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  • Writer's pictureGrant McLachlan - Column

Condoning does the most damage

The late Frank Haden wrote a piece about my experience with bullying. It was the only national coverage of my trial.

As more allegations surface about Harvey Weinstein’s and Kevin Spacey's misconduct, it highlights how the condoning of repeated abuse can escalate to cause serious damage.

Many have praised the ‘courage’ of victims. It’s damning of a society when it takes bravery to expose one predator who preyed in an accommodating environment.

Victims shouldn’t be re-victimized by their inability to find justice. Victims shouldn’t be blamed. Victims should have the confidence that their grievances are addressed without repercussions.

Most crimes are committed if there is a chance that criminals can get away with it. Condoning empowers criminals.

Sexual abuse, bullying, child abuse, domestic violence, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, suicide, animal cruelty, institutional abuse and neglect, cronyism, systemic failure, police and political corruption all have one thing in common - someone turned a blind eye.

Bullying was condoned at my high school and it escalated beyond the grounds. Assault, theft, alcoholism, hooliganism, vandalism – the police did nothing. When I hospitalized one of several attackers, I was acquitted of assault on the grounds of self-defence.

When I pulled out my pocket knife to free the bully’s clasp around my throat, I vouched that I would never be a victim again. I will never tolerate bullying, especially those who condone it.

But I learned quickly that my high school was a microcosm of our society.

My graduate job was in Parliament, working for Act. Act campaigned on ‘Zero tolerance for crime.’ The party manager, however, turned up high and showed me his drug house. When caucus and the board did nothing about his conduct, I quit in disgust.

Years later, the coroner found high levels of methamphetamine in his blood after he drove into a stationary truck.

Act also knew about Donna Awatere Huata’s fraud before an election and did nothing. When Huata was re-elected and then jailed, the voters judged. Look at Act now.

Condoners are complicit. It wasn’t the Watergate burglary that brought down Richard Nixon, it was the cover-up.

We need to be harsh on those who knew but did nothing. As a deterrent, we need to treat condoners like criminals.

Corruption at Auckland Transport was only prosecuted when bribes became brazen. Investigators discovered that bribes started off discrete but became more widespread and blatant as the office culture condoned it.

Millions of public money was wasted because gutless bureaucrats didn’t speak out. The sentencing judge was frustrated that authorities still don’t know how widespread the corruption is.

Condoning can have a horrendous toll. Ask the Catholic Church. Ask Louise Nicholas. Ask the CTV building and Pike River victims’ families.

Every person has a preventative role. We can’t be complacent by delegating problems and not seeing it through.

It still haunts me that a neighbour’s teenager once tried to drag race me on a right of way. The parent abused me when I raised concerns. Days later, the teenager was in a car that lost control at 140km/h in an urban street and collided with a tree, killing him and his three mates.

The emergency services struggled past scores of rubber-necking boy racers to attend the scene. The funeral was shrouded in burnout smoke as Police watched on.

When authorities fail, the media often step up without fear or favour. The Weinstein scandal is a perfect example. But the media can be bullied by big business, as seen in the movie The Insider.

Recently, I uncovered a prominent businessman’s bullying of a community newspaper. When I provided the editor with proof of the businessman’s lies, she was afraid to publish a correction. When I circulated proof of the bullying, Act party cronies tried to cover it up.

It is imperative that society does not tolerate such conduct. The bully, the editor, and the cronies must all be made an example of. An apology and reassurance are necessary.

It is understandable that so many people join the #metoo campaign and share their stories of abuse. In some ways, it makes it easier for others to come forward. It also provides some closure for victims. To me, I am not satisfied until I can trust that problems are nipped in the bud before they grow out of control.

-Grant has advocated for victims of systemic failure for over 20 years.

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