All Black – and pin up boy for the anti family violence It’s Not OK campaign – Julian Savea has just been charged with common assault after the Police went to his house to deal with a domestic violence incident. He says:
“I will say my partner and I had an argument, I did some things that are wrong, that I shouldn’t have done, and I apologise for that.”
We don’t know what happened yet, but we do know Mr Savea has been ordered by the Judge to have no contact with his partner until the case is settled, including not visiting their home. Common assault carries a maximum sentence of one year.
Julian Savea is 6 foot 4 and weighs 108 kg, a man trained to be as strong and physically hard as possible. Someone that size belting you would be terrifying.
We don’t know what happened yet, but we do know that physical violence in relationships is often just one aspect of controlling behaviour, and that the impact on children – whether they are the ones being assaulted or not – is significant. Mr Savea has a one year old baby. So far, the only conversation about this baby seeing/hearing/being around their mother being assaulted by their father is whether Mr Savea will be able to see them regularly.
We don’t know what happened yet, but we’ve been told quite a bit about this case. Not from the victim – we know her name and that’s all. But the media have been busy, garnering quotes and background material to help us know what’s going on.
Mr Savea’s parents, though acknowledging they don’t know anything about the incident, are sure it couldn’t have been ‘particularly violent’. The incident that “landed the All Black in court would not have been any more serious than a push,” they say.
“Obviously, we are disappointed to have this situation emerge, but we must now let the judicial process run its course.”
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew is also disappointed:
“We were very disappointed to learn of this incident and Julian’s subsequent charge. We appreciate this is a distressing time for all those affected and we are also helping support the family…..
“Without judging the rights or wrongs of this case, we are concerned that this is another incident involving a young player. We need to find out whether we are doing enough to help these young men cope with the pressures of the professional game.”
Precisely no one around Julian Savea is naming what he did as a problem. It’s disappointing the situation emerged, that we learnt about it, that he was charged. But the common assault itself? Pah, not particularly violent.
Steve Tew is right to point to some problems with rugby culture. Julian Savea is not even the only current or recent All Black to have gone to court after being charged with domestic violence. Sitiveni Sivivatu and Adam Thomson have both faced charges in recent years. (Thomson was found not guilty because his partner told the court it wasn’t as serious as her initial call to the Police and the independent eye-witness accounts suggested.)
I’d like to suggest something the All Blacks could do, if they really want to be seen as taking violence against women seriously. Stop making excuses and create a serious consequence.
Men found guilty of violence against women should not be able to represent New Zealand in any kind of sport, ever again.
When you play sport for a country, you’re representing an imagined community. You stand for something, a cypher of belonging, creating a solidarity with other people purely on the basis of place.
That’s not possible when you commit crimes of violence against others. Men who bash their partners should be unable to be All Blacks, or Black Caps, or Black Sticks, or Tall Blacks or any other kind of athlete which means they represent people from this place.
Because if you bash women, you don’t represent all people from this place.
I don’t care if those sportsmen still get to play professional sport. It’s a different argument for me. But I don’t want to see another All Black representing me with a violence conviction for using their huge, muscular bodies to hurt their partners and get what they want.
I doubt I’m alone in that. So come on All Blacks – is this OK or not?