Trigger warning for rape
If what his own defence lawyers say is true, Julian Assange is a rapist.
He described Assange as penetrating one woman while she slept without a condom, in defiance of her previously expressed wishes, before arguing that because she subsequently “consented to … continuation” of the act of intercourse, the incident as a whole must be taken as consensual.
In the other incident, in which Assange is alleged to have held a woman down against her will during a sexual encounter, Emmerson offered this summary: “[The complainant] was lying on her back and Assange was on top of her … [she] felt that Assange wanted to insert his penis into her vagina directly, which she did not want since he was not wearing a condom … she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … [she] tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. [She] says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly.”
In the first instance, he penetrated a woman without her consent. The penetration was not consensual. This is rape. Legally and morally.
In the second instance, he held down a woman and attempted to penetrate her while she was distressed and fighting him off. If penetration occurred, this is rape. If penetration did not occur, it is attempted rape and rather serious sexual assault. Legally and morally.
Even his own defence is saying that Julian Assange is a rapist.
Despite this, there are still those who leap to Assange’s defence. A top tweet referred to what Assange did as “being a bad lover“, and many others similar in tone buzzed around hashtags pertaining to Assange’s extradition hearing. Some of these voices even come from the left.
It is a far cry from the outrage surrounding Ken Clarke’s distinction between “serious rape” and “date rape”. Suddenly, the very same people who objected to a Tory engaging in rape apologism are doing the very same thing themselves: springing to the defence of a rapist, declaring there must have been some sort of misunderstanding, or perhaps the women are lying, or perhaps holding a woman down and forcibly attempting penetration isn’t anything like rape, or squirming around, groping for legal loopholes.
What Assange did was wrong. Thoroughly wrong. I had hoped we had reached a stage where penetrating a woman who is unable to consent or using force to penetrate a woman is known by all to be something that is thoroughly reprehensible and worthy of punishment. I am disappointed and furious that this is not the case.
It is perfectly possible to decry Assange while supporting Wikileaks. As a project, I think Wikileaks is a good thing. Some information needs to be made available in the public domain, and Wikileaks is brilliant for facilitating this. I also believe in free speech, something championed by Wikileaks. Free speech allows me to express my opinion that Julian Assange is a rapist.
Assange is not Wikileaks. For starters, Wikileaks is a large project which is staffed by many people other than Assange. Another difference is that Julian Assange is most likely a rapist, and Wikileaks is not. It is therefore perfectly simple to support Wikileaks while acknowledging what Assange did is completely and utterly wrong.
It is rather like Rebekah Brooks and the News of the World. Rebekah Brooks should have resigned or been sacked, setting up a distance between Brooks and the newspaper. Instead, Brooks was kept, while the newspaper was taken down.
There should be a distance between Assange and Wikileaks. Wikileaks is not Assange. Assange is not Wikileaks. It needs to be clearer: given that Assange is probably a rapist, he is poison to the project. There is a line of reasoning which suggests that the case against Assange was pursued to destroy Wikileaks. I believe that this notion has some traction, and it makes me sad that this case was only brought forward to further the interests of those Wikileaks damaged.
To dissociate Assange from Wikileaks is the solution to the problem. He is hardly essential; there are many competent people who could head up the project. The new head of Wikileaks would not be a rapist and therefore would not be toxic.
Yet many of the same people who called for Brooks to go are defending Assange with rape apologism, instead of divorcing him from the project.
This is unnecessary. We should be focusing on what is right and what is wrong.
Rape is always wrong.
Update: It is entirely possible the defence is referring to if Assange did it, rather than an admission that he had. This does not mean there are not charges to answer. There are. This does not mean he is innocent, nor does it mean the survivors are liars. The allegations must be taken very seriously indeed and not dismissed or brushed away from the discussion.
Update 2: Just want to point out that I am retracting my “still liking Wikileaks” assertion. While I support the notion of a service like Wikileaks which would allow people to anonymously leak information, which would hold the powerful to account, Wikileaks isn’t it. It’s become Assange’s personal propaganda machine, not leaking anything of value and merely waffling on about their leader. It’s beyond help, which is a huge shame as we really need something that would serve the function Wikileaks once did.