Thursday, July 12, 2007

Giving Rapists A Get Out Of Jail Free Card

Above The Law has a brief post about the Rhode Island rape case that is being brought 32 years after the alleged crime which I blogged about previously. The message is clear that not only should rapists get a pass after that much time, but that the alleged victim should be viewed with deep suspicion.

This post unknowingly exposes clear ignorance about the full scope and impact of the crime of rape, the major problems of rape enforcement in the 1970s, the silence around non-stranger rape which discounted most rape victims' experiences, the limited recovery resources available to unacknowledged rape victims in the time of self-help books like I'm Okay, You're Okay, and how decades could go by before a rape victim would feel safe enough to bring those memories to the surface.

This post also exposes how rape cases can be dismissed by observers as unjust for the flimsiest of reasons. The observer's lack of understanding is indicative of that person's ignorance, but like many who are ignorant, the author attempts to spin ignorance into insightfulness. All that's needed is a bunch of other people to nod in agreement. There seems to be no shortage of nodders.

Simple Justice has a rant about this case which makes claims about a total lack of prosecution evidence. Then from his assumption that there is no credible evidence at all, he rants against states that don't have a statute of limitations on rape.

Volokh Conspiracy makes the claim that there is "no physical or documentary evidence" to back up the charges, but I can't find a source for that claim and it seems to instead be an assumption. He admits that he doesn't know if there is additional supporting evidence, but he still makes the assumption that no evidence should have resulted in these charges. He at least doesn't make accusations against this alleged victim or claim that the man can't be guilty as charged.

In the comments of that post, Cirby makes an unfounded claim about the lack of accuracy of repressed memories which has actually been studied in those who report childhood sexual abuse and "spontaneously recovered memories were corroborated about as often (37% of the time) as continuous memories (45%)." These numbers don't mean that over half the time the memories are false, only that over half the time the memories couldn't be verified from outside sources.

Then we get Howard257 who touts the so-called feminist jurisprudence's "flexible woman" standard in order to label most of those who report rape as liars. Very convenient as it eliminates the need to consider the evidence -- a habit which I could easily label as anti-victim jurisprudence's "flexible man" standard. If a man denies rape then he can't be a rapist.

And then there is True Path who makes the unfounded claim that "False testimony may become even more emotionally compelling over time as it is embellished in the 'victim's' mind".

Since that statement is contrasted with the alleged rapist's frequent lack of recollection of the event years later, this person clearly fails to understand the basic truth that rape is more traumatic for the rape victim than it is for the rapist. To see evidence of this truth as proof that no rape occurred reveals this person's very dangerous rationalizations.

If we do accept this claim at face value then false testimony can also become more emotionally compelling over time when the false testimony is given by a rapist. The rapist can embellish the false details which nullify the possibility of rape until he feels that's what really happened. That means an accused man's apparent sincerity as he denies the charges must be viewed with deep suspicion. His genuine belief in his innocence becomes meaningless by the standard laid out by Truth Path.

Many a rapist cons himself and others into believing that if his actions caused him no trauma then his actions couldn't have caused anyone else any trauma either and without trauma there is no rape. So therefore the rape victim is giving false testimony when that person testifies honestly about the trauma of the experience. A very handy circular way of denying rape.

FredR wrote: "did she decide not to say anything at the time or did she repress the memory? Hard to see how you can do both."

While it may be hard for him see how both could happen, as someone who was raped in that same era, it's easy for me to see how you could do both and why you would do both as you attempted to put yourself back together after rape. Society denied most rapes back then and many people want to take us back to rapists' golden days before feminists told us that boys and men we knew could also commit rape and before many of the legal loopholes were closed.

Then to cap it off, we get Peter Young who claims basically that the rape victim violates the rapist's due process rights and right to a speedy trial if the victim doesn't quickly report being raped. In a later comment he wrote: "But it does appear that the prejudice to the defendant must stem from state action. The unilateral decision of an alleged victim not to report the crime apparently would not qualify."

The problem with this position is that many rapes occur because the rapist knows the victim is highly unlikely to report and if the victim does report that victim most likely won't be treated as a real crime victim.

If we use this twisted version of due process and the right to a speedy trial then we must throw out the recent murder convictions for crimes committed against blacks during the civil rights era. Those who didn't cooperate back then with the FBI because they feared for their lives and the lives of their families were violating the civil rights of the murderers. How dare they make that unilateral decision!?

It seems that many people who know the statistics on the number of unreported rapes want to keep those numbers high and will do everything they can to protect those unreported rapists from ever being charged and from being convicted for the crimes they committed.

Those who do this don't spin it this way of course since that would make them look repulsive, they instead put forth the unfounded assumption that the man whose crime is reported and charged after DNA can no longer be collected from the victim's body can't be seen as guilty while his victim must be seen as guilty of making a false report.

These people use the kind of logic that helped get Galileo excommunicated from the Catholic church. If they can't understand how the Earth could circle the sun when they see the sun rising every morning, then the Earth obviously doesn't circle the sun.


Oh, for those good old days.

Update (7/13): The Rhode Island attorney general has dropped the charges because of the legal issues related to the passage of time. It seems that a key issue is the admissibility of the alleged victim's testimony of memories she'd repressed because of a 1996 state Supreme Court ruling. This does nobody any favors since it will leave some people with the impression that the woman must be psychotic and will leave others with the impression that when the going gets tough, rape victims will be left undefended.

The other issue -- and the one that matters most -- is that the specific charge against this man, first-degree sexual assault, did not exist at the time of the alleged crime. New crime statutes are not retroactive. But because of the admissibility issues they won't be substituting this charge with one that was in force at the time of the alleged rape.

The man's attorney has again repeated that tired old line that his client's life has been ruined.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:06 AM   0 comments links to this post


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