This one is ugly. It combines gang rape of a child and a severe case of blaming the victim. Tucked under the fold for those who don’t want to deal with it.
In 2010, an 11-year-old girl was raped by 20 men and boys over the course of four months. Thirteen of the rapists pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. The men were sentenced to 15 years in prison. The boys were sentenced to probation.
The first man to have gone to trial received a sentence of 99 years. The second is now on trial, claiming that the 11-year-old consented and lied about her age. Apparently unimpressed with the laws he is supposed to uphold, particularly those saying a fifth- or sixth-grader can’t legally consent to sex, his lawyer had this to say:
Former Cleveland Police Department Sgt. Chad Langdon, who was the lead investigator on the case, also testified that an 11-year-old – due to her emotional immaturity – legally cannot give consent for a sexual encounter.
Taylor questioned why the underage girl had not been charged with anything for choosing to violate that rule, indicating that she was “the reason” that the encounters happened.
“Like the spider and the fly. Wasn’t she saying, ‘Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?’ ” Taylor asked.
“I wouldn’t call her a spider,” Langdon replied. “I’d say she was just an 11-year-old girl.”
“I hope nothing like this ever happens to your two teenage sons,” Taylor snapped back.
The men, of course, were helpless, as the officer’s sons would naturally be. They couldn’t possibly escape a temptress using all her playground wiles. They couldn’t even, over the course of four months, verify her age. There was simply nothing they could do once they came across that sticky, sticky web.
Why? Well–assuming they’re not making the consent and lying about her age up out of whole cloth–because they didn’t want to.
Here’s the thing about sex. It is not consequence-free. It is not responsibility-free. If you can take the time to have your buddies record you having sex with someone, you can take the time to make sure it’s really sex, not rape. You can take the time to make sure that the person with whom you’re supposed to be sharing a sexual encounter is apparently sane and mentally and chronologically an adult. The world will not end in that time, and if that stops you from having this particular sexual encounter–hey, it turns out that was a good thing.
And yes, that’s the responsibility of every adult involved. It isn’t the responsibility of the child. They’re a child. The younger the child, the more this is true. There is a reason the boys received probation for their plea deals. We judge them to have less responsibility than the adults involved because they have less capacity.
The other reason the adult in a situation like that has a duty to be certain that everything is legal is that there’s a long history of child rapists projecting their desires as their victims’. People who rape very young children describe their victims as seductive too. And much of the time when that happens, we refuse to see it.
Hey, did you know that Lolita was not a seductress? No, really. There are plenty of hints even in Humbert’s narrative to tell you so. Still, that’s somehow how we collectively remember her.
Then there’s this:
When Kate Bush released this song, plenty of people in the press asked her if it was about a pedophile. She said that of course it wasn’t. Instead, it was based on the movie The Innocents, which was, in turn, based on Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw”.
In case you’re not already shaking your head, “The Turn of the Screw” is the novella frequently used to teach high school students about the concept of unreliable narrators. The only person who says they see the ghost is the governess who claims the ghost possessed the boy and kissed her.
The fascinating thing about the video is that, taken out of the context of a movie that claims to be a ghost story, all that footage looks appalling. When these things are put in front of us with the tiniest bit of ambiguity, that is all we focus on, but the reality of the predatory adult doesn’t go away. It’s still there.
We look past it. We just give that much more weight to–I’m not sure actually. It could be that we habitually believe adults over children, because we do. It could be that pesky desire on our parts to continue to believe the world is just. Whatever the case, we dismiss abuse when given the flimsiest excuse for doing so.
And we don’t even have the motivation of that predatory adult. If we find motivation to ignore the predation, how much more likely is that person who wants to believe they’re helpless in the face of the temptations in front of them to do the same, to lie to themselves.
This is why laws like this exist. They’re there to remind adults of their responsibilities and to provide a place where the lies won’t make a difference. Not even if they’re told by a defense attorney.