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Nov 29 2012

So Many Helpless Men

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.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Some days it is a good thing that I don’t have a great big “End World” button on my desk, as right now I think I’d be doing it a favor.

  2. 2
    Nathaniel Frein

    Y’know, kids learn by imitating. They see adults do things and they imitate it. That’s how they start to learn what being an adult means.

    This means that, yes, children try to imitate the adult fashions they see on TV. So a child dressing “sexy” isn’t trying to be provocative. She’s trying to dress like an adult.

    We have to stop fucking blaming kids for shit like this.

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I suppose if you can suspend your disbelief about ghosts or spirit possession…

    I’ve been a bit disturbed by SF stories that include elements of sexuality involving apparent children. I cannot recall the title, but there was one where the “child” was actually immortal and upwards of 3000 years old, and the only mention of sex was her own somewhat clinical statement that one did not have to be of biological sexual maturity to have or enjoy sex. (This was when she was leaving yet another adoptive family who realized she was not normal and did not age.)

    I still found it disturbing because such conditions do not exist in the real world. Such is the level of my avoidance of this sort of thinking.

    Although it is true that there are rare conditions which cause some people to appear much younger than they are, or sexually immature, which must be rough on them sometimes.

  4. 4
    smrnda

    I can’t stand the way people try to pass the blame off onto the child. You’re the adult. The adult is supposed to be responsible. If you can’t handle that, you’re not an adult and then you should get locked up for refusing to take responsibility for your actions.

    I’m guessing, given the large number of males involved, that this was a bunch of *good sport* they were all sharing and laughing it up over, and with all those functioning brains none of them bothered to verify age or consent. I mean, if you can’t bother to figure out the age, even approximately of the person you’ve been having sex with, you’re clearly probably just using them for sex with no other thought for their humanity.

  5. 5
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I understand that a lawyer has to do the best for their clients, but that’s just the vilest scum on earth. And worst thing is that it works.
    If somebody murdered granny over her savings account I doubt that the lawyer would bring up that she was a miserly greedy old biddy in court and I doubt that any jury would buy it.
    Yet with rape it works. Fortunately this time it didn’t, the asshole was found guilty.

    +++

    This means that, yes, children try to imitate the adult fashions they see on TV. So a child dressing “sexy” isn’t trying to be provocative. She’s trying to dress like an adult.

    And we live in an oversexed world. My daughter draws all her female figures with what she calls “click-clack shoes” (high heels) and lipstick

  6. 6
    NitricAcid

    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.

    So, Langdon tells Taylor that an 11-year-old cannot legally give consent. And Taylor thinks this means that the girl was illegally giving her consent, and should therefore be punished?

    And this idiot is a lawyer?

  7. 7
    Stephanie Zvan

    This idiot is almost certainly a court-appointed public defender grasping at straws after not having any time to prepare a defense. We’re likely seeing him at his worst. That said, it’s a sucktastic straw.

  8. 8
    DaveL

    @6

    You beat me to it. Yes, apparently when Mr. Taylor hears that an 11 year-old cannot consent to sexual activity, he thinks it means that they are capable of giving consent, but that such consent constitutes a criminal act. That’s so messed up I don’t even know where to start with it.

  9. 9
    kagekiri

    More from the article:

    “I hope nothing like this ever happens to your two teenage sons,” Taylor snapped back.

    Prosecutor Joe Warren asked Langdon what he would do if his own sons had been involved in such a case.

    “I would not whitewash it or sweep it under the rug,” the detective said.

    I was bewildered at that ridiculous “it could happen to you!” crap the defense attorney threw in there; I’m glad the prosecutor gave the detective a chance for a comeback.

    I mean, seriously? That’s what the defense lawyer snaps back?

    “What if YOUR sons were found gang raping an elementary school student? If you were going through SUCH a horrible situation, THEN you wouldn’t be defending the evil minor multiple rape victim, you hypocrite!” is basically how I interpret it.

    This guy is utter scum, even if it’s his job.

  10. 10
    doubtthat

    “If somebody murdered granny over her savings account I doubt that the lawyer would bring up that she was a miserly greedy old biddy in court…”

    If her miserly ways made it possible (not even likely, or barely reasonable) that someone other than the defendant had a motive, I would bet you’re wrong.

    I’ve been in that lawyer’s position before: an obviously guilty client that won’t accept a plea deal, and no minimally reasonable argument. I still have to do my best, but I’m bound by the law. As others have pointed out, the stupidity of the question is based on the fact that even if the astonishingly vulgar and insulting implication were true–this young girl was a “spider”–it wouldn’t matter.

    The only way the lawyer was going to win the case is if he could prove that his client didn’t actually participate in the rape.

    Now, in his defense–a very meager defense, I don’t really think there’s an excuse–public defenders are constantly assaulted by losing clients with reports to the board of ethics for failing to do their job correctly. Even when it’s damn obvious that your client is guilty, and even when there is no minimally cogent argument, you still have to burn calories and make sure the proper issues are recorded for appeal…etc.

  11. 11
    Pierce R. Butler

    F [disappearing] @ # 3: I cannot recall the title, but there was one where the “child” was actually immortal and upwards of 3000 years old, and the only mention of sex was her own somewhat clinical statement that one did not have to be of biological sexual maturity to have or enjoy sex.

    I suspect you’re talking about “Child of All Ages” by P.J. Plauger. I don’t have a copy to hand, but my recollection is that she brags in passing of having had numerous lovers across the centuries. A disturbing story, which was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

  12. 12
    elpayaso

    This idiot is almost certainly a court-appointed public defender grasping at straws after not having any time to prepare a defense.

    stereotype much, Stephanie? if you’d check the State Bar of TX web site, you’d learn that he actually lists his major area of practice as real estate. what a surprise that he was doing the lawyer equivalent of a nonswimmer flailing about in deep water.

    i’ve been a PD for almost 30 years now and the folks i’ve worked with in two different offices (and met in a lot more) are the sharpest, most committed lawyers i’ve ever met. we regularly answer panicked Qs from folks like Mr Taylor, who are GPs who find themselves floundering in a very specialized area. would you be surprised that a GP did worse brain surgery than a neurosurgeon? while chutzpah is often a virtue for a criminal defense lawyer, any career defense lawyer knows there are areas that will blow up in your face if you go there, like claiming consent or even apparent consent in most any underage-sex case. and contrary to your claim about court appointed lawyers, the most outrageous and specious arguments usually come from RETAINED at great cost lawyers, who have to give the client and family a dog and pony show to show how hard they worked and to back up their sales pitch, without regard to whether it might actually do the client any good. you should see the number of Qs we answer from people who have just been over at the jail prospecting for business by telling the cleints how much better a deal the client will get with them as the lawyer…..

  13. 13
    Pteryxx

    more coverage here:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/11/29/an_11_year_old_rape_victim_is_not_a_temptress/

    In his closing remarks, Taylor capped off his truly spectacular assault on both logic and humanity by saying, “People don’t come with signs telling their age. How does a young man know? You can’t cut off their legs and count the rings like a tree.”

  14. 14
    Stephanie Zvan

    Not stereotyping, elpayaso, but making a deduction from the information I had and trying to be as generous as possible. People tend to resort to biased behavior when they’re most under stress, and few professional people are treated as poorly or given as few resources as public defenders. Thanks for the rest of the information.

  15. 15
    NitricAcid

    “How do you tell is a person is eleven or seventeen? You can’t count their rings!”
    I think he’s trying to make the case that his client is too stupid to have been able to give legal consent…

  16. 16
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Pierce! Yes!

    That is exactly the story. I have a copy of Nebula Awards 11. Bingo. Reach into the box of internets and take a fist full.

  17. 17
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    “People don’t come with signs telling their age. How does a young man know? You can’t cut off their legs and count the rings like a tree.”

    I don’t know, asking might be an idea…
    Apart from that, while it’s totally possible to mistake a 16 yo for 18 (still, that’s why you ask!), there’s no way you can mistake an 11 yo. Unless you have never ever seen an actual 18 yo, which I doubt.

    And really, going after the family of the detective?

    doubtthat
    Sure you’d bring it up if it meant there was more than one suspect, but you wouldn’t argue that she was somehow responsible for the slit throat herself.
    Hopefully….

  18. 18
    Argle Bargle

    Giliell #17

    Apart from that, while it’s totally possible to mistake a 16 yo for 18 (still, that’s why you ask!), there’s no way you can mistake an 11 yo.

    This is my thought as well. Most people can tell at a glance whether a child is 11 or 16 or 18. It isn’t that the rapist didn’t know, it’s that he didn’t care.

  19. 19
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I understand that a lawyer has to do the best for their clients, but that’s just the vilest scum on earth. And worst thing is that it works.

    It does work, but can also work against his own client. I’ve seen it happen – a defense attorney attacks a sympathetic platiniff and the jury comes down HARD on that defendant in sentencing.

    This guy could very well have made the jury hate his client, just by being a spectacularly inhuman misogynistic rape-cheerleader.

  20. 20
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Illuminata
    Sure, but it seems like in most rape-cases this works. The asshole probably made the mistake by thinking it would work, too, when the victim is 11yo.
    But I guess that even most fucking rape-apologists who’s have left him off the hook if she’d been an adult can see that there’s something wrong when this argument gets used about an 11 yo.
    OTOH this took place in a country where children are regularly sentenced as adults, so…

    Anyway, this story shows again that the only consistency in misogynist images of women is that we’re bad.
    We don’t need sex as much as men, therefore we don’t understand that men have urges or use them to our advantage or we’re insatisfiable Jezebels who really can’t get enough (and therefore need to be controlled by rational men).
    We’re irrational flimsy creatures who can’t make rational decision (and therefore need to be controlled) and we’re cold calculating devils who lure poor innocent men who just can’t help themselves into trouble (and therefore have to be controlled).
    And then they point to their own contradicting misogynist stories and claim that they’re totes not misgynists because they disagree with the other position.

  21. 21
    doubtthat

    @Giliell, Approved Straight Chorus

    Even if there were no other suspects, the victim’s behavior will always be relevant. Did her miserly ways and cruel monetary manipulation of the defendant eventually drive them to lash out in an irrational rage thereby lowering the degree of the offense? Establishing that point could be a difference of 20 years in the pokey.

    Of course, in a sex crime involving a minor, the mental state of the perpetrator is completely irrelevant, unless there’s a claim of insanity or incompetence involved.

  22. 22
    Martha

    This story is so awful that one’s natural response is the numbness of shock.

    This guy could very well have made the jury hate his client, just by being a spectacularly inhuman misogynistic rape-cheerleader.

    Oh, I do hope so. I wish it were also the case that the lawyer’s behavior affected his own life in a negative way, professionally or personally, but I won’t hold my breath on that one.

    And then they point to their own contradicting misogynist stories and claim that they’re totes not misgynists because they disagree with the other position.

    Such a perfect description of the “I’m not a misogynist!” misogynist mindset.

  23. 23
    Thorne

    I wish it were also the case that the lawyer’s behavior affected his own life in a negative way, professionally or personally

    You know, it’s just possible that the lawyer deliberately went over the top to alienate the jury, thus guaranteeing a harsh penalty for a client he’d rather not be defending. Not saying it’s so, but under the circumstances, if I could get away with it that’s what I’d try to do.

  24. 24
    elpayaso

    Thorne–
    in that situation, a lawyer should withdraw. it’s unethical to even pull punches on a client’s behalf due to your own feelings/experiences, and actively torpedoing the client would be far worse. honestly, with facts like these, you wouldn’t need to do anything to make the jury hate your client.

    Martha–
    <>
    regrettably, it tends to be quite the opposite. lawyers who take stupid positions like this may look like idjits and assholes to the rest of us, but are seen as “que chingon” by the jailhouse population….”he wasn’t afraid to……” So often stuff like this tends to be free advertising, rather like the xtians gave Life of Brian

    Giliell–i don;t know where you practice but here in west TX, that sort of argument does NOt work, it just infuriates jurors. the only case i’ve ever seen where the guy walked due to a consent argument (remember, it’s a criminal offense so the govt must NEGATE consent beyond a reasonable doubt) involved facts that even you might have had pause convicting on.

  25. 25
    callistacat

    “Even if there were no other suspects, the victim’s behavior will always be relevant. Did her miserly ways and cruel monetary manipulation of the defendant eventually drive them to lash out in an irrational rage thereby lowering the degree of the offense?”
    Gross. My brother wanted to borrow $1,200 from me once and when I said no, a friend accused me of using my money as some sort of power trip over him. Why on earth should I be obliged to give money to someone just because they asked and I have it? Would that make me “miserly” and my poor sibling not responsible if he lashed out at me? What the fuck is wrong with you? It always seems it’s a female who is the one responsible for provoking this irrational rage from poor helpless men.

    I remember the book Lolita was once called a great love story on the book jacket. The movie made out of it was catagorized as a comedy.

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