Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Warren Jeffs Guilty Verdict: Right or Wrong?

Ilana Mercer is likely only one of many people who don't understand why this jury would find Warren Jeffs guilty on both counts and still be sane. The underlying flaw in her thinking is plain to see in the second quoted section:

With the guilty verdict against Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the folks have proven that they hoisted their pitchforks, rather than hone their reasoning skills, during deliberation [...]

Did he hold down the victim so the perpetrator could have his way with her? No he didn’t. The rape charges against Jeffs stem from his having allegedly arranged the marriages of underage girls, not from violence he initiated against the complainant. And in particular, Jeffs is accused of encouraging a minor, and member of his church, to consummate her marriage. But does urging someone to engage in what one perceives to be marital sex amount to being complicit in a rape, a very brutal crime indeed?

This assumption that an adult, who is the voice of God to that child, needs to hold a 14 year old girl down to be guilty of facilitating rape is to effectively say that coercion is a myth. But coercion isn't a myth. That's not merely my belief, that's a fact.

Under the right (or wrong) conditions anyone can be coerced to do what they absolutely do not want to do. When this is denied then the coercer is given not just a green light, but a high five. They escape accountability and their victims are blamed.

By this standard all prisoners of war who denounced their home country without a gun pointed at their heads should have been tried and found guilty of treason.

Instead of even seeing the possibility that this girl was coerced into marriage and then into sex, Ms. Mercer falsely turns what Warren Jeffs did into "encouragement" despite evidence that what he did could not be in any way described as true encouragement.

Sex or hell.

If that girl believed in hell and had her prophet giving her that false choice, there was no real alternative option given to her. In this group the impact of the choice of hell wasn't just what would happen to her after death, it would have been immediate since the whole community looked to their prophet for guidance. Do what you are told or lose everything and everyone you know. What encouragement.

With the fear of hell in her heart she is then forced to do what she has been commanded to do: have sex when she is unwilling. That's as brutal as any forcible rape.

Yet many people deny this or minimize it until they might as well deny it. I'm glad for them that they have never experienced anything which would give them a way to relate to what this girl experienced.

True encouragement does not condemn the "encouraged" to hell for refusing to do what the other person encouraged her to do. This environment which increases the potential for abuse of power may be so foreign to some people that they refuse to accept its existence. That is a very dangerous mistake.

For those with children, what do you tell your child on the first day of school? Likely it includes, "Do what the teacher tells you to do." We assume our teachers will not misuse this power and the isolation of the classroom, but we rely on school administrators and the law to ensure that we can make this assumption.

We understand that teachers don't merely encourage their students to sit down and comply. They have the power of coercion but under the it's just "encouragement" model the teachers can never be held legally responsible for misusing that power as long as they don't use physical force.

Are you really okay with that?

For more on this verdict checkout the reporting on CNN or AP.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:02 AM   3 comments links to this post


At September 27, 2007 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll first point out that in no way, shape or form do I support Warren Jeffs or the FLDS.
I understand you have a pst, as you've identified, and I can never understand. I can be sorry that is happened.
The danger when we become a victim, is that we can project that crime all around us. I believe your doing that now.
None of us know what really took place in the Wall-Steed relationship. It us truly a he said-she said situation. There is no way to verify that a rape occured. And we can't assume that every allegation is true. There is adequate evidence that false or misplaced allegations do occur. So you make an assumption that a rape took place.
You then go on to suggest that as Jeff's was her religious advisor, his counsel counts as coercion, and is just as brutal as a forcible rape. You belittle those who have been through such as ordeal. I know people who have had the unfortunate experience, and they would beg to differ. Your comment belittles their trauma.
To allege that a religious leader's counsel, no matter how forceful, is coercion is patently ridiculous. With that reasoning, I could go back to my church and demand all my donations back because they were coerced on threat of loss of salvation.
If you really want to place blame here, you should be going after her parents. Not only did they allow it, but were there supporting it. They are the ones who had the legal responsibility to protect her. They could have blocked any efforts Jeffs had.
No, Ilana is exactly right. This case had nothing to do with rape. There are way more obvious cases than this that don't get any kind of prosecutorial support. This wasn't even about religion. Againm there are other religious groups with odd practices (somehow when the Amish dress that way it's quaint, but when the FLDS do it, it's somehow sinister). This case was about busting up a seperatist group. The fact that they keep to themselves in a relatively inaccessible area is their crime.
If Jeffs is bad enough to make the FBI top 10 lisy, how come we can't find a conviction for a real crime instead of some incredible reach.

At September 27, 2007 8:50 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, you contradict yourself thoughout your comment.

You say we can't know what happened to this girl since we weren't there and then you say you know this crime didn't happen. You can't have it both ways.

You say you can't understand my past, but then you turn around and say that the only way I could come to my conclusion is through irrational response to my trauma. You can't have it both ways.

The reality is that my past gives you an easy excuse to dismiss what I have to say. But that's all it is, an excuse.

Since you say that not being there means you can't know what happened then you can't know that Warren Jeffs didn't use coercion and isn't guilty of the charges against him.

To dismiss this case because other cases are more obvious says nothing about this case and everything about those cases and the law enforcement systems that have failed those victims.

Rapists love this excuse. "Those other guys are worse than me. I don't stab my victims." Well never mind then.

You say you don't support Warren Jeffs then you compare him to the Amish and make this case all about the way the FLDS dress when I didn't say a word about clothing. You claim I am projecting and say this is wrong, but this talk of clothes shows that you are the one verifiably doing so.

Since by your own admission you don't know what happened and you declare this case to be wrong that conclusion is NOT based on the merits of this case, but on your assumptions about the motives of the prosecutor.

Like the ex-husband, this victim's parents may also face criminal charges if there is enough evidence to prove that they also took part in coercing a 14 year old.

At September 27, 2007 7:27 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, I don't approve comments which include potential slander from those who refuse to be legally liable for their words.


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