ACT group blasted over Facebook link

01:28, Jan 06 2011
Peter McCaffrey
UNDER FIRE: ACT On Campus president Peter McCaffrey is defending comments on the organisation's Facebook page comparing compulsory student union membership to rape.

The ACT Party's youth division has caused online outrage after posting a quote comparing compulsory union membership to gang rape.

A rape prevention group and students criticised ACT on Campus for trivialising sexual assault by quoting a Canadian opinion piece on its public Facebook page.

The quote read: "If two men corner a woman in a dark alley and force her to have sex with them because they, the majority, have voted in favour of it, that would still be rape, not the exercise of their group right to freedom of association."

Rape Prevention Education director Dr Kim McGregor said requiring students to join a student union is nothing like the violation and humiliation associated with rape.

"Most female and male survivors of sexual violence would be likely to feel upset and outraged that someone could even consider linking the crime of gang rape with a majority decision. The linking of the two is insensitive and offensive to all rape survivors."

McGregor said the posting by an ACT youth member implied support of the rape analogy and therefore should be removed.

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But ACT on Campus president Peter McCaffrey said there were no plans to delete the posting.

"It's not something that ACT on Campus has written," he said. "It's a Facebook link. I don't think it's a news story."

McCaffrey would not comment on who posted the link, but said it was not him. However, he added that it would not matter if it had been him. "I don't have anything to answer for."

He declined to comment about whether he thought the quote could cause offence to rape victims.

The self-described "libertarian with occasional anarcho-capitalist tendencies" stood for the ACT Party in the 2008 election, but failed in his bid for the Otaki seat.

ACT Party member Heather Roy said she was not concerned by the quote on the ACT on Campus Facebook page.

"It's a pretty tenuous link [with rape] if you ask me," she said. "No-one has been quoted – it's a link to a newspaper article."

Roy said she would not ask ACT on Campus to remove the link.

"I'm not about dictating to ACT on Campus ... what they can or cannot put on their Facebook page."

However, other student groups slammed the comment as offensive and called for the link to be deleted.

UCOL student association president Kylie Jefferies said the analogy was disgusting and inappropriate.

"Effectively they've put it out there so they're responsible for any comments."

The quote also brought condemnation from the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA).

"The fact that they continue to defend highlighting this analogy shows how little they understand of rape culture in New Zealand," said NZUSA national women's rights officer Caitlin Dunham.

"ACT on Campus need to think twice before comparing their experience as members of student associations to the traumatising experience of sexual assault.

"Such thinking further tarnishes the reputation of the ACT Party."

The ACT Party's Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment bill, which is currently before Parliament, aims to make student membership to student associations voluntary.

ONLINE REACTION

A controversial quote comparing rape to compulsory union membership on the ACT on Campus Facebook page drew a strong response from the online community. Among the comments were:

Jozef Angus: "This is an awful analogy, and you should be ashamed for using it."

Jebs O'Rourke: "Yes, because apples, oranges and rape are all clearly the same thing."

David James: "I think you have gone off track here. You do not have to resort to posting a rape analogy. I think many people would find it degrading, inappropriate and it disrupts the debate by comparing one side to a rapist."

ACT on Campus: "Thanks to the Labour and Green supporters for their comments but an analogy is just that, an analogy. No-one claimed the two are the same or equivalent."

Manawatu Standard