Monday, May 21, 2007

What Does Consent Look Like?

Defense attorneys in a gang rape trial want the jury to believe that everyone would recognize non-consensual sexual activity from a 10-second video clip (which was deleted before it could be entered as evidence) and not rely on stereotypes of how they think someone being raped would behave every second during a rape or on their biases about the victim or their biases about the defendants.

If someone looks at a clip with the absolute assumption that nobody involved is a rapist, that assumption will cause the viewer to dismiss anything which doesn't fit their assumption and to fill in the unseen moments with actions which fit their expectations.

Reportedly a knife was held by one or more of the defendants which is a threat even if the threat is never spoken. I very much doubt that the video clip included that action. Unfortunately, people with strong enough biases can easily explain away someone wielding a knife.

Smith [one of the defendants] finished his own testimony Thursday morning, telling Assistant District Attorney Claudette Antholzner that the sex was consensual and the girl never told them to stop.

This phrasing is enlightening since it contains an implication that they were doing things to this alleged victim which she didn't want and he knew she didn't want it. But since, for whatever reason, she didn't say, "Stop" in a way they would respect, they believed they could continue with no concern for the harm they were doing and without legal accountable.

This statement also implies that the girl never told them to go. Frankly, this statement is a smoking gun of this defendant's guilt by revealing his rationalizations.

It bothers me that the judge allowed a licensed psychologist to speculate about whether a hypothetical girl would lie about a consensual contact to protect her reputation. This woman's testimony smacks of the type of classic victim denial which kept -- and still keeps -- so many rape victims silent.

This expert testimony simply reinforces the lie that date rape is nothing more than post-sex regret. If a juror went into the trial with some level of belief in this lie, the expert witness could have that person dismissing all evidence which contradicts that lie.

Most appalling is that the expert testimony overlooks the fact that boys will lie about non-consensual contact to protect far more than their reputations or will rationalize their actions until they see themselves as doing nothing criminal. Not speaking up about rape immediately is what happens after most rapes. To have an expert take a common response and turn it into a potential smoking gun is reckless.

There was a good reason these defendants would believe that they didn't have to stop. The alleged victim had enough problems, including lying to her mother, so she wasn't living at home full time and instead was living weeknights at a youth community residence. That makes her prime victim material since her credibility in court would be viewed as low. The details of the case which aren't in dispute show careful planning by the defendants to get the alleged victim to an isolated location where she was unexpectedly outnumbered.

The defense's attempt to make the alleged victim's rebelliousness proof that no rape occurred is nonsense. The angriest and most rebellious I've ever been in my life were during the months after my rape. I fought anything and anybody who tried to control me. My rapist, on the other hand, was a model of good behavior. His actions didn't traumatize him at all or shatter his faith in those who said they loved or cared about him.

So the theory that the alleged victim's acting out proves no rape occurred is a false theory borne of ignorance or self-interest.

This case highlights how many rapist-excusing beliefs are still out there. I only hope the jury doesn't fall for them.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:40 AM   0 comments links to this post

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