From KSTP TV in the Twin Cities:
A 16-year-old St. Paul boy has been charged with second-degree manslaughter for allegedly shooting another teen in the head on Thanksgiving morning, killing him.When a boy makes a decision which harms another person this case shows us that being negligent, with no proof of malicious intent, is a serious matter. Yet many people who will acknowledge this and support accountability for harming another human being when a gun is involved won't do so when the harm is sexual. They may believe rape victims who didn't consent yet will oppose any criminal charges against rapists who claim ignorance about that non-consent and who did nothing meaningful to ensure they actually had freely given consent.
The Ramsey County Attorney's Office charged the 16-year-old on Tuesday by juvenile petition. Prosecutors are seeking to try him as an adult.
They say he shot 15-year-old Darion Joseph Smith, after a group of friends had been playing Russian roulette with an unloaded .22-caliber handgun. According to the criminal complaint, a witness heard the suspect say he didn't know the gun was loaded when he fired at Smith.
There are many excuses for this. The heart of most of these excuses is victim blaming. Agreeing to be with someone who turns out to be a rapist can be enough of a reason for many people to resist holding that rapist morally or legally accountable. In this case where a boy was killed, victim blaming would be just as easy based on the facts of the case. But many people who rush to blame rape victims aren't so quick to use the same details (being there, for example) to blame the victim of a shooting and to excuse the boy who shot him.
If we are serious about preventing sexual violence we need to take the harm from sexual violence as seriously as we take the harm from a gunshot wound. Victims of both can end up dead.
Too often people refuse to acknowledge harm which they cannot measure simply by looking at the victim's body immediately after the harm is done. They don't know or don't care about research done which shows that sexual violence has a long-lasting impact. A rape survivor's suicide is too often completely disconnected from the person who proceeded without freely given consent in the thinking of people who consider themselves to be 100% opposed to rape.
Just as it is an individual's responsibility to make absolutely sure an unloaded gun really is unloaded before picking up that gun, it must be an individual's responsibility to ensure that any assumptions made about someone's state of consent before beginning sexual contact or before taking contact to a new level are absolutely correct.
Just as it isn't a valid excuse that the gun had no bullets hours earlier it shouldn't be a valid excuse that someone had previously consented sexually. Guessing before firing a gun is criminally negligent and guessing before sexual contact or action also needs to be viewed and treated as criminally negligent.
The harm from sexual assault is real no matter the perpetrator's intentions. It's past time we treated it accordingly in how we talk about sex, rape and in how rape is investigated and prosecuted.
As long as we accept, "He meant no harm," as a reason to tolerate certain behavior we are allowing sexual harm to flourish.