Friday, March 16, 2007

Moral vs. Criminal Rape?

I've seen different bloggers in various places using the term moral rape to imply that certain exploitive sexual actions are legal, but wrong -- or at least slightly upsetting for the victim. Alternatively, I've started seeing people use the term gray rape with a similar meaning.

What they are really talking about are real rapes that are difficult to prove in a criminal court for various reasons or rapes they don't believe should go to criminal court and get jail time.

Sometimes the reason has to do with the wording of the sex crimes statutes which fail to account for all the ways rapists succeed at raping, but more often it has to do with people's bigotry about rape, rapists and rape victims.

The people who talk about moral rape can't deny that the victim is suffering, but they don't feel strongly enough about that harm, or how it was facilitated, to believe the rapist deserves full responsibility or any serious punishment. At worst he's a jerk.

A rape trial in Ireland demonstrates this attitude. Adam Keane, who broke into a woman's home and raped her, was convicted, but the judge in the case, Justice Paul Carney, gave him a 3-year suspended sentence. The defense attorney claimed that having the man's name published was punishment enough. Apparently, the rapist had been out partying and using drugs and was therefore not a deliberate rapist because he claimed to not be able to remember what he did.

The victim in this case is justifiably angry at the criminal justice system that made her go through an arduous trial where she was the defacto defendant but without the rights of an actual defendant.

When people talk about moral rape, often the harm (her feelings of being raped) is completely disassociated from the rapist's actions. This seems to take the idea that nobody else is responsible for our feelings but ourselves to a ridiculous extreme.

To illustrate how disconnected from reality this idea is imagine that I reported that I feel pain in my back from being hit by a car as I crossed the street. Nobody would insist that my pain has no relation to the actions of the person driving that car. Maybe people would question the driver's actions to see if there was negligence involved, but the answer to that question wouldn't change the cause of my pain.

If the driver could have changed lanes or stopped to avoid hitting me but decided that he wasn't going to alter his speed or his course simply because he didn't want to, the impact that followed would not be my fault, not even a little. People would recognize that he choose to hit me with his car.

Maybe if I realized he was a maniac the second I saw his car, I might have been able to run back to the relative safety of the sidewalk. Or maybe someone like this would get a thrill out of jumping the curb. Who knows what someone who will deliberately hit a pedestrian will do? Whatever it is, I'm not responsible for his choices. And people would understand this.

Yet people who talk of moral rape lose this basic logic when it comes to sexual contact.

They will -- if they are "generous" -- acknowledge PSTD while denying the possibility of real trauma through rape. These not-quite victims will be allowed to feel raped and even encouraged to seek counseling as if they really were raped, but they'd better not go to the cops unless they want to risk being guilty of making a false police report.

The causes for this form of rape denial are varied.

Sometimes it will fall back on "lack of consent wasn't clear." The problem with this is that if lack of consent isn't clear then neither is consent -- and without clear, uncoerced consent, it is rape. Real rape.

This "her denial of consent wasn't clear" often gets falsely presented as reasonable doubt when it is no such thing. This is where we get crap like, "She didn't say no vigorously enough." Or: "Yes, she was asleep when I snuck into her room, but then she gave me sleepy consent." There is no true reasonable possibility in these cases that she gave legal consent.

No man would agree that if he were asleep, passed out or not allowed to leave a potentially violent situation until he nodded his agreement that he should be considered to be a willing party to a true oral contract.

This would be true even if the oral contract is a defense for felony auto theft. "He agreed to let me have his car for the next year, so I'm not guilty."

Many of these moral rapists are painted as nice boys or men in other aspects of their lives. Just because they aren't nice to some girls and women shouldn't ruin their lives by being convicted or charged with a sex crime. Some people have even suggested that a good compromise would be to have these rapists sentenced to picking up trash along the roadside.

The flaw with this is that the causes for these types of rapes are within the rapist, not the rape victim or the relationship. All community service does is reinforce the rapist's belief that he didn't do anything truly wrong.

Even so-called moral rape is an act of violence against another human being. If a rapist doesn't seem so deeply entrenched in violence that prison isn't needed, then basic education about sexual boundaries and respect for others should be a requirement even if the defendant makes a plea deal on a lesser charge with serious consequences for continued sexual violence.

If a rapist's defense is that he was confused, then he absolutely needs to have that confusion cleared up rather than giving him a mild scolding and aiming him toward his next potential victim.

Many times the term moral rape is used when the person blames the victim for being raped. "She should have known better than to trust him in that situation." "She shouldn't have gotten drunk." "She could have escaped if she really wanted to."

This attitude gives the greenlight to rape as long as the rapist doesn't step over the line into evil rapist territory. Only gentlemen rapists allowed.

The bottom line is that reducing some rapes to the term moral rape -- or gray rape -- supports rapists and allows them clear paths to continue raping with little or no fear of ever being held legally accountable for their deliberate and harmful behavior.

If you think those who commit so-called moral rapes aren't acting deliberately, you are being fooled and these rapists know it (even if they rationalize away the label rapist) and likely take as much delight in manipulating you as they do in manipulating their rape victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 1:06 AM   1 comments links to this post


At March 18, 2007 1:57 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Some child molester groups have been trying to use the "moral rape" argument to justify their crimes. They are not "raping" children, they are "initiating children into sexual maturity." They've even got a bunch of pseudo-scientific articles backing up these theories.

The main argument that these people are using to support this position is that children get sexually aroused when they are molested. (there are boys who have actually had their arousal used against them in court) Therefore, because the children are aroused, they reason, it is consensual.

Fortunately lawmakers take into account the power relationships involved in child rape, so regardless of what how the children involuntarily responded th the abuse, the "sexual initiation" argument is still not carrying a lot of weight in court, although it is skewing public perception.

I think that in the case of adult rapes, the "moral rape" advocates are conveniently ignoring the abuse of power involved, and they are selectively choosing certain details of the rape to support their case. ("she had an orgasm so she liked it")

Unfortunately, until we get the word out about the real facts of rape, for example, that arousal does not imply consent, juries and judges will continue to fall prey into the same misconceptions and stereotypes.


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