// 17 July 2011

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leaky tap.jpg

[Trigger warning for description of sexual abuse.]

As you’re probably already well aware, the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was held this week. Much of the hearing focused on the issue of whether his sexual behaviour towards the two women involved in the accusations against him constituted a crime. I’m not a legal expert and I’m not in a position to judge whether or not he should be extradited. However, I do want to add my voice to those who have pointed out that no matter the legal definition, no one should have any difficulty labelling this behaviour as abusive.

Assange’s lawyer described the sexual encounters with the two witnesses as follows, based on their statements (emphasis mine):

[Witness AA] The appellant [Assange]’s physical advances were initially welcomed but then it felt awkward since he was “rough and impatient” … They lay down in bed. AA was lying on her back and Assange was on top of her … AA 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 did not articulate this. Instead she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … AA 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. AA says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly.

[Witness SW] They fell asleep and she woke up by his penetrating her. She immediately asked if he was wearing anything. He answered: “You.” She said: “You better not have HIV.” He said: “Of course not.” She may have been upset, but she clearly consented to its [the sexual encounter’s] continuation and that is a central consideration.

Preventing a sexual partner from protecting herself from potential STIs and pregnancy is a seriously nasty, abusive thing to do. Penetrating someone when they are asleep – when no prior consent for this specific act has been given – is a seriously nasty, abusive thing to do. I’m appalled that anyone could seriously believe it isn’t rape.

Yet I can’t say I’m surprised. Nor am I surprised that so many people seem to think Assange’s admittedly (from my perspective) impressive contribution to global freedom of information somehow neutralises this alleged abusive behaviour. After all, we have a grand ol’ tradition of letting “nice guys” get away with treating women like crap. But excuse me if I feel a little queasy that people can read the above statements and then trot off and bake cakes, wave flags and line up to make gushing media statements in his honour. Innocent until proven guilty, yes, but when even his lawyer admits that the women may have found Assange’s behaviour “disreputable, discourteous, disturbing, or even pushing towards the boundaries of what they were comfortable with”, I for one am not prepared to hold this man up as some kind of hero.

All info taken from the Guardian’s coverage, here.

Photo of a leaky tap (because I didn’t want to use a photo of Assange) by mr lynch, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Comments From You

Ray Filar // Posted 17 July 2011 at 11:24 pm

I mean, can it possibly be the case that (if these witness statements are admitted as fact) they describe acts which are not legally rape?

Under section 1(1) SOA 2003 a defendant, A, is guilty of rape if:

_ A intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of B (the complainant) with his penis;

_ B does not consent to the penetration; and,

_ A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

Penetrating someone whilst asleep = rape.

sian norris // Posted 18 July 2011 at 9:26 am

i can’t believe that that is the defence’s statement to try and show it wasn’t assault. he held her down and forced her legs apart. the defence seems to be resting on the fact she didn’t say the word ‘no’. that isn’t what consent is. how can people read that and not see it as abusive? it doesn’t matter that he runs wikileaks. people can do good and bad things. the whole thing is so awful. am sick of all the Assange cheerleaders.

i wrote a little bit about this on my blog ( as it seems to me the second case this week which has sought to redefine what we mean by consent.

thanks for writing Laura. Was nearly in tears following this on the guardian last week.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 18 July 2011 at 4:10 pm

In brief consent does not exist for women because men apparently have the inalienable right of sexual access to women 24/7. Assange is a ‘good man’ because his public persona is one wherein he challenges men’s abuse of power over other men but at the same time Assange has supposedly the inalienable right of raping any woman because it is never rape but just men’s sexual right of unlimited sexual access to any female.

That is why women have never, ever been accorded sexual autonomy or ownership of their bodies and the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 reinforces this pseudo male sex right because women continue to be defined as ‘consenting to a male penetrating their bodies’ unless said woman/women can provide conclusive independent male witnesses that they did not ‘consent.’ Ergo – women consent to male penetration of their bodies unless men say otherwise!

This is the meaning of living in a rape culture and a male supremacist system. Male sexual violence against women is non-existent because Assange’s sexual demands superceded the woman’s right of sexual autonomy and Assange ensured his sexual rights were accorded by lying on top of the woman and forcing her compliance/submission. That’s the meaning of male domination over women.

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