John Suda is a sexual predator, not a viral meme

What those with the privilege not to fully understand sexual assault do not comprehend, is that humiliation is one of the key parts of the trauma which empowers the abuser

I am irked. Wound up, and frankly quite angry. Because when I read the testimonial of the brave young woman who was sexually assaulted by John Suda in his work-studio/massage parlour, like many other countless women I find myself realising that this is not the first time I have heard of such an extreme form of sexual harassment and assault.

So, when I logged on to my social media pages this weekend to see my feed flooded with memes and jokes about John Suda’s indecent assault on a young woman, I just couldn’t get my head around it all. Rather than recognise the situation as a grave and illegal act, my social media acquaintances somehow chose to see the situation as humorous.

And as the hours passed by, I watched as the framing of John Suda’s actions transformed from a heinous act of abuse, to some sort of comedy skit in a bad Fantozzi re-enactment. Suddenly John Suda, a convicted sexual predator, was no longer a sexual predator but the caricature of a horny old man chasing after girls’ skirts.

As a young woman myself, I find myself really angry at the development of Suda’s framing. This is because sexual assault is not about horny old men. It is not about sexuality at all. Combatting sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual violence is not an attack on male sexuality, and it has never been. It is an attack on abuse of power, of non-consensual sexual advances and the use of fear for personal gain. And surely, if one chooses to abuse of their power in such a way, then one does not deserve it.

What those with the privilege not to fully understand sexual assault do not comprehend, is that humiliation is one of the key parts of the trauma which empowers the abuser

When voicing my own concerns about this during the past week, I was met with many different opinions. Some reached out to say that I had opened their eyes to their contribution of Suda’s reframing and the lack of respect being shown to the woman he abused. Many came to recognise that by making a joke of Suda’s actions they were in turn shifting the limelight away from the seriousness of the situation, and shifting it onto a new narrative which portrays Suda as nothing more than a horny old dog.

Others, however, seemed to think that I was asking them to censor themselves. And this alone, made me realise that the humour instated by many of my online compatriots was not borne out of a genuine desire to glorify Suda and cause further pain to the woman he abused, but it was borne out of an element of, dare I say, great privilege.

Today’s reality is that the vast majority of young people have social media. This means that it is very likely that the woman Suda abused has come across these “jokes” about the trauma that she had to endure. And while many may be able to detach themselves from the seriousness of the allegations by invoking humour to describe the assault, it may not entirely be the case for the woman that Suda abused.

It is for that reason one should be respectful and courteous. Does it not say something about individuals and society as a whole, if we are all unable to recognise that much of the pain of being sexually violated is the humiliation that comes with it?

And are we not privileged if we have been lucky enough not to experience such a thing to the point that it does not occur to us to not contribute to that very humiliation?

What those with the privilege not to fully understand sexual assault, or just the threat of it, do not seem to comprehend, is that humiliation is one of the key parts of the trauma which empowers the abuser. It is why cat-callers laugh when women talk back, why young boys who take pictures up young girls’ skirts and share those same pictures with their classmates are in fits of laughter during break-time, and why men at the workplace think they can give unwanted back massages while boasting about it with their male colleagues in the break room. We are the fruit of the problem if we do not make it clear that sexual assault is not a “locker-room joke”.

So, it is not censorship I am calling for, but cultural change. There are hundreds of John Sudas running around our streets – the only difference is that he got caught. But if you equate Suda’s behaviour to be governed by his sexuality and not by his decision to abuse his power for his own personal gain, then it gives this overall impression to society that it is sexuality which is immoral – and not the rampant abuse of power.

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