Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Where Are Genarlow Wilson's Defenders?

Here is the crux of a statutory rape case where a girl who reported being the victim has been transformed into a perpetrator:

According to Sumner County [Kansas] court reports, the 14 year-old only identified as L.B. in court records, is being charged with aggravated criminal sodomy and rape after going to her teacher to talk about an alleged date rape that allegedly occurred in early February with a 13 year-old boy.

Everyone who has come out in support of Genarlow Wilson had better come out in support of this girl if they want to be viewed as having a credible position on statutory sex crimes and not be seen as people who simply want to let boys and men off the hook.

The age difference in this case is much narrower (only months) and while Genarlow was also charged with rape (and later found not guilty on that charge), this time it is the girl who reported sexual violence committed against her.

The boy allegedly used force once the girl complied with his request for oral sex. If you are pushing someone's head down until they are choking, you are making a deliberate decision and you are choosing to cross the line from mutual to violent -- if you hadn't already crossed it in your efforts to get the other person to comply to the sexual contact you wanted. This is true whether you are 13 or 31.

Too many people including members of law enforcement refuse to acknowledge the criminality of bait and switch when it comes to sexual contact. They have no problem understanding that consent in other areas isn't a blank check which allows violence. They have no problem understanding that allowing someone to enter your home doesn't mean they are allowed to do anything they want inside your home. Letting someone in isn't the same as allowing destructive and/or abusive behavior inside your home.

So why are so many so-called sensible adults blind to this concept when it comes to sexual contact? And if so many adults are blind to this, how can we expect that a 14 year old girl will be able to determine that what happened the first time crossed an ethical and moral line, and that she should run screaming at the sight of this boy?

If someone otherwise seems like a decent human being and if sexual coercion is seen as normal, it can be easy to dismiss sexual violence and criminal coercion to gain sexual contact as physical side-effects of sexual arousal when they are no such thing. The "I couldn't control myself," mantra is a convenient cover for, "I didn't want to control myself and if my actions hurt you, talk to someone who gives a damn. But if I say that to your face, I'm not likely to get what I want from you. So instead I'll keep the con going."

By the questions I've seen people asking about why the girl didn't scream during the crime and why she didn't report immediately and why did she agree to be alone with the boy again, I see that many people still have an appalling level of ignorance. But instead of recognizing that their questions reveal their ignorance, these people are assuming their questions are revealing proof that there was no sexual violence or non-statutory sexual criminal violation.

To describe this case as one of teenagers simply experimenting with sex (kids will be kids) is to deny that there is any difference between teens coercing other teens into sexual contact and teens mutually and respectfully exploring sexual contact. That's a very dangerous denial.

Imagine if there were a case where a 14 year old reported sneaking with a 13 year old friend into a neighbor's backyard and going in their pool, being lured to the deep end and then being held under water until the 14 year old swallows water and is begins to fear drowning. Would we dismiss that as 2 kids experimenting with swimming because the slightly older teen willingly jumped in the pool? Would trespassing onto the neighbor's property be seen as the most serious issue? I hope not.

In this hypothetical situation, the teen who held a friend underwater is likely to minimize what happened and to discount the reality that there was a near drowning by saying something like, "We were just horsing around." A pat, "This is why minors shouldn't swim unsupervised" misses the point. The problem wasn't the swimming, the problem was the decision to hold another person under water. Maybe that decision wasn't made with malice only with selfishness, but it is still a dangerous decision and one that needs to be challenged so it never happens again.

It's noteworthy that the boy paints himself as a passive participant and paints the girl as the unilateral aggressor. But his portrait of what happened was given under very different surrounding dynamics so he had a strong incentive to paint the interaction so it criminalized the girl who reported his actions.

The story says that the boy was also charged with similar counts, but the girl's attorney suspects that the boy will be offered immunity to testify against the girl who reported sexual violence. That would turn this case into a mockery of justice and would serve as an additional support for sexual coercion, sexual violence and the silencing of victims.

As if there weren't already more than enough support for sexual coercion and violence before these charges were filed against this girl.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:37 AM   1 comments links to this post


At July 13, 2007 11:03 AM, Blogger adams said...

I agree this sounds equaly bad. Also why is it a crime for a 13 and 14 year old to have sex if it was consentual? In this case the girl was used, but if it had been voluntary why should it be a crime?


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