Judge Sarah Bradley's comments in her Australian court about a 10-year-old aboriginal girl who was gang raped by 9 boys and men and this judge's accompanying light sentences (with no jail time) hits many people instantly as horrific. But for too many who have this reaction, the only reason they know the judge is wrong is because of the victim's age.
That's a dangerous mistake which allows equally horrific comments and sentences to be made with little fanfare and no protest when the victim is older, sometimes only by a few years.
If this judge made the exact same comments about a teenage gang rape victim many people would fall into the rape denial trap and might assume the judge was onto something and others would use the judge's statement that the victim might have consented as proof that the current laws unfairly punish men who are rapists on a mere technicality. To them this judge's comments would indicate that there is doubt about whether there was a gang rape at all which would mean that these boys and men who pleaded guilty have been railroaded even though they got pathetically light sentences.
Rape denial and rape minimizing most of the time is allowed to feed the nasty cycle of sexual abuse with little backlash except from those of us who are quickly labeled man-hater.
When the recently suspended crown prosecutor, Steve Carter, described this crime as "childish experimentation" and consensual "in a general sense" the crown prosecutor is revealing a level of ignorance which if it came from a doctor would be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.
This gang rape was childish experimentation only in the sense that this child was treated like an object to be experimented on. This 10-year-old had been sexually abused before and any so-called general consent would most likely be the child disassociating in order to survive another horrific violation. If a child believes there can be no escape then all the stereotypical signs of non-consent are likely only to make the crime worse.
That punishes victims for trying to endure what many of us view as unendurable.
The child experimentation excuse could as easily be used to describe the boys aged 11 and 14 who have been accused in Austin, Texas of a sophisticated rape attempt against a 60-year-old woman in her home. They reportedly wore bandannas and gloves and brought a kit with material to help them restrain the woman when they broke a window to get into the woman's home. They also had another boy and a girl outside as their lookouts.
It must have been experimentation by the standard used by the Australian prosecutor and judge. After all, these 2 boys stopped when the woman's heart device was triggered by the assault. There is nothing listed in the story about this case to indicate that the woman clearly expressed her lack of consent so by the sloppy standards used in many rape cases, their actions must be viewed as consensual "in a general sense."
That worldview would mean that the woman filed a false police report if she said they were attempting rape. Many of these people who put forth this worldview will fall back on unfounded speculative statements like "something about the case seems fishy" or "maybe the woman was into rape fantasies and lured these young boys into her sick games. Children that young would never be able to plan something that sophisticated themselves."
Sometimes those who hold this worldview are careful about when and where they let their beliefs shine through, but sometimes they misjudge and face the backlash they have deserved all along.
When children are committing serious acts of physical and sexual violence, the perpetrator's innocent-sounding motives cannot be allowed to be a legal excuse or defense. The underlying causes within the rapist only matter when looking at how to get offenders to take responsibility for their actions and to change their way of thinking and feeling and acting so they never offend again.