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Judd: Risk of abuse becomes payday for onlookers

A couple of Monday nights ago, I called into a Lygon Street cafe for some fish and salad before heading off to do a panel discussion on male sexuality and the role it plays in violence in the community.

The topic of the talk turned out to be incredibly ironic. Just as I’d sat down to eat my meal, a bloke walked over to me, stood over my table said: “Give us a f… bite.” When I explained that I didn’t plan on obliging his request, things became progressively heated until it appeared that I was a reasonable chance to end up in a punch-on with this bloke I didn’t know, and who, although he knew my name, didn’t actually know me.

‘In my incident, one of the onlookers called the police, while another filmed the incident, allegedly selling it to Channel Seven for thousands of dollars.’

In Adelaide on Saturday night, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson also had a much publicised run-in with intoxicated young men whose drunken, antagonising and unpredictable behaviour made him feel threatened.

I’m not writing this to gain sympathy for high-profile people in the football industry and the challenges we face, which are largely foreign to the challenges other people in the community face. I think it is accepted by all that it doesn’t matter who you are, you have the right to feel safe when you’re minding your own business.

One issue that arises as a result of my incident is the role of onlookers, and the responsibility the media has in assuring these sorts of events don’t become financial windfalls for people who are either deliberately antagonising others or who choose to film the moment and then sell the footage rather than call the police.

In my incident, one of the onlookers called the police, while another filmed the incident, allegedly selling it to Channel Seven for thousands of dollars.

When I saw the man filming it, I asked him what he was doing. He said he was filming it so that there would be evidence if an assault occurred. Needless to say, if his interests were altruistic, he would have handed the footage over to all TV stations free of charge, rather than hold an auction for it.

The whole saga, while highly annoying, wasn’t terribly serious, so it didn’t especially matter this time that someone chose to film and profit from it, rather than help out in whatever way he could.

I accept the notion that had a serious crime been committed, having footage of it would have been useful from a victim’s standpoint.  But it is also a concern to live in a world where calling the police, or breaking up a fight, could leave you thousands of dollars lighter in the pocket than if you had chosen instead to film and then sell images of the incident.

Are we also running the risk that some people will target and film others with greater sophistication if they feel they can profit from such unsavory events?

At least in my situation, the man filming it clearly had no relationship with the perpetrator.

I understand that the news is a commercial venture, competing for eyeballs and advertising dollars, and as an AFL player I also understand that although unfair, we’ve always had a figurative target painted on our backs by people who are unhappy about the cards they’ve been dealt in life, or who are desperate for attention.

But discovering that getting abused and almost being forced to come to blows with a stranger has turned into a lucrative payday for someone else makes me feel that the target on my back just got that little bit bigger.

This article was originally published in The Age and can be accessed here.