A US judge has been criticised by an appeals court in the country for refusing to try a 16-year-old boy accused of rape in an adult court, because he was from a “good family” and attended an excellent school, reports BBC. The accused had circulated a video amongst his friends in which he could allegedly be seen penetrating a sixteen-year-old girl, “visibly intoxicated, physically helpless and unable to provide consent.” However Judge James Troiano of Superior Court somehow didn’t see this as a “traditional case of rape” (we’ll get to this bit later) further insisting that the accused was “clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college.” He also said that prosecutors should have made it clear to the girl that pressing charges against the boy would destroy his life. This isn’t the first time an accused has found protection from consequences due to his grades or status.
- A US judge is facing repercussions for saying that a rape accused deserves leniency as comes from a good family.
- He also went on to say that the girl accusing him should know that these charges could destroy his life.
- Do we carry stereotypical images of sexual predators in our minds?
- Why is it so hard for us to believe that men from good families and intelligent boys can also be predators?
The accused had circulated a video amongst his friends in which he could allegedly be seen penetrating a sixteen-year-old girl, “visibly intoxicated, physically helpless and unable to provide consent.”
Call it elitism or stereotyping but a lot of people still carry with them an image of a rapist in their head. For a lot of people young boys with good grades and men from good families can’t be rapists. Isn’t it all in the upbringing? Doesn’t education and privilege make us good human beings? This is a lie we all want to believe so badly, we often end up ignoring sexual crimes committed by the well-cultured, well-educated lot. “But he is a bright kid” or “but he is from a good family” or “highly educated” or “cultured” is a defense we have heard too many times, especially last year, when the #MeToo movement unmasked a lot of liberal, elite, educated and intelligent men in our society. The initial reaction wasn’t of outrage, it was of disbelief. And that is enough to prove how we assume certain things about sexual crimes. The cost of these assumptions is naturally borne by women, who are accused of spoiling a promising future, depriving the world of important voices, rational thinking and creative breakthroughs, all in the quest of justice.
Do we realise, how the cover of belonging to good families or having a promising future acts as an enabler to many perpetrators? How we may be putting numerous women into harm’s way by telling young men and boys that they can get away with something as heinous as rape, as long as they fit into a certain image? Spin this assumption on its head and you’ll see how this stereotyping of a sexual predator often makes us see innocent well-meaning men as a potential threat because they belong to a certain background or have a certain image.
This is a lie we all want to believe so badly, we often end up ignoring sexual crimes committed by the well-cultured, well-educated lot.
But this wasn’t the only problematic thing the Superior Court judge said. According to him, this wasn’t a traditional case of rape, which was “generally two or more males involved, either at gunpoint or [with a] weapon, clearly manhandling a person into … an area where … there was nobody around, sometimes in an abandoned house, sometimes in an abandoned shed, shack, and just simply taking advantage of the person as well as beating the person, threatening the person.”
While it seems that Judge Troiano has been watching too many films, we do need to question our understanding of rape as a crime and how it is correlated to the act of consent. Rape shouldn’t have to be a forceful violent crime, for us to take it seriously. It shouldn’t come with a lengthy clause of ifs and buts, which takes away a survivor’s agency and right to justice. It doesn’t matter how or where the crime was committed. It shouldn’t matter who committed it and what are their credentials. Whether they have a promising future, are good at academics or belong to a good family. All that matters is that a consent was violated and those who are accountable for it, must face judicial consequences.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.