Gang rape means that the victim’s suffering is multiplied during the rape, but also in the months and years that follow, as each individual rapist is another man to testify against and another man whose defense attorney will be portraying you as a slut who asked for it to the jury. Sadly, this is what a teenage girl who suffered repeated gang rapes in Cleveland, TX is up against. The victim has now endured two trials, with six more accused rapists still on deck, and the main strategy for the defense is to work the misogynist myth of the woman who has sex and “cries rape,” presumably because destroying men for no reason is fun. During the most recent trial for Jared Len Cruse, defense attorney Steve Taylor accused the victim, 11 years old at the time of the rapes, of being a seductress who lures men to their doom as he questioned the detective on the case.
There are few things I detest more than the twisting of common human decency into something that can be used to destroy a person- in this case, an innocent 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped in Cleveland, TX.
At its most basic, an attorney’s job is do everything (morally and legally) within their power and ability to protect and defend their client. It’s difficult to make the case that an 11-year-old rape victim was playing the role of seductress intent on seducing vulnerable young men and luring them to their doom. That this line of argument is absurd on its face is almost beside the point. It pales in comparison to the craven immorality of blaming an 11-year-old girl for bearing the ultimate responsible for being gang-raped. As if dealing with the trauma of the rape itself wasn’t difficult enough, the child also has to sit through being accused of “asking for it.” If that doesn’t offend you to your core, I’d submit that you have no moral center.
I get that Taylor was trying to defend his client…by accusing an 11-year-old girl of being a seductress who led her attackers to believe that she wanted to have sex with all of them. Unfortunately, Taylor’s argument echoed what many in Cleveland felt had occurred, an attitude uncritically passed along by the New York Times . Sure, the Times apologized later, but that’s a bell you simply can’t unring.
Attorneys defending accused rapists employ the “blame the victim” strategy for a very simple reason- it works. Reprehensible as it may be, it works because jurists are comprised of human beings who in many cases either already believe (or can be led there) that female sexuality is a dangerous commodity. The belief that women possess the ability to use their sexuality to render men defenseless and unable to resist their feminine wiles is a Puritan old wives tale that’s survived to the present day. This belief holds that women are dangerously sexual, able to manipulate men to do things that run counter to their sense of decency and morality. Once a man is sufficiently aroused, his desire must be satisfied; therefore, he cannot be held accountable for obeying a biological imperative. That this beliefs paints men as incapable of controlling their urges and prone to thinking with the wrong head seems to be beside the point. WOMEN are the ones responsible for enticing men to commit sexual crimes, because women possess the ability to seduce and effectively hypnotize men. Men are mere pawns, in thrall to women who would use their sexual appetites against them.
Steve Taylor knows this, as any competent defense attorney would. Taylor’s job is to defend his client, and that means using any tool at his disposal. That this meant perpetuating an outdated myth in an effort to blame the victim may be reprehensible, but a good defense attorney isn’t deterred by words like “reprehensible” or “immoral.” If a strategy can be used successfully, you can’t blame an attorney for going there. That doesn’t mean we can’t be disgusted by a defense strategy that, though frequently successful, is as reprehensible as it is disgusting.
Sometimes I think that Shakespeare’s Henry VI the right idea.