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The crime against women that no one understands
December 14, 2011 11:12 AM   Subscribe

The crime against women that no one understands "They would be 10 educated, professional women versus a demonstrated liar—a man who had pretended to be a doctor, a CIA employee, even an astronaut—whom a court-appointed psychologist would decide met the legal definition of a "sexually violent predator." And yet the most remarkable thing about both trials wasn't the way they exposed the alleged tactics of a serial date rapist. It was that despite the outrageousness of the accusations against Marsalis, the testimony of 10 women wasn't enough to get a single rape conviction against him. The verdicts in these cases would be far lighter than his accusers sought—and victims' advocates say the outcome reveals a disturbing truth about the justice system. Nationwide, despite all the legal advances of the past three decades, little has changed for women who report a date rape. Because in far too many instances, juries don't believe date rape exists."
posted by nooneyouknow (253 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, I think plenty of people understand it. The correct title to the article would be something like "The crime against women that the legal system and/or society turn a blind eye to, choosing to instead blame the victim." If nobody understood it, we wouldn't say that the failure to get a conviction was "remarkable."
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:18 AM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


It doesn't sound like the prosecutors had the easiest of cases, to be honest:
Two of his accusers befriended him. Two others went on to briefly date Marsalis. Yet another accuser, a 26-year-old pharmaceutical representative, told the court that the assault left her pregnant—and she allowed Marsalis, of all people, to accompany her to the abortion.
posted by unSane at 11:28 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Juries are made up of people. And let me tell you, I come across women who don't believe date rape exists. Some who have been date raped themselves and don't realize it. Whether their lack of realization stems from denial, the fact that it wasn't "violent enough" to count as rape, or because they were "persuaded." It pains me when I try to talk about my own experiences with being sexually abused, because I've had nearly every kind of rape perpetrated on me. But in some way, the women who believe they have not been raped....I'm jealous of them for not being even temporarily devastated by it.

I realize that this jealousy is a petty emotion for me to have. I realize that the whole thing is messy. And I realize that I can't read that article because it will likely contain a half dozen or more triggery descriptions of grooming, the assaults, and the aftermath. In fact, despite that I've been doing it here on Metafilter for a few years now, just admitting publicly-ish is triggery for me.
posted by bilabial at 11:28 AM on December 14, 2011 [26 favorites]


The crime against women that no one understands 50% of the people understand and 50% of the people don't

There, that reads better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:29 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Er.. wrong picture for the article??..Courage wolf altered the mood with which I clicked to read
posted by savitarka at 11:30 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, 50% of the people do understand. I can't think of a woman I know who hasn't been the victim of date-rape or an attempted rapist. And though we tell each other, we don't tell even the men closest to us because of stories like this one.
posted by toastedbeagle at 11:31 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Some who have been date raped themselves and don't realize it.

I totally understand where you're coming from, but I'm not comfortable with anyone making this determination for someone else. Unless we're talking about someone without compentency, I think they have the right to describe something that happened to them.
posted by spaltavian at 11:33 AM on December 14, 2011 [23 favorites]


Um, I haven't yet read the entire article, but this sentence seems to betray a real misunderstanding of the situation: "It was that despite the outrageousness of the accusations against Marsalis, the testimony of 10 women wasn't enough to get a single rape conviction against him."

"Despite the outrageousness of the accusations"? The gravity of the accusations has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the strength of the case. People are acquitted every day despite facing extremely "outrageous" accusations (child molestation, for example) about which society is obviously and indisputably in almost universal accord.

The crime against women that the legal system and/or society turn a blind eye to, choosing to instead blame the victim

The DA has brought cases against this guy again and again. I don't think it's fair to say that "the legal system" is turning a blind eye to this.
posted by yoink at 11:34 AM on December 14, 2011 [23 favorites]


@unSane - did you read the whole article? Because part of what the article does is deconstruct how FUCKED UP IT IS to use any of those facts as justification for rape.
posted by Betty's Table at 11:35 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Drug rapes are really hard to prosecute, because of the nature of the drugs. By the time you wake up, they are leaving your bloodstream. Then you have to get to a hospital and wait in an ER. There is a very good chance there is nothing left by the time you get a blood draw.

We need a different system for sex crimes. Our criminal justice system is woefully inept at dealing with them. I often think that maybe we should at least try out a system that is pretty old school- labeling predators as "sexual deviants" and having them involuntarily committed. That way, they can never get out.

That, however, would involve getting states to invest millions in secure mental health facilities and that's not gonna happen, certainly not in this economy.
posted by Leta at 11:36 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because part of what the article does is deconstruct how FUCKED UP IT IS to use any of those facts as justification for rape.

The are not "justification for rape"--they are reasons why this is a hard case to get a jury of 12 people to agree unanimously has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
posted by yoink at 11:37 AM on December 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Police had found a syringe of liquid diphenhydramine in Marsalis's apartment, a drug that can cause powerful sleepiness, and theorized that he'd used expired medications he'd had access to at school or work. But testing was not completed and the syringe was not introduced as evidence.
...wait what?
posted by MangyCarface at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


matters further, Pennsylvania law forbids the use of expert testimony to explain the behavior of rape victims (a policy state legislators are trying to change, as a result of outcry over this case).

An issue that sorely needs addressing is our unwillingness to educate juries on a whole host of topics that we've decided are "common knowledge." Here it's hurting the prosecution's case because the individual jurors believe they understand how rape victims behave, in other jurisdictions and contexts it's rules against allowing expert testimony about the reliability (or lack thereof) of eye-witnesses, hurting defense cases.

The trial-by-jury system is a good one, but it works best when the jurors are allowed to be educated about what's actually going on, and we don't always do that very well.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


Unless we're talking about someone without compentency, I think they have the right to describe something that happened to them.

I get that. I really do. But when a woman tells me that her date held her down while she sobbed that she wasn't ready and didn't want to have sex yet...while he had sex with her... I can't think of another word for that except rape. But like I said, I'm jealous that they don't consider it rape. While I respect that ability to describe what happened as "not rape," I envy it.
posted by bilabial at 11:40 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


@yoink, yes, but singling that small bit of the story out - rather than talking about the other parts of the complex justice system that don't support victim/survivors from beginning to end of experiences such as these - actually reinforces the apathy and the sense of hopelessness. It is not constructive.
posted by Betty's Table at 11:41 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very few if any juries do not believe date rape exists. I think it is silly to claim such a belief. Of course there are cases where someone of either gender will use a substance that makes the victim unable to give consent to sex.

The point is not whether date rape exists or not. The point is has the prosecutor proven that this particular case was rape. A failure to prove it was rape does not mean it is a crime that no understands. It is simply a failure to prove an accusation that is inherently difficult to prove.

I am not talking about the merits of this particular case, just cases in general. Rape is hard to prove. That is tragic. Convicting someone solely on an accusation is equally troublesome. I don't know if a solution to the problem could exist.

Although having multiple unconnected accusers and having date-rape drugs in your home would tend to amount to sufficient proof in my mind.
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:48 AM on December 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


Time to go donate to my local rape crisis center again.
posted by rosa at 11:49 AM on December 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


'sexual deviants' is kind of a loaded term, especially its "old school" context
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:49 AM on December 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


We need a different system for sex crimes. Our criminal justice system is woefully inept at dealing with them. I often think that maybe we should at least try out a system that is pretty old school- labeling predators as "sexual deviants" and having them involuntarily committed. That way, they can never get out.

I understand frustration with the current system, but this is fixing the wrong problem. Our current system is great at not letting people out; we don't need an extra system to keep people locked away longer. What it's bad at it is convicting sex offenders, get juries to understand sex crimes better, and you'll get more convictions. That's a hard process, but it addresses the real problem.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


[ Removed a couple comments. Please let's not go the reductio ad absurdium route here. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 11:51 AM on December 14, 2011


I couldn't finish reading that, about halfway through I became too horrified and frightened to hear anymore about what he got away with. Maybe because I'm online dating, and maybe because I know that if I ever had to testify I would most likely be torn to shreds for my past.

I have tried to explain to some of my male friends that the last thing you do when someone tells you she was raped is question/doubt them.

On Preview: I agree that sexual deviants is a poor and innacurate description for this crime.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:52 AM on December 14, 2011


in junior high we had mock trials and my class did the date rape trial. my teacher was super nice and asked me in private if i'd be ok with being the "victim" and i said sure. i'm sure he knew what would happen next, but i was pretty unprepared.

the defendant was one of the popular kids, cute, rich, lots of friends, lots of the right extracurricular activities. i was too tall and loud and not popular and not cute. i was in band. i helped start the theater club.

the story of the mock trial was that the two of us went on a date, he came up to my apartment, raped me (or consensually had sex with me) and left.

in the end, his team won the trial.

through that process i learned the same thing as was taught here - a lot of people don't believe in date rape and even if they do believe in it, the believe at least some, if not all, of the blame rests on the shoulder of the woman who agreed to date the guy, agreed to let him into her home (or go into his)...you can never measure how much a girl leads him on. and i learned never get raped by a man in better standing than you are because everyone will think you're just looking to get back at him.

sadly, i didn't learn the lesson well enough and ended up in a mostly identical situation in my high school years, but for real this time. afterwards i called the cops, told my story, and was advised not to press charges because "he didn't really rape you" (there was no penetration) and "it's just he said/she said" and "this will be too much of a burden on you." the next time it happened, i didn't even bother to call the cops.

i think of these things when i make the mistake of opening a reddit thread about sexual assault. inevitably, the top of the thread will be a legion of guys talking about that one girl they know who faked it, about the time a girl used the "rape card" to get back at him, about how "we don't know the full story." and i wonder, is that one story you know really so much stronger than all the stories you've heard where you have no reason to doubt the woman?

and i guess it is. and that makes me really sad. we have a shockingly high percentage of woman who have been sexually assaulted and there's no one to be held accountable because we're so often disbelieved (or we just don't try to report it because the barrier is so high).
posted by nadawi at 11:52 AM on December 14, 2011 [60 favorites]


Because in far too many instances, juries don't believe date rape exists.

I don't believe that's what's going on here. The standard of proof is 'beyond a reasonable doubt' and the defence is entitled to put whatever construction it pleases upon the facts and testimony and attempt to sell it to the jury. In this case it appears you had an extremely skilled manipulator plus a number of victims whose behaviour was ambiguous enough, for whatever reason, that the defence was able to use it to open up a crack of reasonable doubt in the rape charge. It also appears that the prosecution fumbled several aspects of the case.

As others have said upthread, these can be extremely hard cases to prove. It's odd in this case that the number and pattern of the accusations didn't count for more. But the outraged tone of the article doesn't help dissect what went on here. "No-one understands"? Really? No-one?

The entire case would probably have been different if any of the rapes had been promptly reported and rape kit analyses/drug tests done immediately, plus the victims had not engaged on continued social contact with the assailant. That's not to blame them -- their actions seem pretty understandable in a way -- but it does indicate to me that it's not just juries who need to be educated about what constitutes date rape, but men and women also.
posted by unSane at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


One of my colleagues who used to work for a law firm said that rape (including date-rape) defense lawyers prefer predominantly female juries as they are far less likely to convict. I don't know where she got the figures from, but she indicated it was a fact that could be backed up by statistics rather than an opinion.

I'll, uh, just be getting my coat then...
posted by fearnothing at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2011


@yoink, yes, but singling that small bit of the story out - rather than talking about the other parts of the complex justice system that don't support victim/survivors from beginning to end of experiences such as these - actually reinforces the apathy and the sense of hopelessness. It is not constructive.

Actually, I think the linked article demonstrates the "not constructive" tack. I don't think it does anyone any good to just ignore the reasons why this case was difficult to prosecute and get all ragey about how this "obviously" guilty guy was let off. The message of this article is "nobody cares about rape victims and the system is utterly uncaring about their plight." I don't think any woman reading this article will feel more motivated to take their case to the police or a prosecutor than she was before.

And yet there is much here that speaks of the enormous changes in police and DA approaches to rape victims over the last two or three decades. Most of these women would have been told to take a hike by a DA in the 1970s--not because he necessarily wouldn't have believed them or wouldn't have cared about their stories, but because he would have seen it as simply a waste of state resources to even attempt prosecution--because the cases are, in fact, very difficult ones to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Rape is a highly unusual crime and one where in many cases (such as date rape) absolutely none of the physical facts of the case are in dispute. The jury is tasked, in such cases, with retroactive mind-reading: the question they are asked to decide is not "did sex between these two people take place at such and such a time in such and such a place" but "can this person prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they did not give consent for this sexual act to take place at that time." A DA need not be a woman-hating creep to feel unhappy about his/her chances of securing conviction in such a case.

And the sad and simple fact is that false accusations of rape do, in fact, occur. They are rare, of course, but they are not nonexistent. Any man accused of rape deserves the presumption of innocence and the onus must be on the accuser to prove their accusation beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if everybody involved in the prosecution and the jury is entirely convinced of the gravity of the problem of date-rape and the necessity of seeing it properly punished, that will inevitably mean that many men get acquitted who are, in fact, guilty.

A more useful tack for the article to have taken would have been to try to educate women on taking swift action if they suspect that they were the victim of pharmaceutically aided rape. Go to the police or to a hospital immediately. Get a blood-test and a rape-kit test done a.s.a.p. etc. Don't try to talk yourself into believing you really did give consent. Don't pal around with your rapist after the event. Any of those things would have upped the chances of conviction enormously.
posted by yoink at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


We need a different system for sex crimes. Our criminal justice system is woefully inept at dealing with them. I often think that maybe we should at least try out a system that is pretty old school- labeling predators as "sexual deviants" and having them involuntarily committed. That way, they can never get out.

***

I understand frustration with the current system, but this is fixing the wrong problem. Our current system is great at not letting people out; we don't need an extra system to keep people locked away longer. What it's bad at it is convicting sex offenders, get juries to understand sex crimes better, and you'll get more convictions. That's a hard process, but it addresses the real problem
.

I wish you were right, I hope that you are right about how to make it better, but I know six people who were sexually assaulted by people who were convicted/released, or convicted/imprisoned/released. So I'm just not buying. At least not yet.
posted by Leta at 12:01 PM on December 14, 2011


in junior high we had mock trials and my class did the date rape trial.

Whoa. I have never attended a school that would be brave enough to do anything even close to this.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:01 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really liked spending time with the guy who was eventually my rapist. And we interacted with eachother cordially after he raped me. Circumstances are weird and you do what you have to do. That didn't make it any less rape. It is the reason I didn't report it to anyone. I don't know how to explain it in such a way that it makes sense to everyone, and I certainly don't know how to explain things in such a way that it makes sense to everyone while there are defense lawyers trying to show what a slut I am. Like the first woman they interview, I sat down with my rapist and asked him to clarify things for me. And he contradicted me. And I got confused. This, in particular, was very true for me:

"Talking to him, I guess it was a way of asserting myself, an attempt to restore some normalcy," Marie says. "I was trying to be logical instead of emotional."

The fact that this guy wasn't convicted, despite the drugs, the women on files in his computer, etc. etc. etc., makes me feel better about my choice not to do anything. After all, all there was is my word against his. And, though I'm a pretty awesome person, there are all sorts of character flaws to pick on if the defense wanted to pick things apart. And I interacted with him afterwards. It couldn't have been that bad. I must have been asking for it.
posted by SockMarionette at 12:01 PM on December 14, 2011 [21 favorites]


If nothing else, this is another reason not to get out of jury duty.
posted by mullacc at 12:01 PM on December 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


The entire case would probably have been different if any of the rapes had been promptly reported and rape kit analyses/drug tests done immediately, plus the victims had not engaged on continued social contact with the assailant. That's not to blame them -- their actions seem pretty understandable in a way -- but it does indicate to me that it's not just juries who need to be educated about what constitutes date rape, but men and women also.

Well, this is why the inevitable follow-up article will be necessary; if you read to the end, it seems that very situation, with this same douche, is currently being processed.
posted by MangyCarface at 12:02 PM on December 14, 2011


There is a certainly a lot of troubling stuff in the article but there is also some misinformation in this thread. Marsalis has not walked away from this; he was already been given a sentence of 10 to 21 years plus 4 years probation and will be facing more charges which could add more time.

So, yeah, lots of bad stuff. But this guy is going to prison for a long time so it seems a weird hill to die on in terms of miscarriages of justice.
posted by Justinian at 12:03 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


unSane: The standard of proof is 'beyond a reasonable doubt' and the defence is entitled to put whatever construction it pleases upon the facts and testimony and attempt to sell it to the jury.

and:

it does indicate to me that it's not just juries who need to be educated about what constitutes date rape, but men and women also.

I don't know that greater education regarding date rape will address the first point your bring up. You can believe in date rape with your whole heart and soul and even believe that a date rape occurred and still recognize that the evidence doesn't prove it "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Belief shouldn't necessarily be enough of a reason to convict somebody. If the evidence doesn't conviction, it usually won't meet the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.

So, the way to help ensure conviction is to do as much before trial as possible - report it immediately, educate the police to treat it more seriously (i.e. none of this "he didn't really rape you" crap, as mentioned by nadawi) and fast track blood work at the ER (or at whatever location you might wish to visit).

Of course, now that I've written this, it dawns on me that that's probably what you were suggesting.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:03 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, this is another reason not to get out of jury duty

The people most likely to take accusations of date rape seriously are also the people most likely to be excused from jury duty in rape cases.
posted by elizardbits at 12:03 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


F*cked up as it is... I think the jury probably returned the right result, and it doesn't have anything to do with whether or not they "understand" the crime or have a "rape-victim stereotype". It's because the standard of proof in criminal cases is "beyond a reasonable doubt." The prosecution needed to prove to twelve people's satisfaction that there was no other possible reasonable interpretation for the facts of the case.

In most of these cases, all they had was her word against his. There was no physical evidence whatsoever of the alleged crimes. There were no witnesses. In short, the jury was asked to believe that a situation which for many people does lead to consensual sexual encounters could only be interpreted as a violent rape.

That's just going to be a tough sell.

Remember, courts aren't really charged with finding The Truth. They're charged with finding What Can Be Proven. And leaving aside the "outrageousness of the accusations"--actually, their very outrageousness probably hurt the prosecution's case--the DA really didn't have all that much going for him. True, he had ten women saying they were raped by this guy. But none of them could corroborate any details of the other's stories, so really, you just have ten isolated instances, none of which are supported by physical evidence or third-party testimony.

Which is part of what makes this kind of thing so atrocious: it's so incredibly hard to prove. Which is partly why families in olden times would resolve these kinds of disputes with baseball bats liberally applied to kneecaps. Or worse.

There is, in all likelihood, a case of date rape in the Bible. Genesis 34. Jacob's daughter Dinah goes to hang out with the Canaanite women at the local watering hole (literally). She comes across Shechem, son of the local headman, and who knows? Maybe the two of them hit it off. Either way, one thing led to another, and Shechem took things too far. Shechem seems to have legitimately liked the girl--which is why I say this was probably something akin to date rape rather than something more flagrant--and tries to patch things up, even offering to marry her.* Jacob doesn't really want to get into it with the headman, so he agrees. Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, are pissed. "Here's this guy who rapes their sister, and we're going to be family with him? F*ck that noise." So they play along for a while, but they insist that for idiosyncratic religious reasons that the local Canaanites have to be circumcised (true as far as it went). The Canaanites go along, which should really tell you something about how badly Shechem probably wanted this girl. Or her dad's property, at least. Anyway. While the Canaanites are... discomfited... Simeon and Levi descend on the town,** kill the men, plunder the goods, and take the women and children into slavery.

Excessive? Maybe. But hey, no one can say they didn't take the rape of their sister seriously.

Of course, Jacob's all like "What the hell, guys? They're gonna be pissed at us! And there's a metric assload of them! We're all gonna die!"

And Simeon and Levi's response? "Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?"

Now here's where it gets really interesting. Simeon and Levi aren't actually condemned for this in the passage, and no one answers their question. They get the last word. True, they're later passed over for the rights of the firstborn, but the way the story ends seems to suggest that their question doesn't really have a satisfactory answer. Shechem did a wrong that no amount of makee-nicee was going to fix. Killing every man in town was probably a bit much, but the idea that a wrong had been done to Dinah which demanded some satisfaction seems implicitly acknowledged by the text.

I'm not even saying that what they did was right. But if anyone did this to my sister, I'd be putting my bail bondsman on speed dial.

*Which, while kind of offensive by hour standards, was the appropriate thing for him to have done at that point in cultural history. Work with me here.

**And by "town" here we probably mean "semi-permanent settlement of maybe 50-100 people," so it's not quite as bad as you probably think.
posted by valkyryn at 12:03 PM on December 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


'sexual deviants' is kind of a loaded term, especially its "old school" context

Okay, let me clarify (even though I wonder if it's really needed within the context of this thread): I'm referring to people for whom consent is not necessary when they are seeking/wanting sex. I, of course, am not referring to any stripe of consenting adult. Obviously.
posted by Leta at 12:04 PM on December 14, 2011


Disclaimer: I have not yet read the posted link, as it will undoubtedly mess me up for the rest of the day, but I will. A few deep breaths first...

Hope this doesn't derail in any way, but this post is sort of 'epony-heartbreaking' for me, since rape and date rape have happened to SO many people I know or have known. I wonder how many guys do think it's no one they know.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:04 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


a friend called me a few years ago - her ex-fiance, a friend of hers for a decade or so - raped her one night. complicating the matters were their previous connection as dom/sub. she called me and cried and i comforted her and i immediately cut of my own friendship with this guy because i try to not be friends with rapists.

a couple weeks later, she was hanging out with him again. this time only in groups. this time with some more caution. i asked her why - why would she let someone so dangerous back around her. and she said that it was easier this way. that she didn't want to ruin his life by publicly calling him a rapist. that they had both had some to drink that night. that it's not who he really is, it was just a moment of weakness. that she didn't want the spend the rest of her life as a rape victim.

i don't know if "denies date rape exists" is an accurate way to portray that, but i think it's part of the blind spot and i don't think it's unique to just her. and she's not some shy, wallflower, unexperienced girl. she's socially and politically active. she looks like one of those women who'd tear the nuts off a man who raped her. but there she was, in her own personal little hell, and denial was the easiest option.
posted by nadawi at 12:05 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Leta: “I wish you were right, I hope that you are right about how to make it better, but I know six people who were sexually assaulted by people who were convicted/released, or convicted/imprisoned/released. So I'm just not buying. At least not yet.”

With due respect, this seems remarkable, at least insofar as the assaulters in these cases were convicted at all. The overwhelming evidence – some of it in the linked article – points to the conclusion that most people who commit rape are never convicted. What good are beefier punishment regimes if nobody gets convicted in the first place?
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on December 14, 2011


We need a different system for sex crimes. Our criminal justice system is woefully inept at dealing with them. I often think that maybe we should at least try out a system that is pretty old school- labeling predators as "sexual deviants" and having them involuntarily committed. That way, they can never get out.

Are you proposing amending the Constitution so that this "labeling" could be done without giving the accused a right to a full trial before they're locked up for life? You can use different language, but what you're describing sounds a lot like a criminal trial. Maybe the Bill of Rights is flawed; maybe it is too defendant-friendly. But there's a good reason why the Constitution trumps legislation and is very difficult to amend.

Contrary to some of the comments about how no one (or no men) understand date rape, I do understand that date rape is a serious crime. But I also understand that there are false accusations, and those can also ruin lives. The legal system at its best is always about balancing conflicting interests, not making sure the system always turns out well for the categories of people you've decided to care about. And I'm sorry, but the idea of somehow doing away with juries or the presumption of innocence is simply unconstitutional.
posted by John Cohen at 12:08 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It was that despite the outrageousness of the accusations against Marsalis, the testimony of 10 women wasn't enough to get a single rape conviction against him.

This concerns me a great deal. The gravity of the accusations has precisely nothing to do with whether or not the defendant should be found guilty. What determines that is the evidence. This applies in all judicial cases, not just rape ones. If the evidence is not conclusive then sorry: defendant walks, and rightly so. Anecdotal stories from victims does not, and should not, affect this vital principle of justice.

I can't think of a woman I know who hasn't been the victim of date-rape or an attempted rapist.
posted by toastedbeagle at 7:31 PM on December 14


I find this an absolutely shocking statement, and I hope to goodness it does not reflect a general situation. It certainly isn't true in my circle of female friends and acquaintances.
posted by Decani at 12:09 PM on December 14, 2011


The comments in these threads always break my fucking heart.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:09 PM on December 14, 2011 [30 favorites]


To clarify something in my previous comment: I was not intending to suggest that the evidence presented in these cases was merely anecdotal. I was referring to some of the comments here.
posted by Decani at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2011


I agree that these cases are extremely difficult to prove, and in a sense I wish it were like that *for all criminal cases*, not just date rape. Fewer West Memphis 3's about. Hope that doesn't come off as callous, just a recognition that juries seem to have no compunction about convicting people on flimsy evidence in other crimes - and they should.

Obviously I wasn't on that jury, but it seems to me, though, in this case they actually did have a lot of proof.

As 2manyusernames mentions, the fact of having a syringe of date-rape drugs in your bedroom is pretty hard to explain. Is there a legit reason? If so what is the reason? The fact that the prosecution never even brought it up, is problematic.

The fact that so many women told similar stories is striking to me. I mean if he was just a serial cad, liar, seducer, and cocksman, as the defense alleges, than it is doubtful so many supposedly "spurned" women would come up with strikingly similar stories of date rape in that occurred in same fashion.

The jury instructions were not only problematic, but obscene! Like Holy crap obscene.
posted by xetere at 12:11 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here comes that weird defense of rape and sexual assault that always pops up. Like whoa whoa whoa, lets think about the men here.
posted by cashman at 12:12 PM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I kind of wonder if Trial #1, the subject of the article, was a ploy by the prosecution to keep the guy behind bars while they prepared a strong case for Trial #2 and Trial #3. The article's moral is more defeatist than it has to be, because this waste of a man will be going to jail for many years, at least a decade. He certainly deserves worse, but we should still frame this one as a victory and not a defeat. It's kind of victimizing to paint these brave women and their battle for justice as hopeless when that is not fully the case, not by a long shot.
posted by Skwirl at 12:12 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish you were right, I hope that you are right about how to make it better, but I know six people who were sexually assaulted by people who were convicted/released, or convicted/imprisoned/released. So I'm just not buying. At least not yet.

My comment was mainly aimed at the idea that we should be creating yet another class of people we never let out of prison. Convicted/imprisoned/released is perfect, that is what should happen. Rape is a terrible crime, but rapists are not some fantastic monsters who should be imprisoned forever. They're criminals, like any other, and if we let out murderers and people who commit assaults, then we should let out rapists.

Getting conviction numbers up in rape cases is probably a worthwhile goal, because those numbers look lower than they should be. Treating rapists like they're the boogeyman? Not necessary.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:13 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


i know more women who were sexually assaulted than women who weren't. personally, i've been molested by a relative for 5 or so years, the two assaults i talked about up thread, and drugged by a really good, long term friend who i thought i'd be close with until the day i died.

i suppose the whole damaged people find damaged people thing is probably in play. but in my experience, the general situation is really bad.
posted by nadawi at 12:14 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here comes that weird defense of rape and sexual assault that always pops up

If you can quote a single person in this thread who has "defended" rape, it'll be more than I can find.
posted by yoink at 12:14 PM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


from article: “It was that despite the outrageousness of the accusations against Marsalis, the testimony of 10 women wasn't enough to get a single rape conviction against him.”

Decani: “This concerns me a great deal. The gravity of the accusations has precisely nothing to do with whether or not the defendant should be found guilty. What determines that is the evidence. This applies in all judicial cases, not just rape ones. If the evidence is not conclusive then sorry: defendant walks, and rightly so. Anecdotal stories from victims does not, and should not, affect this vital principle of justice.”

Then you're not reading the sentence correctly. It does not at all imply that gravity of accusations should have something to do with whether a person is found guilty or not. It suggests that the outrageousness of a crime ought to have something to do with whether or not we find the guilty person guilty. And it should.

Or do you disagree that, for example, it's more important to seek a correct conviction in a rape case than a minor traffic violation?
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 PM on December 14, 2011


It certainly isn't true in my circle of female friends and acquaintances.

Well. You mean it isn't true as far as you know. It's not exactly dinner table conversation, after all.
posted by elizardbits at 12:14 PM on December 14, 2011 [31 favorites]


Here comes that weird defense of rape and sexual assault that always pops up. Like whoa whoa whoa, lets think about the men here.

No one has yet to advocate/defend for rapists, nor for the acts of rape or sexual assault.
posted by MangyCarface at 12:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It certainly isn't true in my circle of female friends and acquaintances.

How sure are you of that?
posted by kmz at 12:16 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was not intending to suggest that the evidence presented in these cases was merely anecdotal.

A fair point, but... it kind of was, wasn't it? "The plural of anecdote is not data," as the saying goes, and all these women had to offer were what the jury could only interpret as, well, anecdotes.

I think the DA may have made a serious miscalculation in bringing all of the charges at once. True, the jury got to hear a bunch of allegations. But they also got to hear how the guy was socially outgoing and apparently pretty successful with women if he can even get dates with all of the defendants. And how none of the defendants could corroborate their testimony with anything. It may actually have been better to bring them individually. They jury may actually have drawn a kind of negative inference, i.e. "Surely, out of ten different accusers and at least that many alleged encounters, there'd be some physical evidence, right? I mean, maybe one woman would be in denial and not seek help, but all of them?"

I think the prosecutor may have done his case a disservice. But hey, it was his case to run, and he certainly had access to information I don't. Still.
posted by valkyryn at 12:17 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, this is why the inevitable follow-up article will be necessary; if you read to the end, it seems that very situation, with this same douche, is currently being processed.

That article is from 2008. More recent news:

Pennsylvania man gets life in prison for rape in Idaho

From the article: 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.

This would seem to contradict the FPP, a November 2008 article, which says he has never been convicted of rape. He was already serving time in prison when the article was written.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:17 PM on December 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Then you're not reading the sentence correctly. It does not at all imply that gravity of accusations should have something to do with whether a person is found guilty or not. It suggests that the outrageousness of a crime ought to have something to do with whether or not we find the guilty person guilty. And it should.

Or do you disagree that, for example, it's more important to seek a correct conviction in a rape case than a minor traffic violation?


I think you should find people guilty when the prosecution meets its burden. Are you saying that the burden should be lower in more serious cases? 'Cause that flies in the face of how our system is set up, and I don't think it's particularly defensible if you value the rights of the accused at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


It suggests that the outrageousness of a crime ought to have something to do with whether or not we find the guilty person guilty.

It can only do that, logically, if we simply assume that all people accused of "outrageous" crimes are ipso facto guilty. Which is the problem.
posted by yoink at 12:19 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


yoink: “‘Despite the outrageousness of the accusations’? The gravity of the accusations has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the strength of the case. People are acquitted every day despite facing extremely ‘outrageous’ accusations (child molestation, for example) about which society is obviously and indisputably in almost universal accord.”

As I said above: reread the sentence. It is not stating or implying that the gravity of an accusation should have something to do with whether a particular person is convicted. It is suggesting that the gravity of an accusation should have something to do with whether somebody is convicted.

In other words: ten women said they were raped, and said this man did it. Nobody was convicted. That bothers me more than if ten people said their parking place was taken, and nobody was convicted. Why? Because of the gravity of the accusation.
posted by koeselitz at 12:19 PM on December 14, 2011


Thanks, charlie. So Marsalis has been convicted of all sorts of charges and been sentenced to both 10 to 21 years and life in prison.

Like I said, this is a very weird hill to die on. Life in prison!
posted by Justinian at 12:19 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nobody was convicted.

Except the dude serving 10 to 21 and life in prison, I guess.
posted by Justinian at 12:20 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And though we tell each other, we don't tell even the men closest to us because of stories like this one.

I don't understand this mentality. Several of my female friends, and most of my girlfriends, actually, have told me they were date raped.

I really liked spending time with the guy who was eventually my rapist. And we interacted with eachother cordially after he raped me. Circumstances are weird and you do what you have to do. That didn't make it any less rape. It is the reason I didn't report it to anyone.

Describe's my first love's rape to a T. Very sad.

Although Marsalis faced as little as community service, at his sentencing hearing, Judge Geroff delivered a stronger message than the jury had: He sentenced Marsalis to 10.5 to 21 years behind bars plus 4 years probation, the maximum allowed, and noted that he'll face mandatory Megan's Law registration for the rest of his life. "What you were was a wolf in sheep's clothing," Geroff told Marsalis from the bench. "Your lifestyle was a fantasy. What's happened to your victims is reality." Seated together in two rows at the front of the courtroom, a group of Marsalis's accusers smiled with relief, some through tears. The sentencing softened the blow of the disappointing verdict; finally, their combined efforts had yielded something. "At least he's locked away, and I know he won't do this to anyone else. Without all of us there, that might not have happened," Leigh says. "And of course, all this isn't even over yet," she adds.

Because in January, Marsalis heads to a courtroom to be tried for rape a third time.


Yeah, I can understand the frustration with this specific case and the others referenced, but I wouldn't say the system is "turning a blind eye." The judicial system has lots of flaws. No arguing that. The guy is still locked away for a while, though.

On preview: This would seem to contradict the FPP, a November 2008 article, which says he has never been convicted of rape. He was already serving time in prison when the article was written.

It seems like in Pennsylvania there is a difference between sexual assault and rape. He was convicted of the former, not the latter ... until the case you reference.

But, uh, yeah, why are we talking about this again?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:21 PM on December 14, 2011


According to the OP, he plea bargained to "unlawful restraint" in the Pennsylvania cases, which is where he got the 10-21 year sentence.
posted by kmz at 12:23 PM on December 14, 2011


This would seem to contradict the FPP, a November 2008 article, which says he has never been convicted of rape. He was already serving time in prison when the article was written.

This doesn't invalidate the necessity of the article, though it sure helps lend a sense of vindication.

Still... what's the deal with this article, then? Could it have been uploaded from a print source before the events played out? If it was actually written after the conviction, I feel like his sentence would have been hard for the author to miss. 'Missing' it intentionally, if that's what happened, seems a cheap way to up the impact of the author's article-a piece that, even with a 'happy' ending, would not have had its point dulled...
posted by MangyCarface at 12:23 PM on December 14, 2011


In other words: ten women said they were raped, and said this man did it. Nobody was convicted. That bothers me more than if ten people said their parking place was taken, and nobody was convicted. Why? Because of the gravity of the accusation.

For the sentence to mean what you want it to mean it would have to read "Despite the overwhelming evidence that he had perpetrated these outrageous crimes..." It doesn't. It says "Despite the outrageousness of the accusations." The point you want that sentence to have made is a perfectly fair one. Unfortunately it's not the point that the sentence in the article is actually making.

The point the article is making is one that almost everyone makes about their particular bugbear crime. It's the Fox News report "Despite being accused of TERRORISM!!! such-and-such a brown person actually has wacky liberals arguing that he ought to be given due legal process!"
posted by yoink at 12:24 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


But, uh, yeah, why are we talking about this again?

because some of us are concerned with the state of the judicial system as it relates to sexual assault. just because he was eventually convicted doesn't erase what happened in this case.

it's sort of like having a serial killer that was convicted of his last murder - "why do you care about the other 10 victims??" - well, just because the murderer is behind bars doesn't mean those other victims actually got their justice, especially if he was exonerated of their killings in a previous trial.

you're free to not talk about it if it doesn't interest you.
posted by nadawi at 12:24 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


If nothing else, this is another reason not to get out of jury duty.

Jury instructions require jurors to give the accused, including accused rapists, the benefit of the doubt in a he-said/she-said situation. I was struck from from the jury pool in a rape trial last year in part because of this instruction: not your traditional date-rape trial, either, but a felony rape/aggravated assault trial in which the defendant's attorney made it clear in voir dire that it was going to be a he-said/she-said defense claiming the sex was consensual kink that got out of hand and sent her to the hospital in critical condition from choking and head injuries.

The upside is that in that case, they had 85 prospects in the pool and after striking for "bias" (including a lot of people who were struck by the defense as "biased" because they or loved ones had been sexually assaulted) the court almost failed to make its 12 plus 1 alternate. Eventually the operating assumptions of jurors will change because courts won't be able to find enough jurors who aren't "biased".
posted by immlass at 12:25 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could it have been uploaded from a print source before the events played out?

The URL would seem to indicate it's from November 2008.
posted by kmz at 12:28 PM on December 14, 2011


The legal system can't force a jury to vote one way or the other if they're simply not convinced by the accusers' story. One of the key points in the article is that many women are in denial after such an event and even try to reestablish contact with the person who assaulted them. Maybe, in addition to the general warnings about being selective who you date and being cautious about letting people put things in your drink, rape educators should also emphasize that if something bad or weird does happen, avoid the source. Process it with the aid of friends or family or medical professionals.

I know this is easier said than done. I had a life-threatening episode with disturbing similarities to these stories earlier this year, and the temptation to reconstruct the lost time with the help of the person you were with is huge. But this is because after trauma you're in an in-between state of thinking you'll suddenly wake up and it will still be going on/trying to rewind make it un-happen. Nothing good comes from trying to reconnect with someone who is the agent of your trauma (deliberately or carelessly), and I think it actually slows down the recovery process.

FTA: "I would never think to be so cynical that I'd stand there and watch as he poured my drink," remembers Leigh, a striking blonde

Well, one should be that cynical if only because many people are irresponsible and indifferent to the problems that might result even if they are not predators. Don't mix drinks, and don't let strangers order for you.

And police attention. Sure, it's embarrassing to say that you got drunk or might have got drunk or that you weren't alert to what seems like obvious warning signs. The police will be a bit skeptical, because they do hear a lot of bullshit stories. On the other hand, they're also aware that criminals pick on naive people. You don't go to the police to get validated, you go there to submit as much information as you can and wait for them to get around to investigating it, which they eventually do. That delay is frustrating, but it exists because other people have been the victims of other crimes and their problems are just as drastic to them as yours are to you, unfortunately.


People get locked up all the time on the basis of testimony. One hopes that in this brave new world testimony regarding rape is treated with the same seriousness that other testimony in criminal cases is treated, and witnesses are offered the same credibility their would receive in a different sort of case.

No, an accusation alone with no corroborating evidence is usually not enough to get someone locked up. The fact is that where it is a case of one person's word against another's, without any other evidence, there is no way to be sure who is telling the truth. The criminal justice system does not convict on the basis of probabilities, it convicts on the absence of reasonable doubt. That's tough for rape victims, but sending people to prison without adequate evidence is also highly unjust - and the fact that there are a certain number of bad convictions every year is not a good reason to lower the standards for conviction in rape cases.

I wonder how many guys do think it's no one they know.

As someone pointed out above, the more women there are on a jury in a rape case the better the defense likes it. Female jurors are less likely to convict in such cases. Male obliviousness is not, in fact, the problem.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:28 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


In other words: ten women said they were raped, and said this man did it. Nobody was convicted. That bothers me more than if ten people said their parking place was taken, and nobody was convicted. Why? Because of the gravity of the accusation.

But the problem isn't that they didn't expend the effort to find the right guy. They did, and they couldn't convict him because they didn't have the evidence. What are you suggesting?
posted by eugenen at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2011


Don't you think this jury "treated the charges too independently" though, valkyryn? I'd argue the sheer number of women leveling similar accusations should dispense with the credibility issues most accusers faced individually.

We obviously need the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for all criminal trial, well false rape accusations do happen, probably a way higher false accusations rate than most other crimes, well excluding "assaulting an officer".

I'm imagining the sheer number of independent accusations would've carried more weight if the crime wasn't rape.. and that's what seems so wrong about this verdict.

I suppose the judge ultimately rectified the situation by using the maximum penalties, which works too, presumably the other cases influenced his sentencing somewhat.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:38 PM on December 14, 2011


I'm not comfortable with anyone making this determination for someone else.

And why not? One problem with rape is that even the rapists don't really understand what they've done is rape sometimes- they have an elaborate internal mental justification for why (s)he was willing. Not to mention the known problem with the victim often taking some time to come to terms with what happened because of their own internal narratives. "I led him on"
posted by Phalene at 12:39 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The people most likely to take accusations of date rape seriously are also the people most likely to be excused from jury duty in rape cases.

That makes it even more important to be there. If you don't show up, it's easier to excuse the next most reasonable person.
posted by mullacc at 12:41 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't understand this mentality.

Our friends will listen to us cry and call him an asshole to his friends. If we tell our brothers and boyfriends they'll insist on police and Emergency Rooms and we will be forced to have that conversation with them. The one that starts, "No one will believe me."

Because they don't. See FPP.
posted by toastedbeagle at 12:42 PM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Step 1. Stop calling it "date rape" it's rape. no midifier needed.

Step 2. The realization that we have a justice system that's insanely efficient at getting people convicted and put into jail. Any excuses put forward in this case about the difficulty of trying such cases, or suspect evidentiary findings or whatnot is flat out bullshit. If we declared a "war on rape" the way we declared a "war on drugs" they'd figure out real quick and easy how to properly convict rape cases. But that would mean throwing a lot of "regular people" i.e. middle and upper class white males in prison.

And for those who might try and miss the point. I'm not saying only middle and upper class white males commit these crimes. I'm saying flat out if you're a woman, poor, or a person of color, you're worth less in the eyes of this society, and our justice system reflects that.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:44 PM on December 14, 2011 [30 favorites]


Sure, it's embarrassing to say that you got drunk or might have got drunk or that you weren't alert to what seems like obvious warning signs. The police will be a bit skeptical, because they do hear a lot of bullshit stories.

In the circle of people I parted with a few years ago, there was a guy who regularly hung around parties waiting for girls to pass out so he could get them alone and molest them. Apparently this had gone on for almost 2 years before anybody said anything publicly about it. And when someone finally did on a local message board she actually got pretty viciously attacked for it and got dragged through the rumor mill, because she had an (unfair) reputation for acting a little slutty. She reported it to the police and they *laughed* at her.

These were mostly fairly progressive people in their 20s who were hardly what I would call conservative in any way... It really wasn't until several other victims had the guts to come forward on the same message board that people started to believe the story and he wasn't welcome at any parties any more. He never got charged with anything, AFAIK.

I do believe that sometimes stories like this are made up by crazy people or people with an agenda, but I have heard so many stories from people I know personally that it happened to that didn't report it, and have seen the hellstorm that erupts when they have the guts to do it, that I have a hard time believing that anybody who wasn't severely and obviously mentally disturbed would willingly put themselves through it if it hadn't really happened -- and 10 people? That didn't know each other? About the same guy? 0% chance of that, imo, physical evidence be damned.
posted by empath at 12:45 PM on December 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


Don't you think this jury "treated the charges too independently" though, valkyryn?

I don't think they could have. The jury was asked to conclude that the accused committed ten-odd discrete offenses. It's one thing to bring in ten people with weak stories who are all testifying to the same thing. Here, we've got ten people testifying to ten different things. The fact that they happen to be of the same kind of crime is, from an evidentiary standpoint, irrelevant.
posted by valkyryn at 12:46 PM on December 14, 2011


It doesn't work that way here. Not showing the proper amount of blind outrage is akin to being for it. I'm thinking there are split odds of you, yoink, getting a Metatalk witch trial-- wherein your reasoned, fair consideration of the topic will be presented as support of rape, blaming the victim or perhaps just having too much "privilege."

I'm predicting with 100% certainty that the usual suspects will be busting out their giant deraily straw men.

probably a way higher false accusations rate than most other crimes

Why do you think that?
posted by kmz at 12:47 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, the way to help ensure conviction is to do as much before trial as possible - report it immediately, educate the police to treat it more seriously (i.e. none of this "he didn't really rape you" crap, as mentioned by nadawi) and fast track blood work at the ER (or at whatever location you might wish to visit).

Of course, now that I've written this, it dawns on me that that's probably what you were suggesting.


Yeah, that's exactly what I'm suggesting. Schools are pretty good about educating kids about unwanted sexual contact these days, but maybe adults (and especially but not only young adult women) need to be given unambiguous information about what date rape is and what to do if they think they may have experienced it.
posted by unSane at 12:47 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because they don't. See FPP.

Or, we could have had an FPP that pointed out that the guy is in prison for life. Because the police and the DA believed these women over and over and over again until they got this guy behind bars. Yay!
posted by yoink at 12:49 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've never been raped, and I hope I never will be.

I'm trying to imagine what I would do in such a situation and, honestly, I really don't know. If someone I trusted, a friend, an ex-fiance, as mentioned above, were to do something so horrible to me -- I think the cognitive dissonance would kill me and there definitely would be a part of me that would wish I could just ignore it and it would all go away. Because the chances of conviction are so low, the skepticism from everyone around so hard to deal with -- perhaps the most sensible option might be to just not report, ignore, move on with life.

I understand why people would not want to report this. If anyone thinks that the false accusation rate for rape is high, I bet you anything that the non-reports of actual rapes are waaaaay higher. And this is because for no other crime are you required to go through the moral scanner. If your car is stolen, no one's going to accuse you of not being vigilant enough. Yet that's always how it goes in rape cases, and it's frankly sickening.
posted by peacheater at 12:51 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Related article from the New York Times this afternoon.
posted by cool breeze at 12:53 PM on December 14, 2011


Any excuses put forward in this case about the difficulty of trying such cases, or suspect evidentiary findings or whatnot is flat out bullshit. If we declared a "war on rape" the way we declared a "war on drugs" they'd figure out real quick and easy how to properly convict rape cases.

It's not bullshit. We can declare a war on drugs because it's easy to prove that someone has drugs on them. You stop them, make them empty their pockets, and find the drugs. You can't prove someone is a rapist in the same way you can prove someone is a drug dealer.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:55 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's sort of like having a serial killer that was convicted of his last murder - "why do you care about the other 10 victims??" - well, just because the murderer is behind bars doesn't mean those other victims actually got their justice, especially if he was exonerated of their killings in a previous trial.

If you want personal satisfaction, you have to sue someone privately, and as it happens, the standard of proof is lower in civil trials - 'preponderance of the evidence' rather than 'reasonable doubt'. In a criminal trial, the proceeding is not carried out on behalf of the victims. That's why a prosecutor will sometimes bring a case against someone even if the victim says they have forgiven or come to terms with the defendant - for example, this is why the victim's lack of interest in further persecuting Roman Polanski is of no consequence to the prosecutors who would still like to extradite him to the US to serve his sentence.

That might seem callous, but it's a basic fact of criminal trials: the prosecutor does represent the interests of victims, but rather the interests of the state. The prosecutor is focused on the result more than the particular method of achieving it - hence Al Capone's conviction on tax evasion, because that was the most practical method of putting him away. It's a utilitarian calculus within a deontological framework.

Don't you think this jury "treated the charges too independently" though, valkyryn? I'd argue the sheer number of women leveling similar accusations should dispense with the credibility issues most accusers faced individually.

Salem Witch trials. Red scare. Satanic Ritual abuse. Mass hysteria can lead to all sorts of illogical accusations.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:56 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Pennsylvania man gets life in prison for rape in Idaho

From the article: 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.

This would seem to contradict the FPP


This is good example of why one shouldn't read about legal proceedings on sites where they lead in with man-animal hybrid images and the headline stories are about beating sugar cravings.
posted by Winnemac at 12:57 PM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's not bullshit. We can declare a war on drugs because it's easy to prove that someone has drugs on them. You stop them, make them empty their pockets, and find the drugs. You can't prove someone is a rapist in the same way you can prove someone is a drug dealer.
Perhaps not, but having a syringe full of date rape drug in one's bedroom is pretty strong circumstantial evidence.
posted by peacheater at 12:58 PM on December 14, 2011


billyfleetwood: "If we declared a "war on rape" the way we declared a "war on drugs" they'd figure out real quick and easy how to properly convict rape cases."

That's actually a really interesting idea. Not a good one from a civil liberties standpoint, but a revealing one about our society's priorities. We're willing to bust down doors, ruin the lives of the innocent without an apology and get fuzzy with constitutional rights when it comes to putting poor people in jail for the War on Drugs. Not so much for issues that might affect the rest of the population.

Thanks for that comment. It's a brain opener.
posted by charred husk at 12:58 PM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


The realization that we have a justice system that's insanely efficient at getting people convicted and put into jail. Any excuses put forward in this case about the difficulty of trying such cases, or suspect evidentiary findings or whatnot is flat out bullshit. If we declared a "war on rape" the way we declared a "war on drugs" they'd figure out real quick and easy how to properly convict rape cases. But that would mean throwing a lot of "regular people" i.e. middle and upper class white males in prison.

This is straight-up demagoguery with no connection to reality, which I guess is okay when we're being all liberal and conscious of privilege and shit. I don't even really know what you're saying -- drug convictions are too easy to get? Rape cases should be more like drug cases? Both? If you don't see the difference, from a lawyer's and a jury's point of view, between proving beyond a reasonable doubt a drug case with eyewitnesses and physical evidence and a date rape case that's all about intent and state of mind in the privacy of someone's bedroom, then I can't help you.

Yes, lots of people get a raw deal in our justice system. There are large systemic problems, that IMO have less to do with our courts and more with the criminal laws they are charged with enforcing. That doesn't make the difficulty of getting a conviction under the "reasonable doubt" standard any less real, or the differences between types of cases and types of evidence any less important.
posted by eugenen at 12:58 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we declared a "war on rape" the way we declared a "war on drugs" they'd figure out real quick and easy how to properly convict rape cases. But that would mean throwing a lot of "regular people" i.e. middle and upper class white males in prison.

That's a very politically sensitive position to take, but I don't think it's even remotely true.

First of all, drug cases, at root, involve the presence or absence of a physical substance. It's either there or it's not. If it's there, everyone can see it, and the cops can put it on the table. If it's not, then it's not, and no amount of "But I could have sworn he had drugs!" is going to do it. Rape cases are fundamentally different, in that they involve conduct which is made legal or illegal solely on the basis of the relationship between the parties. In many ways, it's actually a lot like proving a contract dispute, and establishing intent/consent is just as difficult there. Juries look to see things like written contracts or other objective manifestations of intent, because he-said/she-said is massively unpersuasive.

Second, there isn't a "market" in rape the way there is in drugs, so a whole host of enforcement mechanisms just aren't applicable. The feds have tried to regulate violence against women before, but the Supreme Court held that it was beyond the scope of federal power, largely because it isn't really related to "commerce" even under a liberal interpretation of the word. Morrison was controversial, but it's the law. Prosecutors nail drug dealers on all manner of unrelated crimes from racketeering to money laundering to tax evasion to conspiracy. But rape is a crime by one person against another, doesn't really have anything to do with money (not as such anyway), and therefore can't easily have a "war declared" against it by any readily-identifiable legal mechanism.
posted by valkyryn at 1:00 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Perhaps not, but having a syringe full of date rape drug in one's bedroom is pretty strong circumstantial evidence.

It sure is! So why the prosecution never introduced it into evidence is beyond me, I tell you what.
posted by valkyryn at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Perhaps not, but having a syringe full of date rape drug in one's bedroom is pretty strong circumstantial evidence.

Right- but it wasn't evidence. And I can't find anything online as to why it wasn't 'finished testing.' Who drops a ball this big?
posted by MangyCarface at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2011


personally, i feel like the problem is so deep that no change in the justice system will fix it. i think the only answer is teach men not to rape. as it stands now, most of the education is teaching women how not to be raped and how to be a good victim afterwards.
posted by nadawi at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2011 [25 favorites]


I'm not saying only middle and upper class white males commit these crimes. I'm saying flat out if you're a woman, poor, or a person of color, you're worth less in the eyes of this society, and our justice system reflects that.

I agree with this. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" tends to be applied more to middle to upper class white men then to anyone else in the U.S. White men who claim otherwise are misleading themselves. However, the fix to this situation isn't to lower the bar on the standards applied when putting people on trial for crimes - because that, too, would be used against everyone who wasn't white, male and middle-upper class. I don't know that there's an easy fix for that problem.

My point earlier, though, was less about the trial and more about securing evidence to help ensure a conviction. If the evidence is there, its easier to get a conviction.

Furthermore, stripping away the law and order issues from this story entirely, the bigger societal problem is that we're living in a world where, for example, a large portion of a community will shun an 11 year old after she's gang raped. We need to agree, as a world, that this is not all right. Oftentimes it seems that we take petty theft much more seriously than rape.

I think this article is misleading in many ways (which have been discussed earlier in this discussion - notably in that it leaves out the conviction and lengthy jail sentence) - which is unfortunate because its central thesis (that many people don't take rape seriously - or sometimes don't even believe it exists) is true. A misleading article to some extent derails the very topic its seeking to address, since we end up discussing the veracity of the article instead of its content. Indeed, if we can't come to an agreement on the articles veracity, its almost impossible to even have the conversation.

tl;dr - We need to continue to educate our whole society about rape because many members of our society have backwards - even regressive - views about the crime.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:02 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your car is stolen, no one's going to accuse you of not being vigilant enough. Yet that's always how it goes in rape cases, and it's frankly sickening.

Again, I think it's worth noting what enormous strides have been made on this front. Women in rape cases used to be subject to unbelievable witch-trials in which every single one of their past sexual relationships was fair game for examination in court. Almost all jurisdictions in the US now have rape-shield laws which prevent the defense from doing this.

But it seems pointless to try to deny that rape is a very different kind of crime from car theft--or at least a typical car theft. The victim of car theft isn't held up to moral scrutiny because the question is entirely irrelevant to the argument the defense is trying to build. If the defense's case was that the car had actually been given to the defendant or that the defendant had borrowed the car with the owner's consent then the owner would, in fact, be subject to a moral examination during the trial: the defense would try to establish in the mind of the jury the possibility that the car's owner was the kind of wretch who would give someone a car and then sic the police on them. Just as the rapist's defense is trying to establish in the mind of the jury the possibility that the victim is the kind of woman who would have consensual sex with the accused and then "change her mind" and accuse him of rape.

It will never be possible to eliminate this aspect of rape trials because it will almost always be the gravamen of the dispute (except in cases of hollywood-like stranger-rape, which, it would seem, constitute a small percentage of total rape incidents). In cases where the physical facts of the case are not in dispute (i.e., sexual congress did occur) the only issue is "did it occur with consent or not." In that case the defendant's only recourse is to argue that it did and that the accuser has simply changed her mind. I do not see how one could reasonably debar people from making that argument (because however rare such cases are they do, in fact, happen) and if they make that argument it cannot but be an argument which impugns the moral character of the accuser.
posted by yoink at 1:03 PM on December 14, 2011


It took me years to grok that I had been raped.

What kills me is I know that anyone who would understand what rape is in these scenarios would most certainly be vetted out of the jury pool.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:04 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Leta: We need a different system for sex crimes. Our criminal justice system is woefully inept at dealing with them. I often think that maybe we should at least try out a system that is pretty old school- labeling predators as "sexual deviants" and having them involuntarily committed. That way, they can never get out.


A slight aside: some states (Washington and Kansas, for sure, possibly California, and many others) do this. They civilly commit defendants with criminal convictions as "sexually violent predators" (based on proof of a psychological disorder motivating their sexual crimes) until the defendant demonstrates that he or she is no longer a danger to the community (which rarely ever occurs). Even though the statutory schemes in each state have withstood unceasing constitutional challenges in state and federal courts (including SCOTUS), many still find the SVP system problematic. Because it's a civil proceeding, defendants facing an SVP commitment trial aren't entitled to the full panoply of constituional protections enjoyed by criminal defendants. In short, some view the SVP as a dangerous end-run around the constitution based on what society defines as a "mental abnormality" and "dangerous" at the time. Be careful what you wish for . . .
posted by onebadparadigm at 1:04 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Then you're not reading the sentence correctly. It does not at all imply that gravity of accusations should have something to do with whether a person is found guilty or not. It suggests that the outrageousness of a crime ought to have something to do with whether or not we find the guilty person guilty. And it should.

Or do you disagree that, for example, it's more important to seek a correct conviction in a rape case than a minor traffic violation?
posted by koeselitz at 8:14 PM on December 14


I think I am reading the sentence correctly. Here is the sentence:

"...despite the outrageousness of the accusations against Marsalis, the testimony of 10 women wasn't enough to get a single rape conviction against him.”

Break it down. It says that testimony alone was insufficient to get a rape conviction despite the outrageousness of the accusations against the defendant.

That's what it says, koeselitz. Plain English. How does that not at least imply that it is somehow wrong that the outrageousness of the accusations did not help result in a conviction? I'm sorry, but it very plainly does. Testimony alone should never be enough to secure a conviction. That was my point. Testimony needs to be backed up by solid evidence.

"It suggests that the outrageousness of a crime ought to have something to do with whether or not we find the guilty person guilty. And it should."

This - if I am understanding it correctly - is so wrong that it scares me, and I hope I never find someone who agrees with this terrifying statement on a jury set to judge me. It's wrong for two reasons:

1. Your statement assumes guilt. Your phrase "Whether or not we find the guilty person guilty" shows that. The whole point is that in a court case the jury does not know that the person is guilty. They need to consider the evidence before they can start to make a decision about that.

2. The idea that the the nature (the "outrageousness") of the crime ought to influence our judgement of guilt is just obviously false. Are you seriously saying that the more outrageous the crime, the more ready we ought to be to declare guilt? Because that is what you seem to be saying, and if you are, you're very badly wrong. If you are not saying that I'd appreciate some clarification.

Or do you disagree that, for example, it's more important to seek a correct conviction in a rape case than a minor traffic violation?

No, I agree with that, but it has absolutely no connection to the point I was making, so I don't understand why you raise it.
posted by Decani at 1:07 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because the police and the DA believed these women over and over and over again until they got this guy behind bars. Yay!

This guy raped 10+ women. Only being able to put him away after multiple trials doesn't seem like a huge win for the justice system to me. What if Marsalis had been a non-serial rapist? Would his fewer victims have been shit out of luck?

notably in that it leaves out the conviction and lengthy jail sentence

Even journalists can't predict the future.
posted by kmz at 1:07 PM on December 14, 2011


This is a case where 10 women stood up, told very similar stories about brutal rape, and then were denied justice. Anyone who can look at that and blame the prosecutors, or congratulate the system for doing its job with 'reasonable doubt' is an idiot or a psychopath. This is a cultural problem. It is an epidemic.
posted by TypographicalError at 1:09 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]



Even journalists can't predict the future.


Er, that's the weird thing, the article appears to have been written post-conviction.
posted by MangyCarface at 1:12 PM on December 14, 2011


>He was already serving time in prison when the article was written.

This doesn't invalidate the necessity of the article, though it sure helps lend a sense of vindication.


I don't understand. You're saying it was necessary to write an article about how it was impossible to convict a serial rapist, when he had already been convicted and imprisoned? Or perhaps you are arguing that it is necessary to do a "consciousness-raising" article based on incorrect facts?
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:13 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The point is not whether date rape exists or not. The point is has the prosecutor proven that this particular case was rape. A failure to prove it was rape does not mean it is a crime that no understands."

This. If the prosecutor is so inept that they fail to convict, over and over, that says more about the prosecutor than society.

I was once on a jury for a drunk driving case where the prosecutor was so unbelievably bad at their job that we had to vote innocent, even though the person had admitted on the stand he had been drinking and driving, and there was a positive breath test. Can we blame society on that one? Absolutely not. The prosecutor just had their ass handed to them on absolutely every bit of evidence. Not because the case was weak, but because they were totally incompetent.

The conversation here seems to imply that you think the people trying to put these rapists away are the CSI superheros you see on TV. Trust me, they aren't.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:14 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The article talks about the 10-21 year sentence for "unlawful restraint". It does not talk about the life sentence which came later.
posted by kmz at 1:14 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the defense's case was that the car had actually been given to the defendant or that the defendant had borrowed the car with the owner's consent then the owner would, in fact, be subject to a moral examination during the trial: the defense would try to establish in the mind of the jury the possibility that the car's owner was the kind of wretch who would give someone a car and then sic the police on them.

As a quick aside, I practiced criminal law for a year or so out of law school; I don't do it anymore, but I worked a public defender's office, so I saw a lot of cases. This story, of someone borrowing a car and then getting the police sicced on them is one that a lot clients (and thus attorneys) tell. Usually they involve the car of girlfriends/wives. In my year, I saw this case twice. Once was a guy who took his wife's car (with her permission, probably) and used it to take his girlfriend around; the other took her mother's car, but her mother was crazy and drug addicted and changed her story later. I never actually had to take this to trial, but I was one really good plea deal and one witness who failed to show up(the mother who was in jail in a different jurisdiction) away from doing exactly this.

Auto theft is a shockingly fun crime to defend because you almost never catch people in the act of stealing the car, so there's a whole host of was there consent to take the car/did you know the car was stolen issues.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Testimony alone should never be enough to secure a conviction. That was my point. Testimony needs to be backed up by solid evidence.

Testimony is evidence. When the witness is up on the stand, they're said to be "giving evidence". It is not a legal requirement that a conviction must have physical evidence behind it.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 1:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was once on a jury for a drunk driving case where the prosecutor was so unbelievably bad at their job that we had to vote innocent, even though the person had admitted on the stand he had been drinking and driving, and there was a positive breath test.

Pardon the derail, but what? How does this happen?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:16 PM on December 14, 2011


It amazes me this guy lived long enough to be tried for ten rapes.

If our legal system is incapable of dealing with crimes as serious as multiple rapes, we will certainly see (a return to) the continuation of justice by other means, and I don't see how anyone will legitimately be able to object to it.
posted by jamjam at 1:17 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that these jurors were not convinced there was sufficient evidence to convict is puzzling to me. If that was the case, why did they convict Marsalis of sexual assault of two of the women, only one of whom reported her rape to the police (four years later)? Why wasn't as much evidence required for those cases?

People don't like the word rape. They are afraid of it. They are afraid of ruining someone's life by using it wrongly. And that's the point of this article--that we live in a society where that is a huge problem.
posted by chaiminda at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2011


but having a syringe full of date rape drug in one's bedroom

The syringe sounds suspicious in the context of this article, but diphenhydramine is a common, over-the-counter antihistamine, the active ingredient in Benadryl. I don't think it's a given that it was a "date rape drug". I have a bottle of the stuff at home myself - it makes you drowsy and thick-headed, alright, but it doesn't just knock you out - if it's a "date rape drug" it's not a very good one. Perhaps the prosecutors decided not to mention it because they couldn't prove it was involved.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:19 PM on December 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Only being able to put him away after multiple trials doesn't seem like a huge win for the justice system to me.

Depends which parts of the "justice system" you're talking about. The fact that police and the DA were willing to investigate and prosecute over and over again certainly lends no credence whatsoever to the "nobody will believe you if you report a rape" mantra--a mantra which seems to me inherently disempowering.

Yeah, it's a shame that this guy wasn't put away after the first trial, but I think the burden of this story should be one that encourages women to take ownership of their bodies, to come forward if they think they've been raped--whereas the way this particular article is spinning it is "give up--if some guy rapes you you might as well not bother calling the cops."

I can certainly sympathize with any woman who decides she can't face the trauma of a court case on top of the trauma of rape, but this guy would almost certainly have gone to prison sooner if these women had been more ready to identify what happened to them as rape and act immediately on that identification rather than less.
posted by yoink at 1:19 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not bullshit. We can declare a war on drugs because it's easy to prove that someone has drugs on them. You stop them, make them empty their pockets, and find the drugs. You can't prove someone is a rapist in the same way you can prove someone is a drug dealer.

Yeah, and we live in a society where some peoople get their stash confiscated and told to straighten up, and some people get 5 years for intent to distribute for the same amount of drugs. You can change the rules to make the punishment far exceed the magnitude of the crime for certain segments of the population. You can change the narrative to overly demonize a certain type of crime in the eyes of the public, making it much easier to throw out the benefit of the doubt in most cases. You can change the rules to consistently harass anyone who looks "suspicious" on the grounds of looking a certain way in a certain neighborhood. You can change the rules to impound property where drug crimes are committed even if the person owning the property is not convicted of any crime.

To pretend it's simply a matter of possession is adorably naive.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:23 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a case where 10 women stood up, told very similar stories about brutal rape, and then were denied justice.

People hardly ever go to jail for what they actually did. Doesn't matter if it's rape, murder or drug dealing. They almost always get convicted of or plea down to lesser offenses.
posted by empath at 1:26 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Testimony is evidence.

True, but it is famously crappy evidence. If this thread were about some black kid who had been exonerated by DNA evidence after having spent twenty years behind bars for rape in a case where ten upstanding, professional white people had testified to his guilt no one would be saying "well, he obviously was guilty--I mean, ten upstanding professional witnesses can't be wrong." The narratives we tell ourselves about why some individual's testimony is "obviously" true and some other's is "obviously" false are notoriously ungrounded in reality.
posted by yoink at 1:26 PM on December 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


billyfleetwood, are you actually holding the War on Drugs up as a good model for dealing with a socially troubling pattern of crime?
posted by yoink at 1:28 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Leta: “I wish you were right, I hope that you are right about how to make it better, but I know six people who were sexually assaulted by people who were convicted/released, or convicted/imprisoned/released. So I'm just not buying. At least not yet.”

With due respect, this seems remarkable, at least insofar as the assaulters in these cases were convicted at all. The overwhelming evidence – some of it in the linked article – points to the conclusion that most people who commit rape are never convicted. What good are beefier punishment regimes if nobody gets convicted in the first place?

***

Well, five of the six were children, if that helps at all. I also volunteered at a rape crisis center, so I know more "out" rape victims than the average person.
posted by Leta at 1:39 PM on December 14, 2011


The syringe sounds suspicious in the context of this article, but diphenhydramine is a common, over-the-counter antihistamine, the active ingredient in Benadryl.

If the guy had, say, an allergy to bee stings, this would be a first aid item he'd want on-hand to prevent a life-threatening anaphylactic response.*

The obvious followup question: did he have any such allergies?
posted by LordSludge at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2011


If the guy had, say, an allergy to bee stings, this would be a first aid item he'd want on-hand to prevent a life-threatening anaphylactic response.*

The obvious followup question: did he have any such allergies?


It sounds like in this case that the prosecution just dropped the ball and didn't admit this evidence, but if they had, in all likelihood, that second question is never asked. Instead, the defense cross-examines whoever the prosecution puts up as an expert on diphenhydramine like this:

Diphenhydramine is a drug you can get over-the-counter?
It's an anti-histamine?
In fact, it's the active ingredient in Benadryl?
Diphenhydramine is used to treat allergic reactions?
Allergic reactions like bee stings?
In fact, a person who is allergic to bee stings might keep that in their home?
It could prevent a life-threatening reaction?

You never say that this guy has an allergy, and you never put him on the stand to say yes or no to the question; you just plant the doubt that that piece of evidence means what the prosecution says it means.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:02 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


If we declared a "war on rape" the way we declared a "war on drugs" they'd figure out real quick and easy how to properly convict rape cases.

No we wouldn't, because it's a completely different kind of problem. You know how society used to handle this? By punishing people who had sex outside of marriage. Casual or consensual sex for fun was socially unacceptable and laws against prostitution were much harsher, as were laws against adultery. Now two consenting adults can have sex with whomever they like, however they like, as long as they do so in private. So if you're trying to prosecute date rape, you're asking a jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that consent was not given. That is not a simple thing to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt.

As an example of the difficulties involved, consider Marsalis' appeal for his Idaho rape conviction, which centers around a claim that the grand jury was improperly informed about the results of lab tests on some white powder found in his possession, and that therefore his indictment was improper. (Obviously, this may make for some distressing reading since it necessarily includes a description of the victim's experience as part of the factual background.)

Now the thing is, if we were talking about drug policy and I introduced the same factual and procedural information about just the drugs - confusion over lab results, inaccurate testimony to a grand jury by a police officer etc. - a lot of people would be saying we live in a police state, he was railroaded, due process had been violated and so forth. I've had plenty f discussions with people on MeFi where I've tried to explain why someone was convicted of a crime despite some procedural flaws, and people usually accuse me of being some sort of authoritarian enabler when I do. But in this case, because it's about rape, people are willing to throw in everything and the kitchen sink in order to get the conviction they want. As it happens, Marsalis' appeal was unsuccessful because a) the appeals court found that the grand jury had enough evidence to believe a crime had taken place, because culpability hinged on the fact that the victim was unconscious (for which there was additional evidence), rather than upon the method by which she had been rendered unconscious, and b) because the prosecution's error in allowing inaccurate testimony, while inexcusable, was the result of a mistake made in good faith and the mistake was not prejudicial towards the defense case. Other judges dissented.

The mistake was inaccurate testimony by a police officer that the lab did not find enough of the date rape drug to make a test:
Prosecutor Christiansen]: Okay. What about the Listerine strips pack with the white substance in it?
[Lt. Crawford]: It came back that there was not enough sample to be tested, not enough white powdery substance to make a test.
[Prosecutor Christiansen]: So nothing conclusive as to what that was?
[Lt. Crawford]: Right.
Actually the lab had been able to make the test and the result came back negative; the police officer had failed to read the lab report and instead recounted a verbal conversation he had had some time previously with a lab tech who thought there might not be enough of the powder to perform a test. But Marsalis wasn't on trial for possession of a controlled substance, nor was he convicted of such; although no controlled substance was ever found, there was still lots of evidence to support the accusation of rape and so he was convicted.

If there is any question about the credibility of a piece of piece of physical evidence (eg a syringe of some drug that can be used for date rape), then it is the defense lawyer's job to move that the evidence be suppressed instead of presented to the jury. This happens all the time in drug cases; the defendant may well have had drugs, but if there was any procedural error in the discovery, handling, or testing of the drugs then the defense will seek to have the drug evidence excluded; and if the trial judge improperly refuses, then the defense will often be able to have the conviction overturned at appeal.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:02 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


... they had 85 prospects in the pool and after striking for "bias" ... the court almost failed to make its 12 plus 1 alternate. Eventually ... courts won't be able to find enough jurors who aren't "biased".
posted by immlass at 12:25 PM


Huh. This raises a question of what really constitutes bias. If you have to reject almost 85% of your pool of candidates, at what point are you just doing a litmus test to get the bias you want?

What sort of questions did they ask? "Have you or someone close to you been raped?" Because that could skew in favour of people who would dismiss "date" rape as not "real" rape.
posted by RobotHero at 2:03 PM on December 14, 2011


i could be wrong about this, but there's another reason why accused rapists are less likely to be convicted - they're less likely to cop a plea and more likely to insist on a trial

of course, with all the societal baggage these cases tend to have, with women not being believed or having their reputations examined, i guess that's not surprising
posted by pyramid termite at 2:04 PM on December 14, 2011


Huh. This raises a question of what really constitutes bias. If you have to reject almost 85% of your pool of candidates, at what point are you just doing a litmus test to get the bias you want?

I thought that's what all lawyers did when selecting jurors.
posted by Melismata at 2:05 PM on December 14, 2011


Seriously? That jury instruction in PA has got to go. Legislatively.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:07 PM on December 14, 2011


I think billyfleetwood's point that there is a War on Drugs but not a War on Rape is extremely insightful but I think that some people are getting hung up on details or hung up on specifically comparing arresting and prosecuting individual drug offenses versus rape.

The War on Drugs is an all-out full-spectrum society-wide effort to prevent drug crimes, from education to "Your Brain on Drugs" advertising to disseminating and funding technologies and tactics for law enforcement and customs agencies, to comprehensively changing legislation and punishment for the crimes, to funding foreign militaries and police forces. The salient thing is that we've chosen to take on drug crimes at this scale but not rape.
posted by XMLicious at 2:08 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


this guy would almost certainly have gone to prison sooner if these women had been more ready to identify what happened to them as rape and act immediately on that identification rather than less.

The interesting thing about this case is how he handled each encounter the next day. It's really quite clever the way that he acted as if everything was hunky-dory the morning after, which seemed to really confuse the hell out of his victims. I imagine that if I were in that scenario and my memory was very impaired and all I know is that I woke up in the bed of the dude I was out drinking with the night before and knew that I had been penetrated roughly but he was being super nice and wanting to take me out again, I would have no fucking clue what happened. In fact, out of fear of being perceived as a false rape accuser, I would probably keep my mouth shut. I don't blame those women one bit for not coming forward sooner, which is not to say that you're blaming them. I just think it's another "perfect world" solution to an extremely complex problem.
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 2:08 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think billyfleetwood's point that there is a War on Drugs but not a War on Rape is extremely insightful but I think that some people are getting hung up on details or hung up on specifically comparing arresting and prosecuting individual drug offenses versus rape.

I'm just wondering what such a war would look like. I can't think of anything other than stronger sentences.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:10 PM on December 14, 2011


I think billyfleetwood's point that there is a War on Drugs but not a War on Rape is extremely insightful but I think that some people are getting hung up on details or hung up on specifically comparing arresting and prosecuting individual drug offenses versus rape.

I'm more bothered by the fact that the War on Drugs has been a massive fucking failure, and has sent a lot of people to prison who shouldn't be there.
posted by unSane at 2:18 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There has been an effort to get the laws governing rape trials PA changed since 2007. The bill is currently sitting the PA senate judicary committee, so if you live in that state you can write to the committee members and ask that they hurry up and bring it to the floor for a vote.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:23 PM on December 14, 2011


Huh. This raises a question of what really constitutes bias. If you have to reject almost 85% of your pool of candidates, at what point are you just doing a litmus test to get the bias you want?

As a white woman with a graduate degree who has family in law enforcement, I will never get to sit on a jury. Ever. It is actually funny - I get washed out in three or fewer questions every time. I guess I am peerless, for there is no one on whose jury I may sit.

I also don't know a single woman with whom I've had a conversation about sexual assault who has not had it happen to them. In my experience the stats that some people like to howl about being so inflated are sharply under-reporting the volume of assaults.
posted by winna at 2:27 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm just wondering what such a war would look like. I can't think of anything other than stronger sentences.

You seriously can't think of anything that could be done at a societal level to try to prevent rape other than changing sentencing laws? It seems to me like this sort of thinking might be a central problem.

I'm more bothered by the fact that the War on Drugs has been a massive fucking failure, and has sent a lot of people to prison who shouldn't be there.

You mean people who have committed minor drug offenses like possession? I don't know what a minor rape offense would be but I think rape in any form should be considerably less forgivable than having a few ounces of pot on you. (Which shouldn't really be illegal in the first place, anyways.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:32 PM on December 14, 2011


What sort of questions did they ask? "Have you or someone close to you been raped?" Because that could skew in favour of people who would dismiss "date" rape as not "real" rape.

They asked about (really discussed) a variety of factors, not just rape-related issues: sentencing, credibility of witnesses, attitude toward police, etc. The judge, the prosecuting attorneys, and the defense attorneys all talked about different aspects of the instructions that they considered important. One of the problems that they had with voir dire for this case was that the DA's office accidentally showed us incorrect (too small) penalties for one of the counts in the indictment, so a lot of us were appalled that the sentence would be so small and raised our hands to say we couldn't work with the sentencing guidelines the first time we were asked. But there were a lot of possible ways to be unable to follow the instructions, like not believing police evidence or thinking the law was wrong and nullifying (the judge talked a lot about drug laws in this context).

After all the instructions and lectures/questions/discussions, the judge asked anyone who didn't think they could abide by the instructions to come speak to him, with the option to speak in chambers if you couldn't talk in front of the attorneys. I told the judge (among other things) that I was inclined to believe a woman who told me she had been raped even if the man denied it, and I could see the defense attorney deciding I needed to be struck. I had a low number in the pool and would have been empaneled if not struck. I know I wasn't the only person struck for this; I discussed the issue with other prospective jurors while we were in the hall waiting at various points.

My husband was also in the pool for this case--one of the things I had to mention to the judge in case we couldn't both be on the jury--and he was at the back end of the pool, I think number 83. (I was in the teens.) The last juror to be empaneled was, I think, 81, and I was pretty sure 82 was going to be struck as well from their answers during voir dire. I didn't expect him to even come close to being on the jury, but he just missed it.

This case was in Travis County (Austin), Texas, for those interested in jurisdictional differences.
posted by immlass at 2:32 PM on December 14, 2011


The War on Drugs is an all-out full-spectrum society-wide effort to prevent drug crimes, from education to "Your Brain on Drugs" advertising to disseminating and funding technologies and tactics for law enforcement and customs agencies, to comprehensively changing legislation and punishment for the crimes, to funding foreign militaries and police forces.

Which has not reduced the rate of drug use one iota, while increasing the violence around drug use exponentially, and has destabilized governments around the globe.
posted by empath at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don’t really know how to respond.

Over the last few years, primarily due to threads on Metafilter – boyzone, whatcha reading, etc – I’ve slowly come to the painful realisation that I have (had?) very little idea what life was like for fifty percent of the population. Surely, I told myself, there would be an uproar if half of the people in the country had to factor in the possibility of being assaulted when they decided what they were going to wear, or which path to take home, or whether or not they entered into a conversation with a stranger. I just couldn’t accept the fact that abuse and assault and objectification and all that could be so rampant and yet so invisible.

In all honesty, I’ve never heard a guy ask a woman to smile. I’ve very rarely heard cat calls or comments yelled out by strangers, I’ve never seen cars beeping at a woman walking on her own, I’ve never seen a woman called a bitch because she wouldn’t accept a proposition from someone. When I tell this to my female friends, they’re astounded. The penny dropped when I realised that my experience of the world was one where there was always at least one male present, usually more. It seems obvious now, but it means that my memories and experiences of the world are completely unreliable in terms of understanding women’s experiences.

Since then, I’ve tried so hard to be aware of these things, and to see rape culture and objectification and everything else. It’s been hideously depressing. Even the comparatively little things – the fact that to look ‘decent’ requires so much more effort and time and training and money – were shocking when I actually paid attention to them, and what they meant. Or choosing not to wear your favourite clothes because tonight you don’t feel like dealing with the attention you’ll get. Or having to smile and put up with patronising dickheads because if you make an issue of it you’re the one who’ll seem unhinged. It’s shocking. I’m in awe of the fact that the women in my life take this on board and carry on with their lives despite it all.

And articles like this just hammer the point home even more. It’s awful.

I don’t know what to do. I speak to other men about it, but it doesn’t really sink in. I can’t blame them – I grew up with five sisters, I’ve always had plenty of female friends, I did a few gender studies courses at uni, and I still didn’t really get it until recently. I speak to women about it, and they laugh at my shocked innocence, and they thank me for trying to understand, but it doesn’t really change a great deal.

Ugh. I’m normally an exceptionally happy person, and I find so much joy in this world, but when I start to think about the standards we all seem to accept, it’s just appalling.

I don’t really know what to say, apart from thank you, and sorry, to the women who have to deal with this (both the big and the small, the criminal and the petty) on a daily basis.
posted by twirlypen at 2:39 PM on December 14, 2011 [33 favorites]


I don't know what a minor rape offense would be

Probably a 6 year old playing doctor with a politician's kid.

Or a black guy having sex with a white girl.
posted by empath at 2:40 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could we please not derail about whether the War on Drugs is effective or not.
posted by Melismata at 2:40 PM on December 14, 2011


You mean people who have committed minor drug offenses like possession? I don't know what a minor rape offense would be but I think rape in any form should be considerably less forgivable than having a few ounces of pot on you. (Which shouldn't really be illegal in the first place, anyways.)

Well, if you really want to torture this metaphor to death, if the War on Drugs is anything to go by, 'minor' offenses in the War on Rape might include non-contact sexual harassment, off-colour remarks, looking at someone's boob or crotch, attempting to kiss someone without asking first, and so on. In other words things you might well disapprove of, but which it is of doubtful merit to criminalize.
posted by unSane at 2:40 PM on December 14, 2011


I also don't know a single woman with whom I've had a conversation about sexual assault who has not had it happen to them.

Data point: 23, F, nothing of that nature has EVER happened to me, not even close. This thread is making me afraid to leave my house.
posted by mokudekiru at 2:43 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


As someone pointed out above, the more women there are on a jury in a rape case the better the defense likes it. Female jurors are less likely to convict in such cases.

Makes sense. They'd rather believe the woman did something wrong than believe it could happen to them. As long as they behave themselves, they are invulnerable to rape.

Women who think otherwise are going to be the first ones out of the pool.
posted by Adventurer at 2:47 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


twirlypen, thank you. Thank you so very much.
posted by Leta at 2:52 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]



I dated a woman who had been raped. The guy was a friend of hers for months beforehand, he coaxed her into drinking shots, waited until she was barely able to speak, let alone move, and took advantage of the situation.

She didn't press charges because she didn't want her parents to know she was drinking. Her dad was a recovered alcoholic, and she couldn't bare the thought of telling them that she had been drinking irresponsibly. Oh, god...

I met the guy some time later, and he seemed so downright average it nauseated me. He even asked "Hey, I heard you're with _____. How is she?"

Seriously?

And I, to this day, have fantasies of replying with a punch to the face, or a broken bottle to his neck. His crime has made me want to do unspeakable things, and I can't shake it.

And I merely replied, "She's doing ok. Have a good one..."

The whole situation has ruined my perspective of the people around me. As if behind so many cordial men is a dispicable rapist, and behind the seemingly confident woman is a broken victim. There's this ugly world lurking and staining us, and we do little to fix it.

Every night, when my newborn daughter wants nothing more than to be held by me until she falls asleep, I hold her tight.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:55 PM on December 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


An even halfway effective War on Rape would probably be much more of a Kulturkampf than anything else. Get people to shun rapists and behavior which surrounds rape, etc.

Legal changes, such as lowering the bar of proof for rape or locking up all rapists forever probably aren't going to be very effective, especially since many (but far from all) rapists have no idea that what they are doing is rape, and even for those rapists who are willfully doing what they're doing, they're acting on base feeling, not foresight. There are probably more subtle changes to the legal system which can be made, though, especially to make reporting rape itself a less stressful process, but that's often a case of our culture having to change more than the letter of the law itself having to change.

It might be helpful to think as well about the abject failure of Megan's Law type laws. Not only are they a perversion of the law to begin with, but there's evidence that they not only do not protect children, but that they actually increase recidivism amongst sex offenders. Laws which seem tough on crime often actually aren't, and may actually have extremely serious side effects.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:11 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really liked spending time with the guy who was eventually my rapist. And we interacted with eachother cordially after he raped me.

Yeah. Me too.

I didn't really tell ANYONE for a long time. And, while I'm a big fan of letting people use their own words for their own experiences, I'm totally okay with the idea of a person familiar with the bare facts of the situation describing it as, "she didn't even know she'd been raped." I understood that someone else might describe it as rape, but I wasn't prepared to call it that. Not because there was actually anything "edge case" about the circumstances, but because I liked the guy.

I really, really liked him.
posted by endless_forms at 3:28 PM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


twirlypen, thank you for expressing so eloquently some thoughts I've been having all through this thread. Threads like this one make me want to despair.

I told the judge (among other things) that I was inclined to believe a woman who told me she had been raped even if the man denied it, and I could see the defense attorney deciding I needed to be struck.

Yeah, I've been having thoughts along those lines, and it's a dilemma. As others have pointed out, the defendant is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and I just don't think I'd manage that. I admire immlass for being honest about it.

The guy was a friend of hers for months beforehand, he coaxed her into drinking shots, waited until she was barely able to speak, let alone move, and took advantage of the situation.

Yecch. The stories like this one on threads like these tear at me. And they boggle my mind, because I can't even imagine why such an act would be appealing for the guy (of course, it shouldn't be, but some guys obviously do it anyway). I don't understand it at all.

Maybe I'm out of touch, but I'd sure like to see a universal cultural acceptance that a guy who has to drug a woman into unconciousness in order to have sexual congress with her isn't some "stud" who's "getting laid", but a pathetic excuse for a man.
posted by Gelatin at 3:31 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


xmlicious very succinctly summed up about 80% of what I was getting at.

It's about adopting the tactics of the war on drugs to fight rape. It's simply an example of how the justice system works relative to the assumed value of certain segments of our society. No amount of quibbling about burden of proof can change this.

And you may think the war on drugs was a failure, but it was and continues to be a massive success for those who's interests benefit from it. And that's my bigger point. It is not in the interest of society at large to protect women from rape, because the fear and acceptance of the possibility rape among the female population is as effective a means of control as lynching was at one time.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:38 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


meant to say...

It's *NOT* about adopting the tactics of the war on drugs to fight rape.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:40 PM on December 14, 2011


And you may think the war on drugs was a failure, but it was and continues to be a massive success for those who's interests benefit from it.
haha yeah, definitely
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2011


these threads make me sad. then i think about how we are at least to the point where we're talking about this shit in (semi) public and it's not getting 100% shouted down and it's less sad. but it's still so fucking sad.
posted by beefetish at 4:05 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Free idea: a little iPhone app called iConsent.

First, before going on a date, you tell the app what time the date is, the guy's cell number, and give it an emergency contact.

If things are going well on the date, the guy gets a text halfway through that says, "Hi, this is Judy's iConsent app. I don't know if you two lovebirds will be doing anything tonight, but if so, make sure she runs the iConsent app on her phone first. Please reply if you agree to do this." If he replies in the affirmative, everythings good. If he doesn't, your phone starts bleeping Danger, Danger!

If things continue to go well and you go home together, he eventually asks you run the iConsent app after your date. It has you solve a little puzzle to prove you're sober, and enter a password to prove you're you. Your consent is noted in a big database in the sky.

If you don't consent or explicitly disable the app by a certain time, it sounds an alarm and calls your emergency contact to provide them with a live audio/video/GPS feed.

Yes, I'm a geek.
posted by miyabo at 4:07 PM on December 14, 2011


...a black guy having sex with a white girl.

...looking at someone's boob or crotch...

Yeah, so both of these would be things that do not actually have anything to do with rape, whereas possessing an illegal substance is an actual violation of drug laws even if it shouldn't be. According to Wikipedia possessing cannabis became illegal in 1913, not as any part of the War on Drugs.

First Ironmouth can't possibly think of anything more that could be done to prevent rape other than stronger sentences, now you guys are proposing that a broader and more intensive effort to prevent rape would be some sort of slippery slope to racism and criminalization of ogling?

You are thoroughly reinforcing billyfleetwood's point about the relative urgency of doing anything about this problem. Showing contempt for any reference to the War on Drugs is way, way more important to you than honestly discussing how much more could be done to prevent rape.
posted by XMLicious at 4:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading a bit more of the academic research (some of which is behind paywalls, but most of which are free upon registration) yields some surprising conclusions. In Canada, fat victims are more credible than thin victims. Gendered treatment of rape may actually make prosecutions more difficult (Part IV.C). Lastly, juries seem to take rape more seriously than many imagine; those convicted in rape/murder cases involving female victims are 90 times more likely to receive the death penalty than those convicted of gang-related murder - although the rate of death penalty administration for those convicted domestic violence murder is much lower (9x vs 0.1x vs 0.75x the average probability, respectively). Victim gender influence on the death penalty manifests in surprising ways, not least of which is that juries consider forced nudity worse than sexual assault (lots of complex stats, unusually uncomfortable subject matter, and relevant-but-complicated analysis of racial disparities as well; in short, white women >> black men when it comes to victim value).

Free idea: a little iPhone app called iConsent.

One of the themes of the FPP is how easily people can be manipulating into acting against their own interests. Besides being sort of impractical and sort of creepy, I can see the potential for all sorts of abuse with this. If exchanging tokens was a good solution to this problem women could have started issuing receipts for consensual sex acts years ago, and there would be a thriving black market in trading them.

First Ironmouth can't possibly think of anything more that could be done to prevent rape other than stronger sentences, now you guys are proposing that a broader and more intensive effort to prevent rape would be some sort of slippery slope to racism and criminalization of ogling?

Rape cases are already heavily racially biased. See above, and consider that even African-American students can be more likely to believe an accusation of rape involving a black man and a white woman, regardless of their own gender.

What form do you think a broader and more intensive effort should take? In the effort to alert people to the incidence of rape, the primary effect appears to be that juries have developed a stereotyped expectation of what a rape victim should be like - teary and visibly traumatized by the event when recounting it on the witness stand. Juries have trouble believing complainants whoa re matter-of-fact about the whole thing, because it suggests to then that the event was not traumatic in fact. The idea that victims must be weepy and helpless is is a myth, because everyone's different, but it's still at odds with people's intuition, and that's a problem where consent is the only point at issue because all you've got is a credibility determination.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:33 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Threads like this make me so sad and angry. The 'whatcha readin' thread, plus meta followup made me realise just how different my life is because I'm male. It made me ask questions. I used to think that assault and rape were relatively rare experiences; I know now that the vast majority of women I ever meet will have been assaulted or raped. Or will be. I now know for certain that a number have been, including some very close to me. And now, I know of several more.

Thank you, nadawi, bilabial, St Alia and all the other women who've had the courage to talk about it now, and in the past. It is appreciated.
And peacheater, words fail me. I too hope it never happens to you.

The thing that makes me angriest though is the 'what about the menz'. It's not as bad as I've seen it before, but it strikes me there's a LOT of arguing about the principles of a criminal case, and that men shouldn't get convicted unfairly. Yes, of course that's true, but frankly it's by far from the most important thing about this type of story.

10 women were very likely raped by this man, likely with the use of drugs. How many years was he getting away with it before finally getting convicted? How many other victims were there who quietly tried to forget it ever happened?

And more importantly than that, why did the victims we know of NOT go straight to the police, why did they NOT get rape kit tests done. Why did they go back to talk to him afterwards to try and figure out what happened? Why did some of them brush it under the carpet for years, before finally stepping forward?

And the answer to pretty much all of these of because how we, as a society, see, treat and talk about rape, especially 'date' rape.

If a woman is drunk, it's her fault she got assaulted. Hell, if she accepted a drink from him, it's her fault he put a drug in it. If she's wearing the wrong type of clothes, it's her fault. If she's had previous sexual partners, it's her fault. If she entered his place voluntarily, it's her fault. If she talked to him afterwards, it can't have been rape. If she doesn't run screaming to the police, it can't have been rape. If she goes to court, and relives all those experiences, gets asked all sorts of personal questions and has her life ripped apart by the defence lawyer, and is too emotional, or not emotional enough, her testimony can't be trusted. Hell, she's lucky if she doesn't literally get laughed at by the police if she tries to report it. After all, he didn't even think it was rape, so it MUST have been OK, especially since like, they'd been out on a few dates. He's practically ENTITLED to sex.

Is it any wonder that women, when attacked, threatened, assaulted - especially when it's someone they thought they knew, thought they could trust - turns out to not be such a nice guy after all, and ask themselves if they did something wrong, if something they said or did meant they had consented, or 'lead him on' and blame themselves? Don't want to make a scene. Maybe it was just a mistake, and he misunderstood. Maybe it just that one time. If she talks to a boyfriend or a husband or a brother, oh BOY will that be a fun time, getting frogmarched down to the police station. Because reliving the rape and having to answer a lot of questions about it, and about the emotions and feelings and maybe that one thing you said got misunderstood, and now your boyfriend thinks you lead him on... And who are people going to believe? That nice, upstanding guy that everyone sees in church on sunday? Or the slut that lead him on and is just trying to make trouble.

Better to cry with your girlfriends. Share stories of how it happened to them. Then bow your head, and move on.


How is any of that FAIR? Acceptable? Why the FUCK should we put all the burden on the women?

Where are all the questions about HIS life? About why he rapes? About all the men in his life who never stopped him. About all those buddies that made rape jokes, about all those times they went together to a bar and tied to pick up women, insulting any of them that don't immediately drop to their knees and unzip his pants? As a kid, did he make the girls cry by trying to look up their skirts? At his school, did they crack down hard on every incident where boys picked on girls for their looks, their hair, their clothes? Or when girls did the same?

Why do we not ask questions like
Why in the media are women always portayed as sexual beings only when lusted after by men? Why are women defined as to whether 'you'd hit it' by men - and why do we accept that?
Why are girls treated like sex objects by men from an early age, and just trained to accept that?
Where are the hours of lectures that men don't get about how not to be a rapist? How to treat women with respect, as people? How to stop your friends treating women like conquests? The lessons telling them that almost all women get assaulted or raped, many multiple times, and how it's wrong to treat women like sex objects, conquests, animals to be 'hunted'?
Why are women not believed when they say they've been raped, as a matter of course?

Above all - why is this a problem that women have to face alone, and when it does - rarely - get discussed, why does it immediately resort to being about the man, and making sure that other men are protected from that HUGE number of false rape claims?

Yes, I'm angry. Because we men, even if we're not rapists, live in a society where it's perfectly acceptable to treat women like shit. Where they live their lives so cautiously, thinking about what they say, what they wear, where they go, and what they drink because if they don't, they might just end up getting raped by a man who looks just like us, and SHE will be the one getting blamed, questioned, probed and made to think that maybe it's her fault, and even if she's sure she isn't, it's a helluva lot easier to keep quiet and not make a fuss than try to seek justice. And then WE turn round and complain about how hard it is to talk to women, and it's not fair they jump when we come up behind them, or sneeze at a bus-stop, or just ask 'whatcha reading?' because it actually looks like an interesting book.

This is the world WE built. It's not fair that women should be the only ones who have the responsibility of fixing it.

Screw the semantics of reasonable doubt. How about we focus on how to stop men raping women in the first place, and all the little humiliation steps that lead up to it?
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:34 PM on December 14, 2011 [27 favorites]


How could date rape situations EVER be anything but he said/she said situations? Even if there are bruises, the guy can just say "bdsm gone bad". Without video evidence or date rape drugs there is nothing but he said/she said. There has never been anything but that.

And how CAN you pressume anyone should be locked up merely on someones word? This is why I hide in my house. The walls will make me safe.

Honestly I don't know what the answer is except to teach women to never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever go into a room alone with a guy. Never. And don't let them try to be your friend, that's a bad idea. Or build trust with you, majorly bad idea. You're a fucking idiot if you think a guy actually wants to come to your house a watch movies OMG ASKING FOR IT amirite?!

Because the creepiest thing about rapists is that, until... and even after they rape you--- they are quite often just like anyone else.

But then all women will be miserable hermits like me, so uh... I guess there's no answer. It's unsolvable and people who push others into sex but there is no proof should of course be allowed to go free because we want justice to happen and that is justice.

Whew, I am so thankful for justice.
posted by xarnop at 4:45 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Above all - why is this a problem that women have to face alone, and when it does - rarely - get discussed, why does it immediately resort to being about the man, and making sure that other men are protected from that HUGE number of false rape claims?

Nobody has brought up that argument. Reasonable doubt is the standard in all criminal cases. The burden of proof is on the prosecution in all criminal cases. Lack of consent is something inherently difficult to prove.

Screw the semantics of reasonable doubt. How about we focus on how to stop men raping women in the first place

We actually seem to be succeeding at that. Incidences appear to have fallen by ~80% since the 1970s, even as police and prosecutors have become more receptive to rape claims and as rape shield laws have been put into place to protect complainants and limit the admissibility of testimony about clothing, past sexual relationships and so on. A lot of people have already done a lot of work to make this country safer for women in general and victims of rape in particular.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:54 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


there's a lot more work to do.
posted by nadawi at 4:59 PM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


what if we just abolished gender
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:03 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


- 1 of 6 U.S. women has experienced an attempted or completed rape.
- According to a statistical average over the past 5 years, about 60% of all rapes or sexual assaults in the United States are never reported to the authorities.
- A 2007 government report in England says "Estimates from research suggest that between 75 and 95 per cent of rape crimes are never reported to the police."
- An estimated 520,000 people were murdered in 2000 around the globe
- 250,000 cases of male-female rape or attempted rape were recorded by police annually.


A lot of people have already done a lot of work to make this country safer for women in general and victims of rape in particular.

Rape shield laws address some of the worst injustices in the court room, where the victim is put on trial.

There's still a lot more to do.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:13 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


What form do you think a broader and more intensive effort should take? In the effort to alert people to the incidence of rape, the primary effect appears to be that juries have developed a stereotyped expectation of what a rape victim should be like - teary and visibly traumatized by the event when recounting it on the witness stand.

More funding for existing programs would be a good place to start. To toss off a few examples for the purpose of demonstrating that this isn't some sort of impossible task:If funding of rape prevention efforts was stepped up to War-on-Drugs levels I can't possibly think we'd be unable to find effective ways to use it. Even if only some of the expenditures were effective this kinda seems like a serious enough problem to justify it.
posted by XMLicious at 5:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


How do you wake up from a blackout in bed with a guy and your asshole bleeding and NOT call the cops or at least go to the ER? Who goes home after that? Do these people just drink so much that this seems normal?
posted by Megafly at 5:30 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't call the cops after that because in fact I was really proud that I hadnt been drinking nd then I messed up. I drank too much and he offered me a ride home from work, playing nirvnas rape me song, and I couldn't sit up so well. Not good, not good.
"You're going to say yes and everything will be fine"

well yes didn't work out because that wasn't what he wanted and I didn't want anal sex so of course he got his fight.

I woke up in the morning and sat up kind of in a blur and then remembered what happened and said "FUCK" really loud.

He said, "You alright?"
I'm fine, I guess I have some bruises but I guess that's what you get for getting drunk right.
You alright? Like... you mean from that shit you pulled? Yeah I mean sure.
"I'm going to sleep some more, and then give you a ride home"
Huh? Uh. Ok. I'll just sit here in your house and wait then. This is awesome. I mean, I guess everything is normal right? This is just a normal thing. Apparently? You've done this before? Wait...

Honestly it felt so much like my fault that I didnt even consider reporting it. It wasn't until years lter that I considered that it did not actually happen BECAUSE of me getting drunk, as in this guy probably has done, will do this to other people and for that reason I should have reported it. But it felt like surely it was this one incidence and it was because I got so drunk and clearly I made the whole thing happen.

That's how people can not report it.
posted by xarnop at 5:41 PM on December 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


because you're confused
because you think you're not the rape victim type
because you think he's not the rapist type
because a drug/alcohol fog is very disorienting
because saying you were raped by someone you chose to associate with is a big emotional deal
because you think rape is the sort of thing strangers do to girls in short skirts in alleys
because of a misunderstanding about consent and how you can consent up to a point and still be raped after that
because saying you were raped opens a person up to all sorts of deeply personal questions and accusations of character
because people will question if you're really acting like a "real" rape victim

i don't think you meant to, but your question is pretty much what a lot of people are talking about when they talk about blaming the victim. it's not just blaming them for the act that's a problem, it's blaming them for their behavior before and after the act, like it lessens the rape blow somehow.
posted by nadawi at 5:42 PM on December 14, 2011 [21 favorites]


Apropos of nothing but the subject matter, I have a close friend who was raped two weeks ago by a former boyfriend. She won't go to the police because "it's just not worth it," a notion formed by her experience of being sexually abused as a child and being dragged through the legal process, her word and character constantly in doubt. It ripped her up and now she's willing to give a rapist a pass because she doesn't want to face the ordeal she did the first time.
posted by scelerat at 5:42 PM on December 14, 2011


Who goes home after that?

A lot of people, for a lot of reasons. This is in no way analogous in terms of severity, but lots of people don't call the cops when their bike gets stolen, because what are the cops going to do? Except in this case, the cops will fail to process your rape kit, tell you that you probably weren't raped since you were wearing a skirt, determine for themselves if you are some kind of drunk-all-the-time slut before they decide if this is worth their time. A lot of people will assume, too often correctly, that their drunkenness means that no one will believe that they didn't consent, instead of what it should mean which is that there's no way they could have. A lot of people are too ashamed of letting their guard down because they should have known better. A lot of people are too ashamed, period. And a lot of people don't want to think of themselves as victims or weak, because that's what they think someone who has been raped must be, because that's what we tell ourselves all the time to reassure ourselves that they have some deficiency that we don't.

"These people." Honestly. These are your friends and family, and this but for the grace of random fate is you.
posted by Errant at 5:44 PM on December 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


How do you wake up from a blackout in bed with a guy and your asshole bleeding and NOT call the cops or at least go to the ER?

Because you're a human being who doesn't necessarily respond instantaneously to stimuli, without any emotional response whatsoever? People are often confused and in denial about many traumatic events, including rape. Also, reporting a rape is extremely stressful and time-consuming, to make an understatement. The legal process can be futile, and it can also seem even more dauntingly futile than it actually is. Also, your "asshole" doesn't have to be "bleeding" for it to still be straight-up rape.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:47 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Honestly, I still think, "Maybe that was a communication error?" It doesn't make sense to think because I specifically said I did not want to have anal sex and really hated it, and I fought that mother fucker so hard and he was so ready to fight me, he knew I was going to fight him....

it seems so surreal that it can't possibly have been an ill intent. Surely I must have done something wrong, or communicated wrong, or really it must not be a big deal.

It still seems like it must not be a big deal and I would be silly to think it's a big deal because that's what happens to drunk people so who cares.

Until I think about it happening to other people. And then I think... what the.. that motherfucking shit.
posted by xarnop at 5:51 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


exactly that, xarnop. i still find myself trying to take rape out of my experiences - "well, i guess he technically drugged my drink before, but i was standing right there watching him and we were, you know, doing drugs together" and "well, we've fooled around before at all manners of drunkenness - but i told him this time that i was with someone and didn't want to fool around and was glad i could feel so safe with him." and then the problem of i don't know exactly what happened, i just have vague, totally uncomfortable flashes of what happened. i cut off our friendship, but i don't remember enough. i know he broke my trust and i know he's an asshole, and i'm pretty sure he sexually assaulted me, but it's not really the sort of thing i can take to cops. there's not even a rape kit to be done because i think it all stayed at third base. i think.
posted by nadawi at 6:12 PM on December 14, 2011


How could date rape situations EVER be anything but he said/she said situations? Even if there are bruises, the guy can just say "bdsm gone bad". Without video evidence or date rape drugs there is nothing but he said/she said. There has never been anything but that.

Except what we have are he said/she said situations where the benefit of the doubt has historically gone to the man. And as a result we have a culture where rape is under-reported and under-punished.

And to those who say that changing that would mean more men being falsely accused. OK. where's the problem? If it means less rape, I'll take my chances. Cause despite what society tries so hard to teach us, it's not that hard to keep it your pants in questionable situations and treat each other with respect. And I already live in a world where people some people are objects of suspicion for no rational reason and falsely accused all the damn time, so maybe people need to quit acting like it's some kind of impossible thing to consider.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:13 PM on December 14, 2011


Abolishing gender as a defining legal factor has indeed been suggested. Most states have gender-neutral rape laws, as do many European countries, but of course the details are complicated and resulting in wide variations at the local level.

You yourself and many other people in this thread point out that there's quite a lot of opportunity for education. (I mean, are you throwing up your hands and saying "Nothing can be done"? That hardly seems to be the case.)

Oh, there is; I just think that society in general is a bi more aware of the issue than it is given credit for. It's possible that people know about the issues but simply choose not to hand out as many conviction as they could; you can't legislate attitudes, and not all attitudes are automatically the product of ignorance. Hence the bit above about how juries seem to consider denuding someone a more serious crime than raping them, which surprised me. Perhaps people feel that violation of a person's dignity is in fact more serious than violation of their physical person; alternatively, this may be a regional idiosyncrasy.

I personally think there needs to be much more money put into research than into education, because the quality of statistical information is poor. The single best data source I know of is the 2010 CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey which suggests that lifetime risk of sexual assault (of any kind whatsoever, including non-contact harassment) is about 44% for women and 22% for men. It's a depressing read, obviously, but at least it's exhaustive and rigorous.

I don't know what the equivalent of a "This Is Your Brain On Drugs" advertising campaign would be but if as a society we spent as much promoting issues of rape, consent, acceptance of and help for victims, and other concerns in this orbit as we do on, say, Viagra ads I think it could make a difference.

We spend about $100m on this at the moment, mostly through schools and rape crisis centers (which offer better value per $ spent). NAESV is the organization of state-level administrators the lobbies for and distributes this funding. The best time to contact your Congressional representatives and urge them to up funding (and cut down on the cost of crime) is usually in Spring/Summer when they're negotiating the budget appropriations for the the following fiscal year. States rely almost exclusively on federal funding since the problem is national in scope.

As far as assistance for law enforcement goes I would expect that the equivalent of funding militarized drug task forces could go pretty far in getting better responsiveness out of the police, which people above mention as being a problem.

Not really. While I'm against the drug war in general, police militarization is a response to industrial-scale cultivation and manufacture operations that are defended by armed guards. You're not going to detect more rapes by flying around at night with a special helicopter or whatever, and the most likely outcome of vastly expanding vice police would be the kind of abuses we've seen in the past - aggressive and/or discriminatory hassling of people having consensual sex in ways that morality cops don't approve of. Resources are probably better directed at getting consistency in states' penal codes, which vary widely around the country.

Commenters above mention difficulties around getting rape testing in a timely fashion; maybe if it was as prevalent and available as occupational drug testing is that could help to ensure that evidence for prosecution is available.

Under the Violence Against Women Act (2005), states are already required to provide free testing to rape complainants or lose federal funding, and as far as I know all states have been compliant with this. Part of the difficulty with the testing backlog is that it's much easier and cheaper to check for drug metabolites than it is to extract a DNA profile of an accused rapist, just because of the cost & time of DNA sequencing. This is changing thanks to technology. Los Angeles, for example, recently cut it's backlog by 90% from `7000 to ~700 kits, and now tests them as they come in. This follows a national justice department investigation into the problem undertaken over the last 2 years. More on this, albeit in badly formatted pdf that you'll need to zoom way in on.

I hope these links prove useful. My experience is that using the best-known and most authoritative sources makes advocacy considerably easier.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


If one already has a really rotten sense of ones body autonomy, it can be really hard to integrate the idea that something wrong has happened. I didn't get the sense that my body belongs to me me ME ME until I was much older.

it seems so surreal that it can't possibly have been an ill intent. Surely I must have done something wrong, or communicated wrong, or really it must not be a big deal.

It still seems like it must not be a big deal and I would be silly to think it's a big deal because that's what happens to drunk people so who cares.

Until I think about it happening to other people. And then I think... what the.. that motherfucking shit.


And holy cow, like that. JUST like that. And. . . everyone knew I would have screwed him in a hot second, if he hadn't been dating a friend of mine. Like, everyone.
posted by endless_forms at 6:19 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


This thread, like all of these threads, made me cry.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. I really appreciate all of you putting it out there, because I'm really not ready to share mine.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:27 PM on December 14, 2011


anigbrowl - yeah, I wasn't proposing that there be some sort of militarized police response to the issue of rape.

In any case, we can agree that there's all kinds of ways the efforts to prevent and combat rape can be stepped up, right? I don't really get why you just asked me for suggestions, as if there isn't tons of stuff that can be done, then went on to provide your own list.
posted by XMLicious at 7:28 PM on December 14, 2011


It's not just having a "rotten sense of ones body autonomy," though that can be part of it.

If women asserted full bodily autonomy, if you called the cops or made a huge social fuss every time every time you were groped by a friend, or a stranger in the bar, or on the subway - everyone would thing you were crazy.

You have to judge whether each thing is worth making an issue of. And it's that process that ingrains that you only get conditional bodily integrity. That there are some situations that suck, but that you just have to deal with.

These cases aren't those edge cases, but it's part of the explanation of why women don't react clearly and instantaneously.
posted by mercredi at 7:31 PM on December 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


I did a mock trial type thing at one point in law school. I believe the jury was made up of college students.

The case was essentially a woman was pulled over by a police officer and she claims that he told her to get out of the car, slammed her down on the hood of the car and proceeded to sexually assault her. She didn't claim he raped her, more extensive groping and then he let her go. There might have been some sort of yelling match before he slammed her down on the hood of her car, I can't remember. She had some bruises, but very little physical evidence of any kind. So pretty much he said/she said. He denied it all pretty much. Said he slightly restrained he when she got rowdy. Claims he never bent her over the car nothing.

So we tried the case, I was the prosecutor. We won on the assault charge, but not the sexual assault charge, which confused the hell out of me because to me she was either a more credible witness or not.

The "jury's" reasoning? They just didn't really think he'd do that. Didn't believe her. They were not very articulate about it, but my general understanding was they thought that after he slammed her down on the hood of the car, she added on the sexual assault to get him in even more trouble because she was mad. They were just so casual about it, like a woman wouldn't think twice about accusing someone of sexual assault who had done something bad to them. They really just required a higher lever of proof for sexual assault than regular assault, which made no sense to me and still doesn't, but it was very educational.
posted by whoaali at 7:32 PM on December 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't really get why you just asked me for suggestions, as if there isn't tons of stuff that can be done, then went on to provide your own list.

Well I wanted to your (and everyone else's) opinion. If I had a completely free hand in this matter, I'd consider moving to bench trials because jury bias is such a consistent problem in rape and indeed many other criminal trials. But then I don't have all that much faith in juries; obviously such a proposal would be doomed from the outset.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:10 PM on December 14, 2011


Also, reporting a rape is extremely stressful and time-consuming, to make an understatement.

Of all the women who I know personally and IRL who have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives - and this is a goddamn triple digit number - would anyone like to guess how many of their rapists were successfully prosecuted and convicted of their crime? Hm?

One. Just one.
posted by elizardbits at 8:42 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


This post brings up two things for me:

One. My partner told me that at one point, he asked his mom what kind of advice she'd been given by her mother when she was a teenager. Her answer: "Don't get raped."

Two. I was raped during college. I got really drunk, and a guy struck up a conversation with me. I'll never know if there was something in my drink or not. We went back to my dorm room. We kissed. I didn't want to. He did. And I was so drunk, and he was so insistent. He wore me down over the course of an hour. I never actually said yes. Finally I just lay there because I was too tired to say no anymore. I just wanted it to go away.

I think this is actually the first time I've ever put it that way: I was raped. The few times I've mentioned it, I say something like "I had some really bad sexual experiences in college." Because at the time it seemed like I had drunkenly slept with a guy. I was drunk, right? I was lonely. I liked him, he kissed me. He used a condom. It was just "gray area", right? Or a date rape, which for some reason makes it seem less scary than an actual rape? And I'm one of those feminists who loves men, right? Who can't possibly integrate being "a victim" or "a person who was raped" or "a person who was victimized at a party" with my sense of self, the person who writes books, mentors girls, stands up for herself.

Even writing this right now is so scary, like someone is going to point a finger at me and say "You're making it up, you're a liar, you're an angry man-hater." That's why I've never talked about it like that, because the thing that made me feel so ashamed, confused, and worthless never seemed worth taking up someone else's time or making someone as uncomfortable as the topic of rape makes me. I knew that if I told a friend or a family member, they'd get really uncomfortable and it just didn't seem worth it to me. So instead I just held it inside and hated myself more and more over the years. I acted out sexually and emotionally because I felt like a slut, or someone who deserved to be raped, or a victim who was actually pulling the wool over everyone's eyes and make them think I was actually successful or worthy.

The silence let me do that to myself, but speaking up didn't prevent me from being raped.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, like it or not, the culture we live in stigmatizes rape to the point where it is beyond words for many people, and until we can collectively and consistently use words to describe it, condemn it, and fight it, we will never win against the secrecy, the euphemism, and the silence.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:46 PM on December 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


The idea that people who understand crime are vetted out of jury pools ... You ever served on a jury? You might find this to be a stupid idea, fed to you via sensationalist news and Hollywood (as is the idea that you can get out of jury duty by being an Important Person with Connections and Things to Do, Pencils to Sharpen).
posted by raysmj at 8:46 PM on December 14, 2011


At a football-watching party, I volunteered for the beer run since I didn't care about the game and my boyfriend did. His friend, whom I'd met that day (had his wife with him) , invited himself along "I'll help carry." We didn't get out of the parking lot before he viciously attacked me, holding my head against the car window by my hair, and yanking at my clothes and every body part he could get his hands on.

I fought like I was fighting for my life. I cried and tried to scream but it's harder than you think when you're fighting with everything you have. I could hear the Cowboys game playing from someone's apartment and realized there was no help coming from outside. People had no idea what was going on in the fogged-up car in the wintry weather outside. I kicked and punched and screamed vile things. The asshole decided I wasn't worth the trouble I guess. He bailed out and I drove away hyperventilating and made my way home shaking and crying. I don't know what he told the people at the football party. I didn't go back there. I was terrified to see him ever again. He was a Jekyll/Hyde monster. I couldn't believe he'd nearly viciously raped me with his wife and my boyfriend 50 yards away.

And if I'd gotten enough courage to report it, this not-a-rape, he would've had no problem calling me a liar, he would just say he was watching TV with his wife and his best friend, the police officer.
posted by toastedbeagle at 9:31 PM on December 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


toastedbeagle: Didn't they ask you why you never came back from the beer run? I'm picturing in my head two people leaving a football watching party for a beer run, one comes back without a car 20 minutes later and the other doesn't return. I can't imagine any social situation I've been at or hosted where people wouldn't pause the game and say "Uh, where the hell is toastedbeagle, dude?!?" This literally misfires in my brain: you go out for a beer run with some dude, he comes back, you don't... and your boyfriend didn't even try to call you? And forget reporting it; why wouldn't you tell them, or at least your boyfriend? Did you think your boyfriend would... what, make fun of you?


These threads perpetually frustrate me (not only because mods like to delete my comments, no matter how I try phrase them non-confrontationally, simply for being too different from the norm), because I'll never understand not being vocal about it, or the fatalistic approach of not reporting it or even sharing it with your friends so the stories are out there. To my mind, a serial rapist should be an impossibility, since it shouldn't be more than a couple of instances before everyone in that person's circle knows they are predatory and everyone stays far away.

Don't get me wrong; it is true that a lot of hard work for many years was necessary to get us to the point that sexual harassment and rape are treated seriously by the law and the workplace; everything I'm saying I wouldn't say when referring to my mom in the workplace in the 1970's, for example. This is a very good thing! But that said, the claim that "the police will mock you" seems pretty flimsy when it's now almost 2012; as the OP shows, the police and legal system was quite happy to try this guy over and over, and did end up convicting him of multiple crimes. So maybe reporting is a good thing.


In addition to the accusers in the OP who stayed in contact with the guy, in this thread I'm pretty sure I read at least two different people say they still actually liked their rapists "very very much" and another who noted that (unless I misread this?) their rapist was so hot, all their friends would do him in a second if he wasn't in an relationship. What the heck is going on? I've de-friended people for disagreements about tipping; I can't imagine staying in contact with someone who raped or tried to rape me.
posted by hincandenza at 10:34 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


reveals a disturbing truth about the justice system.

Seriously, humanity is still working on the whole justice thing. It seems to be incompatible with the "leaders" thing. Rinse and come back in 2 centuries.
posted by Twang at 10:49 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


hincandenza: it seems that perhaps what you don't understand is male privilege and the fact that you have it and women don't.
posted by Anitanola at 10:52 PM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't think of a woman I know who hasn't been the victim of date-rape or an attempted rapist.
posted by toastedbeagle at 7:31 PM on December 14

I find this an absolutely shocking statement, and I hope to goodness it does not reflect a general situation. It certainly isn't true in my circle of female friends and acquaintances.


Yes it is. I'm 51 years old. I've lived all over the the US, I've worked all kinds of jobs in all kinds of environments, from the kind you don't tell your family you're doing to the kind your mom brags to everyone about. In these places, I've known and been friends with all kinds of women of all different ages - I've been friends with strippers, with welfare mothers who deliberately had more babies to get more welfare, and with society women who I chauffeured around in their Jaguars while they shopped for custom made Italian leather shoes for their four year old. And I, too, would be hard pressed to think of any woman who had not been date raped or been the victim of an attempted rape. And about 50% did not even consider it rape; that's how well we've been conditioned to think of it as not really a big deal. Or to think that it's our own fault.

The nicest, most understanding and empathetic men I've known have had no clue how pervasive it is. As I said to one of them, if you're the kind of guy for whom pushing a woman to do something she doesn't want to is inconceivable, it's hard for you to conceive of how many otherwise nice guys think it's completely acceptable.

Here's the thing a lot of men don't think about - if you're making out with a woman, and you try to touch her breast, and she pushes your hand away...and you put your hand there again...then she's just said no, and you just sexually assaulted her. And if you're a man who wouldn't try again, then I applaud you; but you are far and away the minority.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:05 PM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


And just to head it off at the pass, I'm not saying touching her breast in that instance is attempted rape. But it's the first step. It's how it usually starts.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:14 PM on December 14, 2011


Hincandeza, I can really understand the confusion about it all. It seems so obvious - just report it! Just tell your friends that this guy's a rapist! Easy. It's taken me a long time and lots of work to see that this isn't the case at all.

If she reports it, he can just say he was helping her to the car and touched her on the shoulder or whatever and she overreacted. Crazy bitch, huh? Then she starts calling him a rapist and storms off home! Can you believe it? Now, this group of friends has known this guy for years, and they know he's no rapist. So if she starts telling people about it, they'll tell her that she misinterpreted his actions, or overreacted. They'll tell her that it's hurtful to say things like that about another person, that she really shouldn't make accusations that could hurt his reputation.

As for people who still see the rapist socially afterwards, it's because 'rape' is so often presumed to be the viscious, violent attack in an alley. If she was drunk, and he was really persistent about it, is it worth going through all the mess above for something that may very well end with your being shunned? Maybe being afraid of him, avoiding him, just feels like you've let him win. Maybe staying friends is your way of saying 'you can't hurt me'.

There are countless examples of rapes going unprosecuted - and untold thousands more that never get reported because the survivor knows that the paid it will cause her is more than it's worth.

The thing is, as men we're gifted with this massive privilege of never having to worry about this kind of thing. It's not something that ever crosses our minds. If you were mugged one night, you'd report it quite happily. You have no experience of prior mugging victims who were blamed for it because of the clothes they had or the path they took home or how drunk they were. No mugging victims who are told to stay quiet because the mugger's a great guy, and he'd never do something like that. No mugging victims who've been told that since they knew the person before they were robbed, they must have understood what was about to happen.

I really do understand where you're coming from - it's so hard to understand why so many rapes are unreported - but what I've realised is that, as men, we cannot know, in a visceral sense, what women experience on a day to day level. What we can do is listen to their stories and do our best to take that on board. If you ask 'but why can't you report it?' in good faith, then keep reading (and reread some of the responses to this thread too). Please be careful with your words though, because it can start to sound like you're discounting the experiences of the women who've been brave enough to relive these experiences. Asking someone to defend their actions after a traumatic event is pretty highly charged, so please keep that in mind.
posted by twirlypen at 11:20 PM on December 14, 2011 [18 favorites]


I have been trying to write this comment all day, but I still can't say it right. I have socialized with my then-partner's rapist, more than once, because she asked me to not rock the boat and what helps her is more important than impotent rage. I can't imagine being that strong and I hope nothing requires me to be. But if you, as a bystander, have ever been confused about what rape culture is: it's interacting with your partner's rapist, then going home and holding her while she cries, then interacting with her rapist again, because that's the best option. If that seems incomprehensible, you're extraordinarily lucky, and I hope your life continues to be untroubled in this way.
posted by Errant at 11:31 PM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


another who noted that (unless I misread this?) their rapist was so hot, all their friends would do him in a second if he wasn't in an relationship

What's confusing about that? She was emphasizing that nobody would believe her. You've never heard anybody express disbelief that a guy who could have sex with just about anybody would have to "resort" to rape?

I'm pretty sure I read at least two different people say they still actually liked their rapists "very very much"

Not going to put words in the poster's mouth, but one thing that has been emphasized here over and over is that this shit can come out of absolutely nowhere, from people you thought you liked, and maybe you did something wrong? Maybe they were confused? They couldn't really be capable of something that profoundly evil, could they? I mean, they don't think I'm just a body with no mind or feelings, right? Whereas there is nothing quite so complicated about an argument about tipping, and it can be about a thousand times easier to get mad on behalf of a waiter than yourself. If you're a woman. Because you should have known better. You shouldn't have gotten drunk. You shouldn't have been such a tease. You should have been clearer. All these excuses sound like bullshit when you hear somebody else say it, but it's different when you say it yourself. And I don't know how to explain how it is to be a woman in this society to you in order to make it make sense for you, especially when so many people have already done it.

It also sort of sounds like you're missing where people are saying these things specifically because they know it sounds crazy: "can you believe this?" You sound like you're saying, no, you can't. Instead of wondering how that might happen. Apologies if I'm misreading. Because this is just nonsensical:

To my mind, a serial rapist should be an impossibility, since it shouldn't be more than a couple of instances before everyone in that person's circle knows they are predatory and everyone stays far away.

Who only has sex with people in their circle? A rapist might if he can get away with that, a lazy rapist, and it's sad and awful when he can, but good lord, people have sex with people they're not already friends with.

Almost all women are considerably weaker, physically, than most men. Imagine how your approach to the world, your assumptions about your options and your place in it, might be subtly different if 50 percent of the population were 6'9" linebackers and any one of them might possibly be willing to have sex with you against your will, there's really no telling even if you've known them for a while. And if they do, the chances that you'll be able to prove it in court, if they didn't also beat you up and make you bleed (and even then they might be able to claim consensual S&M and get away with it), are very very small, and if you get that far the job of the defense (if the cops don't do it first) will be to blame you and explain what a slutty manipulative liar you are and how you were asking for it. I don't know how to suggest you imagine internalizing the weird attitudes about sexuality and "sluttiness" and shame that are forced on women (by both women and men) from childhood, but that plays into it too. I am running into a wall of fatigue here, trying to explain this. It's made of about two and a half decades of shit. Maybe you could just take it as a given that since there are so many of them with these stories, these women are acting in ways that are completely rational given their experiences, which are alien to your own in profoundly basic ways.

I think another thing you're missing is that nobody wants to think of themselves as a rape victim. Maybe make a list of all the adjectives you associate with rape victims. This is something that might not work so well, I don't know, if you don't factor in the madonna-whore stuff women have to soak in, but you can probably at least imagine that it is not the most empowering notion. The other thing is that if you aren't raped by a stranger, if you aren't raped by somebody you already thought of as a terrible person, maybe suddenly the world is very viscerally an incredibly unfriendly, shitty, unsafe place where anybody you get acquainted or god forbid become friends with might think you are a totally worthless piece of shit who can be forced to have sex whether you like it or not. So that might be a little bit much to process when you wake up. Or, you know, within a few months or a year or who knows how long. You're lucky that you don't have to live with that.
posted by Adventurer at 11:41 PM on December 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


I appreciate what you're saying, twirlypen (although "never" isn't quite accurate when we see a culture that makes jokes about male on male/prison rape). I guess I have difficulty reconciling "With 10 separate women accusing him that should be enough to convict him" and "why say anything and have even your friends say 'don't rock the boat'?". They seem at odds: you tell your friends because if you're the first person you are ignored... but when the third or fourth person says the same thing about a guy, the circle of friends will turn on him. And that seems to be the strongest reason to not stay quiet.

I guess Sinead O'Connor and the church rape example is what I'm thinking of, in microcosm. Poor woman was torn to shreds... but years later, because people stopped staying silent, real progress has been made.
posted by hincandenza at 11:43 PM on December 14, 2011


hincandenza- I have no idea what he told the others at the football party. Maybe he made up a story that I got sick and went home, or just decided to flake out because I was a lame chick who didn't like hanging around the football game?

I didn't answer my phone the rest of the day because I was scared my bf would call & tell me to come back over. His friend scared me TO DEATH. No way was I going near that apartment.

As for why I didn't tell my boyfriend ( and the guys wife.) I was scared
and I just wanted to get away, fast. My bf and I hadn't been dating long, maybe a month, which is why I was just meeting his best friend. Did I want to put my new bf in the
position of having to believe me, that his BFF was a vicious predator, over his friend of many years who I
knew would say, bro, don't let your gf drink beers and get alone with men, dude.

You thought...what..? and the claims the police will mock you seem pretty flimsy are perfect examples of the attitude I knew I would be in for if I stood up and faced my attacker with verbal testimony only. As the point was made upthread, I couldn't prove it if I could only say it. So thanks for
being obnoxious. You made my point for me.
posted by toastedbeagle at 11:46 PM on December 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


you tell your friends because if you're the first person you are ignored... but when the third or fourth person says the same thing about a guy, the circle of friends will turn on him. And that seems to be the strongest reason to not stay quiet.


Leaving aside the fact that the first person isn't ignored - s/he is quizzed and doubted and possibly ostracised - and the fact that without a first person there can be no third or fourth, traumatizing emotional experiences tend to leave people in a condition where the most rational course of action isn't necessarily the one that is plausible. And sexual assault is deeply shaming for the victim. (Probably even more so for male victims.) The intensity of that self-doubt is one way sexual assault differs from other crimes. The tremendous shame and self-questioning that those who've been sexually assaulted must endure play a substantial role in the low rates of reporting.

It's a rare person who can experience a terrible event without self-questioning. But if you take the time to sort out what's your fault and what's the rapist's fault, instead of immediately lodging the most strenuous possible accusation, and collecting all the physical evidence possible, the general social response will be skeptical.
posted by gingerest at 12:04 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Your first paragraph literally makes no sense, gingerest. The whole point of being the first is so that the 3rd and 4th are taken more seriously. I can't even parse the "without the first there can't be a third or fourth" bit.

I may be obnoxious, but I'm not a rapist. Guess that hardly matters, huh.

I'm out- once again Metafilter has a thread where some people are just not welcome, as the dominant perspective has its agenda, has its axe to grind, and the rest of us should just stay the heck away.
posted by hincandenza at 12:19 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not trying to make you feel bad. I'm trying in good faith to answer your question. I meant that unless someone goes first, i.e. reports that rape, there can be no third or fourth person to make report that the same person raped him or her. I can see that maybe you were numbering individual people who had been raped, and I was numbering people who were reporting their rapes (to their friends or to the authorities.)

Er, my failure to craft a comprehensible sentence shouldn't drive you away. If I have any agenda it's probably "increase the peace" or "only through love and understanding and ethical scholarship can we make a real egalitarian society" or some equally hippie-intellectual bullshit.
posted by gingerest at 12:33 AM on December 15, 2011


And I wasn't trying to make you feel bad either. I was only pointing out that your remarks made me feel bad.
posted by toastedbeagle at 12:39 AM on December 15, 2011


hicandenza: I was trying to make you think.
posted by Anitanola at 12:45 AM on December 15, 2011


How to prevent rape without blaming victims: News of assaults often inspires tips on prevention -- but sometimes well-meaning advice becomes dangerous
posted by homunculus at 12:57 AM on December 15, 2011


I may be obnoxious, but I'm not a rapist. Guess that hardly matters, huh.

What are you talking about?
posted by Adventurer at 12:57 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find this an absolutely shocking statement, and I hope to goodness it does not reflect a general situation. It certainly isn't true in my circle of female friends and acquaintances.


I haven't been raped (touch wood). 3 acquaintances, 2 friends, 1 family member are the women I know IRL (as far as I know) who have been. For half of them, the rapes were years previously so it never would have come up in ordinary conversation. They just at some point in our relationship decided it was ok to disclose to me. There's no reason to assume that anybody who has a personal rape story is likely to share it.

In fact it's very much the opposite. The wonder is that people share at all, given the shaming, blaming, second-guessing, and downplaying and trivialization that target so many disclosers. And on top of that, if some people do believe them, given the judging and condemnation that often results if they decide due to family or social consequences, prejudicial scrutiny, harassment, stigmatizing, etc., not to make an officlal report or press charges. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:28 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm out- once again Metafilter has a thread where some people are just not welcome, as the dominant perspective has its agenda

Your perspective seems to be "your reactions don't make logical sense." But if these reactions are common -- emotional reactions to traumatic events -- why wouldn't you start from the assumption that there are good human reasons for them, that the reasons already given mean something that you must not have gotten yet? Why aren't the explanations here good enough? What I'm reacting to is what seems to be an assumption that women just need to make better and more logical choices. But I can tell you, as so many people have said, that this is a real helicopter perspective that doesn't take into account all these basic facts of what is kind of common to the female experience in this society, and also the fact that, you know, PTSD does crazy things to people. I don't see how there's any other way to read what you're saying but "I'm logical and I know I would react like this, so if most of you won't do this, you and your group must not be logical."

Here is some logic: if it's very, very common for women at large to react in these ways, and you think it's unreasonable for them to do so, you must believe that either they're intrinsically unreasonable or that something about the experience of being raped makes people behave unreasonably. But you don't seem to be accepting any evidence for the latter. People have been trying to explain it, and yet you keep telling them that what they have seen and understand to be true or what women assume to be extremely possible (i.e. cops will dismiss them) is not correct, even though this never could have happened to you, and even though what we're trying to explain are generally fears based on experience and extrapolation (i.e. "I will be ostracized and blamed and people who have known him longer will say I made it up, like a psychopath") and not really logic-based arguments. One thing you have to drop is the idea that people who have just been traumatized in a way that most people consider extremely shameful are going to prioritize striking back (assuming they even feel themselves capable of it) over trying to assuage and minimize their own suffering, which will often involve a good bit of denial. Which is normal and human. It just doesn't happen to many men.
posted by Adventurer at 1:38 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


hincandenza: you tell your friends because if you're the first person you are ignored... but when the third or fourth person says the same thing about a guy, the circle of friends will turn on him

In an ideal world, yes. IRL, not so much. Likeability, camaraderie, social standing = perceived credibility, over and above women who can be dismissed as sluts, greedy, drunk, or whose behaviour falls short in any of a thousand ways regarding how a rape victim "should" act.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:41 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


hincandenza: I'm out- once again Metafilter has a thread where some people are just not welcome, as the dominant perspective has its agenda, has its axe to grind, and the rest of us should just stay the heck away.

Did you seriously just use your male privilege to tell rape survivors that we have an agenda and an axe to grind and that everybody who isn't a rape victim should just ignore us? You need to back the hell up and rethink what you just said.
posted by i feel possessed at 2:23 AM on December 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


I was raped by an ex-boyfriend.

I blamed myself for it for years - years. I even confessed "cheating" to my boyfriend, and spent a long time thinking I was a horrible, scummy girl who would cheat on her boyfriend with an ex. It took a long time to realize that when I told him I didn't want to have sex, when I said, "Stop" and "Don't", and when I tried to push him off of me - that made it rape.

I remained friends with him after that, but gradually reached the point where I wouldn't sit near him because his girlfriend had decided she was ok with an "open" relationship and I was on the "ok" list to have sex with him.

Nevermind that the idea of being sexual with him made me feel like shit - I never told her. I didn't know how to put it into words.

He still doesn't know - will likely never know since I sure-as-fuck won't be opening myself to the slurry of condemnation and hurt feelings and guilt-trips that talking to him about it would entail.

I don't really trust my taste in men now, though. If I could love a rapist - what does that say about me?
posted by Deoridhe at 2:29 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


but when the third or fourth person says the same thing about a guy, the circle of friends will turn on him

As cybercoitus interruptus just said, camaraderie can go a long way. And as was mentioned upthread too, so does male privilege along with it.

Third woman comes along, mentions being treated badly by this guy who's already had two women complain about him. But no one really knows these women. Now, the following situation may sound fabricated, but I am a woman, and I have overheard conversations just like this.

Alleged creep: "Dude. What is up with chicks, anyway? Always ragging on you for one thing or another."
Other guys: "Sounds like she wasn't too happy with you, man. What happened?"
Alleged creep: "Pfff. Some other chick who got jealous when I looked elsewhere. You know how they are."
Other guys: "She said things got pretty rough..."
Alleged creep: "Suuuuure she did" *rolling his eyes* "she wanted more of The Man and when she didn't get it, she thought she'd go around badmouthing me. Come on. You know how chicks are."
Other guys, doubtful now: "Yeah... I guess... psh, my wife is always on my case about housework. Like I care. I bring home the dough. Women just need to shut up and know how good they have it sometimes."

As for complaining to men you trust? Well, you won't be the first, second or third woman to them, because that's not the context... you'll be a woman in their lives, for whom the man in question is (very likely) a passing concern. As other women here have already mentioned, in that case, when you talk to guy friends, the highest likelihood is that they'll get furious and demand justice.

Other possibilities, which I have witnessed firsthand (I don't want to go any further in detail than that):
- they won't believe you, and will publicly shame you for it (even if you are their daughter)
- they won't believe you, and will force a "discussion" with your rapist to "clear the air" because it "couldn't possibly have happened the way you say, he's a nice guy, you'll see"
- they'll believe you and listen (I am so, so sad to say how rarely I've seen this, and I'm in my mid-30s)
posted by fraula at 2:29 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hincandenza, we're not all in the position to be able to take that sort of ripping to shreds. I wish this was a subject I could be dispassionate about, because I know it's frustrating to just have personal anecdotes over and over, but ... here's my personal anecdote.

I didn't tell the people around me what happened because I did not feel safe. In fact, though I struggled and said no and stop and tried to get out from under him, I did not scream for help because I knew that no help would come and I was afraid it might bring something worse. It was a sort of artificially bizarre environment in an isolated and foreign location, I was already stressed and lonely, and I can see now all the lines I laid for myself to get hopelessly tangled up in even before the rape. I personally had no choice but to remain cordial and outwardly friendly to my rapist. I could not see any other option at the time. I wish that things were always as simple as "you tell your friends and the person is shunned. You tell the police and they properly collect evidence and justice follows." But it's very rarely that simple.

When I got home, the people I told were the people I knew would be supportive. I did not tell my parents because I didn't want to hurt them. I told female friends who often had a companion story to tell. I told male friends I knew would believe me and hug me. I told my boyfriend the night we had sex because I figured something might pop up. But I did not tell the justice system because I did not want to deal with the consequences. And I know that makes me, in some part, culpable for anything that happens afterwards, and I know that that makes me weakish. But you know what? I am taking care of me. And I am doing it the best, most logical way I can figure out.
posted by SockMarionette at 3:06 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I teach a course on Greek mythology. I told the person taking over the course from me, a newly minted PhD from the UK, that it's good to warn students repeatedly over the first week of the course that it contains a lot of rape and thus might be upsetting for some. Her response was to smile and say 'I forgot that people in North America are so uptight about sex.' That response pretty much encapsulates how far most people - including women - can be from acknowledging the difference between rape and sex. Because if you don't consider someone turning into a horse so he can rape his grieving sister rape, and classify it under sex, then there isn't a lot of chance that you're going to consider date rape as rape.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:31 AM on December 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


Read this and weep.
posted by Summer at 3:38 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"If I was a Woman Who Got Raped I Would Do Karate on Him and then Call Batman Blah Blah Blah" by A Bunch Of Dudes. [Needed: more listening.]
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:56 AM on December 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


hey seem at odds: you tell your friends because if you're the first person you are ignored... but when the third or fourth person says the same thing about a guy, the circle of friends will turn on him. And that seems to be the strongest reason to not stay quiet.

Or you might be the only one and he targeted you specifically and you end up being the one ostracized instead of him because nobody believes you. How would you know?
posted by empath at 5:40 AM on December 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


The justice system is unfortunately working just the way that Our Lords And Masters intended it to. It's been working this way for generations and at this point it's pretty well permanently broken.

Victimless crimes, mostly drugs, are the top priority for law enforcement, and not rape (or for that matter, financial crimes); and law enforcement spending has high-tech weaponry as a priority and not education or counseling - drones are not particularly useful in rape cases.

So after 50 years of this, it should not be a surprise that they'll use dozens of men and millions of dollars of weaponry to arrest some guy suspected of selling pot, whereas they don't have the money to do even basic tests on a case involving a man accused of raping dozens of women.

A few years ago I'd have suggested the power of the vote. But we voted in a President who's admitted to taking and enjoying drugs, who spoke so movingly about this issue as a candidate, and has done nothing but increase the war on drugs, which means continuing to starve the "war on rape".

Somehow real humans need to take control of the system and redirect the money and attention toward real crimes. I simply have no idea how.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:07 AM on December 15, 2011


I've been trying to find succinct words for why people THINK they understand what rape is and don't and there is too much.

If you are being playful and someone tries to get frisky with you and try to pull away but they still seem playful and friendly, they can't be a RAPIST. You know they are just being friendly and crossing your boundaries in a friendly way. They won't actually do anything horrible, just maybe keep playfully pressuring you until you let them. Which is just being playful right? Consent play. Supposedly some women love it and it's important not to make a big deal out of it so just go along with it, don't be a prude. IF you really want him to stop you need to yell and be all angry and aggressive to make your point accross but if you do that it would seem really mean and aggressive, you're not someone like that, so no biggy.

What if someone notices that their sexual behavior toward you makes you feel bad? What if this actually happens before they even touch you? How do you describe that phenomenon? And how do you describe the process that people will go through to break someone down and be allowed to do sexually harmful things, while knowing it's causing horrible suffering for the other person, because you think sexploitation is really hot and feels good?

Sexploiting people doesn't make you a "sexual predator", right? That's just, you know a hot thing people like to do to each other. And I mean hey, women love people sexploited anyway so it's important to keep all the behaviors involved in doing sexual things to someone that you can see are making them feel bad inside and withdraw needs to be a social behavior we see as legal and perfectly acceptable. Maybe "rude", maybe "jerky", but I mean, NOT THE SAME AS RAPE, right?

And yet the amount of sadism involved in doing sexual things to someone while they retreat inside themselves and making yourself into the one with the power while they fall apart before you....

And if all the guys (and gals sometimes?) who do these kinds of horrible things to vulnerable people have societies blessing... THAT behavior is not enought to lock soemone up for life... and after all... it's not tht big of a deal, and so long as the violator was able to succsesfully achieve submission and cowering, then it's just bad sex. So what are people allowed to do to each other to achieve submission and cowering? Verbal pressure or persuasion is fine... apparently. I don't when you look at how many behaviors that hurt others are totally fine according to societies rules, any given spefific line you choose to define "rape" vs "not rape" doesn't seem accurate. Obviously if there was physical force, it was rape, but yet if you look at what men have been allowed to do to women other than using physical force you can see why it would be confusing whether the use of physical force has even crossed a line all because so mny women are so used to any line they setting being crossed all the time nd being looked at like a jerk, or "victim identity person" or a freak, or a paranoud person if they rigidly pick a set of boundaries about their body nd try to uphold them.

And once you think that violating and harming people psychologically is ok, society finds it acceptable, then why would you get some poor fellow locked up for doing what everyone else does? We give sexploitation a total pass, dont see it as a problem and after all that's ... what sex is? Or something? It's a normal part of sex and women love it, so it needs to be anything goes, unless....

In any case, there is too much to say, and so much that I really think we need to figure out as a culture, not just about rape but about what kinds of behaviors are ok in sex itself.
posted by xarnop at 8:25 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Here's the thing a lot of men don't think about - if you're making out with a woman, and you try to touch
> her breast, and she pushes your hand away...and you put your hand there again...then she's just said no,
> and you just sexually assaulted her. And if you're a man who wouldn't try again, then I applaud you; but
> you are far and away the minority.

What on earth does "you're making out" mean, then? Kissing? Holding hands? That's not making out. Making out doesn't even start until you've crossed over the "things you can do with your aunt" line.


> And just to head it off at the pass, I'm not saying touching her breast in that instance is attempted rape.

You called it sexual assault, which has ceased to be a lesser accusation. It is now an enormous scare-phrase for actions usually lumped in with actual forcible-penetration rape--"Rape-rape" as Oprah called it--to generate the hair-raising reports. ONE IN FOUR COLLEGE WOMEN RAPED (or sexually assaulted (which includes touching a boob (or an unwanted kiss.))) Under those rules it's entirely too risky to play at all.

Not that I have any problem with changing the rules. Whatever. If they were changed merely to the ones I have observed all my life the rape and sexual assault rates would drop to zero overnight. But I'm changing my own rules even so, for my own protection, to "Have nothing whatever to do with any American woman, for any reason, in any location where there are fewer than twenty to fifty witnesses."
posted by jfuller at 9:43 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I speak on behalf of all American women when I say that I am heartbroken.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:03 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I'm changing my own rules even so, for my own protection, to "Have nothing whatever to do with any American woman, for any reason, in any location where there are fewer than twenty to fifty witnesses."

Sounds like a win-win! (/America-centric-ism).
posted by Salamandrous at 10:11 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please do not speak on behalf of all American women.
posted by Melismata at 10:12 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Making out doesn't even start until you've crossed over the "things you can do with your aunt" line.

You french kiss your aunt, but draw the line at groping?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:17 AM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


It would be nice if All American Women had not just been stereotyped as people who are not safe to be alone with (because we apparently are constantly making unfounded rape accusations). I figured All American Women would feel like me in that we are fine with not being alone with someone who feels that way about us. I apologize if you in fact are looking for a man who refuses to be alone with you because you might accuse him of rape.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:25 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of what it makes it difficult for rape victims and those seeking to understand rape victims is the Just World Hypothesis, which is built into all of us. This can be seen with victims of bullying and domestic violence, but seems to be especially prevalent amongst rape victims.

I believe that part of the reason is due to how we in modern, Western culture view women as the safeguards to heterosexual desire. Men lust; women are lusted after. When posed with the question why promiscuous males are more highly regarded than promiscuous females, I have often see the response come in the form of, "a key that opens many locks is a master key, while the lock that opens for many keys is a shitty lock". This bias contributes to the belief that a man 'gains' something during a sexual encounter, while a woman has something taken from her. Women are taught that their sexual purity is not only highly important, but that it and their safety lies entirely with them. Is it any wonder that they feel shame and self-blame when that purity and safety are violated? Afterwards, they concern themselves with their checks, as a good security system is expected to do: Was I too forward? Should I have accepted that drink? Should I have been firmer? Without this idea that a woman's sexuality is designed to stop and repeal men's sexual desires, there would not be all this doubt and self-blame surrounding female rape victims.

This Just World bias and expectation of female defense results in a lot of myths erupting about how and why rape occurs. People believe that provocative clothing causes rape, when the most common outfit worn by a rape victim is a t-shirt and jeans, and conservative clothing is more likely to provoke an attack than 'sexy' or revealing clothing. Cite It can be seen in this thread when rape victims are asked to explain and justify why they reacted the way they did. To the people wanting explanations: I understand. I too want justice. It makes me furious how many people (both male and female) have gotten away with sexual assault. However, reducing that number does not lie in how we educate or treat the victims. We need more people to understand that rape is never the victims fault.

From the wikipedia article on Just World Hypothesis, which I linked above: In a seminal experiment on rape and belief in a just world by Linda Carli and colleagues, researchers gave two groups of subjects a narrative about interactions between a man and a woman. The description of the interaction was the same until the end; one group received a narrative that had a neutral ending and the other group received a narrative that ended with the man raping the woman. Subjects judged the rape ending as inevitable and blamed the woman in the narrative for the rape on the basis of her behavior, but not her characteristics.[19] These findings have been replicated repeatedly, including using a rape ending and a 'happy ending' (a marriage proposal)

Finally, of my female friends who I have talked to in detail about this subject, every single one of them has reported some form of sexual assault. I have a very good friend who, after much alcohol and years of friendship told me that her first sexual encounter was rape. She never reported it. Most of my friends have never reported it. I never reported it. I stayed friends with him. I was young and so shocked that I didn't know what to do other than to prevent to be asleep. When I look back now, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had said something. Based on my experience, I imagine it would've had more negative consequences for me than for him. This is the first time I've ever told this story.
posted by PrimateFan at 10:25 AM on December 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


You called it sexual assault, which has ceased to be a lesser accusation.

People are afraid to use the correct word for rape, lest they offend someone. So they call rape sexual assault (especially news sources), because it's technically correct. Therefore victims of sexual assault are not allowed to call it sexual assault, lest they offend someone?
posted by zennie at 10:38 AM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I'm changing my own rules even so, for my own protection, to "Have nothing whatever to do with any American woman, for any reason, in any location where there are fewer than twenty to fifty witnesses."

The first thing I thought when I read this is "this is exactly the kind of thing that gets called histrionic when a woman says it."
posted by Adventurer at 10:54 AM on December 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


> I think I speak on behalf of all American women when I say that I am heartbroken.

How interesting. Do you like strawberries?
posted by jfuller at 11:05 AM on December 15, 2011


"ONE IN FOUR COLLEGE WOMEN RAPED (or sexually assaulted (which includes touching a boob (or an unwanted kiss.)))"

Despite that I fundamentlly disagree with where you're coming from with this, I actually think it's good you shared your thoughts. The reality is a lot more people than say it actually think this and it stops them from taking rape or sexual assaults seriously.

It makes them doubt whether sexual assault or rape accusations they here about are real accusations. (Maybe some guy just touched her booby and she is being all histrionic about it! Drama queen!)

Which is why I actually think thoughts outside the norm should be spoken outloud so we can address them.

Is it being histrionic to not want your boob touched? Is that too much to ask? Should men be allowed to touch anyones boobs anytime they want, and should there be any rules or laws about that? It really IS freaking confusing.

And I do think there is a lot to figure out. But I think it can be figured out, much better than we're doing. I don't think that experiences of terrible violation are necessary collteral damage to preserving personal freedom. there has got to be a better way to preserve both.
posted by xarnop at 11:07 AM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


> And just to head it off at the pass, I'm not saying touching her breast in that instance is attempted rape.

You called it sexual assault (...)


Yes, I did. What part of "No means no" do you not understand? If she says (or indicates by pushing your hand away) no breast touching, and you touch it anyway, that's sexual assault.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:18 AM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


People...almost always get convicted of or plea down to lesser offenses.

Cite, please. This doesn't ring true in my legal experience...

posted by agregoli at 11:31 AM on December 15, 2011


People...almost always get convicted of or plea down to lesser offenses.

Cite, please. This doesn't ring true in my legal experience...


This isn't a complete answer, but two seconds of googling uncovers the fact that 90 to 95 percent of American defendants plead guilty - never going to trial at all. I can tell you otherwise that, of those pleading guilty, most, if not almost all, of those defendants has been encouraged to plead guilty on a lesser offense. The justice system is really good at scaring the shit out of defendants, so that they'll take a plea bargain rather than get convicted of a hundred thousand other offenses.

I couldn't tell you what percentage of defendants for rape plead guilty to a lesser charge, but common sense would indicate that they'd probably follow suit with other criminal defendants. Further, evidentiary problems in rape are tragically commonplace - it's probably much, much, much easier to coax a confession to a lesser offense from a defendant than to secure a guilty verdict in court for rape in the first degree.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:56 AM on December 15, 2011


i'm with mexicanyenta - if someone was kissing your mother, or your sister, or your niece or whatever and he gropes her breast and she pushes him away and then he gropes again - why shouldn't she get to say no there? isn't she allowed to say yes to kissing but no to breast touching? and if she says no to breast touching and he does it again, what has he just done to her? what would you define that as? i find it sad that you think non-american women are more likely just to let men have their way and not make a fuss. maybe you think they know their place better?

i refer to many of my experience as sexual assault because there was no sex. there was absolutely assault. there was absolutely a crossing of boundaries. in once case i'm nearly positive i was drugged. what would you have me call it? i said no, i pushed them off, i asked to go home, i told them i wasn't in the mood. they didn't care. they shoved my hand down their pants, they took off my shirt, they poured me another drink. they used my body for their own jollies not carrying what the person inside of it was feeling or thinking.

i say all of this as a submissive woman who chooses to safely play in the gray areas of consent. but if there's not meeting of the minds before hand, why is he just allowed to take what he wants and then why are we as women demonized for saying "no, really, that wasn't ok."
posted by nadawi at 12:09 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seems like whenever anyone - male or female - shows up on the green with a tale of sex imposed on them against their will by a partner or spouse, they get told not to use the words "rape" or "sexual assault".

They're told yeah, okay that wasn't cool, but it depends on how your relationship is when they're not raping/assaulting you and that's most of the time, right? Was it a miscommunication maybe and you didn't manage to get all of the word no out first? Why not get some counselling? You wouldn't be able to get this to court, therefore it can't be right for you to call it rape or sexual assault even though it was clearly a sexual act and you clearly did your best to indicate that it was unwanted. So why don't you call it whatever you want?

If a person is confused and traumatised, puzzled as to what has happened to them and what to call it, has some kind of relationship to their attacker that they don't want to worsen with unfair accusations, are in a boat they don't want to rock, and gets a whole bunch of responses emphasising the ambiguity of it all... well of course they're going to give their assailant the benefit of the doubt. Maybe talk it through with them and try to patch things up and clear up the misunderstanding. Like MeFi told them to.

If a usually abstemious person wakes up in an unfamiliar place with no memory of how they got there, they might be told it's normal to black out.

They definitely aren't going to want to make the person mad.

Better make nice.

You already know they're more powerful than you.

Who's gonna believe you?
posted by tel3path at 2:32 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems like whenever anyone - male or female - shows up on the green with a tale of sex imposed on them against their will by a partner or spouse, they get told not to use the words "rape" or "sexual assault".

Say what now? Could you please link to some examples?
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:58 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm on iPhone but, one:

ask.metafilter.com/194819/Was-this-what-I-think-it-was#2805222
posted by tel3path at 3:08 PM on December 15, 2011


Meant to link to whole post, not individual comment there.
posted by tel3path at 3:09 PM on December 15, 2011


ask.metafilter.com/116922/Anal-sex-not-so-great-actually

Two.

I'm not trying to argue that there's no ambiguity (although I don't think there's any whatsoever in the first case) or that these meet the legal definitions (the second one doesn't, and I don't think there's much ambiguity in that one either, but).

What I am saying is that this is how assaults like these are seen and this is how you're encouraged to think about them if they happen to you. It's hardly surprising if the best options seem to involve bridge-building and benefits of doubts, rather than Armed Response. Then by the time you figure it out...
posted by tel3path at 3:19 PM on December 15, 2011


Ah, okay. Thanks for posting those. I'm happy that the vast majority of the responses to both questions are basically alright, but there's still a significant minority giving out shitty, shitty advice.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:25 PM on December 15, 2011


jfuller: You called it sexual assault, which has ceased to be a lesser accusation. It is now an enormous scare-phrase for actions usually lumped in with actual forcible-penetration rape--"Rape-rape" as Oprah called it--to generate the hair-raising reports. ONE IN FOUR COLLEGE WOMEN RAPED (or sexually assaulted (which includes touching a boob (or an unwanted kiss.))) Under those rules it's entirely too risky to play at all.

Rape is sexual assault that involves penetration. Some states don't even have a specific crime of rape, and it's instead first-degree sexual assault. Sexual assault is a broader term to cover forced, coerced or otherwise involuntary sexual acts. It's not, and never has been a 'lesser' accusation. It's physical assault that has a sexual component.

To come in here, and lay your steamer on the table in the way that you did is remarkably tone deaf. There's what, a dozen women in this thread alone who've told us about how they were raped (had a man force himself into their body against their will) or seriously sexually assaulted where he just used their body intimately for his own sexual satisfaction. It's taken them great courage to do so openly, several of them have never told anyone else ever what happened to them. Universally, they didn't report it for various reasons, including commonly, with good reason, that they didn't think people - including the police - would believe them.

Anything up to 90% of rapes are not reported, and you think that those 1 in 4 statistics are caused because 'American women' are making it toooo risky to 'play' because they're constantly running off to the police to report OMG he KISSED me without asking, and THAT's what's making up those statistics?? Seriously? This is what you came here to say?

If they were changed merely to the ones I have observed all my life the rape and sexual assault rates would drop to zero overnight.

You've never raped or assaulted anyone? Marvellous, you've reached the minimum of acceptable human standards! I'm afraid I'm out of 'I'm not a rapist' badges, but you can have one of my 'I didn't brutally beat an old granny today' badges instead.

Still working on the empathy for your fellow human beings who've been brutally assaulted and raped though I see.

But I'm changing my own rules even so, for my own protection, to "Have nothing whatever to do with any American woman, for any reason, in any location where there are fewer than twenty to fifty witnesses."

Cos Russian mail-order brides and Phillipino girls are so much more compliant, and will sit down and shut up when their body is used against their will for some guy's sexual gratification, amirite?

Christ on a stick.
posted by ArkhanJG at 7:10 PM on December 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


Part of what it makes it difficult for rape victims and those seeking to understand rape victims is the Just World Hypothesis, which is built into all of us.

Something the occurred to me along these lines when I read in this thread that a surprising number of women had continued social/friendly contact with the person that raped them. A common sentiment was the idea that there must have been a misunderstanding, or they must have made some sort of mistake, because that seemed more likely than they idea that someone would actually do that.

That's what is difficult for me to understand. I get not wanting to report because of shame, or the fear of not being believed. I don't understand being friendly with, and apparently not even that angry with, the rapist. I wonder if some have difficulty accepting, on a visceral level, that there really are bad people and when some of them are raped; accepting their own rape and having to see the world as more anarchic and dangerous is simply more difficult that forgoing justice/revenge/denouement. I am a man and have never been sexually assaulted, so I hope that speculation on thought processes isn't offensive, but it's really my best effort to wrap my head around something that doesn't make sense to me.

I have no idea if there is a cleft along gender lines, but I've never had difficulty believing some, or even many, people are capable of doing horrible things to me for no particularly pressing reason.
posted by spaltavian at 8:14 PM on December 15, 2011


I have no idea if there is a cleft along gender lines, but I've never had difficulty believing some, or even many, people are capable of doing horrible things to me for no particularly pressing reason.

Statistically, though, they're a lot less likely to do them to you. And you probably don't feel quite so impotent when you consider it. One thing I think you missed is that women are also more invested because, given their relative lack of size and strength (barring edge cases), all the man has to do is decide to do it. Women, for the most part, cannot even pretend to themselves that they would be able to defend themselves in any meaningful way. (Well, in theory maybe you could get lucky and you'll be at full strength and have a chance to poke him in the eyeballs or something and then somehow incapacitate him long enough to get all the way away to somewhere safe, but hoping that you can manage something like that is pretty much the same thing as denial. MMA fighters excepted, probably.)

He doesn't have to have a gun or a knife. He just has to be able to reach you. (Of course he can run faster too, although you're probably in an enclosed space together.)

And he could be your goddamn friend. That's just a little too dark to deal with. I mean, your friend steals your money, that's easy to get mad at. He beats you up, WTF, he's probably drunk or crazy. Rape, as a crime, is more like torture. He has to be able to ignore the fact that you're a person while he is literally inside your body. Who else can do that? How often is this going to happen? When do you know it's not going to happen? If you are going to disavow the cognitive dissonance that goes along with having this done to you by somebody who seemed pretty OK (while simultaneously knowing that to do otherwise will make everyone in your social circle have to decide whether their friend is a rapist or you made this up for some reason and won't that be fun to find out who thinks that about you, and what if it's almost everyone), you have to be able to commit to the development of a hell of a mature philosophy and a thick hide (which is not always a good thing, you know, or even possible) to deal with this shit without turning to religion or becoming a total bleak hopeless misanthropist. Which is not usually a happy way to live. Because if you're hetero, if you want to love and be loved, you cannot totally remove yourself from this pool of possible surprise people who might possibly turn out to think of you as soulless meat they can use. So of course people go into denial. People deny away far less fundamentally threatening experiences than being raped.
posted by Adventurer at 9:36 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, to the rapists, their reason is quite pressing. It's an extremely motivated crime, not a random thrill-seeking thing, or a product of a rare psychopathy.
posted by Adventurer at 9:38 PM on December 15, 2011


I have no idea if there is a cleft along gender lines, but I've never had difficulty believing some, or even many, people are capable of doing horrible things to me for no particularly pressing reason.

Statistically, though, they're a lot less likely to do them to you


No, they aren't. Men are less likely to be sexually assaulted, but are more likely to be targeted for other forms of violence. And, unless I'm remembering the stat incorrectly, more likely to be murdered as well.

But the issue I brought up really isn't relative levels of threat, it's more world view. "I must be wrong, because I can't imagine someone actually doing that to me" isn't I thought I believe I would have.

One thing I think you missed is that women are also more invested because,

I'm not sure how I missed this, because it really doesn't have any bearing on what I said. I wasn't accusing women of being paranoid, nor was I saying they should be able to fight off their attacker more. I'm not blaming anyone for their reaction, I and specifically said I understand not reporting out of fear of not being believed, or being dragged through the mud in the justice system.
posted by spaltavian at 3:05 AM on December 16, 2011


Also, to the rapists, their reason is quite pressing. It's an extremely motivated crime

But not, as I was saying there, a product of anything the victim did. I was commenting on the (apparent) commonality of victims thinking that they must have done something wrong in order for that to happen. Whether you think something this bad only can happen if you contribute to it, or whether you think you can be doing nothing wrong and have this (or something else really bad) happen to you gets to the core of what I was talking about.
posted by spaltavian at 3:27 AM on December 16, 2011


You might know you didn't do anything wrong, but you'll already be thinking ahead to how you're going to explain it. "But why did you let him in? It should be obvious that a man knocking on your hotel room door at 1am only wants one thing," and in hindsight it is obvious, even if the guy presented you with what seemed like a watertight story at the time and you were half-asleep and not thinking straight. Maybe you believed he really did urgently need to borrow a widget at that time of night, you know he's attached, and he never showed any sign of being attracted to you. But once you let him in, you let an attached man into your hotel room at 1am. So even if everyone agrees on not blaming the victim, you look like you were disingenuously letting an unavailable man hit on you because OBVIOUSLY what else could it REALLY have been about? So now it looks like you were trying to steal someone's boyfriend - maybe your friend's boyfriend, explain that one, eh - and got more than you bargained for. The whole thing becomes more and more burdensome to explain the more you think it through. You're going to have to defend yourself, and you have enough to cope with.

And it's one thing to say "I can't imagine someone actually doing that to me" and another to say "I can't imagine him actually doing that to me." It's freakish to watch someone you think you know turning from Jekyll to Hyde. If you didn't trust him, you wouldn't have let him in.

If you work with the guy, maybe you need to change jobs. Maybe you need to disrupt your life in ways that will really cost you.

Also, it's easy to talk about having the courage of your convictions even when the rest of the world doesn't agree. But in reality, that's hard. Most people can't do it.

And if you do it, you have to go through life knowing that a violent crime was committed against you and the only one who will ever suffer any consequences is you. It's hard to face the fact that you're living in that world. This is when it really sinks in that bullies reinforce the social order, that it's all working exactly the way it's intended to.

But, wait! There's an alternative! It was all a misunderstanding! You could turn a rapist back into a friend by having a conversation with him! Given the option of just magicking your world back to the way it was before, you might very well take that option.
posted by tel3path at 5:41 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was commenting on the (apparent) commonality of victims thinking that they must have done something wrong in order for that to happen.

There's a whole cottage industry of people telling women how to be safe by avoiding bad situations, whereas there's comparatively little serious advice to men on how to avoid raping other than some very sarcastic "HEY MENZ DON'T RAPE" stuff. With all this emphasis on how women should avoid rapists, it's really easy for us to assume that when someone we (somewhat) trusted turns on us, we did something wrong, even when it's blatantly not true.

This doesn't even touch on how women are socialized to be nice to men across the board and men are socialized to expect/take advantage of this across the board (by which I particularly mean in nonsexual ways, although it leads to rapists having an easier time of taking advantage of women).
posted by immlass at 6:17 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rape is different from other violent crimes. If some dude mugs you at knife point, your feelings aren't going to be complicated about that guy. On the other hand, if your otherwise normal-seeming date escalates consensual kissing to something else past consent, it might be easier in the short term to backslide and try to rationalize it as something less sinister than it really was.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:23 AM on December 16, 2011


There's a whole cottage industry of people telling women how to be safe by avoiding bad situations, whereas there's comparatively little serious advice to men on how to avoid raping other than some very sarcastic "HEY MENZ DON'T RAPE" stuff.

This reminds me: I remember a study three years ago or so about how most convicted rapists actually had serious problems recognizing facial expressions - in particular mistaking acute stress for sexual excitement. It's bugging me that my google fu is failing me here.

Either way, I bring it up as an example of how even more "hey men, don't rape" education will eventually hit a wall. Not that I don't wholeheartedly support more education of that kind.

(Interestingly, my google fu shows a study with a somewhat contradictory result, albeit one with only 12 subjects.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:36 AM on December 16, 2011


But, wait! There's an alternative! It was all a misunderstanding! You could turn a rapist back into a friend by having a conversation with him! Given the option of just magicking your world back to the way it was before, you might very well take that option.

I guess this is more or less what I said here: [maybe] accepting their own rape and having to see the world as more anarchic and dangerous is simply more difficult than forgoing justice/revenge/denouement. Again, as I said before, I understand the wanting to "smooth" over assults because the social consequences of coming forward could be devestating; I just have trouble getting my head around how a lot of women have been socialized to blame themselves first.

There's a whole cottage industry of people telling women how to be safe by avoiding bad situations

It's a sad situation that "avoidance" has been used as another way of blaming victims. In a perfect world, it should be neutral to say that it's safer not to do x without being seen as blaming anyone who has done x. But the fault for that rests entirely on sexists who have used the "short skirt" canard as a thinly veiled way of blaming women for their own assults. I totally get how we've ended here; it just bothers me. Similar to the abortion debate, I feel we are forced to talk about a lot of serious things in overly tortured ways because a lot of misogynists have come to own parts of the language.
posted by spaltavian at 6:58 AM on December 16, 2011


It's not that you'd blame yourself if you let the guy into your hotel room. It's that you would see that you'd been set up to get the blame.
posted by tel3path at 7:28 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Something the occurred to me along these lines when I read in this thread that a surprising number of women had continued social/friendly contact with the person that raped them."

Part of the 'men are keys' and 'women are locks' view of heterosexuality is the assumption that men are ravenous sexual creatures who have trouble controlling their sexual desires and will try to sleep with as many women as possible. I see this perpetuated by men on message boards and websites like Reddit where high numbers of young males congregate. There is this idea that friendship without sex only occurs between men and women because the women have denied sex to the men (or the man is in a relationship or the woman is ugly). There's also the ubiquity of PUA artists and other individuals who repeatedly express the notion that you have to wear down and trick women in order to sleep with them. It doesn't help that our culture doesn't accept sexually forward women and that playing 'hard to get' and putting up some resistance is seen as normal.

We talk about guys being 'blue-balled' but we have no equivalent for women. The concept of being 'friend-zoned' is seen as something that is routinely done to men, but only happens to very low quality women. Our popular male heroes are men like Kirk or Don Draper who sleep with tons of women and are wanted by more. We view female sexuality as a commodity, something to be consumed. A very close and dear male friend of mine mentioned that he nearly had his 'karate belt' (he'd slept with a red one, a black one, a yellow one).

All of these factors feed into the idea that men, especially when drunk themselves, really can't help themselves. Therefore, if you also got drunk and crawled into bed with him, what did you expect to happen? He's a man. You stay friends with him, but you never get drunk around him, and you certainly never stay the night alone.

Now that I'm older, I recognize the sexism in that view of male sexuality, but I still never allow myself to be in a vulnerable situation with a strange man, or a man who I know well, but sets off my 'spider senses'. Not because I fear all men will rape or sexually assault me, but because I know our culture all too well to expect to receive any sort of justice. I've also encountered way too many men who don't respect boundaries for me to believe that the amount of men who sexually assault and rape is minuscule. The experience of my friends and studies have also shown otherwise.
posted by PrimateFan at 8:01 AM on December 16, 2011


>> But I'm changing my own rules even so, for my own protection, to "Have nothing whatever to do with any
>> American woman, for any reason, in any location where there are fewer than twenty to fifty witnesses."
>
> Cos Russian mail-order brides and Phillipino girls are so much more compliant, and will sit down and
> shut up when their body is used against their will for some guy's sexual gratification, amirite?
>
> Christ on a stick.
> posted by ArkhanJG at 10:10 PM on December 15 [11 favorites +] [!]

I said "American" because I live in the US. I know nothing about the state of sexual politics of any other country and therefore have nothing to say about it. But that forty yard conclusion leap of yours was... ah, I don't think "impressive" is the right word. Call it "memorable."
posted by jfuller at 8:50 AM on December 16, 2011


Here are two examples of what has been called "sexual assault" in this thread. First,

> i refer to many of my experience as sexual assault because there was no sex. there was absolutely
> assault. there was absolutely a crossing of boundaries. in once case i'm nearly positive i was
> drugged. what would you have me call it? i said no, i pushed them off, i asked to go home, i told
> them i wasn't in the mood. they didn't care. they shoved my hand down their pants, they took off
> my shirt, they poured me another drink. they used my body for their own jollies not carrying what
> the person inside of it was feeling or thinking.

Second,

> if you're making out with a woman, and you try to touch her breast, and she pushes your hand away...
> and you put your hand there again...then she's just said no, and you just sexually assaulted her.

Is "sexual assault" really a big enough tent for both of these to fit in comfortably? No, it is not. Calling two situations as different as these by the same name strongly implies that they are of the same seriousness and deserve the same punishment. The strength of that implied equivalence is well understood and is why most state codes carefully name and define four or five different degrees of nonsexual assault, with assault that causes great bodily harm at the top and misdemeanor assault at the bottom.

For those who are unconcerned about throwing all cases of sexual misbehavior short of what Oprah called "rape-rape" in the same category, consider it in combination with ArkhanJG's "Screw the semantics of reasonable doubt", supra -- which no one, not anyone, in the thread has thought worth calling out as the lynch mob thinking that it is.

I conclude from that that no one here, not anyone, has any problem with lynch mob thinking when the subject is the sexual misbehavior of males; and conclude further that the times are right for me and any other sensible male to stay the Hell away from any situation that might by remotest chance become... uh, romantic. (That, BTW, was an observation, not at all a threat, and I feel no need to have anyone agree or care.) I will note, though, that if prudent and well-behaved males like this one leave the pool of availables, the average of the ones left in the pool shifts, however slightly, over toward the rapist end of things. Have a great time at the party.
posted by jfuller at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2011


in both cases, it'd be nearly impossible to prove in a court of law, so i guess legally they are of the same seriousness.

I will note, though, that if prudent and well-behaved males like this one leave the pool of availables, the average of the ones left in the pool shifts, however slightly, over toward the rapist end of things. Have a great time at the party.

and once again it's all our fault. us silly girls should really learn to not be upset by men who abuse because we might hurt the feelings of those nice upstanding men who would never push too far.
posted by nadawi at 11:18 AM on December 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


Is "sexual assault" really a big enough tent for both of these to fit in comfortably? No, it is not.

Not clear on why somebody grabbing your breast when you've told them not to isn't assault, but having a hand stuck down your pants is. Touching somebody in an area you're not allowed to uncover in public because it is deemed too sexually exciting, in an erogenous zone, is clearly sexual. By doing either one, the person is telling you that they can do whatever they want to do to your body in a sexual context no matter what you say. If it were a matter of physical damage or roughness the mere fact that it was down her pants wouldn't say much either.

I mean, I'm sorry there isn't a second-degree assault for touching second base and a first-degree for touching third base or whatever but it isn't really the woman's responsibility to think about exactly how severely the courts would punish the guy who violated her if there were even some way to get him arrested and prove he did it and she didn't secretly want it. For on thing, the woman's assumption in these cases, probably even if she's lying, which is probably not what is happening with the women in this thread, is that there will be no legal consequences for this guy. Fundamentally different worldview. I mean, if you're afraid you're going to think somebody's fake-resisting when they're not or an accidental touch is going to get you put in jail or something, I think you can drop it. If you're afraid they're going to think of you as a criminal when you're not, consider that they have no way of knowing your intentions are good, and they would be considered idiots or sluts by any jury if your next action was in line with what your first one seemed to mean, from their perspective outside of your head.

I feel a little silly arguing about this when your position is "women take sexual touching they explicitly said no to too seriously and that's crazy so I am going to punish them by not letting them date me."
posted by Adventurer at 11:23 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Spaltavian, it's not just feeling blameworthy/shamed, it's also the impotence, before, during, and after. If somebody mugs you and gets caught, they're not going to be able to get out of it by claiming you wanted them to. (Because you're a slut, liar, crazy, etc. And also they were probably less likely to be your friend or your friends' friend or somebody you thiught if dating. But that's another issue.) I really think you might see this differently if all the potential muggers in the world were huge strong football players or something (thst much bigger, that much stronger than you) who comprise 50 percent of the population and are also all hidden in your dating pool. If in school you ever felt vulnerable around bigger kids, imagine that, but all the time.
posted by Adventurer at 11:39 AM on December 16, 2011


And, you know, it's sex. Violent assault is traumatizing, but it doesn't mix you up in the same way. Hitting somebody isn't a universal drive that never goes away, and it isn't a perverse, evil version of something else, let alone something that's generally considered one of the few peak human/interpersonal experiences. Sex is supposed to release oxytocin. Possibly create life. And if someone who is assaulting you violently but not sexually is inside your body, they're probably killing you.

If you go to a bar, you don't have to think, all of these men are looking to hit and take money; are there any here who don't care if it's consensual?
posted by Adventurer at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2011


jfuller - Seriously, dude? You're proposing another mechanism by which women can be saddled with responsibility for it all, because of the threatening manner in which they (supposedly) improperly describe their non-consensual sexual experiences, which consequently increases the chances of running into a rapist instead of a wholesome guy like you?

Honestly, think through the fact that you're fine with mutilation down through misdemeanors (like someone getting shoved in a bar, I guess?) being grouped under "assault" but you want groping after explicitly being told not to, to come under the heading "misbehavior" instead of "sexual assault". If you can't see that what you're proposing would have the effect of explicitly making sexual violence and intimidation less serious than every other kind of assault I think you're being willfully obtuse.

To use the crudest cultural tropes to illustrate this point, imagine that you're in prison and other guys are grabbing your ass after you've indicated you don't want them to. Would that seem like a less serious situation than being shoved?
posted by XMLicious at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


jfuller: “Is ‘sexual assault’ really a big enough tent for both of these to fit in comfortably? No, it is not. Calling two situations as different as these by the same name strongly implies that they are of the same seriousness and deserve the same punishment. The strength of that implied equivalence is well understood and is why most state codes carefully name and define four or five different degrees of nonsexual assault, with assault that causes great bodily harm at the top and misdemeanor assault at the bottom.”

Geez, seriously? Crimes have categories. I don't really care what we call these things. Stealing a jet plane and stealing a candy bar are stealing. They may not have identical punishments, but they have similarities in certain respects. So, first of all, I don't really care if we call these two things "nonconsensual sexual acts" or "sexual assault." They are, without question, nonconsensual and sexual.

Furthermore, if you're afraid of the weight of the term "sexual assault," please be aware of what the words mean when they are used in law. "Assault may sound big, scary, and frightening, but it is a precise term. Under US law generally, "assault" means "to cause someone to fear that they will be harmed." As the wikipedia link states, it does not even necessarily include touching. When you ask or even imply that you don't want to be touched in a certain way, and someone touches you in that way anyway, it is reasonable for you to fear that you may be harmed. That's assault, in the strict legal sense. That's what the word means.

So unless you're going to argue that one or the other of these situations isn't sexual in any way, you really can't argue that they aren't sexual assault. And they are flatly against the law.

“For those who are unconcerned about throwing all cases of sexual misbehavior short of what Oprah called "rape-rape" in the same category, consider it in combination with ArkhanJG's ‘Screw the semantics of reasonable doubt’, supra -- which no one, not anyone, in the thread has thought worth calling out as the lynch mob thinking that it is. I conclude from that that no one here, not anyone, has any problem with lynch mob thinking when the subject is the sexual misbehavior of males; and conclude further that the times are right for me and any other sensible male to stay the Hell away from any situation that might by remotest chance become... uh, romantic. (That, BTW, was an observation, not at all a threat, and I feel no need to have anyone agree or care.) I will note, though, that if prudent and well-behaved males like this one leave the pool of availables, the average of the ones left in the pool shifts, however slightly, over toward the rapist end of things. Have a great time at the party.”

That is an egregiously and stunningly bold misreading of ArkhanJG's comment, which read:

ArkhanJG: “Screw the semantics of reasonable doubt. How about we focus on how to stop men raping women in the first place, and all the little humiliation steps that lead up to it?”

Note that ArkhanJG did not say "the legal system should not be based on reasonable doubt." He said that we should focus on how to stop men raping women in the first place. Are you really suggesting that ArkhanJG is telling us to get pitchforks and torches and head to the homes of people who might rape women in the future? It's a sensible comment about working toward and end to rape culture. I'm not sure how you read it otherwise.
posted by koeselitz at 12:09 PM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


jfuller: “I conclude from that that no one here, not anyone, has any problem with lynch mob thinking when the subject is the sexual misbehavior of males; and conclude further that the times are right for me and any other sensible male to stay the Hell away from any situation that might by remotest chance become... uh, romantic. (That, BTW, was an observation, not at all a threat, and I feel no need to have anyone agree or care.) I will note, though, that if prudent and well-behaved males like this one leave the pool of availables, the average of the ones left in the pool shifts, however slightly, over toward the rapist end of things. Have a great time at the party.”

I wanted to say, jfuller, in the hopes of addressing what I believe is your central concern:

I've seen this before, and I think a lot of us are familiar with it. It's understandable in certain ways that many men find themselves worried that some sort of mob mentality is overtaking the feminist thought about rape, and that the rules will be redefined to hurt innocent men. All I ask is that you notice that this has not happened yet, and is not likely to happen in the future. The number of overturned convictions of rapists has not increased; there is no evidence whatsoever that men are being targeted with false accusations or unfair witch-hunting.

The rules are the same as they've always been. Literally, assault is the crime today that it was a hundred years ago. If someone doesn't want you to touch them, and states or implies as much, it's illegal to touch them or make them fear that you'll touch them. That's really, really simple. Why does that preclude love, sex, or romance?
posted by koeselitz at 12:18 PM on December 16, 2011


I apologize if I mistook your meaning, jfuller. It's just that I'm sort of flabbergasted if you really are this good guy who suddenly thinks he's going to get falsely accused of rape out of the blue and that the "lynch mob mentality" is so severe that it is better for you to never even have a private conversation with a woman for fear of those accusations flying randomly. I honestly have zero understanding of how you could feel that way in this world that I live in, especially given right here in this thread women have described horrible things being done to them which they then did not even tell their friends about or report to the police. It seems to me that we are so far from even parity of treatment of assaults against women, that the fear you have expressed is not comprehensible to me.

If you are seriously a decent guy who just got misled by something he read on the internet, perhaps you might go back and read the whole thread again and think about what kind of world is actually being depicted here and whether, in that world, it is more likely that you will be falsely accused of rape or that yet another women will face being raped completely alone and tell no one about it except strangers on the internet years later?
posted by hydropsyche at 1:20 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


koeselitz, I also like how he skipped reading the first part of the very same comment, where I said

"The thing that makes me angriest though is the 'what about the menz'. It's not as bad as I've seen it before, but it strikes me there's a LOT of arguing about the principles of a criminal case, and that men shouldn't get convicted unfairly. Yes, of course that's true, but frankly it's by far from the most important thing about this type of story."

It just demonstrates that he's already made up his mind, and is happily re-writing any and all comments to fit his pre-existing world view, not least all of the women saying how they didn't go to the police over actual rapes, let alone unwanted boob touching.

jfuller:I conclude from that that no one here, not anyone, has any problem with lynch mob thinking when the subject is the sexual misbehavior of males; and conclude further that the times are right for me and any other sensible male to stay the Hell away from any situation that might by remotest chance become... uh, romantic.

And there you go. "What about the menz?" in a nutshell. As such discussions about rape and sexual assault always devolve to. And then we wonder WHY women don't actually talk about it much in public; because men like this are only concerned about their own feelings, rather than the shocking and massively widespread abuse, fear, and molestation that so many women are widely subjected to by men who look and act like decent guys, right up until they well, don't. Women then should to never talk about it in case we might actually possibly upset some poor man who decides to take his balls home and play with them there, obviously. Because not upsetting the jfuller's of this world is far more important than you know, trying to reduce the rate of sexual assaults and rape by making it clear what is and isn't acceptable behaviour by men, and in fact how common that unacceptable behaviour actually is.

Is "sexual assault" really a big enough tent for both of these to fit in comfortably? No, it is not. Actually, yes it is. To pick a random state (since I'm not actually from the US), Wisconsin:

"Wisconsin criminal statutes 940.225 categorize sexual assaults include four "degrees" of offenses which may occur under a variety of circumstances. The Degrees are based upon the amount of force used by the assailant and the amount of harm done to the victim, rather than on the resistance offered by the victim. First, second and third degree sexual assaults are felonies whereas a fourth degree sexual assault is a misdemeanor.

Sexual Assault is not limited to rape which requires sexual intercourse or penetration but also includes sexual contact. Even consensual sexual contact may result in criminal charges if the victim is a minor. It can also occur between persons of the same sex."

Hey, what do you know? Lawmakers have actually considered that there are different degrees of sexual assault, and that different levels of force, coercion and harm merit different levels of punishment! And judges are involved in the process too, making sure sentences fit the conviction! Good thing jfuller actually read the laws he thinks are so unfair before pontificating about them! Oh, wait...

hydropsyche: It's just that I'm sort of flabbergasted if you really are this good guy who suddenly thinks he's going to get falsely accused of rape out of the blue and that the "lynch mob mentality" is so severe that it is better for you to never even have a private conversation with a woman for fear of those accusations flying randomly.

He's just concern trolling at this point. You know this sort of thing; I will note, though, that if prudent and well-behaved males like this one leave the pool of availables, the average of the ones left in the pool shifts, however slightly, over toward the rapist end of things.

The fact that he's so concerned that repeatedly touching a women's breasts when she says/indicates no is actually sexual assault doesn't strike me as someone who's quite grokked the concept that respecting women, their rights to control their own bodies, and who gets to touch them intimately and when; is what being a minimally decent guy actually is, as opposed to just claiming to be.

Still, maybe he will re-read this thread, and others like it and realise how many vicious, harmful, and brutalizing assaults take place against women every day, and that they're almost entirely committed by what seem to be decent men that the women already know and trust, and then when he wants his jollies, what she wants doesn't matter a plate of beans; that they're built upon a whole host of smaller humiliations of women that we all just accept as normal. How men, as a group, don't respect women's boundaries in all sorts of areas that would be unthinkable if they were inflicted upon men; and that lack of respect is what often leads to - from what appeared to be nice guys - to take what they want when it is refused. And realise that this is the real problem, the one that is so rarely talked about it mixed company.

But I doubt it.

Maybe someone else will though; we did have one notable guy who finally realised what he was doing to women without actually meaning to hurt them; that's just how the 'game' was played. And he was mortified.

If some men won't listen to women when they say that this is wrong, and hurtful, the least we can do is lend our voices alongside them, and point out repeatedly, what they have to endure in shame and silence, things that most men can't even imagine. And then at least try to stop it happening in the first place.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:10 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


"I conclude from that that no one here, not anyone, has any problem with lynch mob thinking when the subject is the sexual misbehavior of males; and conclude further that the times are right for me and any other sensible male to stay the Hell away from any situation that might by remotest chance become... uh, romantic. "

Most women like me have been completely fucked over by shitloads of men who have never been reported or faced any consequences whatsoever for their actions.

If you want it to be legal for men to do whatever they want to women sexually then perhaps the least you could do is acknowledge that women might want to get to say how they actually feel about that.

In fact I that guy who raped me up the ass? We had gotten into an argument a few days before about men exploiting women and he said a lot of the same shit you did.

Oh I wanted to respect his opinion. Poor men. Poor poor men, they just want to feel you and touch you. They just want to be inside you. Think of them?

Trust me. I have spent most of my interactions with men thinking about their feelings. Oh you want me to sleep on the floor because I can't stop crying that I wish you loved me? I'm so sorry, I know its wrong of me to have emotions because I smiled at you and you say that I owe you sex because it would be rude of me to be your friend and make you horny and not let you have sex and clearly you're not looking for love so of course you can't love me, this crying is clearly a wrong on my part. i like the floor anyway.

I can assure you, I haven't made any of the problems you think I have, nor does it appear any of the women in this thread have. Isn't that already what you want?

No one reported anything? Aren't you delighted? Are we not allowed to even have feelings after the fact or is that women behaving badly as well?
posted by xarnop at 8:24 PM on December 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here's my proposal and I thinks it's even more important than mking scarier punishments for rape, or putting the responsability on women to be capable of preventing it:

We do more research on the development of callous cruel behaviors in humans, how that intersects with rearing environments, classroom initiatives to encourage the development of empathy and awareness of others, protocols for identifying and altering the course of callous/cruel/self centric traits in young people and offering activities that give kids more opportunity to expolore thinking about ethics, putting themselves in the shoes of others, having compassion for the well being of others, exercises to better understand commonly marginalised people...

And we stop teaching kids about sex as being "condoms/birth control/abortion... but mostly abstain"... kids going through puberty and hormonal changes (and any kid who needs it) should have safe spaces where they can talk about what their sexuality means to them, how they feel about how they are treated in relationships, what it means to have casual sex and wht feeling they might have as a result of that, and whether it's ok to want a long term relationship and how to negotiate consent when the cultural standard is that men are allowed to verbally pressure and persuade and it's kind of expected they will initiate and continue to initiate and the girl/woman has to figure out what to do with that.

We need to help kids out with figuring this stuff out. Also, we need to understand the brain and prenatal development more, and while the general public can't make that happen, there should be a lot more research coming out about how abnormal brain and genetic conditions are influenced by the prenatal environment and what mommas can do to make sure their system is a swell nurished and emotionally healthy as possible.

When you look at animals, aggressive traits and abnormal behaviors and physiology can be cultivated or reduced by environmental factors including exposures to stressful environments, early maternal seperation, poor nutrition, lack of enriching species approprite environment, etc which can alter the gene functioning--- increse risk of damaging genetic mutations escaping the repair process in the germ line and prenatal environment---

We need to study what biological and environmental factors (including the belief systems of our culture) are cultivate cruel human beings that use each other, don't give a crap about each other, see interactions with other human beings as trivial and inconsequetial, pressume that they only need to look out for themselves and if they hurt others it was that other persons problem for not being tougher or more assertive, pressume that NO ONE OWES ANYONE ANYTHING and that having empathy for others is not a beneficial aspect of daily life....

We are cultivating the attitudes that build up in specific people and give them the idea it's ok to treat other human beings like shit.
posted by xarnop at 6:55 AM on December 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also: In encouraging parents to follow through with healthy parenting, we should have much better supportive family environments for families to identify what their needs are and get support and cultivate healthy behaviors. Parenting is hard, we don't need more initiatives filled with advice(shame/guilt)... we need more initiatives filled with compassionate support and understanding with encouragement to continue growing in health and emotional well being.

Healthy families are the best place to cultivate empathy.
posted by xarnop at 7:04 AM on December 17, 2011


jfuller: the "rape-rape" line was Whoopi Goldberg's, not Oprah's.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 8:53 AM on December 18, 2011


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