corner somewhere and read it. You will of course, but let’s see how clearly you recall that night you took advantage of 16 year-old girl who obviously didn’t want you near her.
The mainstream media will not publish a word of Kathy’s story because, at this stage, it’s impossible to prove, so you will likely never be held accountable, but how do you feel about it now Bill? Do you sleep uneasily? Or is Kathy just another notch on your political totem pole?
Do you care that this girl’s life has been ruined? Do you feel a mote of remorse? Or are you content to pour salt on her open wounds by declaring it simply “didn’t happen”?
[A prologue to this story is an important one: I have read an extensive, albeit heavily redacted, transcript of police interviews with Kathy. The police appear to have carried out their investigations in a professional and comprehensive manner. It is clear there was not much more they could have done. Kathy’s story is a sobering account of rape and she refused every opportunity I gave her to embellish occurrences that would have supported her case. Instances that might have hurt her case she insisted be included. What has happened to her had obviously been imprinted on her consciousness in incredible detail for 28 years and had altered her life in a terrible way. For those reasons, including her candid frankness, I believe Kathy’s story to be compelling and true. Bill Shorten said Kathy’s claim is not true and he wants to, ”draw a line” under the matter. If Kathy’s story is true then she has not only suffered intense pain for those 28 years before being told there was insufficient evidence without an eye-witness, to proceed with a prosecution, but Bill’s denial has invited the nation to believe she is also a liar. If Bill is found to be telling the truth then this story is so grossly unfair to him that I will apologise and close this blog because never again will I deserve the right to comment on anything. Kathy lives by herself and since 2008, when she saw Bill Shorten on TV for the first time in 22 years, she cannot watch TV for fear of his image appearing without notice. She needs the remote permanently in her hand. When she describes him she erupts in a violent rage, her pretty face contorts and turns red, her eyes water and turn wild, she bares her teeth, “I just want to stab him and stab him again and again and again in the throat”, she screams. Kathy clearly has lost everything. She cannot have a relationship, she has no interest in sex and she will never have the children she once looked forward to. She has been rendered a shell of a woman, broken and fighting bouts of depression and drug dependency, a lack of self esteem and all pervasive self doubt. The good life of a good woman destroyed forever by one callous act. Along with Bob Kernohan and others, Kathy is just another broken rung on Bill Shorten’s relentless and selfish ladder to the top. He can never be charged with this offence unless others come forward. Rapists don’t rape only once, they have an ever-present character flaw that persists. Other stories swirling within the beltway might also be aired if only those who are right now suffering in silence would tell their story, but it’s never easy to do that. I told Kathy I could not pay for her story. I know of many media outlets chasing her but she told me it was never about the money it was about closure and her story being told honestly. I have promised her I will endeavour to do that in what must be the most confronting and difficult warts-and-all article I have ever tackled. Kathy does not trust the media to do that.]
KATHY was Labor through and through, so was her mother, all in all a solid Labor family. She took a bit of tracking down and I doubted she would grant me an interview, I mean I am not exactly flavour of the month with the ALP right now. But it was worth a try as the most telling stories about Labor have always come from Labor while the Libs tend to keep their dirty linen off the line and under wraps.
Anyway, I have always been more socially comfortable with Labor people.
Kathy was 15 when she first met Bill. She had lied about her age so she could join Young Labor which required a minimum age of 16. “My sister, Kim also joined”, said Kathy, “and she is 13 months younger than me, so she had also lied about her age.”
Kathy and her sister would take the long train trip down from Wodonga to meet Bill and others at Treasury Place in Melbourne before heading off to Young Labor functions... “I was passionately Labor and wanted to make a mark on the movement”, said Kathy.
She describes Bill at the time as a “nerdy type”, very unsexy and certainly not someone girls would find attractive. He was very much the leader of the fast-growing Young Labor “Vanguard” Group, which was of the Centre-Right faction and Bill was persistently and openly promoting himself as the next Bob Hawke.
Kathy lit a smoke, “It was a winter morning in 1986 and a group of around 25 of us were heading off in a car convoy to Portarlington for another Young Labor conference. Bill, who had just turned 20, was organising everything as usual including sleeping arrangements in cabins that adjoined a caravan park.
“The itinerary included our usual trivial pursuit session and we had stopped for grog at a bottle shop just out of town where I had bought a cask of red and two packets of smokes which was easily enough for the weekend”, Kathy explained.
“We had arrived late and I was given a bed in a cabin with two younger girls I didn’t know who they were and I asked Bill why I wasn’t put in a cabin with my sister and my friends as usual. Bill replied that the two girls were ‘a bit straight’ and I, as an outgoing type, should encourage them to join in the party scene.”
The party scene included heaps of alcohol, marijuana joints and speed. Bill’s girlfriend at the time, Kaye, apparently had not arrived.
Kathy continued, “Anyway, the two girls had gone to bed and I went to the trivia night in another cabin where there were around 20 to 25 of us. We were all in a circle on the floor and Bill was sitting behind me in an armchair.
“I had my cask of wine, a small glass and an ashtray. Bill was whispering the answers to political questions in my ear. His legs were pressing into my sides and he was blowing on my neck. I kept moving to avoid him and after two or three hours of trivia I’d had enough. I started to get angry with him and went to get up when I realised I was terribly drunk.
“I was loud, ‘How come I’ve got no wine left?’ I asked. ‘Bill’s been refilling your glass all night’, my sister said. Now I was really angry because that cask was meant to last me the whole weekend.
“A girl called Helen suggested a few of us go to her cabin for a joint. We did and we left the lights off and were giggling and joking about how I had escaped from Bill.
"We had smoked lots of joints and we were having a great time when Bill walked in. I saw him first and hid on the lower bunk but he saw me and flopped himself on the bed next to me while everyone continued talking.
“Bill began rubbing his hands up and down my legs and around my bottom.”
Kathy’s voice was breaking, she began sobbing again, uncontrollably, her hands were shaking as she reached for the tissues. We talked about something else for a minute before she was okay to continue.
“I was wearing a large woolly jumper with a coloured pattern on the front and leggings with pixie shoes. I was very warm but I thought it was very unsexy.
“Bill was blowing marijuana smoke on the back of my neck and he started rubbing my lower back and pushing his fingers in between the cheeks of my bottom. I froze and pushed myself up against the wall so he was unable to get his hand behind me. The lights were still out and no-one could see what he was doing.
“I could smell the beer and lime cordial he always drank. I stood up and signalled to Helen that I needed to get out of there. Helen suggested we both go for a drive to the beach and I agreed, so we walked to her Hillman which was parked some distance away and I got into the front seat.
“‘Hang on I forgot my smokes’ I said. I went back to the cabin to get them. When I returned, my sister and two other people were in the back seat and Bill was in the passenger seat. He tapped his legs motioning me to sit on his lap. It seemed innocent enough because there were others there and I didn’t really want to damage a professional friendship with Bill in front of them.
“I was stoned and drunk and made the silly decision to sit on his knee but I leant forward holding on to the dash board, getting as far away from him as I could get.”
Kathy explained her position, emulating a kangaroo.
“Bill immediately started to touch me everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I was trapped and it was horrible. Then he started to bounce me up and down with his knee in between my legs. I could hear by his breathing that he was getting excited and he was trying to get his hand inside my pants. I kept slapping his hand away, it was getting awful and I yelled for Helen to stop the car.
“Helen stopped the car immediately. I was now distraught, ‘Please take me back’, I yelled. Helen turned the car around. We hadn’t gone very far and I was prepared to suffer Bill’s groping knowing we were only minutes away from the cabins.
“When we arrived back I leapt from the car and headed straight for my cabin with my sister following me, calling out for me to wait. I rushed inside where the two girls were still asleep and I leaned against the wall in the hallway trying to gather my thoughts... ‘Why is Bill doing this to me, why is this happening?’
“Almost immediately there was a knock at the door I could still hear my sister’s voice and it sounded like her knock, quick little knocks. But when I opened the door it was Bill. He grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me backwards, I had no time to react. I was drunk, stoned and scared. Suddenly he had me in the bathroom.
“My head was spinning as he grabbed at my pants I remember saying, ‘What, what, what, what, what?’ I don’t know why I was saying that, nothing was making sense.
“As soon as he started undoing his belt it gave me the chance to get my pants back up. But once his pants were down I had no chance. He had both hands free and was pressing me hard against the wall and I could feel the towel rail digging into my back.
“Before I knew it he was inside me, I couldn’t really feel him and he was very quick, it seemed like only a few seconds before Bill’s grunting told me it was over.
“Bill withdrew and he pulled my pants up, all I could see of him was a large green jumper and his khaki trousers on the floor, I couldn’t look at his face. ‘Gee you’ve been around’, said Bill as he was doing up his belt. I spat at him, ‘I thought you would have been better than that’, I replied with venom, it was the only thing I could think of that might hurt him.
“He walked out while I stayed in the bathroom. I sat on the toilet sobbing for hours trying to wipe the smell of him away. I had broken up with my boyfriend a year before and we had experimented with sex but neither of us thought much of it, we didn’t have much success with it really.
“I was shocked that my vagina had been lubricated, ‘Why was that’, I thought, ‘how could I have been wet when it was so awful? Had he worn a condom? No, there was no time!’
“I was all sticky so I showered and went back to the bedroom. The girls were still asleep and I fell on the bunk in a drunken haze trying to grasp what had just happened. ‘Why would Bill do that to me, we were Young Labor friends and I had never thought of him in that way, he was my senior and I had looked up to him.
“And why was I wet? Did that mean I actually wanted him to rape me? Should I tell anyone? Would anyone believe me?’ Nothing made sense as I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.”
[Studies in America have shown that at least 25 per cent of women who have been raped have reported experiencing vaginal lubrication, some have even experienced orgasm. This has proved damaging to prosecution cases but research scientist, Kelly Suschinsky, explains that the arousal signal from the brain is similar to the fear signal and it’s a protection mechanism that will prevent damage or tearing to the rape victim. Rape victims in these cases have tended to express a degree of guilt and say that their bodies have somehow betrayed them, but that is certainly not the case. It was also noted that some men reported experiencing ejaculation during a fierce fight.]
Kathy awoke the next morning, she felt sick and stayed in bed until 4pm, she then dressed and attended the Party conference that evening at the Convention Centre at the far end of the caravan park.
“Bill was there but I ignored him. He had spoken to so many people about how he ‘had sex’ with me and I felt so uncomfortable with what I thought were so many eyes inspecting me. So I told my sister Kim that we were going home early in the morning. I left the conference and went back to bed.
“The next morning, we packed up, arranged to get a lift to Spencer Street Station and caught the train back to Wodonga. The trees and paddocks were flashing past as I stared out the window. Something had changed in me, I could sense it, I was feeling so many different emotions that they had merged into one giant ball of muddled confusion.
"I could feel I was a different person but I didn’t know in what way.
“On the Monday I didn’t go to school... in fact I never returned to school again. My passion for Labor politics had evaporated overnight and I was having trouble sleeping. Each time I closed my eyes I saw Bill’s stupid face.
“Four months later and suddenly I was experiencing chronic stomach pains and blood started gushing from between my legs. Mum put me straight in the car and rushed me to Mercy Base Hospital in Albury where I spent a few days. Staff told me I had had a miscarriage. It was one more emotion to add to my cart.
“Some time later Bill had called me at home, he had heard I had been in hospital. ‘What were you in hospital for?’, he asked. ‘Oh, nothing really, just female stuff’, I replied. I was damned if I was going to let him know he had done that to me too!
"Stuff Young Labor! Stuff that bastard Bill and stuff his rotten Monash Uni mates! I was over it.
“Apart from running into him early the following year in Melbourne, it was the last time I spoke to Bill and it was the beginning of me spiralling downward and out of control.”
I was watching Kathy’s quivering fingers wrestle with a cigarette paper, “Can I roll that for you?” I asked. “No thanks.” I was carefully choosing my words, it seemed one ill-chosen or poorly framed question would lead to a major meltdown. “Would you like another cup of coffee?”, I asked. “Yes please.”
It was getting difficult to keep her on track when responding to my questions, she would dart off in unrelated directions leaving me marooned on an island of information with no chronological sequence.
After drinking her coffee, Kathy sat back and took a deep breath, “I started smoking a lot of pot and drank a lot. Each time I hit rock bottom I would move to somewhere else. Each doctor I saw prescribed me a different anti-depressant and sent me to a different psychologist.
“In 1993 I moved to the Gold Coast and spent 11 years swamped in drugs and alcohol battling depression, anxiety and insomnia. In 2004 I sobered up and went to live with my sister in Forster where I reported the rape to the Police for the first time. I got the run-around and gave up on it. My psychologist advised me to get a man and 'get over it'... and I really tried to.
“Three or four years later I was getting ready for work and glanced at the TV to get the time. It was the 'Sunrise' program covering the Beaconsfield mine disaster in Tassie and I suddenly saw Bill’s face. I started shaking and became hysterical, I called the police and spoke to a Detective Sergeant David Winter who said he could help.
"He gave me courage but I was scared and eventually I let it go again and started on the alcohol and drugs (self-medication as Kathy refers to it). I slipped back into that murky world of escapism and stayed there.
“For me there was no avoiding Bill now, he was everywhere on every medium, everything was closing in around me and there seemed no way out.
“The next time I spoke to the police was when I was contacted by the Sexual Crimes Squad in Victoria on the 15th of October 2013, and here I am.”
Bill Shorten was asked to come in for questioning and after eight months of investigation the police said there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Shorten immediately volunteered a statement saying it “didn’t happen”.
Well it did happen, but it also happened, and still happens, to many other 16 year-old girls who dabble in drugs and alcohol with older predatory men.
For me, I cannot understand what enjoyment there can be had from forcing sex on another human being. It seems anathema to what sex is all about.
It must take a certain type of predator, a control freak with a power complex and a dark mind to enjoy any part of forcing unwanted sex on another person, let alone a friend.
I assisted Kathy to her car and returned to my cramped office wondering how different Kathy’s life might have been if Bill Shorten had never been born.
To be honest, I am not certain it would have been... sexually opportunistic people like Bill Shorten have always been around.