Monday, 9 March 2015

Gut reactions to a rape story. 09.03.15

What gut reaction do you get from this story: 
"A and B met for the first time at place X. They spent the evening together, then went to B's house, where they had intercourse. The following morning, A reported B to the police for rape."

How much did you add to the story when you pictured it in your head? Gender? Age? Anything else?


What about:

"A and B met for the first time at known crackhouse X. They spent the evening together consuming illegal drugs, then went to B's house, where they had intercourse. The following morning, A reported B to the police for rape."
versus:
"A and B met for the first time at bar X. They spent the evening together drinking tequila shots, then went to B's house, where they had sex. The following morning, A reported B to the police for rape."
Do they feel different? 
What if the alcohol was illegally purchased? 
What if the drugs were legally purchased and consumed, e.g. medical opiates?


How about this:

"A + B + tequila. Their alcohol blood levels tested at 0.2 and 0.1 respectively" (the accused was less drunk than the accuser.)
"A + B + tequila. Their alcohol blood levels tested at 0.1 and 0.2 respectively" (so the accuser was less drunk than the accused.)

Does it matter which way round it was? 

Have you ever seen a news report that listed that piece of information?

"A + B + tequila. A tested positive for traces of Rohypnol."
(To me, that is a huge game-changer; it makes me reach for sharp knives.)
"A + B + tequila. A tested positive for traces of Rohypnol. The Rohypnol was administered by a third party unconnected with B."
(Whoops. Anyone got any bandages handy?)

Let's play with locations:
"A and B met for the first time at the library. They spent the evening together while B helped A with research work, then went to B's house, where they had sex. The following morning, A reported B to the police for rape."

And that, for me, is where it gets really messy, because age suddenly matters a lot. If A is the younger student and B the older teacher, that feels like abuse of power. If A is the older student and B a young helper, then I am not so sure.


Shall we add gender to it?


A is Melody, 19. B is Jack, 38.

A is John, 19. B is Rachel, 38.

...and then remember that there are more permutations: Jack and John, Melody and Rachel, etc. When you swap ages and genders, does it feel the same? What has the greatest weight? Are we saying that a young person can't prey on an older person? Or that women don't prey on men?


For a bit of extra spice:

"....then went to B's house, where they had intercourse. B has a sex dungeon...."
"....then went to B's house, where they had intercourse. B has a sex dungeon. A asked to play in it...."
Do they feel the same?

I could go on forever. How many factors affect gut reactions to a story?
  • History of prostitution. (Do you think prostitutes cannot be raped? Or that they are more likely to lie for gain?)
  • History of assault.
  • History of similar convictions.
  • History of similar allegations that could not be proven (if this happens to you every Friday, I'm going to be a tad suspicious - and yes, this applies both to the accused and the accuser.)
  • Physical disability.
  • Mental incapacity - no, not just on the part of the accuser. What if it's the accused who is mentally incapacitated? What if they both are?
  • The accused is a famous sport personality.
  • The sport is chess.

What I find is that I am not unbiased, not by a long shot. An older man accused by a young woman is clearly a predator... until I find out that the young woman has a history of extortion. Or that the older man has a learning difficulty.


I realised that I make an immediate gut decision on where the guilt lies depending on the available information, even though it's often not sufficient. My "conclusion" is based much more on my biases and guesses on details than on an impartial assessment of the truth. I'm coming up with statements from "it's definitely a rape" to "it's definitely a stitch-up" to "it's a clusterfuck with bells on" with far too little information. A little bit of extra detail, and my original assessment seems completely unwarranted.

That is pretty shoddy on my part. I am, however, willing to change my mind as more information becomes available. My biases are not congealed in ideology, so I find it relatively easy to admit that I'm wrong. 


What about you? Do you actively seek to find enough information? If the information sinks your initial theory, are you willing to change your mind?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

One must balance the moral outrages with the letter of the law. In my state (Illinois in the USA), it is not possible to legally have intercourse: every form of contact between men and women has been criminalized. (Compare that with me punching someone in the mouth -- that is perfectly legal in boxing match.) Talking to a woman is grooming. Going on a date is travelling. Shaking her hand is criminal sexual assault, as is forceable intercourse. If the woman has a non-zero blood alcohol level, it is rape, regardless of the man's. And you start with 25 years in prison when the "R" words appears in charges. The claim that rape is not prosecuted or rapist get off scott-free is balderdash. Lowering the bar of proof on felonies is the order of the day though.

God's Bastard said...

I'm sorry, but I have to call bullshit on, well, all of it.

Aside from the gross exaggerations regarding conditions in the place where you live (seriously dude, everyone would have emigrated), a lot of rapists DO get off scott-free. Conviction rates are still appalling. It happens if there isn't sufficient proof, but it also happens if the prosecutors deem that the victim will not be able to "withstand the rigors of trial". And before you accuse me of making shit up, we had that happen to a family member who suffered repeated sexual assaults from the age of 12. They just wouldn't let her go to court, because they deemed that she would crack.

There is a line between challenging current biases and sweeping reality under the carpet. It's not even a fine line. It's a freakin' thick line, and it seems to me that you have just crossed it and kept on running.

technogypsy said...

I'll not comment on your response above.

I will say this whole mess is why you train yourself, force yourself to assume innocence until proven otherwise. It may suck when the crime pushes your buttons but that's when you need it the most. It's not a natural thing to do, but civilization requires unnatural acts.