Lady Justice brutalized by rape verdict

By Patrick Hogan

This week, the O’Smiley Factor’s not feeling entirely smiley. Quite the contrary, in fact. One might even go so far as to say that, at the time of this writing, things are rather in O’Freakin’ Furious Factor mode.

Why, you ask? Because this week the assholes won.

I’m sorry if my vocabulary let anyone down a bit there, but that’s really about the most polite term I can risk putting in print, although in my mind it doesn’t do justice in the present case. But then, who cares about justice? My diction isn’t the only recent case in which she’s been pushed, blindfolded and all, into a busy four-lane highway that happens, inexplicably, to be bordered on either side by a particularly sharp 500-foot drop. Justice has had a rough time of it in general this week. Her robes are painted with tread marks, and she’s just as sightless as ever.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. As I was saying, this week had some really good news for assholes everywhere, a landmark court ruling that should set a fabulous precedent for aspiring filmmakers across the country with an abiding interest in date rape. In a decision handed down by members of a Cook County jury, a 20-year-old man from Burr Ridge was acquitted of participating in a 2002 videotaped gang rape. The jury reached its verdict after the defense diligently ploughed through the 13-minute recording in an effort to show how the victim—a 16-year-old, thoroughly inebriated girl—indicated her consent to sex through her gestures. These “come hither” gesticulations apparently included rubbing the accused’s head and smiling. (OK, she did kiss him as well, but it seems reasonable to argue that a sloppy drunk peck on the lips is still a far cry from asking you and your buddies to set up the camera and then get in line.)

By that logic, it seems difficult to pass people on the street without giving some coy invitation for a little rendezvous in the stacks; better watch whom you make eye contact with in the Reg! According to the Chicago Tribune, the footage also included images of the men involved spitting and writing on the young woman’s supine body, yet the presiding judge initially threatened jail time for the victim when she refused to sit in court and watch the videotape of her own rape.

It seems this type of profoundly cold-hearted sentiment ultimately carried the day.

What are we to gather from this incident, other than a feeling of deep-seated nausea? Well, apparently the take-home message is “Yeah, go ahead, gang rape’s fine…just make sure you get her smiling on camera!” Or perhaps it’s something along the lines of “Well, she may be drunk and vulnerable…but if she’s just going to lay there and let you write on her in your own drool, she must be having a pretty swell time!” One can picture a whole new market for camera phones and digital cameras; every dick-swinging meathead in suburbia will be showing up to the next rager in his friend’s basement with a camcorder and sharpie and, maybe just for backup, a court transcript from this past week. Perhaps the tape from this case will surface as a hot new black market item, a how-to video for all those misogynist maestros interested in making their own masterpiece of defilement and who just want a little help with the camera angles and lighting.

One hears all the time about the “world’s stupidest criminals” videotaping their exploits and then doing something like absent-mindedly making 100 copies and distributing them in person at the door of the local police station. Now, however, there is a precedent for filming your crimes and using the video in your own defense in court. One can imagine videotaped murders cropping up in courtrooms and the jury nodding sympathetically as the defense team goes frame-by-frame to show the victim’s gestures of consent, the startled look that obviously screams, “Please kill me!” Hell, after this reprehensible ruling, it’s not hard to imagine that sometime down the road maybe there’ll even be Oscars for this sort of thing. (“I wish to thank my overly-indulgent, unsuspecting parents for leaving me alone in the house for the weekend…And Rohypnol and Ketamine and Boone’s Farm for making all this possible…”)

To be fair, the defense attorney did allegedly tell the jury before deliberations began that they could still acquit his client without condoning what happened, that saying he was not guilty did not mean they had to approve of his actions, that mistakes were made on both sides in the case. But actually, when you vote not to punish someone for committing a terrible offense, and rather throw up your hands or shrug and say, “Boys will be boys” or, “Oh, those kids,” you are indeed implicitly endorsing their actions.

The verdict in this case was a terrible breach of justice and morality. To say that a deliriously intoxicated 16-year-old girl was in a state to consent to anything or fend off a pair of lusty suitors is, to my mind at least, not only bewilderingly insensitive but fundamentally naïve. Fine, she never should have gotten so plastered. But I hesitate to believe that the adolescent film crew was standing by making sure she was exercising a little more caution in hitting the Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Anyone who buys into the drunk-slut stereotype and says that what happened was as much the victim’s fault as it was that of those who took advantage of her, that it was her mistake, that it was her responsibility to stop things from escalating, is, at least in this instance, turning one of the most degrading acts into a spectator sport.