BROADCASTER Meshel Laurie has penned a powerful open letter to Barry Hall urging him to “help spread the word” that “rape jokes matter” following the AFL star’s disgusting joke about a former player’s pregnant wife.
The AFL great was sacked by Triple M on Friday night before the first ball-up of the Geelong-Western Bulldogs thriller over an on-air comment in a discussion with St Kilda legend Leigh Montagna.
The comment was regarding a technique used by medical professionals, known as a ‘membrane sweep’, which Montagna’s wife Erinn underwent to induce labour. Hall insinuated the doctor acted in a sexually inappropriate way.
“It’s when the obstetrician just has a little feel and makes sure that you’re starting to dilate and puts a couple fingers up there and checks what’s going on,” Montagna told Triple M before Hall made his remark. “It’s a procedure they do before birth.”
Hall then responded by saying, “Joey was a bit disturbed because the doctor was a good looking rooster about 40 years of age and then he did the sweep with his fingers and licked his fingers afterwards. That’s disturbing stuff.”
Hall was sacked on the spot and the network quickly issued an apology. The vile comment sparked a fierce reaction on social media, with Laurie, a Channel 10 star and panellist on The Project, launching a passionate plea for Australia to learn from the incident.
Addressing Hall in an open letter on Facebook on Saturday night, she said she assumed he was “probably a pretty good dude” and that the scandal would eventually blow over and “everyone will forget about the joke”.
But she said it was a valuable lesson and she hoped Hall could seize the “opportunity for leadership”. “I try never to get on my high horse about people saying the wrong thing on air because I know it could be me on the end of a horrible brain snap at any time, so this is not about that,” she wrote.
“Also, this comes from a place of assuming you are a good man. I’ve only met you a handful of times, and I don’t pretend to know your inner workings, but on a scale of 1 to Damir Dokic, I think you’re probably a pretty good dude.
“Let’s skip right ahead, and if it please the court, I’m going to assume you would never look a rape survivor in the face and tell him or her that you thought their rape was funny.
“Here’s the trouble with making a rape joke on the radio during the footy the other night though, you were in people’s homes, in their cars, in their workplaces, in their safe places.
“Some of those people were rape survivors and you laughed at them about their rapes. Right there, where they least expected it, when they were relaxing with the footy, you laughed at their rapes.
“You didn’t do it because you’re a bad person mate, because you’re not. You did it because in your circles it’s obviously okay to tell jokes like that. Well the fact is, there have probably been rape survivors around you and your friends when you’ve told these jokes before, you just didn’t know it, and how could they tell you?
“Maybe some of your friends are rape survivors. Did you know male rape survivors are more likely to self-harm than to ever tell anyone about their rape?
“Why do you think that is? It’s because they spend their entire lives hearing jokes about rape. At school, at work, at footy, at the pub. How could they ever tell anyone what happened to them?
“Some men even commit rape because they think men they admire, men like you, would think it was funny or at least, not think it was terrible, because they joke around about it.
“I’m genuinely sorry you had to find out in such a publicly humiliating way that rape jokes matter, but I’m glad you know now. I really hope you’ll help spread the word.
“This too shall pass Barry, your life will come back together and everyone will forget about the joke, but it’s an opportunity for leadership the likes of which you’ll never find on a footy field. I know you’re up to it.”
In a statement to The Sunday Telegraph, Hall issued a public apology to Montagna and his wife Erinn. “I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for any offence taken from my commentary on Friday night’s Triple M footy coverage,” he said.
“It was a silly thing to say and it is not a reflection of who I am or what my views are. I am a proud father and dedicated partner and have nothing but respect for women. I apologise to the Montagna family for any upset I have caused them and wish them all the best with the exciting arrival of their baby.”