[Content note: child sexual abuse, rape culture]
There are many, many horrifying aspects to this case recently heard in the Napier District Court, of a 17-year-old who repeatedly raped a 5-year-old girl then waited six months to confess to his pastor and a further two months to confess to the police.
There’s the fact his lawyer is repeatedly quoted calling him “courageous”. There’s the fact he’ll only serve 4.5 years in prison, which works out to about 11 months per rape. Or the fact the judge said there were “no aggravating features” and even the prosecuting lawyer noted that she “didn’t need medical attention” as though trauma is only real when it’s physically damaging. Or the fact that the defence lawyer blames ~The Internet~ for the rapist’s “distorted” views about sex and not his closed religious community (because anti-sex religious movements never propagate distorted views of sex.)
Or the fact that right there is an article depicting a bunch of men basically agreeing that the rape of a 5-year-old girl isn’t really that big a deal as long as (six months later) you grow a conscience.
But beyond this case, the worst part is this, where – seriously – the defence lawyer is trying to make his client sound more sympathetic by emphasising just how little the justice system could do if he didn’t confess:
He had advised the teen that the Crown would face obstacles in securing convictions against him if it was years before the victim complained, as it would be just a case of “one person’s word against another’s”.
That’s right. Because if the little girl in this case grew up and one day needed to tell someone what had happened, needed the man who raped her five times to answer for his crimes, defence lawyer Bill Calver knows full well that in all likelihood, nothing would happen. And a man who raped a child five times would walk free.
Of course, because he was so courageous in coming forward, he’ll just walk free in 4.5 years – or less – instead. At the latest, he will be out at age 23. Maybe it doesn’t feel this way to him now, but that’s nothing in the grand scheme of your whole life (says the wise and ancient 31-year-old).
It’s unbelievable. And yet so unsurprising.
This is what we mean when we talk about rape culture. We mean the constant downplaying of even the most heinous, deliberate assaults by any excuse necessary. We mean the “common knowledge” that even repeatedly raping a child carries very little consequence – for the rapist. We mean the media’s framing of a story – the courageous rapist, the invisible survivor – which tells survivors, and every woman, that their hurt doesn’t matter and their word isn’t good enough and their rapes won’t be taken seriously.
This is why we’re so angry.