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Louise Nicholas' story - devastating but important

Last updated 10:26 18/08/2014

TRIGGER WARNINGS

I've had to write some difficult things in my time as a journalist and blogger, but none more so than my thoughts on Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story.

How do you review something which tells a story so abhorrent, troubling and indicative of an ongoing societal problem in a television blog? I don't think it's possible.

So my apologies - I'm not going to be spending too much time on the actual show itself, more around the issues it raised and my experience of watching it.

That's not to say it wasn't brilliantly done - it was. And Michelle Blundell, who played Nicholas, was exceptional. But right from the start it was one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever watched.

I saw people on Twitter saying they had to turn over and how it was potentially triggering. I completely understand that, and had I not been reviewing it, I would have joined them.

But it's also something that, if you can bring yourself to watch, you should. Nicholas' story deserves an audience after what she went through.

A lot of people would have been aware of broad aspects of the story before TVNZ and New Zealand On Air's brave decision to recreate it - but I'm guessing few would have been fully aware of just how devastating it was.

It all started when she was just 13 years old and was allegedly raped by a policeman in Murupara.

Then there were the allegations most are familiar with that ended in a trial for Bob Schollum, Brad Shipton and Clint Rickards. The scenes dealing with what happened in Rutland Street in Rotorua, in particular, were beyond devastating and probably the most gut-wrenching things ever put to film in this country.

What I didn't know, and I suspect many didn't, was how journalist Phi Kitchin played a big part in getting her story out there and the role played by former senior Rotorua policeman John Dewar.

When Nicholas felt finally able to go to the police over her dreadful experiences Dewar was the cop she told her story to. She trusted him - he seemed to believe her story and care about getting justice.

Unfortunately that wasn't true. Dewar was eventually jailed for four and a half years after being found guilty of attempting to obstruct or defeat the courts of justice during the investigation of the rape allegations.

He also, according to The Crown, gave inadmissible evidence to ensure the trials of her first alleged rapist would be halted and suppressed allegations Nicholas made against the three other men.

Part of the problem we, as a society, face is things really haven't changed since Nicholas took the brave decision to tell her story to Kitchin in the Dominion Post.

We still live with a culture which constantly tells women they are to blame for being raped and excusing the men who do it. We tell them they have to take precautions. We tell them not to wear revealing clothes. We tell them if they don't scream and shout loud enough they were asking for it. We tell them to wear running shoes so they can run away.

The ending of the film revealed how an inquiry into the New Zealand police showed a culture of sexual abuse and cover-up - and one would hope systems have been put into place to stop such a thing happening again.

However the way Nicholas was treated, the fact that two of the policemen she says raped her were already serving prison terms for rape, the way we blame women in this country all should be a wake-up call to us to never accept this.

How we improve society is a much bigger question than this blog could ever hope to answer. That doesn't mean we shouldn't start asking the question.

It was a film that had to be made. It was a film that had to be watched. I suspect I'll never be quite the same again having done so.

* If you have been affected by any of the issues this show or blog raised, there is help available.  Please contact the National support 24 Hour Helpline 0800 883300 or visit the Rape Prevention Education website at  www.rpe.org.nz

* Due to the sensitive nature of the material, we've elected not to allow comments on this blog post.

- Stuff

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