Guilty of Cultural Violations

Two of the rapists in the Vanderbilt rape case that I blogged about on Monday have been found guilty in a court of law. Brandon Vandenburg and Corey Batey were each convicted on four counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of attempted aggravated rape. Two other men, Brandon Banks and Jaborian McKenzie, haven’t been put on trial for the attack yet.

This causing some of the rapists defense attorneys angst and dismay. “Albert Perez Jr., who represents Vandenburg, said his client was unable to comprehend what happened. “It’s very difficult for a person who is young to understand what happened, because he asked me, ‘What happened?’ He didn’t understand,’ ” the attorney said … Batey’s lawyer, Worrick Robinson, said there were “several tragedies in this case,” according to” reporting done by WKRN in Tennessee.

In some ways the confusion of the rapists is warranted; other men have sexually assaulted a woman on video and have walked away from the crime, especially if the accused were sports stars who had raped a drunken woman, so why couldn’t they? They were found guilty because they violated cultural norms of when a woman can be said to be “asking” for her own rape.

First, even though the woman was intoxicated to the point of passing out – which is erroneously taken as a sign of consent among cops/jurors/prosecutors/judges in too many cases – she had done so in the presence of her boyfriend at the time. Culturally, woman are supposed to be ‘safe’ with a boyfriend. If Vandenburg alone had raped her, he probably would have gotten away with it because prior sexual intimacy is often taken as  ‘for granted’ consent to sex. She was too drunk to say no so QED it was a yes. However, Vandenburg passed out condoms and encouraged others to rape her. This is against the unspoken cultural rules of what a man may do with a drunk girlfriend.

Secondly, the video shows the woman completely unresponsive. Women who are intoxicated but can still move or talk can be accused of ‘consent’. Even when the rape is on video, “experts” can testify that they detect “signs of consent”. Even sober women can give ‘signs of consent’ if they don’t struggle hard enough or say no ‘flirtatiously’. There was no wriggle–room to accused the Vanderbilt victim of implied consent.

Thirdly, one of the rapists urinated on her. It is very hard to argue that a woman would have implied consent to that.

Finally, the victim herself didn’t file the charges. She couldn’t be presented as being motivated to punish a guy for not phoning the next day after a hook –up by ‘crying rape’.

In short, the defense attorneys just couldn’t provide the jury with an argument suggesting these fine young men thought the victim was consenting in any form, or that she had a reason to lie about the assault. She wasn’t vulnerable to the distortion of facts and consent the way so many other rape victims are. She wasn’t confused, or traumatized, when trying to give evidence because she couldn’t remember the attack. The verdict didn’t depend on the testimony of a woman because the evidence could unequivocally speak for itself.

I am willing to bet that if the attack had been reported by the victim (if she had been just conscious enough to know what was happening) and hadn’t been videotaped, Vandenburg and Batey would have gotten away with it. It would have been their word against hers with no vaginal tearing and no DNA. Like most other rape cases, it would have ended as an unhealed nightmare for the victim and a crime that would never be punished.

One of the most appalling aspects of this whole thing is that the rapists probably still think what they did wasn’t THAT bad and that their punishment is a huge overreaction.

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