Victoria University of Wellington says it may consider financial compensation for victims of Jack Body, a former lecturer and famed composer alleged to have sexually coerced, stupefied and abused male students over decades.
The university’s plan for redress, which it hopes will be co-designed by the survivors, comes as new allegations surface from former students of Victoria University’s New Zealand School of Music.
Body died in 2015, a week after being awarded Arts Icon status, one of the highest honours in the New Zealand arts world. But after the university asked alumni of its New Zealand School of Music to donate to a memorial fund in his name, a number of them opted to speak out.
They told a Stuff investigation that Body got students drunk in his home and asked them to take their clothes off for photo shoots, and, in one case, sexually assaulted a student during an assessment meeting on campus.
Credit to Vic for stepping up. Less credit to others though:
A post by RNZ Concert presenter Nick Tipping on Facebook drew dozens of comments, including some by the deputy chair of industry body Sounz, Eve de Castro-Robinson, who claimed the allegations came from “those with a strong agenda against Jack” and that the investigation was a “witch hunt” and “sensationalist clickbait”.
If someone rapes you, I guess you can be considered to have a strong agenda against that person.
But in another post, de Castro-Robinson admitted she had known Body “crossed boundaries”.
“We all knew it was happening to different extents. I warned Jack against compromising himself with students myself, years ago. Any of us in Academia know the rules of conduct.
So “we all knew” and they did nothing about it because his talent with music was more important! Appalling.
“I have in no way condoned the behavior [sic] nor disbelieved those in the article, merely pointed out the correct channel for this sort of thing is through a proper complaints procedure rather than for a journo to splash unproven, unsubstantiated allegations concerning a dead man on popular media.”
There is no proper complaints procedure if your rapist is dead.
And if those assaulted by him had spoken up earlier, then there would be fewer victims.
Sounz executive director Diana Marsh this week sought to distance the organisation from de Castro-Robinson’s comments, saying they “in no way reflect our views as an organisation”.
Is she still the deputy chair?
De Castro-Robinson declined to be interviewed but released a statement, including an apology.
“I reacted with my personal response. The late Jack Body was a friend, colleague, and an influential figure in New Zealand contemporary classical music without peer.”
De Castro Robinson said she had “benefited enormously” from Body’s music, support and kindness, and felt compelled to protect his personal and professional legacy.
“However, any such allegations of abuse must be fully investigated, and I unreservedly condemn any form of sexual harassment or assault. I regret my comments, and if I have offended anyone, I strongly apologise for any misjudged statements.”
As apologies go, it is around a 3/10 on the apology scale. You don’t minimise it by saying “If I have offended anyone”.
How about “I let my friendship with Jack Body cloud my judgment. I apologise to all the victims of Jack Body for my comments which were wrong”