Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sex With Puking Women Not Always Rape

The judge's ruling overturning the rape conviction of Benjamin Bree with the statement "it isn't always rape when the woman is drunk" has been misused by many people who have read about the case. These people's comments leave out the alleged victim's statement about what occurred that night.

Her claim was not that she consented but was so drunk that her consent should be invalid. Her claim was that she didn't consent and even though she lost consciousness at times, she never had any intention of consenting.


They returned to her hall of residence at Bournemouth University, where, she told Bournemouth Crown Court last year, she was 'continually throwing up'. She said her next memory was waking up to find Mr Bree having sex with her. She told the jury her memory was "very patchy" and I knew I didn't want this but I didn't know how to go about stopping it".

Mr Bree told the court she had given her consent and "seemed keen".

Puking as keen to have sex, gotcha. Or is he denying that she vomited? The problem with this ruling applied to this case is that "seeming keen" even when the woman is sober is NOT consent. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that by the fact that the prosecution is going to let the appeal stand.

A car salesman might look at you studying a car and make the assessment that you are seeming keen about the car and are close to making the decision to buy. But nobody would accept that this equaled your agreeing to buy the car.

So why are so many people so dense about this same concept when it comes to sex?

It seems that some people equate another person's seeming willingness to even consider sex -- under the right circumstances and with the person of their choice -- blanket consent to whoever is near. This is hogwash.

The bottom line should be the fact that she didn't want to have sex with him, but he had sex with her anyway. Seeming keen should never cut it as anything more than an admission that no, she didn't actually consent but she seemed close to consenting.

As my high school science teacher was always telling us when we almost got the answer right: "Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and dancing."

Nearly consenting is non-consenting.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   2 comments links to this post

2 Comments:

At March 30, 2007 1:11 PM, Blogger sailorman said...

i, too, find this case pretty appalling. I think there's a different explanation though.

Your statement seems to suggest that the jury believed the victim and managed to find a way to get the perp off anyway. I'm not so sure that the jury didn't just think the victim was lying. A lot of people--judges and juries--really dislike the testimony of extremely drunk people.

That creates a horrible catch-22: the same thing that (in both your mind and in mine) makes it less likely that she would have consented ALSO makes it less likely that her claimed denial of consent will be believed.

So what to do then? this is actually a serious question.

i know you and i have tangled occasionally. but for a moment let me retreat to the "in light of this, what do I tell my daughters?" question:

Do I tell them not to drink? patriarchal.

Do i tell them not to drink with men they don't know? Accurate--but still patriarchal.

when i read a case like this, i really don't know where to go next. Any suggestions?

 
At March 30, 2007 4:03 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Sailorman,

First, the jury found the man guilty -- which means they believed her testimony -- so in this case they can't be faulted in the slightest for the outcome of this case. It was the appeals judge who made the decision which overturned the conviction.

On what to tell your daughters, the issue is bigger than alcohol or drinking around strangers so general advice about not drinking in public may not make them any safer from rape.

But when it comes to drinking alcohol, I'd tell them to run from anyone who tries to coerce them or others in any way. The most obvious example is coercing girls or women into drinking or into drinking more. Willingness to coerce, even in more socially accepted ways, is a danger signal.

Coercion shows disrespect for other people's boundaries and that is one of the key elements that allows someone to step over the line into committing rape.

I'd tell them listen to any bad feelings they have about a place, a situation or a person. Logic may say that the danger is only imaginary, but logic is based on limited information. An example would be a bad feeling one of your daughters has about someone you trust completely. She should not talk herself out of that bad feeling because someone she looks up to didn't sense anything bad.

I'd tell them to be as cautious about the seemingly protective boys and men as they are of those who are obviously crude. The man who comes to a young woman's rescue and offers to see her safely home -- no strings attached -- may wait until she feels safe and is at her most vulnerable to reveal his real motives.

Because your daughters can get into a situation where they don't know who is trustworthy, you may want to talk to them about creating a workable escape plan. To be workable it has to take into account the stuff you and your daughters think will never happen.

Many rapists work very hard to look non-threatening until their intended victim is highly vulnerable. We recognize that when it comes to alcohol, but alcohol isn't the only thing that can make women vulnerable. Some of the worst criminals go to church and use the assumptions people make about the safety of church attendance to get close to their intended victims.

If you only warn your daughters about the so-called bad places or about drinking, they may miss seeing the dangers when and where rape shouldn't be a major risk.

One tip that I heard from a self-defense expert was that if someone is reassuring you about a danger you hadn't mentioned ("Don't worry, I won't rape you" or "Don't worry, I won't push you to do more than you want to") that you should take that as a serious warning sign that the person could do exactly that.

 

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