Tania Billingsley – Hero of the Week | The Jackal

10 Jul 2014

Tania Billingsley – Hero of the Week

We should all have heard by now about the case of a Malaysian diplomat who was allowed to leave New Zealand after he was accused of burglary and attempted rape. Being that these are serious crimes, under the current law Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail should have been detained in New Zealand until a fair trial was conducted.

However, according to the government there was nothing they could do to ensure justice was done in Gods own. Even when the Malaysian government said they would drop the accused mans diplomatic immunity; apparently the responsible Minister, Murray McCully, wasn't able to do anything at all to ensure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accepted their offer for the accused to stand trial in New Zealand.

Instead, Ismail was helped out of the country either with the government’s blessing or because of the Ministers ineptitude. Because of that, McCully made a rather belated apology to the Prime Minister, which appeared to be for the attempted cover-up being uncovered so close to the election. However to date no apology has been made to the woman at the centre of all this.

Only because of the 3rd Degree story last night was it confirm that a written apology was in the mail, which in my opinion is simply not good enough. That’s two months after Ismail was allowed to leave. The young lady clearly deserved a formal apology from the highest levels of government as soon as it was known they'd botched up the negotiations with Malaysia so badly.

Yesterday, Paula Penfold reported:

The woman at the centre of the Malaysian diplomat case has spoken out about what she feels is a mishandling of the case and a symptomatic breakdown in how New Zealand treats victims of sexual violence.

Tania Billingsley, 21, has voluntarily had her name suppression lifted so she could share her thoughts on the case with media.

It's not often government officials are so closely associated with trying to cover-up an alleged crime of this nature, but it is just as unusual for the victim to come forward and speak out publicly so definitively about the mishandling of their case. With only praise for how the police handled things, Tania Billingsley succinctly points out where the failure truly lies.

She says she wants more than just an apology.

"It would take them actually committing to address rape culture and to being just more engaged in this stuff as an apology instead; if they want to swap an apology for them starting to deal with this stuff then I'm okay with that."

But if an apology is to come, whom does she want it from?

"McCully, I would like an apology from him, not just for what I feel is a really incompetent handling of the situation, but in his reaction, like the fact that even when asked directly about me and things like that, that he just brushed it off. He was so intent on trying to put responsibility and blame on everybody else that I just feel like he wasn't actually addressing and putting energy towards fixing what had happened. Obviously it was painful for me to watch that, seeing someone be so dismissive of something that's been so traumatic to me, but it is also embarrassing watching a grown man trying to put blame and talk his way out of what effectively is failure at his own job."

She says Mr McCully should resign.

Like many people in New Zealand, Tania Billingsley has obviously noticed that the government is doing nothing to address let alone curb rape culture. The outspoken Tania Billingsley writes further on this topic here (PDF):

We have seen this rape culture reflected in our own government's response to my assault. It only became a matter of importance that was properly addressed when it started to inconvenience those in power. When I saw my assault being reported in the media it was primarily men given the authority to speak on it, when, apart from the police, it was women who were doing the incredibly hard job of supporting me, listening to me and helping me begin to heal.

Rape culture is in the reaction and words of our Prime Minister. John Key recently questioned David Cunliffe's sincerity over his comments that preceded a speech in support of Women's Refuge. It genuinely makes me wonder if he has watched any of his responses to what happened to me. I think if he had, he wouldn't be so quick to question the sincerity of others – not only this, but his reaction to Mr Cunliffe's speech, the ever-present, knee-jerk reaction "not all men".

Was the Prime Minister even aware of his own failings? In his ducking and diving John Key failed to even acknowledge the main problem. His reaction was all about trying to get the government off the hook. Not to mention Murray McCully laying blame on MFAT, the police and Malaysia, everywhere but where the blame should be placed, the Minister himself.

Instead of acting responsibly in the first place to ensure a trial was conducted in New Zealand we have a Minister who’s determined to try and ignore the issues raised in the hope that people will simply forget. That's how the government is now dealing with this case and it's how they've dealt with rape culture in general, by ignoring it.

We also have an ineffective Prime Minister who, despite his proclamations about keeping his Ministers to higher standards, isn't willing to hold a terribly incompetent Minister to account at all. Clearly the Prime Minister was only paying lip service to such standards, which appear to be non-existent under his administration.

I couldn’t help but wonder how Tania Billingsley felt while the media furore was going on and the government was trying to pass the buck. Because of her upfront and courageous nature we now know. That’s why she wins this week’s Hero Award. In my opinion Tania is the type of young person that should be running this country.