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The World Is Horrible and Everything Sucks: Sympathy for Convicted Rapists

July 11, 2014 • Current Affairs

A few days ago, Judge Michael Mettyear said the following to Lee Setford, a man who had just been convicted of raping a woman who had passed out at his house:

“It’s sad to see a man of generally good character in the dock for such a serious offence.

“I do not regard you as a classic rapist. I do not think you are a general danger to strangers. You are not the type who goes searching for a woman to rape.

“This was a case where you just lost control of normal restraint.”

“It was almost out of the blue that two girls turned up late at night, very, very drunk, at your home.

“The victim was the worst for drink out of the two of them. She was completely out of it. I accept that evidence.

“She was a pretty girl who you fancied. You simply could not resist. You had sex with her.”

There is so much wrong with that statement that I find it hard to know where to begin discussing and dissecting it. I really don’t want to believe that in 2014 we are having to explain to someone who administers justice for a living why this comment is so moronic, but apparently we have to go through this. Again. (Honestly, maybe we should just put together a picture book using Dick and Jane to explain sexual assault to people who just don’t get it.)(Author’s note: Holy crap, that is actually an idea that appeals to me; I think I may do that in my spare time. I’ll call it Sex Crimes with Dick and Jane.)

*Sigh* I suppose we’ll just go line by line. Just a fair warning, I’m going to be snarky because that’s my natural state and bitchy because I’m incredibly angry.

“It’s sad to see a man of generally good character in the dock for such a serious offence.”

Really? Of all the things to be sad about in this case, you pick that? Is this real life? I’m sorry, but what is sad about this is that an innocent woman was raped, not that the guy who did it was caught and convicted. And let’s talk about that “man of generally good character” because I’m confused as to what Judge Mettyear considers “good character.” First, Setford has a previous conviction from 2009 for battery. Upstanding citizen. Let’s have him babysit the kids. Second, men of good character don’t rape other people. They just don’t. You could help little old ladies cross the street while feeding the homeless and rescuing puppies but as soon as you sexually assault someone, you are no longer a person of good character. You are a rapist. You violated another person in one of the worst ways possible, not only damaging them physically, but most likely emotionally and psychologically as well. Once again, that is not how someone of good character behaves. In this case, a man “of generally good character” would have seen the woman passed out on his couch and left her the hell alone. If this is honestly what Judge Mettyear sees as good character, he really needs to think about elevating his standards.

“I do not regard you as a classic rapist. I do not think you are a general danger to strangers. You are not the type who goes searching for a woman to rape.”

I think this may be my favorite line in the entire statement. First, what is a “classic rapist?” My only guess is that he is referring to rapists who lurk in the shadows, camp out in dark alleys, and pick strangers at random to sexually assault, which is what a lot of people picture when they think “rapist.” However, this is an erroneous and harmful image.  Check these stats, courtesy of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network)

—2/3 of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows

—73% were perpetrated by a non-stranger

—38% are friends or acquaintances

—28% are an intimate

—7% are a relative

So, take that image of the masked creeper and smash it because that’s not reality. Also, there is something completely wrong about differentiating between methods of rape. It makes rapes that don’t fit what Judge Mettyear would call the “classic rape” mold seem less important, less harmful, less criminal, and less worthy of being taken seriously. Just look at the effect this belief had in the judge’s statement–he downplayed the criminality of Setford’s actions because they didn’t fit his preconceived notion of what rape “usually” is. It’s  like he’s saying, “Well, yeah, you raped someone, but it wasn’t like you went out stalking the streets for that specific purpose. You just had a drunk girl pass out in your house and you took advantage of that. I mean, you’re more of an opportunistic rapist. The only people who need to be scared of you are your friends and those you interact with. Strangers should be safe. You are less of a threat because you raped someone who knew and trusted you, not someone you didn’t know.” I am confused by this–HOW IS RAPING SOMEONE YOU KNOW LESS WRONG THAT RAPING A STRANGER? Say it with me, Judge. Rape is rape. Rape is rape. This isn’t an ice cream store–there aren’t different flavors of rape. What other crimes have their severity judged on the basis of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator? Will I get leniency if I rob my friend rather than a random person? If I murder my boyfriend will I get off easier than if I murder someone I don’t know? Why are we judging rape by a different standard?

“This was a case where you just lost control of normal restraint.”

“She was a pretty girl who you fancied. You simply could not resist. You had sex with her.”

Oh, look. It’s like a grown-up version of the “boys will be boys” defense. Let’s dive into the sewage ditch together.

First, is anyone else disturbed by the idea that the urge to rape is something that has to be held in check  consciously? Is he suggesting that “rape women” is like a default setting?” This is purely anecdotal, but most of the guys I know don’t have the urge to rape anyone. That’s not something they have to control because it’s not there. If you were to pass out on their couch, their first instinct wouldn’t be to rape you, even if they thought you were pretty.  They  might think about having sex with you, they may want to have sex with you and try to get in your pants once you’ve sobered up, but having sex and rape are different things. (More on that in a minute)

Second, don’t you just LOVE when a judge makes excuses for a convicted rapist? “You lost control, you just couldn’t resist”–I hope the defendant is going to pay you later for all the PR work you’re doing for him. Look, Judge Mettyear (and anyone else who thinks like him), no one made this man rape. That woman didn’t place herself on that couch to be tempting rape bait for a man who fancied her. Don’t give him an excuse or an easy way out of accepting blame because HE HAD A CHOICE and he chose to rape an unconscious woman. There are so many other ways of handling that situation that making it seem like rape was an inevitability because he fancied her and couldn’t resist is fucking ridiculous. Allow me to demonstrate Choose Your Own Adventure-style

You wake up, find a pretty but unconscious friend passed out on your sofa. You’ve always had  a thing for this friend–what do you do?

1) Rape her while she’s passed out

2) Leave the room because you don’t want to do something that would hurt her and you don’t want to put yourself in that position. Remove yourself from the situation.

3) Check on her. Make sure she’s breathing and safe, cover her with a blanket and let her be. Then remove yourself from the situation if you need to do that. Go in another room, go get coffee and breakfast out somewhere, whatever.

4) Gently rouse her and offer to drive her home.

5) Make her a hangover cure, spend the day hanging out

6) Literally do anything besides sexually assaulting someone who trusted you, because that’s fucking sick.

Also, once again we see the double standard between the way rapes are handled and the way every other crime is handled. Here, it seems like the judge is trying to mitigate his behavior because “he just couldn’t resist.” How would that work with other crimes? Are my actions any less criminal because when I saw the donation jar on the counter of a store, I just couldn’t resist reaching in and grabbing a handful? (I mean, come on. It was just sitting out there, looking so pretty, flashy, and inviting. If it wasn’t meant to be stolen, why was it out and decorated in such an eye-catching manner. It was totally asking to be robbed.) Will I get a lesser sentence when I murder the next person I see wearing one of those god-awful Ed Hardy shirts and a pair of Crocs simply because I can’t control the homicidal rage I feel at the sight of those two items? No. Hell no. I’d get laughed out of the courtroom. Why? Because not being able to resist is not usually an acceptable excuse for bad behavior, especially when that behavior harms someone else. That horrible fashion statement didn’t make me beat to death the person wearing it. That’s how I CHOSE to handle the situation. The money on the counter didn’t make me take it, I CHOSE that course of action on my own. So when someone is raped, apply the same standard: blame the damn rapist.

“You had sex with her.” That last sentence is one of the most infuriating. No, Judge Mettyear, he did not. Lee Setford raped her. What’s the difference? CONSENT. The lack of consent takes this from being sex with someone to rape. The word “with” is used when two (or more) people do something together, such as: I went with him to the movies, then later I accompanied him to his house and had sex with him. There was no joint effort in this scenario–he did something to her, not with her, as she was not a willing or even coherent participant.

“It was almost out of the blue that two girls turned up late at night, very, very drunk, at your home.

“The victim was the worst for drink out of the two of them. She was completely out of it. I accept that evidence.

Look! It’s my favorite part of a rape trial, the part where they try to justify or mitigate the illegal actions of the rapist by criticizing the legal actions of the survivor. Let’s go through this.

Two very drunk girls turn up at a house late at night. News reports say that before arriving at Setford’s, the survivor tripped and hit her head on the ground and a policeman who saw her after this described her as having a bloody nose and swollen lip. Unable to get in to her friend’s residence, they went to Setford’s where they passed out. Now, I’m confused as to why the judge feels the need to bring up the time and spontaneity of the girl’s arrival. In light of his other comments, it seems like he feels Setford’s crime is lessened or more understandable given these facts. If that’s the case, then here’s another example of the double standard between rape and other crime–does time of day and sobriety of the victim matter in murder or burglary cases or is it understood that these actions are inexcusable no matter when they are committed or how drunk the victim is? I do believe it is the latter, but for rape, suddenly all of that matters.

Conclusion

It honestly sounds like this judge was quoting from a rape apologist handbook. He nailed it all and unfortunately, this is just one example of this attitude. So, Judge Mettyear, educate yourself. Do some research. Please don’t ever say shit like this again. You could have made a really positive speech about the severity of sex crimes, shown a little more sympathy for the woman, or talk about the need for education about sex crimes and consent, but instead you sympathized with the victim and lamented the fact that he didn’t plead guilty right away, saying, “It is a great shame you did not have the courage to say, ‘I have made a terrible mistake and I am sorry’….That would have made it much easier for her and I could have passed a lighter sentence.” I’d give you points for drawing attention to the survivor, but you’re so far in the red with your other bullshit that it really wouldn’t matter.

News stories covering this event can be found here and here.

 

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