Rosie Batty commends Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy’s response
“[The honours] are awarded and recognise those people who are deserving. I hate to say who is and who isn’t deserving, but it should be based on credible work that’s based on evidence.”
Ms Arndt, 70, is facing an investigation into her media appearances under the title of psychologist, after the health practitioner regulator received a complaint accusing her of falsely representing herself as a member of the profession.
Ms Arndt has come under fire for working to dispel what she has called the myth of a sexual assault crisis at Australian universities and residential colleges.
She has been criticised for a number of interviews, including a 2017 exchange with Tasmanian sex offender Nicolaas Bester, who was jailed for raping his 15-year-old student.
Ms Batty said she hoped to see more men speak out against Ms Arndt’s award.
“I was thrilled and I would like to see letters of that calibre and type being addressed to the Governor-General across the board, but I would like to see more men: more male journalists, male leaders, also expressing their dismay,” Ms Batty said.
“And not just leaving it up to women to be alone in this battle.”
In a tense exchange with ABC Radio Melbourne host Virginia Trioli on Thursday morning, Ms Arndt said Ms Hennessy’s letter was “ludicrous” and that her comments and interviews with abusers had been taken out of context.
When asked about her comments in 2005 that “minor abuse rarely has long lasting consequences”, Ms Arndt doubled down and said there was “ample” evidence that sexual abuse did not always have long-lasting consequences”.
Trioli said abuse victims would be “deeply wounded” by those comments, to which a fired-up Ms Arndt responded: “Well, I don’t, listen Virginia, wait, I, I talk about what research says and I will not be cowered by ideologues like you who believe we’re not allowed to discuss research.”
“Sexual abuse can be devastating, absolutely, and I’ve always acknowledged that we need to care for victims who’ve suffered with that experience, but as the research shows, there are degrees of experiences,” Ms Arndt said.
“There’s a difference between having someone pat you briefly on a breast or rape you. And the evidence shows there’s an enormous difference to how people respond to this – that is the sort of research I talk about, that’s the sort of research presented at these inquiries, which gets totally ignored because the only narrative people are interested in is pretending that all abuse is equally damaging.”
Ms Hennessy said the Andrews government, in sending a letter to the Governor-General, was acting on behalf of all domestic violence and sexual abuse victims across the country.
“We take our advocacy on behalf of improving gender inequality, which we know is one of the great drivers of family violence, very, very seriously,” Ms Hennessy told ABC Radio.
“We’re not going to look at Victorian women who have suffered tremendously in the context of family violence, and the many, many victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of paedophiles and say ‘this is okay, we’re not going to put our hand up and not contest it.
“I gave a commitment to many survivors of sexual abuse and family violence that I would take some action and a public release [of the letter to the Governor-General] was to reassure them that I had.”
Sumeyya is state political reporter for The Age.