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Dear Ann Arbor Police, Sgt. Richard Kinsey, University of Michigan and Yaron Eliav:

December 12, 2008

Are you kidding me?

The story goes like this: A University of Michigan Law School student went to police after being assaulted by Michigan Near Eastern Studies associate professor Yaron Eliav. The student had been advertising sexual services on Craig’s List in order to pay her tuition (which at Michigan is more than $40,000 a year). According to the article, she “reluctantly” consented to allowing him to spank her with a belt, but then he decided to slap her across the face twice, causing her temporary vision problems. So she went to the police to report the assault. You can guess how sympathetic they were:

The rarity of how the case began – with a law student showing up at the police department’s front desk to report she was assaulted while committing a crime herself – was not lost on investigators.

“Perhaps she should have cracked a legal textbook before coming in to the police station to talk about this,” Ann Arbor Detective Sgt. Richard Kinsey said.

The police charged both the student and Eliav with the misdemeanor charge of using a computer to commit a crime. Both have pled no contest. Eliav was not charged with assault, and retains his position at the university.


Cross-posted at Feministe.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2008 6:14 pm

    I’ll crosspost my comment from the Feministe thread:

    This is an outrage. I am outraged.

    This woman has the right to have her boundaries respected; the ones she negotiates. Physical violation of her boundaries is a more serious offense than how she makes her money. It’s like police mocking an underaged drinker because he got robbed and beaten at gunpoint while trying to get a strawbuyer. But they wouldn’t do that. They’d try to find the assailant. Because we as a society understand that some kids will drink underage, but we continue to refuse the most basic empathy to sex workers.

    I don’t think she’s stupid. I think she’s brave, for standing up for her rights. It’s not even entirely clear from the ATL story that she agreed to do anything illegal with this guy. Is agreeing to be spanked for money a crime in Michigan? States vary widely. Did she have intercourse with him for money? Or do anything sexual that it’s illegal to trade in Michigan for money? Not at all clear.

    And even if she did, these cops are just telling sex workers that there’s no law to protect them. If a trick beats them, tough shit, say the cops. Come to us, you’ll get charged.

    That’s as close as I can get to coherence. What the police did to this woman is a violation of the basic concept of “protect and serve;” an affront to any concept of functioning public policy. These are obviously the kind of police that think their job is to keep people in their designated place.

  2. December 14, 2008 5:14 pm

    I agree with you, Thomas. I really don’t know what else to say about this except that it is disheartening to see how unfairly the law student was treated. Whether or not the law student committed a crime, she was assaulted and deserves protection by the police.

  3. lee permalink
    December 14, 2008 5:15 pm

    it is, in fact, the police’s job to keep people in their designated place. while each individual police officer comes to this position with different intentions, some more honorable than others, the police are agents of social control and maintain inequality. though i have certainly never criticized any survivor for reporting the violence against them to the police, it is no surprise that they refuse to “protect and serve” sex workers, just as they refuse to protect and serve immigrants, people of color, and poor people, and activists. i would urge folks to take their outrage to build mechanisms for addressing violence that don’t rely on state sponsored institutions to achieve justice. that, in my opinion, will always be a dead end street.

  4. Georgiana permalink
    December 14, 2008 7:42 pm

    I can’t believe this! Eliav was my professor for Rabbinic Judaism at Michigan a couple years back and I always knew he was sexist. I am not jewish, but I did very well in the class, including the tests (all As) and the last presentation and I eneded up with a C plus?! The last presentation, I got a B- and my partner, who is male, got an A. And I was a much better speaker! Actually I am not surprised that a man who spoke so highly about jewish morality doesn’t practice it himself.

  5. Max permalink
    December 14, 2008 9:08 pm

    Prostitution is illegal in Michigan and they both should have been charged with a crime.

  6. Gaia sighs... permalink
    December 15, 2008 2:04 am

    Irrespective of her personal boundaries, this woman was entitled to all the rights of a person “in her place” — that is to say, all the rights of a citizen. It is not law enforcement’s prerogative to interpret the law and possibly deny justice. The woman should have been allowed to press charges. Let the courts sort the matter out.

  7. December 15, 2008 7:31 am

    Max, from a public policy standpoint, how do you prosecute violence against sex workers if you arrest the sex workers as soon as they come forward?

  8. December 15, 2008 8:21 am

    “These are obviously the kind of police that think their job is to keep people in their designated place.”

    Doesn’t that describe ALL police in America – and indeed in every capitalist society on the planet – keep the poor and disenfranchised down, on behalf of the rich and the powerful?

    Apparently, the Ann Arbor Police Department very much KNOW that their job is to defend those with power from those without – in this case, protecting a male tenured professor from the young undergrad sex worker he abused.

  9. December 15, 2008 8:58 am

    I’ve never totally understood why prostitution is even illegal. To protect poor women from…themselves? By putting them in prison? Our judicial system needs a complete overhaul.

  10. December 15, 2008 9:56 am

    Gangbox and lee, obviously police have always functioned for some of the people, and against others. Whether one thinks it is more workable to reform or to rip it up and start again is … a very broad discussion, particularly in terms of time scale. Where we’ll be in twenty years, or after the revolution, is a big question. I’m thinking in a much shorter term.

    One bigger policy lesson from this, I think, is that the current model where sex workers can be prosecuted for how they make their living is a total failure except at marginalizing sex workers. Probably every feminist I know subscribes to either decriminalization, sell-side decriminalization (Swedish Model and its relatives), or legalization. I can’t think of a feminist who thinks what sex workers do ought to subject them to criminal penalties; and this is one very good reason why.

  11. Rhea permalink
    December 15, 2008 6:52 pm

    Just came across this. What a hoot! This ranks alongside other great ideas such as Boy George calling in the New York Police Dept because he thought someone had stolen his stash (of illegal drugs). At least he had the excuse that he was off his face at the time.

    (A feminist who hasn’t lost her sense of humour).

  12. December 16, 2008 3:11 pm

    Wow. I completely disagree with them charging her with a crime at all, but I can’t even begin to comprehend how they justify to themselves not charging him with assault? Please keep us posted on this if anything new develops, hopefully the University will bend to pressure and take some action.

  13. will permalink
    December 16, 2008 5:36 pm

    I agree and appreciate the outrage y’all have towards the legal systems stance on this case. However, I would focus not on the reasons why this woman shouldn’t be charged. In an ideal world, in an equal world, she would not be at fault here.

    My focus would be on the violent actions taken by a man in power. A man who works (in theory) to educate future minds, young and old. A man who choose to abuse, and misuse his power; and was rewarded by society, to reinforce that his act was “right”, and that hers was “wrong”. By Sgt. Kinsey stating that this woman should have “cracked a legal textbook before coming in to the police station”, implies her actions as unjustifiable. Yet, for Eliav to still be teaching at the school, is saying (not only to him, but to society as a whole) that his was. This is not right. As a man, I do not agree with this.


  1. Sex Worker Reporting Sexual Assault by University of Michigan Professor Is Charged With Misdemeanor | Change Happens: the SAFER blog

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