August 21, 2007
A Tale of Two Fathers
By Randy Paul of Beautiful Horizons
One of whom I have met and admire and one of whom I have lost all respect for. Draw your own conclusions.
December 03, 2005
Don’t Just Blame the Victim; Prosecute Her
A 17-year-old girl went to police at the urging of her friends after she was allegedly gang-raped by three men, including her boyfriend. The men testified that the act was consensual. After reviewing all the information and statements, prosecutors decided they didn’t think they could prove a rape allegation, and so declined to prosecute the case.
Instead, they prosecuted the victim for filing a false police report. Yesterday, she was found guilty.
The victim has never recanted her story. Instead, the decision was based on the judge’s opinion that the three men were more credible, in part because a police detective and the victim’s friends testified she did not “act traumatized” in the days after the incident.
In cases like this, people tend to draw their own conclusions, based on what’s reported, filling in the blanks in a way that satisfies one’s judgment. What are you thinking right now? That maybe it really was a false rape charge? That maybe the victim was just vindictive? That there had to be some reason that the judge found her guilty?
Let me give you some more information—something that is only a possibility because The American Street’s Kevin Hayden has known the victim nearly her whole life. He attended the trial. He noticed that the prosecutor repeatedly referred to the attackers as “boys,” even though they were grown men and the victim was 17. He noticed that the judge acknowledged he had found inconsistencies in all of their stories, but, inexplicably, decided that the same reasonable doubt that kept prosecutors from pursuing charges against the attackers wasn’t enough to keep him from finding the victim guilty.
He also noted what was, and was not, allowed to be introduced as evidence. Allowed: The 17-year-old victim’s sexual history. Not allowed: That one of the victim’s “friends,” her mother, has problems with alcohol and prescription drugs, provided her daughter with the alcohol she’d had that evening (which the mother had stolen from the store at which she cashiers), and was:
…awaiting her boyfriend’s return to her home within two months of the rape. That boyfriend was in prison for molesting his own daughter. That’s hardly a credible witness with any sympathy for victims of sexual assault…
Additionally, the two ‘friends’ were the ones who convinced the 17 year old that she should report it to the police. So if the young woman is guilty [of filing a false rape charge], the instigating accessories to her ‘crime’ are considered credible experts about how a rape victim should act.
Again: The judge decided that the victim was not credible because her friend and her mother said she did not “act traumatized” in the days after the incident. He then filed a charge against the victim which turned the two people he had deemed credible witnesses into criminal conspirators. That seems rather confusing, that two criminal conspirators could also be credible witnesses, and experts on post-rape trauma no less. Although, it is rather convenient for a judge and prosecutors who might want to make a point.
Even though the woman never said she lied or recanted her story, city prosecutors say they took the unusual step of filing charges against her because of the seriousness of her accusations.
Ted Naemura, the assistant city attorney who prosecuted the case, said the woman's false accusations were serious enough to lead to charges. The young men faced prison sentences of at least 7 years and a lifetime labeled as sex offenders. In addition, police spent considerable resources investigating the accusations.
Beaverton has no policy about prosecuting such cases, but reviews each one on its merits, Naemura said. The city prosecuted a similar case a year ago in which a judge ordered the woman to pay $1,100 in restitution for the city's investigation costs, said Officer Paul Wandell, a Beaverton Police Department spokesman.
The bottom line, Naemura said, is that people can't use the criminal justice system to further their own ends.
This case should not deter legitimate victims from reporting crimes, he said.
It shouldn’t, should it? Something tells me it just might, particularly when a judge admits he found inconsistencies in the stories of both the woman and her attackers, but decided nonetheless that the attackers were “legitimate” victims and the woman was not. As it is, only 10% of victims of sex crimes in Oregon file reports with police.
Kevin Neely, spokesman for the Oregon Attorney General's Office, said it was rare for alleged sex crime victims to be charged much less convicted of filing a false police report.
"Our concern is always with the underreporting of sexual assaults," he said, "not with false reporting. It's a safe bet that prosecutions for false reporting are rare."
Just how safe a bet? Heather J. Huhtanen, Sexual Assault Training Institute director for the Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, reports that Portland police have found that 1.6% of sexual assault cases were falsely reported. By way of comparison, 2.6% of auto theft cases were falsely reported.
Here are some things we hear a lot: Vindictive women use rape charges to get back at men. Women’s sexual histories can be informative in a rape case. Women who were “really raped” are easily identified by the way they behave.
None of them are true.
Yes, there are some women (and men) who file false rape charges. They are, however, rare, usually quickly identified as false, and are almost always thrown out long before trial. In truth, many genuine victims of rape never see their cases reach trial due to lack of evidence; a genuine rape victim is exponentially less likely to see her attacker prosecuted than an erroneously charged man is to be prosecuted.
A woman’s sexual history has absolutely no bearing on whether she was raped—including her past sexual history, if any, with her attacker. A rapist doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether he rapes a virgin or a whore, or any of the majority of us who fall somewhere in between, which makes each of us as likely to fall victim to the crime as anyone else.
There is no such thing as a “typical” response to rape. Immediately following a rape, some women go into shock. Some are lucid. Some are angry. Some are ashamed. Some are practical. Some are irrational. Some want to report it. Some don’t. Most have a combination of emotions, but there is no standard response. Responses to rape are as varied as its victims. In the long term, some rape victims act out. Some crawl inside themselves. Some have healthy sex lives. Some never will again.
Now here are some things that are true. Rape is underreported. Reporting a rape is difficult, and can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Quite bluntly, there is very little incentive to report a rape. It’s a terrible experience, and the likelihood of seeing justice served is a long shot. Even if it is, it usually comes at great personal cost, with one’s sexual history put on public display amidst the dismay of reliving the attack—and an extended trial can necessitate living in a state of suspended animation, where moving on from that moment is all but impossible. The only real incentive one has is knowing the sacrifice might prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. Not a small thing, but a big personal investment.
And now, women have one less reason to come forward—the possible horror of watching their attackers go free while they are found guilty.
(Many thanks to Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest for giving me the heads-up on this story.)
September 27, 2005
Over at Feministe, they're compiling the worst pickup lines they've ever heard. I remember, back in the day, a book listing bad ones, of which my favorite was:
"Hey baby, I have cable."
I guess now it'd be "wireless". In any case -- I find this whole conversation fairly bizarre. Does anyone actually use pickup lines? I don't. None of my friends do. And while that means my sample size is approximately wildly unrepresentative, I'm still having trouble with the concept. When folks go up to start conversations they don't just, you know, say something? About the game, about the place, about the day, about the event? Because to me, pickup lines are fundamentally flawed, they don't offer a next step. You're just damning yourself to the ninth circle of awkward conversation hell if your first sentence is a dead end and your second needs to reopen a closed discussion.
But hey, I'm young, I might be missing something. Anyone use pickup lines in a non-ironic way and see some beauty in them that I don't?
September 26, 2005
Low Culture's parody of the insufferably pedantic, unbearably long-winded, and awkwardly erudite interview with Ben Kunkel on Why Modern Males Suffer From Torpor And Flaccid Personalities is pitch-perfect. The article, meant to be a Q&A with profound self-help implications, is so strangely bad as to be most interesting as a fugitive from good editorial judgment. The interviewer, Rebecca Traister, is single, dissatisfied, and totally bewildered by the lack of literary-caliber lovers populating her nightlife. So she looks up a Hot Young Novelist who just published a book about a directionless dude to provide her with answers. Kunkel, the writer in question, takes the opportunity to sound like an academic journal trying, and failing, to publish an article that'd work for popular consumption. So we get "ennui", expenditures of "libidinal energy", and references to Hannah Arendt's theory of bureaucratization.
Meanwhile, back on some planet that makes sense to me, rehashing old concerns about Generation Slacker hardly merits an article, I've never noticed a giant imbalance in the number of apathy-afflicted men and women (and while some have, I'd suggest that may be because it's harder, as we get older, to really know members of the opposite sex, as attraction often intercepts friendship and we erect more barriers more quickly. I seem to have more dynamic male friends than female ones, but I think that's sample error rather than demographic reality), and this idea that men are now kept from being Great Men by the grinding down of society and loss of the frontier (which Kunkel didn't mention but probably should've) is quasi-nuts.
We've been hearing this for decades now -- if American males were really listing about, wishing they could go off and fight some wars, they'd be going off and fighting the current war. These arguments have been floating around forever and the answer, so far as I can tell, is that characters in books and movies and television shows are simply quite a bit sweeter than the non-scripted, non-imagined (unless you're a sophist) actors populating reality. I know lots of folks in politics -- none of them are as bright, brilliant, and quick as the operatives populating Jeb Bartlett's White House. And trying to explain that away only distracts from the very real work of adapting to it.
My Day in DC
Sorry I've been so out of touch this afternoon, was at a Heritage event on The Lessons of the Roman Empire for America Today. Fairly banal stuff, save for a puzzling assertion that the ancient Romans only worked two days a year to pay taxes (ever heard of tribute?) and a peculiar, though I guess standard for Heritage, insistence that Rome possessed a remarkably lean and efficient civil bureaucracy that only began bloating as their empire crumbled. So there ya go -- bloated, inefficient bureaucracies are the harbingers of doom, which makes Bush, Rumsfeld, Chertoff and Brown the four horsemen of America's apocalypse. Best question of the day, "Why did the West create such a brilliant Empire as Rome while all the East could furnish was Genghis Khan?"
The speaker's answer, for those interested, is that the West learned from Greece and Khan didn't. Praise Jupiter! Once the bizarro history lesson wrapped up, I went out to the lobby, got a bunch of folks mad at me for being an anti-torture, pro-universal health care hippy, gorged at Heritage's fine buffet, and left. Normal posting resumes now.
I am directionally-challenged. It's always been so. When driving new places, I spend a lot of time rolling down the window and begging strangers for help (I'm not one of those guys afraid to plead, if anything, I'm too eager, liable to bug pedestrians for confirmation long before I'm lost), which is fine. But since I moved to DC, challenged has transformed into incapable. We're no longer talking directions, we're talking ways, as in I'm constantly walking/metroing/heading the wrong way. Whatever I think is up is down, whichever side I judge west invariably turns out to be east, when I start strolling home I'm always aimed at the next town. You'd expect me to get this right about half the time, but I don't. I almost never get it right. It's bizarre.
August 23, 2005
The Times Tells All
As for all this talk over guys getting freaked out by the delivery room view of their partner's suddenly giant, bloody vagina, I don't quite see the problem. If you're the sort of guy who thinks this'll haunt you forevermore, either stick near your wife's head so you can be with her without peering up her or stay out of the delivery room. I have to imagine that guys basically know where they'll fall on this question. Sure, some may make the wrong choice, but a bit of forethought should keep post-delivery sexual traumas from being so endemic they demand coverage in The New York Times. Or maybe we're not having a rash of shellshocked hubbies and the article is a bullshit human interest story exploiting the fears of both sexes to fill a few column inches.
August 04, 2005
Hot or Not?
Although looks in mating still matter much more to men than to women, the importance of appearance appears to be rising on both sides of the gender divide. In a fascinating cross-generational study of mating preferences, every 10 years different groups of men and women were asked to rank 18 characteristics they might want enhanced in a mate. The importance of good looks rose “dramatically” for both men and women from 1939 to 1989, the period of the study, according to David M. Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas. On a scale of 1 to 3, the importance men gave to good looks rose from 1.50 to 2.11. But for women, the importance of good looks in men rose from 0.94 to 1.67. In other words, women in 1989 considered a man’s looks even more important than men considered women’s looks 50 years earlier. Since the 1930s, Buss writes, “physical appearance has gone up in importance for men and women about equally, corresponding with the rise in television, fashion magazines, advertising, and other media depictions of attractive models.”
It'd be a fascinating sociological project to gether thousands of old wedding pictures and go through them to see if couples have become more or less matched in attractiveness levels as time's gone on and the social emphasis on attractiveness has increased. Did folks in the 40's naturally sort by beauty despite not believing it was something they cared much about, or did the attractiveness correlation between partners lessen in times when other attributes were considered more important? My question, I guess, is are we seeing a society freer to articulate what's really important, shallow as it may be, or have we really undergone a shift in the last 70 years?
August 01, 2005
Check Those Goalposts!
Am I the only one unimpressed by the Dove ads? I mean, I'm all for curvy women getting their media due, but this doesn't quite seem the vehicle. Dove is not saying Big is Beautfiul, Real is Beautiful, or anything similar. They're not putting everyday bodies on billboards for their soap or commercials for their lotion. These are husky girls on billboards promoting a product for husky girls.
It's firming cream, the sort of thing most thin people don't need. What's fascinating is that Dove's got all this good press for doing the only thing, in a rational world, that makes sense: putting heavy people on ad for a product aimed at heavy people. That's not to say we have a rational advertising industry or that there's no imaginable world in which Kate Moss would be posing in front on this product she'd never need, but it's fairly pathetic that they get all this good press for something so small. More to the point, Dove is doing exactly what's always done: creating an impossible standard. The women in this ad are impossibly smooth and unnaturally firm. It's lighting and so forth that does it, not the cream, and it's as unattainable as any waist size.
Regulating the Regulator's Regulating
From an article on Barry Goldwater's nephew's gubernatorial campaign:
"Goldwater, the recently retired director of special events at the state Department of Administration, has never before held elective office and has been (to put it charitably) a low-profile presence on the political stage."
How excellent is that? Department of Administration. It's like bureaucracy squared! And a relative of Barry Goldwater worked at it! It gives me chills. Brings me back, too. UC Santa Cruz's student government had an arm called the Student Committee on Committees. What all that time spent discussing themselves amounted to, I don't know, but the idea of it certainly amused me.