“Next Time” Already Happened
If you read this blog, it’s likely you already picked up on the Torrington, CT story. There’s a longer treatment here. There are similarities — football players, rape and online bullying of the victim(s). But there are critical differences. First, both of the girls here are just 13 years of age; and second, this is coming out after the Steubenville trial and national conversation.
Some things will be different. I think it is less likely that the defense will try to drag the victims through the mud. Mostly, as a legal matter it won’t do them much good. In Connecticut, it’s a Class B felony for a person more than three years older to have intercourse with a person between thirteen and sixteen; the story says the players were 18 and 17; the 18 year olds I would think will be charged as adults, and the 17 year olds may (I don’t know Connecticut juvenile procedure well enough to discuss the possibilities intelligently). But the ages alone make out Class B felonies; to not go to prison, they’ll need to raise a reasonable doubt as to the fact of intercourse, which is a lot tougher than raising a reasonable doubt as to consent.
In terms of basic moral expectations, too, one would think this case presents an extremely low bar. Don’t have sex with a thirteen year old. Even if she jumps up and down and says she wants to. Because she’s thirteen. We have statutory rape laws for a reason, and while maturity varies, there is no viable alternative to having a numerical limit, so that’s what we have. There’s number, when in doubt, it’s on the older person to verify, with absolutely no tolerance for error, and so it should be.
I say this presents a low bar, and there’s nothing to talk about, but then people make excuses for Roman Polanski. Samantha Geimer was 13 also. And she didn’t jump up and down and say she wanted it; even though he got her alone at Jack Nicholson’s house and plied her with booze and a quaalude, she still said no. And he forced her. And even after all that, people who appear otherwise sensible say utterly ridiculous things in his defense. So there’s no depth of victim blaming some people won’t stoop to, if the rapist is important enough to them.
Still, I confess, I am a grim and qualified optimist, and I believe what Dr. King said, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The next time always happens; until it doesn’t, and maybe the way this one is handled will be just a little less sickening to watch than the last.