Earlier this week, Pleistocene-era radio broadcaster John Laws, the Rush Limbaugh-esque host of an Australian morning show, asked a caller who said that she'd been subjected to a nightmarish childhood of sexual abuse by five of her male family members (including her father and brother) if maybe all that abuse was really her fault. Listeners seethed, but Laws, who has been heavily criticized for his shitty line of on-air inquiry, is thus far unapologetic about his fit of victim-blaming.
According to Sydney's Daily Telegraph, Laws has so far defended a series of questions he asked a caller who confided that she'd been sexually abused for nearly a decade, from the ages of 6 to 16. He has also "bristled" at suggestions that, at 77, he might be too old to keep up the radio racket, dismissing the controversy raised by his questions as part of the "national sport" of ridiculing John Laws, or professional jealousy from other, less monstrous radio screechers.
Listeners most likely (hopefully) cringed, white-knuckling their steering wheels when Laws started down a line of questioning with caller (now 44) about whether maybe her male family members abused her because she was being "provocative." Ugh, here's the exchange, courtesy of the poor News Au scribes who had to copy it out:
"My God they were having a good time with you," said the broadcasting legend, missing the sensitivity of the subject matter.
"Was it in any way your fault?" he then asked.
"No, I don't think so," the woman, a nurse, said.
"You weren't provocative?" Laws pressed.
"I was a little girl. I don't think so John. No, I was just a little girl."
After nine years of abuse the woman finally found the courage to consult a social worker at age 15 - the year before her father kicked her out of home. As she broke down on air, Laws asked: "Are you unattractive?"
"I don't think so. I think I'm all right," she said.
"You sound all right," Laws encouraged.
There are lots of terrible ways in which people, in their zeal to out-awful each other, manage to blame the victims of sexual assault for crimes perpetrated against them. Twitter and Facebook, for instance, have opened up brand new avenues for complete strangers to screech about how, say, a teenage girl somehow deserved to be raped because she had too much to drink, or because she was somehow in too close a proximity to older men. Laws, however, has managed to remind us all that semi-anonymous victim-blaming isn't just for social media backwaters — it's also perfectly suited to the bombastic, asinine nature of talk radio, a medium dominated by crusty old dudes steeped in a firmly patriarchal culture that holds women squarely accountable for the misdeeds of men. It's bullshit, but it also doesn't sound like John Laws is going to change his worldview until he (and radio hosts like him) go thoroughly extinct.