If you have heard the term "rape culture" but have never quite understood what it looks like in real life, here you go. Almost a year ago, we first heard about the so-called Roast Busters on the UnSlut Forum. Basically, at least five young men (including Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales, pictured) in New Zealand drove around in their van raping drunk, underage girls - for years. Then they posted a video to YouTube, bragging about it. They even made a Facebook page with the sole purpose of slut-shaming their victims. In November 2013, the New Zealand police said their hands were tied because the victims had not made formal complaints.
A year later, after canvassing 110 girls, the police have announced that they will not be filing any charges against any of the men. The scope of the investigation was released today, and apparently five of the girls approached by police made formal statements, in addition to the two girls whose complaints - filed years ago - had gone ignored until the media caught wind of the story last year.
Thirty-five men were investigated, five of whom were identified as suspects of rape and sexual conduct with a person under the age of sixteen. Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus attributed the lack of charges to a lack of evidence.
But here's why this story is not just about a particular group of deranged, horrible men who will not be punished for their heinous crimes - here's why this story is about something much larger, even, than whatever incompetence or malfeasance went on in one particular police investigation over the past year:
Most of the girls who refused to make complaints cited the fear of retaliation and bullying on social media. And, according to the police summary, "There was sufficient information available that confirmed their fears as reality."
If that is not an clear, real-life manifestation of rape culture, I don't know what is. These men made a video bragging about raping underage girls and publicly shamed their victims because they were convinced there would be no consequences for their actions. And they were right. Most of their victims refused to come forward because they were afraid they would be further bullied on social media. And they were right. The victims who did come forward were confident, perhaps, that their testimony would prevent future crimes, that the men who raped them and shamed them would be brought to justice, that we live in a world where rape is taken seriously.
And they were wrong.