Thursday, July 02, 2009

Jeffrey Marsalis Expresses Sorrow At Sentencing Blames Drink For His Crime


Jeffrey Marsalis, 35, was sentenced Tuesday by 5th District Judge Daniel Hurlbutt Jr., who said Marsalis must serve at least 15 years before being eligible for parole in the date rape case.

Marsalis was extradited to Idaho last fall from Pennsylvania, where he is serving a 21-year sentence for 2007 convictions on two counts of sexual assault. Prosecutors say Marsalis drugged the the victim's drink while the two were at a bar. [...]

Marsalis' father, Forrest Marsalis, appealed to the judge for leniency before sentencing, and Jeffrey Marsalis apologized to the victim for his actions.
"I am sorry," Marsalis said in court. "I was drunk."
This excuse for this crime is nonsense and not a true apology but it is nonsense which is grounded in and supported by the distorted way many non-rapists view the relationship between alcohol and rape. This view helps rapists like Marsalis to rationalize away their responsibility.

Alcohol use by rapists is often referred to as the cause of rape when rapists commit the crime with alcohol in their bloodstream, but this is incorrect. Boys and men who rape while consuming alcohol are too frequently described as being out of control so that their rapes are presented as actions which just spontaneously happen. Sort of like a loud fart which might have been let out in a controlled manner when sober. An unpleasant mistake, but not a crime.

We certainly don't jail boys and men for uncontrolled farting since that is a basic bodily function. But rape is no more a basic bodily function than pushing a man to the ground and then kicking him in the crotch are basic bodily functions.

This excuse insults every man who has been drunk and who has chosen not to rape. In the months after I was raped the first time by my boyfriend I was self-medicating with alcohol and I was raped by others who had been drinking. However, most of the time when I was just as vulnerable I wasn't raped even though all the boys and men around me were drinking or drunk. Most of the time when I said, "no," that answer was respected. If getting drunk caused boys and men to rape I would have been raped hundreds of times.

The relationship between alcohol and sexual assult is a complex one and some of those complexities are described in this article from 2001. As the article highlights stereotypes related to sexual responsibility and consent can contribute to rapes by those who have consumed alcohol and against those who have consumed alcohol.

People who say things like, "If you don't want to be raped don't go out drinking," provide backhand support for rapists and potential rapists. Going out drinking is assigned the meaning that the person wants to be raped and if you want something that makes it consensual. This meaning is accepted by many people who view themselves as against rape and can be seen when they assess a report of rape by judging only the choices of the person who did not consent.

A big judgment is over the assumption that girls and women who are raped while under the influence of alcohol failed to properly communicate their lack of consent. This assumption causes people to talk about girls and women who only think they were raped. This is a rapist friendly definition of legal consent and explains why some rapists work to get their intended victims to the point where they are physically unable to clearly communicate lack of consent.

Marsalis' sexual violence can be shown to be something that didn't just happen. His crimes were repeated and involved premeditation since all his alleged rapes, including those committed in Pennsylvania, are believed to involve drugging the women to incapacitate them. Alcohol use may have helped Marsalis feel good about his criminal actions or it may have simply given him a convenient excuse in case his victims reported his rapes to the police, but alcohol didn't cause him to rape.

Many other rapists who share Marsalis' mindset and excuses are still frequently dismissed as people who did not intentionally commit a crime. They might be described as jerks but for many people rapists who rape in certain situations should never be treated as real rapists. A self-admitted possible date rapist who goes by the username doovinator responded to an article by Moe Tkacik titled Why I didn't report my date rape.

A woman once took me home with her; I thought we had some real, if drunken, feelings for each other after we'd met at a party. She took a shower, joined me in her bed, things progressed the way you might think they would, and I thought we had a lovely encounter, though she seemed a little bit tense and I mentioned it to her. She responded, "well, you'd be tense too, if you'd just been RAPED!"

Wait a minute, I said, that's not how I saw it AT ALL. We didn't exactly discuss our intentions beforehand, but she joined me in bed, nude and apparently willing, and hadn't offered any resistance when I made my advances. She may have whispered "no" once or twice, but didn't make any effort to stop me or even slow me down much. Some may call it "date rape", but I really liked her, thought we were doing fine and would have loved to have had a further relationship. That didn't happen.

In later comments he continued to defend his actions which he presented in the best possible light and he used his drunkenness as an excuse while making it clear that other men would have made the same choice he made to ignore, "No," if they were alone with a girl or woman in that type of situation.

The "may have" in this comment related to "no" is nonsense. If she never said "no," he wouldn't have used her "mixed messages" as an excuse. He would have described being immediately falsely accused. If he had genuine consent all the messages would have been positive. And this is his spin on what happened so the reality could have been much harsher than his version of what happened.

The doovinator described in another comment that he successfully shifted his responsibility for his actions onto this young lady that night because of her mixed signals. That follow up action compounded the harm he did to her by ignoring her lack of consent.

Those who make generic claims about consent (being together on a bed is legal consent) can only speak for themselves so their rules only apply to people who want to have sexual contact with them.

If a woman is planning to have sex with a man and something he does scares her or hurts her or simply disregards her as a fellow human being she is not legally obligated to endure actions which will be unpleasant at best. Yet too many people disagree and approve of rape in this scenario or at least believe that these rapes should be legal.

The doovinator said he wanted to have a relationship with this woman and I believe him. Yet his actions and his choices before, during and after rape undermined his longer term goals. This is a reality which too many rapists ignore or blame on their rape victims.

Those rapists who refuse to label their criminal actions as rape are not people who didn't intend to rape. They are people who didn't intend to be rightfully seen as rapists. They wanted the payoff of committing rape and the only consequences they support is rape as a consequence of the victim's actions.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:29 AM   5 comments links to this post


At July 02, 2009 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alcohol use by rapists is often referred to as the cause of rape when rapists commit the crime with alcohol in their bloodstream, but this is incorrect.
Going out drinking is assigned the meaning that the person wants to be raped and if you want something that makes it consensual.

Putting those two views side by side - since they are frequently espoused by the same people - implies that a man going out to drink is announcing an intention to commit rape.

At July 02, 2009 3:27 PM, Anonymous Eurosabra said...

Marsalis is an interesting case because the Munchausen-esque aspects of his behavior underline a peculiar take on modern American masculinity: women who would not have been interested in him as a failed nursing student were happy to grab a drink with him as a surgeon, CIA agent, or astronaut. The fact that the man's identity was a total construct underlines the fact that he was (albeit in a sociopathic way) playing out a traditionally-male-American narrative of the worthy, high-achieving man who is irresistible to women. (Which can be described on its own as a poisonous form of masculinity). There is always interesting law journal background on whether misrepresentations of this type are material, and constitute rape by fraud, or harmless fables. In the absence of drugs, an effort could have been made to prosecute on that basis.

At July 02, 2009 5:34 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I don't think this man's behavior tells us anything about what women like since women have drinks with all types of men including failed nursing students.

His false identities do tell us something about widespread incorrect assumptions about what type of men do and do not commit rape. That narrative explains why some of his victims relied on him to fill in the gaps in their memories.

At July 03, 2009 12:37 AM, Anonymous Eurosabra said...

Except that he was using, which includes a lot of implicit sorting by social status by the users, not that it very much mattered to the victims whether a "friendly" or "dating" context had been established by their interaction up to that point. One of the cute tricks of internet dating (for men) is to raise one's income by an order of magnitude, include pics that hint at wealth (like oneself aboard a sailboat), and note the changes in responses. Marsalis the rapist-liar had attractive power as an astronaut/surgeon/spy that he would not have had even as a successful RN. Apparently the material conditions of his life were acceptably anodyne preppy-chic to allow the charade. Dworkin would have had a field day tracking and deconstructing his coercive manipulation of a standard narrative, which widened his net appreciably. Also irritating that the defense in the first trial went with a narrative of sex-as-exchange. I don't think that works discursively because sex was not the question, but "preppy" (as in Robert Chambers) did not fly in Idaho, thank God.

At July 03, 2009 8:26 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Eurosabra, I agree on the social sorting on certain dating sites. Because of the format marketing is critical to getting responses. My point is that there are many assumptions about who is trustworthy which tie into when people feel safe in responding to an Internet site.


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