So, this is very fucked up. A defense lawyer in the Cleveland, Texas gang rape case (the one currently best known for the terrible, inappropriate, victim-blaming way The New York Times reported on it) has adopted the time honored “blame the victim” approach to defending the group of boys and men (ranging in age from middle school to 27) charged with gang-raping an 11-year-old girl. Specifically, he compared the girl to a spider luring the boys into her web, because what 11-year-old doesn’t want to get raped repeatedly on camera by a bunch of older men over the course of four months?
Wait, really? YES, REALLY. A grown man with a law degree said that, and it is sickening.
During opening statements to the trial, Former Cleveland Police Department Sgt. Chad Langdon, the lead investigator on the case, “testified that an 11-year-old – due to her emotional immaturity – legally cannot give consent for a sexual encounter.” Here’s what happened next:
[Defense lawyer Steve] Taylor questioned why the underage girl had not been charged with anything for choosing to violate that rule, indicating that she was “the reason” that the encounters happened.
“Like the spider and the fly. Wasn’t she saying, ‘Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?’ ” Taylor asked.
“I wouldn’t call her a spider,” Langdon replied. “I’d say she was just an 11-year-old girl.”
“I hope nothing like this ever happens to your two teenage sons,” Taylor snapped back.
Prosecutor Joe Warren asked Langdon what he would do if his own sons had been involved in such a case.
“I would not whitewash it or sweep it under the rug,” the detective said.
That’s right: you should charge the 11-year-old with letting her rape happen, even though the whole idea behind statutory rape laws is that an 11-year-old is not able to consent to sex. Even if she seems older than 11!
The defense lawyer is basing his case on the fact that the 11-year-old victim admitted to submitting “willingly” to the assaults when questioned (as opposed to fighting off a bunch of older guys?), the fact that she did not report the crime (state prosecutors only caught wind of it when the horrible video began circulating), and that she didn’t cry enough. Seriously. I can’t think of a single other crime in which anyone would even attempt to use the victim’s mode of processing trauma to try to prove a crime was not committed. Rape is rape, no matter what the victim does afterwards.
Another shoddy lynchpin of the defense case is that the girl told the boys she was 17 (the legal age of consent in Texas), and they believed her. I have a tough time believing that an 11-year-old could convincingly pass for 17 in looks as well as personality, but even if she could, I have an even tougher time believing that she would lie about her age so as to participate in a gang bang with a bunch of older guys (which they taped with the express purpose of humiliating her), so that she could then try to “ruin their lives” in a long, drawn out, traumatic trial in which her name and sexual reputation (I feel ridiculous just typing that about an 11-year-old) would be dragged through the mud.
Thank you, Detective Langdon, for being the voice of reason here and reminding everyone that the accused perpetrators who filmed themselves grinning at the camera while violating a child are not victims. I’d say that Taylor should be disbarred over this, but what he’s doing is just a more extreme version of the defense used in many rape trials: “she was asking for it.” Luckily, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work this time; one rapist has already been convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison, six adults have been sentenced to 15 years, and seven juveniles have received probation.
Photo: New York Times