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13 Oct, 2021 08:00

Allegations of sexual abuse by an Australian women’s soccer captain have created a serious dilemma for the #MeToo crowd

Allegations of sexual abuse by an Australian women’s soccer captain have created a serious dilemma for the #MeToo crowd

Serious accusations have been levelled by former Matildas star Lisa De Vanna, suggesting women’s football in Australia has covered up abuse for years, only this time the alleged perpetrators are female.

In the current #METOO era, allegations of serious sexual abuse and harassment made by women against prominent and powerful men are commonplace. 

In fact, it seems that not a week goes by without a fresh #METOO scandal being discovered and prosecuted by woke media organisations. 

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Readers will be familiar with the typical #METOO modus operandi:

  • A woman makes allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against the alleged male perpetrator in the media;
  • Additional complainants emerge and woke media organisations conduct a concerted campaign that destroys the alleged perpetrator’s career;
  • The complainants are usually not well-known, whereas the perpetrator invariably is;
  • Notwithstanding that the alleged abuse and harassment typically occurred years ago, and no complaint was made at the time, media outlets implicitly believe the complainants and the perpetrator is presumed to be guilty;
  • The allegations are never critically tested, and it is not permitted to suggest that the complainant is not telling the truth or exaggerating;
  • The relevant organisation or industry admits that it has fostered a “toxic” culture of sexual assault and harassment and vows to eradicate it – witness Hollywood’s response to the Weinstein affair;  
  • Criminal and/or civil legal proceedings may be brought – but only after the woke media campaign has first destroyed the perpetrator’s career;  
  • These legal proceedings may have varying outcomes, due to the presumption of innocence and the due process protections (most importantly the right to cross-examine the complainant) afforded by the legal system.
  • Weinstein and Cosby were both found guilty of having committed criminal offences (although Cosby was later cleared) 

In Australia, however, in the three most important #METOO cases the complainants were disbelieved. International actor Geoffrey Rush was awarded AUS$2.9 million in defamation proceedings after being falsely accused of sexual harassment, and prominent cricketer Chris Gayle obtained a AUS$300,000 damages award in similar circumstances. Actor John Jarrett was found not guilty of sexual assault in criminal proceedings. 

Then, last week, a most unusual #METOO scandal emerged Down Under – one that has created a serious dilemma for the #METOO movement and the woke media that so slavishly and uncritically supports it. 

The complainant is Lisa De Vanna, the former captain of the Matildas – the Australian national women’s soccer team.

Unlike most #METOO complainants, 36-year-old De Vanna has had a very distinguished career. 

She is the second most capped Australian player ever (150 caps), the second highest goal scorer ever, and has been part of the Matildas team since 2004. 

She has played for teams in Australia, England, America and Europe and is regarded as one of the best female soccer players ever to have played the game. 

More importantly, however, unlike other #METOO complaints, De Vanna’s allegations have been made against her fellow female players, not powerful men within the sport. 

The allegations made by De Vanna are extremely serious. She claims that she and others have been subjected to sexual assault, sexual harassment, grooming and bullying from senior players throughout her lengthy career with the Matildas. 

She has been particularly critical of “women protecting women who abuse women” and “players protecting senior players who abuse young players” and has described women’s soccer as being governed by a “preying and grooming culture.” 

In effect, De Vanna has damned dozens of Matildas players and administrators, past and present.

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Other former Matildas players have come out in support of De Vanna, and Football Australia, the governing body of women’s soccer in Australia, has established an enquiry to investigate the allegations.

How have the woke media and the #METOO movement dealt with this most unusual #METOO outbreak? 

The short answer is in a way very different from that in which such complaints are usually uncritically endorsed and promoted in accordance with the standard #METOO playbook. 

First, the sexual and predatory aspects of De Vanna’s allegations have been seriously downplayed, rather than sensationalised – as would normally have occurred. 

Sexual assault by older persons on younger individuals and “grooming” are serious criminal offences, and De Vanna and other former Matildas players allege that these activities have been endemic within women’s soccer for years. 

Implicit in this charge, of course, is an unstated allegation of predatory lesbian conduct – an activity which the #METOO movement and its woke supporters cannot even imagine, let alone admit, exists. 

What if De Vanna’s allegations of sexual assault and “grooming” had been made against male coaches in women’s soccer? The woke press would have been awash with sensational headlines and immediate demands for the police to investigate. 

But that has not happened – because different rules apply when the alleged perpetrators are women, and LGBT women at that, and when the organisation that supposedly permitted and condoned their activities fosters female sport. 

Second, not only has the woke press refused to accept De Vanna’s allegations as being true on their face – as normally occurs with any #METOO complaint – it has readily published the Matildas players’ categorical denial of them. 

All the current Matildas players have refused to admit to a “toxic” culture, and have defended their “strong, welcoming, professional, inclusive and supportive culture that does not condone any of the behaviour mentioned within the numerous media articles about historical incidents”. 

Current Matildas captain, Sam Kerr, said “I have been part of this team for twelve years …… throughout my career the Matildas have been a safe haven for me”. She was also critical of those she obliquely described as “not accepting of differences” – perhaps a veiled reference to De Vanna’s views on the issue of sexual preference. 

The Matildas response has provoked allegations of gaslighting De Vanna, with one former player anonymously accusing the team of engaging in “orchestrated bullshit designed to protect the brand of the national women’s side ….. the way that they have thrown De Vanna under a bus is disgraceful.” 

It is also interesting to note that the Matildas sponsors – including the extremely woke Commonwealth Bank – have firmly pledged their continuing support, notwithstanding the serious allegations made by De Vanna. 

Once again, there appears to be one rule for women’s football, and another for male codes. Numerous Rugby League teams in Australia have immediately lost their sponsors when allegations of sexual misconduct have been made against individual male players. 

I do not know whether the allegations made by De Vanna are accurate or not. Only an independent and properly constituted and conducted inquiry – or a court – can determine that. 

I suspect, however, that, like many #METOO complaints, her claims are at the very least exaggerated (because they fail to distinguish between serious and trivial incidents) and are prompted by resentment. 

It is surely relevant that De Vanna did not raise her complaints until she was dropped from the Matildas a few months ago – by a new coach who was of the view that her best playing days were behind her.

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At the time she admitted that she was “heartbroken” and said “It’s bullshit, absolute bullshit…. I’ve been cut….. I am not going to beg to play for my fu***ng country. How did this fu***ng happen to me? “. 

De Vanna has also had previous disagreements with women’s soccer officialdom and other players. 

In 2010 she was censured for posting a photograph of a large inflatable penis on her Facebook page – perhaps a none-too-subtle indication of her sexual orientation, as opposed to that of some of her teammates. And in 2011 De Vanna was sent home from a World Cup training camp for “unacceptable behaviour.” 

In 2018 De Vanna was very supportive of the successful Matildas male coach who was infamously deposed by a player-led coup in the lead up to the World Cup – in which the Matildas performed poorly. Perhaps the coach had not been sufficiently “accepting of differences.” 

Given De Vanna’s legendary status within the Matildas for almost two decades, it’s difficult to believe that she was subjected to the kind of appalling treatment she alleges on an ongoing basis. If she was subjected to such treatment, she was certainly in a position to complain about it – but apparently did not do so. 

As yet, the woke media have resisted the temptation to properly analyse De Vanna’s allegations and be overtly critical of her – after all she is a #METOO complainant of sorts, and this would set a dangerous precedent – but they may well be eventually driven to do so if they wish to preserve the now seriously tarnished reputation of the Matildas and women’s soccer in Australia. 

After all, it is very difficult for ideologues to know just what position to take when women figure as both complainants and perpetrators in a #METOO scandal.

Paradoxically, perhaps it is only in such a very unusual set of circumstances that the woke media and the #METOO movement can even contemplate dealing with a #METOO complaint in a principled and non-ideological manner. 

In any event, it is clear that the De Vanna #METOO scandal will continue to tear womens’ soccer in Australia apart for the foreseeable future and, whatever the outcome of the Football Australia enquiry, the sport will take decades to recover.

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