'The majority of men in Australia envy me ... I was 59, she was 15'
In my 60 Minutes travels these past eight years I’m sad to say I’ve covered far too many examples of female oppression around the world.
Girls without access to an education in strict sharia law controlled countries, women without a voice in parliament or the right to vote, and victims of domestic violence who are told it is their husband’s right to punish them and they have no recourse.
I just never expected to find an example of victim oppression in my own backyard – here in Australia.
‘Jane Doe’ as we are legally forced to call her - even though she wants you to know who she is – was repeatedly sexually assaulted at the age of 15 by her mathematics teacher Nicolaas Bester, who taught at the prestigious private girls’ school St Michael’s Collegiate in Hobart.
Bester was 58 at the time.
He was jailed for that crime, and for having child pornography on his computer. Up until that point the law got it right, but then it got it horribly wrong.
In Tasmania, and also in the Northern Territory, it is a crime to ever identify a victim of sexual assault, even with their express permission.
Back in 2012 The Sunday Tasmanian published the name of a rape victim with her consent and was prosecuted for doing so. Fined $20,000.
We have seen firsthand with the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse within Institutions that action and change does not come about without brave survivors putting their hands up and saying, “This is what happened to me, and this is the impact it has had.”
A face and name not only humanises the victim, it makes the crime real. It’s why politicians fight so hard to ensure asylum seekers can’t be identified, because if we saw their faces and heard their stories first-hand we might not be so keen to see so many families in detention for years on end.
In Jane Doe’s case her perpetrator completed his initial jail time and then got locked again after he bragged in a Facebook chat;
“The majority of men in Australia envy me. I was 59, she was 15 … it was awesome.”
Those comments caused unimaginable torment to his victim, but nowhere near as much harm as what was to come at the end of 2017.
Bester took part in an online interview with sex therapist Bettina Arndt, in which the two discuss all of the things Nicolaas Bester has lost.
“I lost everything - I lost my home, I’ve been married for 37 years, I lost my marriage, I lost my children, I lost my job, I lost my status in the community,” he says as Bettina nods sympathetically.
Bettina then talks more broadly about the sexually provocative behaviour by female students, and the poor male teachers who are vulnerable to their wiles.
Forgive me but I have a little more respect for the men of this world.
I believe they can control themselves when a ‘sexy young teenage girl’ walks into the room. Bettina Arndt’s comments should insult all men.
My major issue with this interview (and there are many) was that Bester was being given an opportunity to rewrite history, he painted himself as the real victim when the reality is he preyed upon a troubled, anorexic 15-year-old from a broken home.
He chose his victim.
It’s textbook really, she was looking for a father figure and even went as far to confess to him about a sexual abuse that had occurred as a child which involved her being locked in a closet.
She claims Bester recreated that and wouldn’t let her out until she took off her clothes.
The thing is Bester never expected Jane Doe to eventually fight back, he didn’t think she could thanks to the law that gags her for life.
Jane Doe desperately wants to tell her story, not just for her own healing but to help others.
She’s now 23, strong and fiercely intelligent.
How does she not have the right to own her own narrative? Who does she need protecting from here? Herself?
The only person this archaic, outrageous law protects is the perpetrator.
It needs to change, we need to #LetHerSpeak.