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Do we need this convicted rapist teaching others how rape ruins men's lives? No, we don't.

The Waverley Mayor who gave a glowing reference for the Soho nightclub rapist, says she wants to develop an educational program to teach girls how to minimize “risky” behavior. The Mayor also intends to use the Soho rapist as a speaker and hopes that he will tell others of how rape ruins men’s lives. Yes. Seriously.

Trigger warning: This post features explicit details of rape that could be distressing for some readers.

A Sydney mayor who wrote a glowing reference in support of convicted Soho nightclub rapist, Luke Lazarus, is under fire again, for proposing education sessions to teach girls how to minimise their “risky behaviour” in relation to rape.

Convicted rapist, Luke Lazarus

The Liberal mayor of Waverley drew fire previously, when she and a parade of other well-heeled members of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs attempted to persuade the sentencing judge to allow the convicted rapist to avoid jail time.

But try as he might, Lazarus, a Cranbrook old boy, was unable to hide behind his family’s wealth and connections.

Despite his various advocates describing him as “courteous” and “respectful” with a “promising future”, he was sentenced to a minimum term of three years, for the rape of an 18-year-old woman in an alleyway, at the back of a Kings Cross nightclub.

Read more: This man’s story shows that courts still don’t consider rape a serious crime. 

Now, Sally Betts, has the Liberal mayor of Waverley has told a reporter that she is working with police to introduce a “new risky behaviour education program to try and help young women understand and better deal with being in vulnerable situations.”

This follows on from previous statements, in which Betts stated that she was working to develop an educational program for young people, in the hopes that Lazarus may one day be involved: “When we get this program up and running, [we would like him to be able to] say to young people: ‘This is what I did. I did the most terrible thing, I’ve ruined my family’s life, I’ve ruined my life, be careful don’t do it.”‘

In other words, the program would utilize the convicted rapist to teach boys about the harm that rape causes men.

Betts also urged the sentencing judge in Lazarus’s trial to be lenient on Lazarus, stating that the rapist’s family had already been sufficiently embarrassed by the media coverage, and that Lazarus himself was “suffering greatly as a result of the shame he has brought on his family.”

Mayor of Waverly, Sally Betts

Well sorry, Mayor Betts, but at this point, you can cry me a fracking river.

Because Luke Lazarus is not the victim here, and nor are his family members. And the tragedy is not that a young man’s CEO aspirations have been thwarted by the courts, or that his family members have suffered some great discomfort because of all the media coverage.(Although isn’t it telling that it is the ‘media coverage’, not the rape itself, that is continually referred to as the source of embarrassment for the family?)

Nor should a rapist ever serve a lighter sentence because of his family’s wealth and connections, and it is appalling that a rapist could try to use his station in life to shelter from the law.

More to the point though, do we really need a convicted rapist teaching other young men about the harm that rape causes to men, when it is precisely this sort of egotistical male self-interest (and lack of concern for the experience of women) that often contributes to rape in the first place?

And why on earth are we thinking of talking to teen boys about the impacts rape could have on their own career prospects and relationships, when all of the evidence shows that care and empathy for others, along with a solid understanding of consent, is what actually reduces rates of sexual assault. (Incidentally, one also wonders at the logic behind offering this man a platform so he can speak to teenagers, given that he just raped one.)

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“But Lazarus is not the victim here, and nor are his family members.”

We should also question what message it sends to victims everywhere, when a mayor is already bending over backwards to create yet another position and opportunity for a rapist who has already had every benefit in life, and who hasn’t even served his sentence yet.

And make no mistake about it: the fact that Lazarus will already have a position lined up and waiting for him when he gets out of prison in three years doesn’t only speak to his privilege and family connections. It also shows that his ticket to redemption is already being plotted by those in power.

While this proposed speaking role will no doubt be sold to the public as Lazarus doing some kind of community service work, the fact that his redemptive narrative is already being mapped out for him by people in high places (so that he will have every opportunity to get his life back on track) speaks volumes about the ridiculous extent to which our society continues to cater to the whims and needs of privileged boys and men who commit rape.

And here we arrive at the crux of the problem: as a community we are still more focused on the outcomes of our fallen sons, as opposed to the recovery of the women and girls who have been traumatised by their actions.

But rape victims should not be treated as mere collateral damage on a man’s path to personal growth and redemption. And we should be outraged that prominent people continue to prioritize the ‘social recovery’ of privileged rapists, over and above the actual recovery of their victims.

Indeed it’s bad enough that Luke Lazarus raped a girl in an alleyway, later bragging to a mate that he “took a chick’s virginity”.

And it’s bad enough that, after being convicted of the crime, a string of prominent figures leapt to Lazarus’s defence, lobbying the judge to allow Lazarus to avoid jail time (Father Gerasimos Koutsouras, the parish priest of a Greek Orthodox Church in Rose Bay, described the charges against Lazarus as an “injustice” adding that “the possibility of imprisonment is completely undeserved for this promising young man”. The chairman of South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league club, Dr Nick Pappas, also described Lazarus as “respectful, courteous and obliging young man” who, on his observation, had never displayed “even a hint of unlawfulness in his conduct”.)

Frankly, the last thing our society needs right now is another person in power putting the onus on girls to stop rape through avoiding risk, while reinforcing the egotistical notion to boys, that rape is harmful because it damages men’s long term interests.

This is precisely the sort of selfish focus that we need to weed out of the next generation of boys, by encouraging empathy and outward looking care for others.

So Mayor Betts, don’t quit your day job.

Actually on second thoughts, please do.

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