Tony Veitch broke his partner’s spine but still thinks he is the “victim”

*Trigger warning: this post includes discussions around rape and violence against women*

Sports broadcaster Tony Veitch has been the target of “online abuse” and he wants you to feel really sorry for him. After he made a joke during an All Blacks Vs France rugby game about not knowing the difference between a “punch” and a “fist in the face”, he was subject to an online backlash over his ironic comments. A few days ago he updated his public Facebook page with this post in response to the backlash:

tony viech sooo hurtzzzz

Tony paints himself as some kind of unsung hero who has rebuilt his life after surviving what he called a “hideous relationship.” You can lie by omission. What Tony fails to point out in his post is this: In 2005 he beat his then partner Kristin Dunne-Powell so badly that he broke her spine in four places. This was the “hideous relationship” he was referring to. In 2009 he went up against six charges of assault of which all but one were dropped. He admitted in the court of law to “one charge of injuring his partner with reckless disregard” as Stuff media reported, these were the injuries that resulted in Kristin’s numerous spinal fractures.

I’d like you to take a moment to think about the kind of force which is needed to snap and fracture bone. Marc Otten, a neurosurgeon at Columbia University, said in relation to the force needed to break a  spine, “If you’re talking about somebody with a normal spine, then you’d need tremendous willpower.”  Take some time to think about how hard Tony would have had to kick Kristen repeatedly, in the back, for her spine to give way and splinter.

After beating Kristen he went to bed, leaving her to drag herself around, unable to walk or even reach the phone. When she pleaded with him to call her an ambulance he even refused her this basic help. Before this incident there had already been years of documented sustained abuse which included Tony violently kicking and punching Kristin. Yet, Tony wants the public to feel sorry for him? He wants to convince you that somehow he is the victim thus refusing to take responsibilty for his violent actions. I responded to his post with these words:  

post in response

Tony also negates to tell you he paid almost nothing for his horrific crimes against his partner. He did attempt to buy Kristin’s silence with 100,000 bucks worth of “hush money” and he was ordered by the courts to pay a measly 10,000 fine and got 300 hours of community service. He lost his Friday morning Radio Sport breakfast show after he was convicted but he later regained what he calls his “dream job” and he has continued commentating on sports with a weekly radio spot.

In 2011 Tony even had PM John Key on his show where they talked about which famous women John would have on his “wish list.” Because shooting the breeze’ with a known violent offender who has shown no remorse and done no restorative justice work, about which famous women he has a “crush” on is totally how a prime minister should behave? John Key, one of the most powerful men in Aotearoa, implicitly publicly sanctioned Tony’s abuse against Kristen by appearing on his radio show. But John’s dismal behaviour should surprise no one as he is well known for “minimising” and pardoning gendered violence.

When the heinous acts of the rapist gang known as the Roast Busters made international headlines, John said in response to this group of young men who had been violently gang raping young girls then boasting about it on Youtube, “These young guys should just grow up.” Newflash: behaviour like Tony’s and the Roast Busters are culturally taught and therefore need to be challenged, unlearned, and the behaviour patterns disrupted.

Violent misogynistic behaviour is not just something young boys will eventually grow out of. We raise boys to adhere to rigid, toxic stereotypes of manhood; collectively and culturally we tell boys the way to become men is to sever some of the most powerful and life saving emotions we have as human beings: compassion and empathy.

Young men are taught that to be vulnerable is to be weak: all these things are directly associated with the feminine. The word ‘girl’ is often used to humiliate and put down boys and men who act in ways perceived as weak or emotional. Eve Ensler, noted playwright of The Vagina Monologues and founder of One Billion Rising, said in her moving TedX talk,

“I think the whole world has essentially been brought up not to be a girl. How do we bring up boys? What does it mean to be a boy? To be a boy really means not to be a girl. To be a man means not to be a girl. To be a woman means not to be a girl. To be strong means not to be a girl. To be a leader means not to be a girl. I actually think that being a girl is so powerful that we’ve had to train everyone not to be that.”

Toxic stereotypes of manhood and masculinity teach  boys and men that they must always be “tough,”  and that the only emotion they are allowed to feel  is anger with the exception of jealousy, all of this intersects with violence against women. These entrenched ideologies can’t just be palmed off and minimised as some passing adolescent phase or a one off thing. Men like Tony and the Roast Busters are not some aberration, they are a product of a culture that glorifies male power and dominance, while at the very same time glorifying and sexualing the subservience and submission of women. Aotearoa has the higest rates of intimate partner violence in the developed world, this is not just an epedemic it is deeply cultural.

The Roast Busters, like Tony, got away with their crimes; they were given no long term punishments and no jail time. What kind of message do you think this sends society? Other than the very large, clear sign that as a man you can beat, rape, and even kill women and get away with it. My own father sexually abused me as a child, and just like Tony, and exactly the same as the Roast Busters, he served no time for his crimes either. He was ordered to pay a couple of thousand bucks in compensation for what he did. Money, regardless of the amount, could never ever ease the lasting pain he has caused. My Farther, quite like Tony, has gone on in life, in his case to have another family, continuing to live in relative peace and happiness. 

So often men who commit unspeakably violent acts against women’s bodies go unpunished, thanks in part to a biased and sexist “justice” system dominated and controlled by white men. These men serve power; their perspectives and their efforts help the powerful, and not the relatively powerless. The lives of women are meaningless in the court of law. Where is our access to justice? 

Tony whinged publicly about the “online harassment” he was experiencing via his Facebook update because of his ill informed comments, but I doubt it compares to the “online harassment” that was directed at me and anyone else who called bullshit on Tony’s post that described himself as the victim. If you need any more evidence that sexist and abusive attitudes like Tony’s and the Roast Busters aren’t just some aberration but are in fact widespread, here it is. This is just one of the personal messages I received from a man in response to the post I made on Tony’s update:

still going

And of course men lifted photos from my Facebook page and made personal attacks on my appearancepersonal attacks on appaearance

The day after Tony’s “I am the victim” post, Women’s Refuge tweeted this:

directed at me

This is why I need feminism: because every one of those comments was actually directed at me. As Women’s Refuge pointed out what they tweeted was only “a few” of the abusive comments being thrown at me in response to my previously mentioned post. Any other women also who stood up to Tony were also called “crazy” or “loony” time and time again; the word “feminist” was endlessly used as an insult, as if fighting for gender equality is some kind of evil that must be outed:
crazy 3Tony Veitch did not moderate any of these abusive and often misogynistic comments; he stayed silent and allowed them to remain on his Facebook page until he finally took his post down 24 hours later. Please tell me again how he is a changed man and deserves redemption?  I guess Tony only cares about harassment and online abuse when it is happening to him.

Notably Netsafe has come out in defense of Tony. Stuff reported yesterday that Netsafe Director, Martin Cocker, had said in support of Tony “[People] just become abusive and angry and try to create a public shaming type event out of it, at which point this crosses over from a positive thing to a negative.” Martin has suggested some people had “stepped over the mark” and some of the reactions were born from a “mob mentality.” Martin was not talking about the violent comments directed at any women who took a stand against Tony, he was talking about the “online harassment” Tony alleged he was facing.

Where is Netsafe’s defence of Kristin? In Tony’s original post he slagged her off: remember that “hideous relationship” comment? Where is Netsafe’s defense of me and the other women who endured the very public online “mob like” attacks from Tony’s supporters? Spoken word poet and writer Hadassah Grace penned a necessary and powerful political essay entitled, “Who the hell is Tony Veitch” which she posted the day after Tony made his post. In it she takes a stand against violence against women and speaks about the serious trauma Kristin continues to endure because of Tony. For her efforts Hadassah received these online threats:


And yes, it gets worse and even more violently abusive:

11219441_10153386244137600_2351903662194958109_nYou want to talk about “online abuse and harassment”?! Try highlighting the threats of violence and rape women who dare have a dissenting opinion in public space have to deal with on the daily. Honestly, fuck Tony Veitch. He has no idea.

In Aotearoa we don’t just give rich white men like Tony a “get out of free jail card” when they beat women over sustained periods of time and break their bones, we celebrate them. We pat them on the back, hand them a beer, watch a bit of rugby with them and say: “Oh well, you only kind of fractured Kristin’s spine and it was a one off, so don’t sweat it bro!”  No wonder Tony thinks he is the “victim” and has done nothing wrong; our society, including John Key and now also the executive director of Netsafe, have collectively reinforced this message. While Tony was busily “rebuilding” his career Kristin’s injuries eventually prevented her from returning to her own job. In Kristin’s 2009 victim impact statement she said,

“Since July 2008, my family and I have been harassed and hunted by some journalists… It feels like there is no end to the spreading of malicious lies, rumors and falsehoods… this has made it difficult for me to regain employment.”

If anyone knows what it feels like to be harassed and about the work it takes to “rebuild” your life after massive trauma, it is Kristin. Hadassah Grace writes,

[Kristen] has had to have years of physical therapy and counseling for PTSD. Muscles in her back have permanently atrophied, causing disfigurement. She has ongoing triggers and panic attacks. She has been hospitalized for nervous breakdowns as a result of PTSD.

On the other hand Tony who put his partner in a wheel chair, will not face any life-long consequences for his appalling behaviour, on the contrary; he gets a secure job which puts him in the top earning bracket in Aotearoa – that 10,000 dollar fine he paid is mere pocket change to him.  He has hundreds of thousands of supporters and dudebro cheerleaders who are prepared to defend him via social media till their last, abusive breath. After his “poor me” post Tony gained at least another 2,000 “likes” on his Facebook page. Despite what Tony apparently believes, compared to Kristin and the one billion women and girls who are survivors of rape and violence on this earth, he has not had to “rebuild” shit.

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You can also read Hadassah Grace’s full “Who the hell is Tony Veich” piece in full here.

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Climate change is without question a defining crisis but so is compassion

I was surfing through radio stations on my cellphone a couple of weeks ago while sitting on the bus and I heard the words “climate change refugee.” I stopped on the station from which these words rang out which unfortunately happened to be radio talkback station NewsTalkZB.

Yeah, I know: why on Earth I did not change the station as quickly as possible–simply as a measure of self-preservation–is beyond me. I knew what I would hear: a lot of people ringing in to rant with NewsTalkZB host Danny Watson, who I quite soon enough would find out is not fond of recognizing his own cognitive dissidence, talking about a deeply complicated and human crisis from a point of ignorance and xenophobia.

I was not disappointed.

The first caller swept the defining issue of climate change aside, suggesting that human induced climate chaos will not affect anyone in our lifetimes. In other words: this caller believed anyone claiming climate change refugee status is full of shit. The caller was responding to the case of Ioane and Erika Teitiota and their children, who have been living in Aotearoa since 2007 and applied for climate change refugee status in 2011. Teitiota and his family were recently denied this refugee status by our New Zealand supreme court. Ioane was deported back to his homeland of Kiribati on the 23rd of September and Erika and his children followed a week later.

The caller declared that “the climate change refugee needs to be sent back [home].” Not once did this caller who had phoned in to speak with Danny use Ioane’s name, preferring instead to refer to him as “that climate change refugee” or “the climate change refugee.” This was an act of dehumanisation. It is easier to condemn people to suffering and hardship when we do not know their names or their stories.

I kept listening while others called in to name Ioane and his family as “overstayers” echoing the position of our current colonial National PM John Key. Journalist Morgan Godfery in a recent email to me, wrote:

“The indication from Key was pretty clear: he labelled them “overstayers” (the rhetoric is uncomfortably close to the days of the dawn raids and the stigmatising of Pacific peoples).“

Not once did Danny challenge any callers on their prejudice or stigmatising language and I am not sure why I thought he might. I guess hope makes me more optimistic than I should be at times.

I decided to call into RadioZB for the first time ever and tell Danny and his listeners (who I swear are all old white dudes) the serious consequences and hardships that Erika, Ioane, and their children will face once deported to Kiribati. I know, it was a futile mission if ever there was one. I got on air with Danny and attempted to explain to him why the Teitiota’s should have been given climate change status. Paraphrasing from memory, I said:

In Island nations such as Kiribati which is the lowest lying country in the Pacific, ocean creep is destroying Kiribati’s groundwater supplies; the IPCC has predicted Kiribati will be devoured by rising oceans in our lifetime. In Aotearoa we have a responsibility to our Pacific neighbours to offer them climate change refugee status, and Kiribati is becoming uninhabitable. As the ocean rises, smashing over storm barriers, there is less and less land to live on so people are being forced, increasingly, into smaller and smaller living quarters. Poverty rates have exploded on Kiribati. This is no place to raise a family.

Danny disagreed, to say the least. He accused me of hyperbole and stretching the truth, telling me: “You will never win friends and influence people with that rhetoric.” If the types of friends I’d win by using a different “rhetoric” to the language of compassion I use in response to climate refugees would be people like Danny, I think I’d rather be a Nancy No Mates, thanks.

Danny even suggested we build a “climate change refugee camp” for people like the Teitiota’s. Interestingly, just last week climate activists from all over the Pacific staged a direct action outside of ANZ’s flagship bank on Queen Street, Auckland, assembling and then occupying a “future climate refugee camp.” As Pacific Scoop reported,

“The camp represented a future that the people of the Pacific are fighting hard to avoid. It aimed to highlight ANZ’s complicity in the climate crisis that puts all Pacific Island nations at risk, and to urge ANZ to divest from fossil fuels.



Pelenise Alofa of the Kiribati Climate Action Network demonstrates in front of the Queen Street branch of ANZ Bank. Photo / Alexandra Wimley


The very suggestion of a “refugee camp” as a solution for Pacific people who have been made homeless by the effects of climate change is exactly what many Pacific peoples are trying to avoid. But hey as always white dude commentator knows what’s best for indigenous people?

Danny even tried to qualify his stance on climate refugees by saying he had family/friends in Bali so they could claim “climate change refugee status because in 50 years a volcano might blow.”  This left me gobsmacked, mainly at Danny’s continued insistence on his sense of entitlement to an opinion defined by ignorance and his heartlessness.  

Unfortunately Danny’s very public views are not some aberration; his opinions on climate change are not in the minority in this country. Even as sea-levels continue to rise as the Arctic melts because the planet is warming and the dominant cause is greenhouse gas emissions, the NZ Herald reported that New Zealanders have some of the highest rates of skepticism over global warming in the world. Skeptic or not you cannot negate the mounting scientific evidence that climate change is without question the defining crisis of our life-time, but what also I learnt from Danny and his old white dude callers–other than calling ZB is a really bad idea if you want to disagree with the conservative host–is this: the lack of compassion within modern New Zealand society is also a critical issue; levels of compassion within our society seem already to be in crisis mode.  

It is important to note I started writing this political essay before the news came to light that Ioane had been served with an assault warning for pushing a female employer at his work place last year. Other employers have also come forward to report assaults by Ioane as OneNews stated last week. This assault warning was taken into consideration in relation to Ioane’s case for climate change refugee status as 3News pointed out. I have been assaulted and endlessly felt up by men at different workplaces as I work in the low-waged service industry; abuse is a daily threat I face and it is both scary and humiliating, and while it is obvious to say it should always be taken seriously by both employer and the police, they hardly ever do.

So, I ask: since when does National care about assaults against women, especially those in the workplace? Since before it slashed funding to rape crisis, or after? Since it cut all funding to the “It’s not OK!” campaign? Since John Key himself, over several months, harassed a young waitress at his local café and over and over again put his hands on her self without permission? Yeah, about that:

I guess gender-based violence and harassment of women is only taken seriously by John Key if he isn’t the one doing it, and if it serves his right-wing agenda. In this case John’s pathetic, desperate, scrabbling anti-refugee position and as Kanoa Lloyd pointed out on 3New’s “Newsworthy” if the man who perpetrated violence directed at a woman is a person of colour.  All that is actually happening here is another classic case of formalizing institutional racism.

If suddenly the National party cares so deeply about the welfare of vulnerable women why then wasn’t special consideration taken for Erika and her children? Why must they suffer for someone else’s actions? It is well established that it is women and children who are being disproportionately affected by climate change. However, the National government says nothing about this; no, not a fucking whisper. The ongoing hypocrisy of this government is breathtaking.

Journalist Taberannang Korauaba, indigenous to Kiribati, wrote for Pacific Scoop, “[Ioane] personally has no difficulty going back to Kiribati because he worked here and he can cope with life on the islands.” But there are fears for the welfare of his family once they are deported. Morgan Godfery explains these fears are not imagined; rather, they are more than real. In the NZ Herald he writes,

“If the Teitiota children are deported to Kiribati they will have to adjust to a new culture, a new environment, and even build up immunities to new diseases. They will most likely live on Tarawa, the main island, where dead bodies contaminate the freshwater lens, population density spreads disease, and ocean creep is poisoning breadfruit trees and taro plantations.”

While many living on Kiribati have labelled Ioane a “traitor” for speaking out about the conditions of the pacific nation and have accused him of “misrepresenting Kiribati” and wounding national pride as Public Address reported, there is, however, mounting evidence that Kiribati is becoming uninhabitable. This is a situation rapidly being compounded by the worst-case scenario effects of the onset of abrupt, catastrophic climate change. In his piece entitled “Exile By Another Name,” on Ioane’s plea for climate change status, investigative journalist Kenneth R. Weiss writes,

“since this case has come to light, Tarawa residents have been alarmed that 2,400 children fell ill and nine children died after picking up a rotavirus likely from sewage-contaminated water […] Other infectious diseases are taking advantage of the crowding in this island nation’s shanty towns. Tuberculosis is on the upswing. Leprosy is spreading.”

As ocean levels rise around Kiribati, those living on the islands are being forced into smaller and smaller living quarters; it is common knowledge that condensed populations can become the source for outbreaks of disease. Already on Tarawa there are 50,000 people packed into overcrowded shanty towns, and this is where Erika and her children, now, must live. As rising oceans continue to devour Kiribati, these deeply problematic and life-threatening issues are likely only to worsen.

People like Danny and other global warming skeptics believe they will not live to see the true and absolute devastation of abrupt climate change in their lifetimes, or, they at least make a “choice” not to acknowledge it. Why should he or others care about our responsibility to protect Papatūānuku or care for the welfare of those who will bear the brunt of human induced climate chaos? After all he thinks that the metaphorical volcano of climate change ain’t gonna blow for at least another 50 years, give or take.

But, it is exactly this kind of irresponsible and compassion-bereft attitude–that states climate change is somehow a non-issue and a problem for our next generations to deal with, held by Danny and our politicians such as John Key–that has, in part, led to so much widespread national inaction over such a defining and earth shattering issue.


If you would like to know more about the impacts of climate change here is an event my friend Cam Walker has helped to organise in Auckland:  

Auckland meeting: In the Eye of the Storm: Disaster Politics and Climate Change In the Philippines

You can  follow Chloe King on twitter