Monday, July 20, 2009

Husband Of House Parent At Faith-Based Care Facility Convicted Of Sexual Assault

From Tyler Morning Telegraph:

A 46-year-old man was sentenced to six years of probation for sexually assaulting a mentally disabled woman at a faith-based care facility in Tyler where his wife worked. Martin Metzner, was found guilty after more than five hours of deliberation by a six-man six-women jury in 7th District Judge Kerry Russell's Court. Metzner faced five years to life in prison.

He was on trial for sexually assaulting a 32-year-old resident of Breckenridge Village of Tyler in October 2007. Metzner's wife, Cheri Mickey, said she worked as a house parent on the Breckenridge Village campus before her employee status was terminated.
Since so many sexual assault cases which don't involve physical force get dismissed as something less than a real sex crime I'm glad this man was convicted. I'm not sure that probation will send a clear message that what this man did was a serious crime.

His wife's comments quoted in this article are deeply troubling to me and reflect dangerous attitudes which are often used by sex criminals to rationalize sexually exploiting others and then are used by those around sex criminals to deny or minimize the harm those sex criminals do.

Mrs. Mickey testified that, while she was angry with her husband for having sexual relations outside the marriage bed, she does not believe he forced himself or took advantage of the victim. [...] She said that the victim, along with other "high-functioning" residents, would hang out in groups and discuss sex, which she said was not permitted. [...] Mrs. Mickey cited an incident at the village where she saw the victim taking part in what she interpreted as sexual activity with a man she referred to as her boyfriend.

This reference to the victim's interest in sex and having a boyfriend does not negate the validity of the charges against her husband over activity which she acknowledged as an affair. What they do indicate to me is a disturbing level of victim blaming and victim shaming.

This woman's reference to some residents ability to vote isn't proof that any of those residents were able to consent to sexual activity with her husband since the dynamics in these 2 situations are very different. The closer analogy would be if someone in Mr. Metzner's position had tried to control how residents voted.

The expert who discussed the victim's ability to consent seems to have talked about this woman's ability to consent as if it the answer is either a universal yes or no, but for some people with cognitive issues the answer may be, "it depends."

There is a huge difference between the ability to consent to someone who is at a similar cognitive level and who has absolutely no situational control over the other person and the ability to consent to someone who has no cognitive impairment and/or to consent with who has been given access which this woman cannot control.

Just as important as judging someone's ability to consent is judging that person's ability to not consent and to have that non-consent respected in every way. This ability to not consent is situational and can effect people who otherwise undeniably have the general ability to consent. When an on-duty cop asks for sexual contact from a driver that driver has her or his ability to not consent reduced or eliminated.

Mr. Metzner might have had the victim's compliance, but that is not legal consent.

Even though Mr. Metzner himself wasn't an employee he had unsupervised access to this women and to other women living at this care facility. That gave him more power in the interactions than any of those women had. He could use that power, including the information he had about this woman, as tools and that is why consent in this case should not a valid defense no matter what the expert had said in determining this woman's general ability to consent. Mr. Metzner's interaction with all the residents was as a non-vulnerable adult to vulnerable adults.

That means he was in the wrong if he responded positively to any sexual overtures from any of those women and he could not initiate or suggest any sexual conduct with any of those women without being in the absolute wrong. Whether every state or jurisdiction recognizes this ethical line is immaterial to the reality of this offense.

He exploited this woman and that exploitation was rightfully classified as a sex crime.

Mr. Metzner's explanation to an investigator that the victim was being denied the right to a sexual relationship by the operators of this facility became a rationalization which allowed him to cast himself as someone helping her not hurting her.

But these types of rationalizations are dangerous lies which allow people to cause great harm and which too often allow sex offenders to get away with causing great harm. Thankfully there were many people involved in this case who took the correct stand against this lie.

We need more people to stand up against this type of harm.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:00 AM   2 comments links to this post


At July 20, 2009 5:15 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Thank you Marcella for clearly disentangling the excuses and justifications used by both the male abuser and his wife in a deliberate attempt to minimalise this very serious sexual assault committed against a woman who is not in a position of equal power as convicted abuser, Martin Metzner.

It is irrelevant whether or not the disadvantaged woman engaged in sexual conversation or had/has boyfriends. The issue was whether or not Metzner used his position of authority and power in order to deliberately commit a serious assault against a woman who was in his care.

All too often women are blamed for not supposedly giving crystal clear refusals when a man/men attempts to force unwanted sexual contact on them. This is despite the fact women are often not in a position of equal power or entitlement as men and particularly so when the male abuser has a higher social position than the victim.

Likewise the fact some residents have the capacity to vote is totally different from whether or not a female resident has the cognitative ability to give free and informed consent to male sexual contact.

With regards to voting, there is an assumption that the residents were not subjected to coercion or manipulation in order to 'persaude them to vote for a certain party' yet when the issue concerns 'consent' it is presumed to be something which everyone irrespective of age, ability and lack of power is able to give. It takes no account of how misuse of power enables a male perpetrator to try and justify his abuse by claiming 'she consented.'

Probation for this convicted male sexual abuser in my opinion trivialises his accountability and also minimalises the extent to which some men deliberately exploit their positions of power in order to gain sexual access to women.

At July 21, 2009 12:52 PM, OpenID moodybpgirl said...

“She said that the victim, along with other "high-functioning" residents, would hang out in groups and discuss sex, which she said was not permitted.”

It all sounds very similar to what I experienced in inpatient psychiatric treatment. The staff came down on us like a ton of bricks if we ever tried to hold hands or give each other a friendly hug, but as soon as one of the patients was assaulted they were quick to rally around the attacker. (After all, they told us not to wear tank tops!) As always, the burden falls to the victim to act like a starched Christian virgin who was totally blindsided by the notion of sex. After all, if a woman shows an interest in sex once, with one person, it only stands to reason she wants to be with every man who comes along for the rest of her life! It would be sickening enough if the victim weren’t intellectually disabled. The fact that these people honestly think the only issue is adultery just floors me.


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