Sex crime accusations are difficult to quantify with physical evidence and so destructive in their charge that it is often enough to convict one’s character on mere implication.
The word “rape” pulls at the very chords of our emotions with a resonance so deep, it inherently produces prejudice. It takes concentration and effort to pull ourselves back from these natural impulses.
Maybe it’s because I’m a man, but often I have felt the power of a sexual accusation perturbs people enough that in many cases the defendant must prove himself innocent. Sometimes though I wonder if that’s a good thing.
In our system, however, the complications of a such a crime can be very difficult to figure out. In many cases victims don’t even report their abuses, fearing an embarrassing and public confrontation that may not necessary lead to justice. Other times the assailant is a close friend or loved one (boyfriend, for example) and a victim becomes personally torn. Often it seems these cases involve a sinister cocktail of drugs, alcohol, dysfunction and bad circumstance. Each of these factors contribute a wilder and wilder number of spiraling variables.
So this unfortunately leaves me with little hope of rationalizing my way into a fair decision (the only guilt-free kind), and often I feel contempt towards the idea of giving the accused the benefit of the doubt (also known as reasonable doubt). I believe in the notion of innocence until proven guilty because it’s really the only way we can even attempt to have a fair and just system.
How do we really know what happened, though? If an intoxicated woman says no but then gives contradictory body language or consents physically after expressing an oral objection, is that rape? I guess it depends on if the woman files a complaint afterward or not. What if a woman is threatened and consents from fear of death? What if there is some hideous reason for her to fabricate such an accusation out of revenge or to save some sense of perverted dignity? What if in a moment of intense anger , fear or impaired judgment, a claim is made that a person feels they can’t retract without serious consequence? What if drugs and alcohol are involved and a defendant or victim can’t remember the details of consent and contact? What if a victim passes out and was taken advantage of (date rape) or just said she was because she can’t recall?
All these scenarios will yield very little physical evidence, especially if a defendant claims the sex was consensual. So basically you create a social stigma of casting additional suspicion upon the accused then you might with other offenses. I know I’m guilty of raising the justice bar just a little because I don’t really believe there are many women out there who would traumatize themselves unnecessarily by enduring the rape kit and follow up examination … Not to mention that creating a false claim is a crime and assuming an accusation might be false is sort of like not giving the victim the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fraud.
It’s a difficult issue that’ll continue to plague critical thinking jurors for a long time. I feel deep sympathy for both sides. Imagine a prosecutor being a woman’s only hope for justice in a “he said/she said case.” A vindicated rapist and a victim deprived of the ability to have a normal life. Can you imagine being convicted on an accusation or misunderstanding? Have you seen how sex offenders are treated by our justice system and the public? A verdict derived from foggy circumstance and debatable physical evidence – but often that’s what the public demands of our system. People are creatures of feeling and when it’s too close to call, a lot of us go with our instincts. (Which rarely favor a defendant.)
I wish I had an answer to this one, but I don’t. Just take it a case at a time. Fight the urge to lynch an accused person because what we’re really doing is hanging reason and justice out to dry. While at the same time, we’re embracing the difficulty of prosecution and offering sincere sympathy to a victim who may be utterly lost in our system of reasonable doubt.