In an article called “My Side of the Story“, a somewhat contrite and reflective young woman tells WHO magazine, “all I really wanted was an apology”.
She talks about how the father of her twins reacted when she told him she was pregnant, how he started to hyperventilate and cry.
She was pregnant and clearly wanted to maintain her relationship with him. Is that such an uncommon thing for a young girl or a woman?
She describes how she slept at the Melbourne home of the footballer who was the father of her twins, a young man clearly not prepared
to be a father. Her expectations of him may have seemed a little unrealistic by others’ standards, although nobody can deny that this is how she felt.
This type of scenario is a familiar one and is probably replayed every single day throughout Australia. Teenage boys and girls have hormones and engage in sexual relations. Girls have hormones but perhaps their instincts to establish relationships are even stronger.
It is a fact of life that some men aren’t ready for the commitment of marriage or being a father. The teenager on the other hand felt in some ways that she had found the man she wanted. Perhaps she was deluding herself, as many 19 year old boys aren’t always prepared for a long term commitment at that age.
What we have is a fairly typical scenario.
However what made it unusual was that the footballer in question was trying to pressure this young girl to have sex with his fellow footballers, something that may even occur at a school to a popular guy.
The fans and the club are responsible for giving players their fame, a tool which they can use as leverage to engage in this kind of behaviour which harms lives.
Clubs have a moral responsibility to control how they use their position, as do girls have to learn to use judgement when making decisions to get involved in relationships at a young age.
In a football club it appears that it is very much a part of the ‘team spirit’ to do want to do what your ‘mates’ want. In a team sport group sex is the outward manifestation of a form of peer pressure, part of being one of the boys, a part of wanting to be seen in a favourable light. Or who knows? Perhaps it is just to demonstrate one’s sexual prowess than part of the male bonding culture.
We learn more about the girls experience as she describes how one night after sleeping with the footballer he brought a number of team mates into the room where they slept. She describes how she was drunk at the time yet still refused the pressure applied to her to participate in group activities with them. She states that she was disinhibited at the time and had sex with the father of her child in the same room as other footballers were present.
“I knew morally it wasn’t right,” she says, but says she was drunk at the time of the incident.
It is easy to see how quickly what might be seen as something slightly immoral by her standards could so quickly cross the line into something illegal and how dangerous such behaviour is.
It is inappropriate for players to be using football public events such as ‘leadership talks’ or educational venues for conducting recruiting of a sort.
The girl stands firm on the fact that she has no regrets about publishing the information and is fortified in her belief that she has done the ‘right’ thing, something she gauges by the number of girls who she has received emails from praising her actions.
Despite what the spin doctors from the AFL and St Kilda Football Club would have us believe, the St Kilda School Girl saga is not just about an unsuspecting and wronged St Kilda football Captains being ambushed by their team mates who betray them.
This is not not just about the ultimate form of betrayal, namely the betrayal of one team mate by another, and the ‘injury’ and hurt it caused to Nick Riewoldt.
This sordid affair isn’t just about football.
It is about how mateship, in this case in the context of football, is privileged over the second class treatment of women, who have long been second class class citizens in AFL land.
They always will be, as long as Andrew Demetriou is prepared to sanction and endorse this kind of behaviour, over and above his earlier protestations that this kind of behaviour towards women would cease on his watch.
Nor is is about the differential privacy rights of public versus private figures and the rights of celebrities to have their images protected from a voyeuristic public and media.
All this really is, reduced to it’s basics, is a case of blatant sexual exploitation of a minor, a vulnerable woman, committed by predatory, remorseless men whose behaviour seems beyond reproach and is condoned at the highest levels.
Whilst there is a tone of regret and reflection in this 17 year old girl’s attitude, she faces a legion of remorseless and powerful men, some attired in suits and ties standing behind their prized boys in football jerseys who they so vehemently defend by wrapping them in cotton wool.
There has been a lot of handballing on the part of football golden boys, senior executives and officials.
Apart from Phil Cleary and Derryn Hinch, there has been a conspicuous absence of journalists expressing condemnation of this harmful masculine culture condoned by the AFL, and even more insidiously the culture of cover-up which leaves a young girl at the centre of a media circus, lynched from all quarters.
From the start the press never allowed details interfere with a response that elevated the players’ reputations above all else, including the personal feelings and background of a young 17 year old disenfranchised girl.
How long did the press savage this young girl before acknowledging, albeit almost as an aside, a small detail, namely that she had been abused in the most egregious way by a Police Officer, a person who is supposed to be in a position of trust and authority?
Had the media joined the dots before Derryn Hinch did?
The public finally came to learn about the connection between the the case involving Police Officer Luke Donoghue and the teenager at the centre of the St Kilda Football photo scandal.
Luke Donaghue is facing 14 criminal charges for sexually abusing a St Kilda school girl after plying her with alcohol to achieve his objective. He used his position of trust and authority to procure sex with a child.
The media seemed to gloss over this small detail.
Instead the media machine was focusing heavily on the grievances of the injured and maligned St Kilda Football players . Their reputations seemed to be all important.
So important were their precious reputations that the injury and damage done to the girl was overlooked.
The focus was on the photos taken on what seemed to be a frivolous occasion, the induction of Zac Dawson into the St Kilda Football Club.
What everyone failed to notice was that this young girls’ induction to life hasn’t’ been all that nifty.
She very easily got lost in the feeding frenzy in the legal furore over a few photos, amongst them one of another induction, which may just a been a side show for more serious accusations.
The facts which seem to have been forgotten are as follows:
1. By the tender age of 17, this girl has known of the grief of losing two children
2. She has been ridiculed, and treated appallingly whilst she was carrying twins in total disregard for either her welfare or the welfare of her unborn children, which she lost possibly due to the stress she was under.
3. After suffering this loss, a loss that no woman who has lost a child could possibly fail to identify with, she was then publicly demonised and threatened by the ‘biggest show in town‘
4. She was sexually abused, clearly without consent, by a Police Officer
She has been ridiculed and sexually exploited by a culture which prizes male bonding and group sex with minors above all else.
It is beyond my wildest imagination that an institution as powerful as the AFL, a local football club, the media and a legion of fans, seemed at peace with the AFL sicking a team of legal stars on a 17 year old girl, let alone a girl who had been treated with such indignity and with such a vengeance. On top of that they then condemned her and treated her with contempt, as if she was the perpetrator, not the victim.
Did they forget that she is a ward of the State, has been disowned, prematurely labelled a thief by the AFL, disinherited and marginalised, standing in front of all girls her age who are watching the events which unfold. There is no element of deterrence. What girl is going to come forward after seeing what has happened to this young girl, particularly one brave enough to expose the hypocrisy that occurs in AFL land?
The AFL, players, executives, officials and the St Kilda Football Club obviously had little time to react and co-ordinate their responses.
After all the internet doesn’t wait for anybody. Its robust structure re-routes around censorship and treats it as a malfunction. (Lawrence Lessig – Code versus Law in Cyberspace)
All concerned found themselves swimming against the tide in unchartered waters. These waters were familiar, but once the internet was thrown into the mix, the whole ball game changed!
The mighty AFL found themselves at the mercy of a fragile young girl with little else but a mouse, some photos, transcripts and a computer at her disposal to tell her story after exhausting all other avenues.
She had finally come to a dead end. With the click of a mouse she executed what seemed to her to be the only strategy available to her after exhausting all other avenues and enduring months and months of pain and grief.
The legal fraternity and Judiciary are still trying to come to terms with how to confront the legal challenges the internet has raised, straining to retrofit ancient legal doctrines to a world in which communications technologies are evolving more quickly than any parliament could even legislate for.
The AFL legal team seem to be preoccupied by defamation of their own players they allege has been committed by the girl.
By stark contrast no attention has been given to the fact that this young teenager has been subjected to a deluge of defamatory commentary across the internet. Once upon notice of infringing material, website owners are under an obligation to remove it, according to well established case law. (Godfrey v Demon).
Some of this material has allegedly been posted on a St Kilda Football Club website although it isn’t clear whether the site has an affiliation with the official St Kilda Football Club website.
The Club’s response to the injuries sustained by the girl and which continue to accumulate has been far from proactive. The St Kilda Football Club management have not even taken any action to stop players from continuing to send offensive communications to her, despite the vulnerable state she is in psychologically.
Despite a legal suppression order preventing her name being released, her identity is plastered all over the internet in the most hateful way imaginable. The St Kilda football players are sending messages almost every day she says, urging her to kill herself, and depending on the severity of the messages this could easily constitute anything from a civil wrong to a criminal act of incitement.
Like a lot of women who have either suffered silently or publicly at the hands of sexual abusers, she is having a difficult time showing her face in public.
For the benefit of the AFL legal team, I believe under Australian law one legal term which would aptly describe the conduct being engaged in is ‘victimisation’.
As stated above this is not about football.
This is about power, sexual abuse of women and the culture of cover-up, which we have witnessed so many times.
On this occasion AFL players and executives with their strong arm tactics are the Ambassadors carrying out the ‘shame and blame’ routine, apparently with a form of immunity which can only be characterised as akin to a level of immunity accorded to diplomats.
We remember what happened when the Catholic, Anglican and other churches protected Priests from the consequences of their abuse.
We are supposed to hold those institutions morally and legally responsible for their actions.
The Institutions can be brought to account but only where there is a willingness to do so. Such behaviour should not be condoned or sanctioned in any way.
It isn’t in the best interests of the players to wrap them in cotton wool.
If anything, the AFL should be subjecting the players to additional consquences and penalties, compensating the victims and co-operating fully with the police.
If the AFL had have been more proactive in mandating that Fevola attend treatment earlier rather than protecting him and belittling the damage he did to Lara Bingle, perhaps his future might be looking a bit brighter today.
Who would argue that it morally more objectionable to expose a male willingly posing for a photograph than an unwilling female Lara Bingle?
Obviously the AFL could be the only ones who feel this way. Oh..and apparently some fans.
Legally it might be the seen as the same to expose men and women in this way in a society of equals, however we all understand that it is a lot more humiliating to expose a naked woman, particularly where she has a legitimate expectation of privacy.
This teenage girl was once a champion athlete, but obviously her biggest wrongdoing was to allow herself to be a star in a minor sport, as opposed to being a participant as a celebrity in a much bigger game. She has been a star attraction but she isn’t a hundred thousand dollar footy player. She was just a St Kilda School Girl who, once an athlete herself, and a young girl felt special around the man who jilted her when it was discovered she was the mother of his children.
Although it is unclear, I have heard she was a runner. She spent years training and doing her schoolwork. She obviously had some sense of dedication, a commitment and a love of sports. She then started doing some modelling and entered a ‘glamorous‘ world which turned out not to be so glamorous. She admits that at one point in her life she took a wrong turn.
Just imagine if Sam went to the US and a women’s basketball player abused him, and said he doesn’t matter as “he is just a groupie“.
As the AFL have already demonstrated, had she been an AFL player, her misdemeanours would have been forgiven.
Her real crime was to be a star participant in a sport out of her league where only saints fear to tread.
Andrew Demetriou claims that there were up to 20 meetings with the girl. The girl claims that she has never personally met with Demetriou, although Demetriou claims to have offered support through the AFL and facilitated that support to her. The precise details of that support have not been released.
She apparently met with a former Police woman on a few occasions. Demetrious’ reaction to the girl didn’t quite fit together with Lewin’s attitude, even though he was reacting on behalf of the AFL whilst Lewin is pursuing the girl from a different angle.
What has emerged is that there has been a failure of co-operation by St Kilda Football Management with Police, well at least if co-operation means assisting the Police rather than obstructing them in conducting their investigations.
According to information from the ‘Human Headline’, whilst Victorian Police were interviewing the St Kilda school, the interview was interrupted by phone calls from St Kilda’s football operations manager, Greg Hutchison telling the girl what to say to the Police.
He implored her to tell the Police that no alcohol or drugs were involved in the big event with the footballers.
Any lawyers and member of the public would know it is unethical and arguably illegal to coach witnesses. Whilst there is no property in a witness, this girl was a complainant giving a statement to the Police.
It was clear the knows it is unethical to coach witnesses. There is no property in a witness or complainant as a witness in this instance. It was clear in this case that Andersen wasn’t acting as the girls’ legal representative.
Why would the Police allow this? Are they breaching ethical standards in allowing such contact to take place during a Police interview?
St. Kilda Football Club have publicly asserted that she stole “the photos” when referring to the Riewoldt Miami photos.
It is a bit premature to start talking about stealing or theft which has a moral connotation of intent to steal, to deprive a person of ownership of property. Furthermore, even if the girl acquired the images from Gilbert’s computer and did not own them, St Kilda are conveniently conflating theft of a tangible item with an intangible one.
One doesn’t steal intellectual property at least in a strict legal sense. Copyright is violated.
From a moral standpoint is it legitimate to accuse someone of stealing something when even at this point ownership of the photos is yet to be established and is in dispute?
In accusing the girl of theft we are attributing knowledge and intent to a 17 year old girl at the time when she may have decided to publish or acquire the images that she may not even have appreciated she didn’t have ownership rights to.
Most people probably wouldn’t be absolutely clear where ownership of copyright lay in a photograph, leaving aside the question of fact as to whether she did illegally acquire the images or took them with a form of implied licence from Gilbert or with her own camera.
In general, the AFL’s modus operandi has been to minimise the consequences for their players from a legal standpoint possibly becaue they fear the financial consequences the club and players would face.
Part of the disgrace from her point of view, as described by her, in her own words was that possibly she was involved in doing something ‘morally wrong‘
The St Kilda Football Club tried to exercise damage control but ended up being tarnished by their wrongdoing.
The game of AFL is tarnished.
From the reactions of the officials, it is no more than a bogus organisation and absolutely nothing has been done to salvage appearances in the true sense of the word.
To call the AFL’s attitude overbearing is the understatement of the century.
What is most disappointing is that the public doesn’t seem to have any expectations or standards, nor do the media, bar a few exceptions such as Hinch and Cleary.
There is a public interest in this affair beyond that which relates to how football players adhere to standards which respect women and their respect and responsibility programs.
This isn’t just a “private affair” as conveniently portrayed by the media and spin doctors.
There is a public interest in how club members and taxpayers subsidies are expended which were earmarked for other purposes, connected or unconnected to footy, not school clinics which sanction this kind of predatory behaviour towards minors.
Nothing will surprise me when the highest goal of the AFL is to protect their brand equity or product and handballing in the name of damage control is the predominant concern.