Oh. It’s you again…

Perhaps it’s the nature of seven-year cycles.

More likely it’s just the fact that the New Zealand Herald has recently been trying to do a series of stories on domestic violence, and someone pointed out the glaring hypocrisy of having someone like that on the payroll.

So they decided to let Tony Veitch trot out another “sorry, not sorry”, just to remind all of us that unfortunately there are still people who like him enough to give him a job where he gets to talk publicly. Personally I think the world would be better off if he’d just gone on to become a garbage man or a janitor, or pretty much any other career where people are unlikely to seek him out for comment.

It actually took quite a bit of intestinal fortitude for me to open the link. If you are strong enough, it’s here. If you don’t want to wade through all the sniveling, I’ll summarise: “sorry I fucked up my life, I’ve suffered a lot, it was a one off time where I lost control”… Except it wasn’t a one-off incident, was it Tony? Or had you forgotten that your Police file is a matter of public record? Oh, and we still haven’t learned the difference between remorse and self-pity, have we? STOP PRETENDING TO BE SORRY!!! YOU’RE CLEARLY NOT SORRY AT ALL!!!

Anyway, it’s quite ironic that I was in exactly the same position seven years ago – writing a blog and pleading for this man to just shut the fuck up and stop impinging on my consciousness. Unfortunately he got his career back. Unfortunately my mother (yes, I genuinely do feel bad that this is Mother’s Day) still doesn’t understand why I ask her to re-tune the radio when I find her listening to Radio Sport. Let’s just not give them ears. They don’t deserve our ears. He can keep talking into the echo chamber of narcissists and misogynists, but us regular people should just take our listening away. Yes, I know that my mum doesn’t get it either.

If none of this makes sense to you, and you have no idea who Tony Veitch is (lucky you), then I shall revisit what I wrote following his trial in 2009…

***

There’s been a criminal case in New Zealand that has recently drawn some attention. A man named Tony Veitch, a TV sports anchor and sport radio host was last year accused of beating up his ex-girlfriend. Or rather, he was accused of kicking her several times and fracturing her spine.

These events apparently happened in 2006. Some time after they broke up, he paid her $150,000 and secured her agreement not to go to the Police or talk publicly about the assault. Still, people knew about it. She had been hospitalized and ended up in a wheelchair for a time. She’d lost her job. Many of her friends, family, work colleagues, and even a few reporters, knew about the assault.

What’s surprising is that it took more than 2 years before anyone bothered to write a news article about it. Veitch couldn’t really deny that it happened. And the public backlash was swift and somewhat merciless. He was urged to resign from his broadcasting jobs. He complained that he wasn’t being treated fairly, and that the public only knew half of the story.

Veitch hired lawyers and PR people, even private investigators. The Police had a look at the evidence, and eventually decided to file six assault charges, and one charge of reckless disregard causing injury. The woman involved, Kristin Dunne-Powell, stayed fairly mum throughout and refused to talk to the media. It was always made clear that she hadn’t been the one to leak to story, and that she had stuck to the terms of the $150,000 privacy settlement.

Stories started to spread, implying that the assault had been in response to Dunne-Powell being unfaithful. Friends of Veitch supposedly described his ex as irrational and needy – and claimed that the pair had always had a stormy relationship, but she just refused to go away. He said he wasn’t being allowed to tell his side of the story (ed. come back to me when you can describe how she broke your spine and put you in a wheelchair, because being crazy or needy or cheating on someone doesn’t justify it). Veitch leaked emails that he had sent to her in the months following the assault, ostensibly to show that they had remained friends and that he was remorseful about what had happened. Accusations also came out, suggesting that Dunne-Powell was moving to Scotland and that she would only return for a trial at the taxpayer’s expense. This proved to be untrue.

Veitch also complained that the media and public backlash was unfair. He said that he was being treated more harshly on account of his fame. He claimed that no one had given him enough credit for his remorse. He said that he’d lost his jobs and his house through the process. Pundits pointed out that he had sold his house for around $1.8 million, and was now living with his multi-millionaire in-laws. He was hardly indigent.

Last week, however, he plead guilty to the reckless disregard charge. In exchange, the Police dropped the other assault charges, and he was permitted to walk with no jail-time. Dunne-Powell gave a “Victim Impact Statement” to the court, in which she described the effect that the injuries had had on her life. It was generally agreed by court observers that she would have had to agree to allow Veitch to plead to such a minor charge. He was sentenced to community service and fined. The judge warned him that he had only suffered professionally on account of his holding a high-profile position in the first place, and that she wouldn’t accept that this was an unfair or unreasonable consequence of the case. She warned him that he had orchestrated his own demise and that he needed to accept that.

Outside the courtroom, Veitch again launched into a press conference, stating that he had not been allowed to present the whole story to the media, and that he still wasn’t getting enough credit for his remorse. I’ve heard more than a few people remark that his remorse sounds a lot more like self-pity. He once again said that he’d “lost” his house to the case. He complained that he’d had to spend a few hours in Police cells, listening to the other inmates swearing and trying to beat down their doors. He talked about his depression, and his ongoing psychiatric treatment. His new wife pointed out that he had attempted suicide twice in the past year. Back in our living room, Rob muttered, “Shame he didn’t succeed.”

Following the conviction, he again, allegedly attempted suicide. At least, his family called the Police after he disappeared from his in-laws’ Auckland home. He was found by Police five hours later, distraught but apparently unharmed. The story goes that pills were missing from the home, but he was treated to a bit of quiet time in a small-town Police station rather than a hospital visit.

A few friends in the media and sports circles have rallied around Veitch. One of the NZ television channels pulled a current affairs story about him after his latest disappearance was revealed, on account of the fact that they didn’t want to cause offense when he was obviously in a fragile state of mind. He has gradually started to go back to work – already taking a co-host role on a cable sports show. More than a few people have said that he is a very charming, driven guy in person, and now that he had paid for a past mistake, people should just leave him alone.

Except, of course, the payment is debatable and Rob’s sort of response will probably linger for a long time. And Veitch is actually not helping himself in that regard. His latest suicide attempt was apparently precipitated by a controversy over how he obtained character references for his trial (he told people they were for a passport application, and a couple of high-profile friends said they never would have written letters of support if they’d known it was for a trial such as this)(so… honesty is not his strong suit). To defend himself, Veitch asked the press to publish an email he sent to Dunne-Powell in 2006. They did so. In it, Veitch states: “Good luck with your future… Again I say with utter sadness how sorry I am for all that happened. That type of behavior was not “us” … not even close… we are much better people than that… I know that in my heart that certainly was not me… How I ever got to that level of life defies belief… but just know I intend never to get back there again.!”

Now, I’ll admit that I have mixed feelings about all of this. To Veitch, this email is apparently a statement of remorse. I honestly believe that he sees it that way. However, it is remorse with no sense of guilt or culpability. Instead, it reads as being incredibly narcissistic. He is only sorry for destroying his own self-image as a nice guy. He doesn’t see her pain, only his own.

It is also, unfortunately, an incredibly familiar garden path that he seems intent on leading me down. I am trying very hard not to let that affect my view of the whole proceeding. However, it still seems obvious to many (myself included) that he just doesn’t get it!

By the sounds of it, his relationship with Dunne-Powell was definitely unhealthy. They broke up several times over a few years. They fought. Then, apparently, he caught her reading some of the text messages on his phone. He had wanted her to leave the house, but she didn’t. So he fractured her spine in two places while she was lying on the floor.

Afterwards, when she had finished pleading for help and literally dragged herself into bed, they had gone to sleep together. The next morning, he took her to the hospital. Even after the assault, they had stayed in touch for a few months.

These are fairly bare facts. The details and motivations that must necessarily decorate these facts have been left absent by the closed court records. From what I can see, it is a fairly good example of how real-life abusive relationships don’t play out like they do in the movies. People stay in touch. They make up. They give excuses for one another. They start to play one another’s games. They fall asleep afterwards… But none of that makes it okay. None of that means that it’s not domestic abuse. He broke her spine while she was lying on the floor… Let’s just stop and think about that for a while: He broke her spine while she was lying on the floor…

After the trial, Dunne-Powell finally ended her media black-out and gave an interview. Compared to her ex, she comes across as remarkably poised. She talks about how she just wanted him to publicly admit what he’d done and apologise. She didn’t want to send him to jail. She was obviously saddened that their relationship disintegrated the way that it did – it can take a long time for the righteous anger to set in after you escape an abusive relationship. You spent years being told it was your fault, so how can you feel like you have a right not to get hurt? You’re the one who drove them to it… She is gentle in her description of him – pointing out his talent and drive. She says that he simply wasn’t in a position to have a committed relationship at the time (whatever that means), and that he was under a lot of stress. She claims that she never wanted to ruin his life, but she also does not make excuses for him. She points out that she only took his money to compensate for her medical bills and lost earnings. She had compiled a list of expenses with her lawyer, and the payment was apparently made on that basis.

Veitch, by comparison, still seems soaked in arrogance and emotional indulgence. He does not understand that the fact she was willing to email him a few months after the assault does not, in any way, mitigate the damage that he caused. His payment to her also does not erase his guilt. He has now destroyed his own career as effectively as he destroyed hers. He may blame the media as much as he likes, but the real culprit is a lot closer to home…

 –

About nine months after I broke up with Jack (not his real name), I saw him again, at work. We did not exchange a single word. However, one of my work colleagues (understanding, sensitive guy that he was) admonished me for being there and making Jack uncomfortable.

For my own sake, I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t afraid of Jack anymore.

After work, I sent him a text message to “apologise” if I had made him uncomfortable. His reply, which I had on my phone for years, was “I’m sorry but I don’t have time for you anymore.”

His arrogance infuriated me, but it didn’t surprise me. I’ve often wondered how my “apology” would look if it ever came down to a criminal trial. Would I look like I was accepting some culpability for aggravating him? And should it really matter? Something about my existence clearly made him very mad. Over the course of our relationship, I had apologised to him many, many times for that – but I had never willfully intended to annoy him. If I was willing to apologise for something I never tried to create, then where was his sense of responsibility?

I did not pursue anything criminal against Jack, because I knew that sense of personal responsibility would never come. It was a futile pursuit. His anger would always be someone else’s fault. Similarly, he had threatened (and attempted) a very public suicide in the past. He had sent me a wide range of apologies and excuses. He’d claimed an “epiphany”. He’d called me heartless. He’d said that he just wanted me to be safe and that’s why I needed to stop making him so mad… A trial would simply deepen his feelings of persecution. His “remorse” always had been, and always would be, a catalogue of his own suffering.

I don’t want Tony Veitch to kill himself, because I get the way that he sees to world, even if I don’t agree with it. He is human. And he will never be sorry. His death would only ever be a pointless, self-absorbed attempt to play the biggest victim.

I don’t want him to die. I just want him to go away…

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2 thoughts on “Oh. It’s you again…

  1. I actually can’t even begin to convey how angry I get when I see this crap YET AGAIN from Tony Veitch. And by continually giving him the platform to give his rubbish “sorry, not sorry” spiel, it’s really saying that what he did was okay and all is forgiven.

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    1. I agree, but the truth is I’m not really angry at Tony Veitch – just the people who keep giving him employment and putting him in front of our faces.

      I agonised for YEARS trying to figure out why my ex behaved like he did. How can you claim to love someone, but then deliberately hurt them, and hate them for loving you, and want to punish them for it, and still call all of that “love”?… What I eventually decided was that, a) me trying to figure it out was just giving him way more brain real estate than he deserved, and b) I just needed to accept that that was the way he thought and if he ever changed… well that was very unlikely and still wouldn’t change the past. There’s no point in agonising the same way over Tony Veitch. He obviously thinks he’s said sorry (even though the Dunne-Powell family say otherwise) and is unlikely to ever change.

      But seriously, they should take his non-apologies and use them as a teaching tool for high school students learning about unhealthy relationships. “Here’s how to spot how an abuser pretends to say sorry but really dodges any sense of personal responsibility and implicitly blames his victim… If you meet someone who apologises like this: run away and never feel ashamed of doing so. You can’t fix them.”

      … And then don’t hire them for a role in the media. Please.

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