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If you're Australian, and even if you’re not, chances are you have heard of John Jarratt. Being one of Australia’s most iconic and well-known Actors, staring in big-budget movies since the ’70s, having titles such as Wolf Creek, The Last Outlaw, and Picnic at Hanging Rock to his name.
Well as of 18th November 2017, he would be sadly known for an entirely different reason. He was accused of rape by a former housemate from over 43 years ago. The issue went to trial and he was proven innocent, though the accusation still haunts him today. He has since come out with a tell-all book “Assault by media” to share his side of the story.
Yesterday morning I took a call with John to speak about his new publication. Our conversation went as follows...
I ask John about his new book ‘Assault by Media’, complimenting him on how the book gives an insight into what he was going through at the time before, during and after the trial took place. John recalls “When I realized I would be charged with the lack of evidence and the ridiculous, ludicrous statement that she put out plus the 43 years difference, I just could not believe that the police could read that and hand it on to the Department of Prosecutions, and I could be charged.”
John speaks of suppression orders and how his accusers' name was hidden, yet his own was not. I asked him how he thinks the law should change regarding this matter, if at all. This was his response... “I think it's quite simple in a “he said she said” situation with little or no evidence, both parties should have a suppression order and that order stays in place until it gets into court, and the media are not allowed to report on it and you don't get destroyed for 20 months. Then the media can start as far as I'm concerned, when court case starts, and then they say on the Monday, “John Jarrett was accused of rape and Friday, he's totally exonerated”, four and a half days. Anyone can handle that and the outcome was brilliant. So, it’s the 20 months of waiting for court that kills you and you have done nothing wrong.”
I asked John how he stayed strong, knowing he was innocent, in a situation where others would likely crumble in the same circumstance. He believes his innocence, as well as his family, is what pushed him through. “Well, I was determined not to go under. I'm innocent. Why should I allow this person to destroy me? I wasn't going to give her the pleasure of hurting me, and you can’t fight very well in the position of negativity and resentment and hate and all of that stuff because you just end up this horrible grumpy bastard sitting in a chair. I had to get up and fight it. My mum and dad were strong people, especially my old man, he wouldn't lie down and damned if I was going to, “Is that the best you’ve fuckin’ got?” which is my dad’s saying.”
On asking John about how he felt when he heard the news, and then had to go and tell his family, he reflects on the overwhelming feeling he had as he took a phone call from his agent while he was with his daughter, sitting at a café. “The overwhelming feeling was that I took a phone call, and by the end of it, I knew that I was accused of raping somebody and I was going to be in all the newspapers. I was just getting over the horror of knowing that you know, I didn't know for how long but I knew for at least a few months I was going to be in a horrible place. I just couldn't get over the fact that I was being accused of something that I personally have a huge hate for, and that's raping a woman or a child. I couldn't believe that I had been accused of that, and that's when my daughter tapped me I the shoulder.”
Curious as to whether writing the book was a therapeutic experience for John, I enquired, to which his response was as follows, “No, writing the book was necessary. I don't know about cathartic. Talking about me being raped, that was cathartic, but talking about what was happening to me now, I just knew that I had to write the book and I knew I had to get it out there. I thought, what good could come from this? And I thought that if I could change it so that no one else has to go through what I went through, or at least start a decent conversation about it.”
Assault by media’ raises the discussion about the way that the media takes advantage of situations such as Johns, where an accused person, just because they are well known, gets slammed onto the front page of newspapers without an offer of a suppression order before any investigation has taken place. John was very passionate about this issue, “It’s bad enough for someone to be accused of rape, but someone who’s well known, like me, it’s a hell of a lot worse, because 20 million people know about it. It’s a whole nightmare out in public. This freedom of speech thing where the media is allowed to write anything or interview anyone about anything to do with you is not freedom of speech, it's dangerous and it's life-threatening and it's mentally debilitating and tortures and sometimes kills well-known people, and their careers are ruined.
Some people are not as tough as I am and they fall to pieces when they’re innocent because the pressure is just too much. Geoffrey Rush can win the biggest defamation in history and three weeks later someone can go on the ABC and say disgusting things about him for half an hour and what's he supposed to do? Get another defamation? Go for another year and a half? Put himself back in the limelight, yet again? I don't think that the media should be able to get away with that. If someone is so upset about another person that they want to talk about it for half an hour, go talk to the police for half an hour, not some bloody reporter from the ABC. Stop destroying people before they are found guilty. After they are found guilty, throw the bricks. Bill Cosby, throw the bricks. Me? Leave me alone.
What you do if you have a problem with somebody, especially a well-known person, you don't go to the press, you go to the police. The police hear you, they take your statement, and they decide if they are going to charge you or not.
They hand it on to the DPP and the DPP says yes, we are going to charge you or no, we are not going to charge you, and the case goes to trial and then the media can talk about it, not the other way around. Geoffrey Rush was never taken to the police, never charged, no allegations that went to the law side of things. Because I didn't have a suppression order, the media were able to report it and I had my life destroyed, I'm the victim and that's not right. I sat there for 20 months and no other women came out. I'm a really good spokesperson for this, I think. No other women came out and I'm so bloody innocent it's not funny. It cost me my career, it cost me my life, it cost me my family, and I'm not guilty. She is guilty of an evil lie and it hasn't cost her a cent and she still got the suppression order.”
Wanting to end this interview on a positive note, John and I discussed his career and favorite roles so far, as well as some new projects he is currently working on.
“There are a few of them, it's hard to say one. Ned Kelly, The Last Outlaw, I got Best Actor for that. He was a very iconic character and being Irish... I'm Irish-Australian, so that was terrific. All men are Liars, I really enjoyed that film. It didn't do too well, but the character was fantastic. Mick Taylor obviously, there's been a few but maybe those three.” On future roles, “I've got a film, I've been employed as an actor in a romantic comedy, shooting next month. It's a little low budget thing, I'm not earning a lot but I'm back in the game. And I've got a film called What about Sal, which I've produced, I've written, I'm going to act in it, I'm going to direct it and we are making that on the 20th of January. I'm about to release my crowdfunding for that. I don't particularly like government money.”
That wraps up the interview, so here is an important detail, where you can get your hands on Assault by Media, to get the real story behind what happened on the 17th November 2017 and after. You can pick it up on Amazon, all good bookstores, Big W & animaldreamingpublishing.com
Did you like this interview? Here is the accompanying podcast...
You can click on the link in the 'Podcast' tab of our website.