Mad as Hell, boys and girls.
The McAllister case exemplifies everything wrong w/justice & gender relations in America.
— The #vtpoli Observer (@theVPO1) June 17, 2016
That’ll do for a start.
Today, the prosecution threw in the towel on the first of two cases against accused rapist Norm McAllister. And absolutely threw their star witness under the bus.
There is much more to say, but let’s start there. The accuser did not step forward of her own accord; the authorities encouraged her to do so, and actively solicited her testimony.
She was a reluctant witness from the start. Until the last moment, there were doubts about whether she would show up.
As it turned out, she shouldn’t have. She was subjected to hours of raw, hurtful questioning about every little detail of a series of intimate assaults. And what was her reward?
Less than 24 hours later, the prosecution threw up its hands and said, “Never mind.” Her compliance, her assistance, her exposure in the media, her dutiful effort to testify accuately to events that happened several years ago — all flushed down the toilet.
The lawyers, the judge, the media — their lives go on. She is left clutching whatever remains of her dignity, sanity, and self-esteem. If there was any justice in the world, she would be eligible for reparations.
This came after a trial in which she was basically a human McGuffin, “an object that serves merely as the trigger for the plot.”
Was there any hint of consideration for her at any point in this proceeding? Her image and the shreds of her privacy were avidly sought by clickbait-hungry media. Her own experience was not honored on its own terms; it was tossed on one side of a scale and found wanting.
Her testimony was deemed unreliable. Well, what the fuck did they expect — that she kept a Rape Diary with dates, times, locations, and details? No! She did her best to forget what had happened to her. This is a coping mechanism for survivors of trauma: softening the harsh edges of unbearable experience, burying the injury deep and hoping it never emerges again.
And this is a fundamental inequity in how we conduct sexual assault prosecutions. The accuser gets the short end of the stick at every point along the way. The defendant and his* attorney have an open license to attack the accuser at every step along the way, poking holes in her story and her reputation however they can, adding a mental and emotional assault to the physical assault previously endured.
*Yes, it’s almost always a male assailant attacking a female.
The deck is stacked. The dice are loaded. Do you wonder why the vast majority of sex crimes go unreported? Because when you do come forward, this is the thanks you get.
Even worse in this case, the accuser comes from the fringes of society and the defendant is a respected citizen holding high office. The defendant had a crackerjack lawyer who did his job to the best of his ability and to the lasting detriment of his eternal soul.
I would never be a lawyer. I couldn’t stand the strain of defending people accused of horrible crimes and doing my level best to eviscerate their accusers. McAllister’s lawyer did a great job: he eviscerated the accuser, a 21-year-old woman who stands less than five feet tall, weighs less than a hundred pounds, and is trying to scratch out a life on the margins of society, weighed down by a years-long experience she described as being “in Hell.”
Congratulations, Brooks McArthur. You “won.” Buy yourself a nice tailored suit with your takings from the McAllister defense.
I know I’ll get some blowback from the legal community. We have an adversarial system; two sides contend, and in doing so, the truth is distilled.
That might be true in a lot of cases. But there are substantial inherent imbalances when it comes to sex crimes.
Which reflects the larger social imbalance. The vast majority of sex crimes involve a male perpetrator assaulting a female. In the aftermath, the female is the damaged party, shamed into silence, struggling to come to terms with a trauma that men cannot even imagine. (The hardest part of my heart thinks things would be better if there was a lot more male-on-male rape. At least we’d know how it feels.)
And if the female gets up the courage to report, she gets put through the wringer all over again. She has to stand up to her assailant. She has to relive one of the worst moments of her life, over and over again, in depositions and in open court.
And if she goes through all of that, chances are the defendant will get off scot-free or with a minimal sentence.
I don’t know how to fix this. But it’s wrong, and women bear the brunt of it.