Category Archives: Everything Else

To A.J. Delgado: You Might Be Dumb Like a Fox. Or Just Dumb. But Wow, Are You Wrong.

DelgadoA..J.,  I get it.

You’re attractive by Western standards (white, thin, pleasing bone structure, etc). You speak well on camera. But of course, so do plenty of us.

So maybe you’ve been clever enough to realize that your best bet as an aspiring media star is as an iconoclast. That’s great- we need them. The problem, though- assuming you see it as one- is that iconoclasts aren’t always the voices of reason, or the till-now ignored prophets from the wilderness, screaming the truth in hopes of overcoming a cacophony of nonsense.

Sometimes, with their slick, favorable, TV features, they’re just cynical charlatans. Or perhaps worse, they’re sincere but mis-informed, useful idiots.

You’re one or the other, AJ; either deeply cynical or grossly, happily misinformed. It really is that simple. I read your National Review piece on what you seem to believe is an imaginary “rape epidemic” on American college campuses. Typically, and within 60 words of your opening, you echo this oft-quoted and infantile meme: “…the term “rape” or “sexual assault” is thrown around almost effortlesslyaccusations easily made [emphasis added] and lives easily ruined.”

Utter. Nonsense.

Your characterization of the terms “effortlessly” and “easily,” as applied to the disclosure of sexual violence, might be sardonically funny were it not so dangerously stupid. I’m a former prosecutor who spent a career working with the rare woman (or man) who took the almost unimaginable step of actually reporting a sexual assault or a pattern of abuse.  I’d be happy to give you a long, sad list- with their permission- of the tiny minority of people who did report to some authority that they were sexually violated, and who were ripped apart like meat left for wolves as a result. Nevertheless, people like you are always ready to claim- on baseless grounds- that women will regularly “cry rape” to avoid whatever consequences sexual congress might bring.  Since you’re admittedly “not a scientist,” I can point you to the research of some actual scientists who can demonstrate with a strong foundation that very few complaints of sexual violence are false, and that the usual person the victim of sexual violence points the finger at is herself or himself.

Still, to flesh out this silly piece, you spewed examples that should shame you as a lawyer with any training in logical argumentation. The example you give of a defendant who was mis-identified in a rape case (i.e., a rape did happen- the wrong guy just got convicted)? That’s a tragedy of course, but what does it have to do with your completely unrelated claim that the straw-man “Left” is creating a rape myth?

Oh yeah. Nothing.

And then there’s your attempt to draw some connection between the decline of traditionally defined violent crime in the U.S. over the last 20 years and the (finally) growing intolerance of rape on college campuses. This isn’t even clever. It merely exposes remarkable ignorance with regard to the reality of sexual violence as it usually plays out, both on and off college campuses.  Sexual violence has always been a sickeningly, ever-present aspect of college life- and indeed life everywhere. Yes, we’re more aware of it now, and some of us are fighting back. But why should you? Armed with your one dubious anecdote and your ambition, why look behind the curtain at all?

Instead, A.J., continue your rise to stardom within the morally scolding circles promoted by the National Review that will, among other things, insist that rape in the college environment is the inevitable result of promiscuity and intoxicants.

Goodness me, if only women would behave.

Never mind those who are raped after a study group meeting in the light of day, or by a church-going friend on a religious retreat.

And certainly, A.J., never mind the effect of the insidious and arbitrary rules you’re imposing on the young women and men who will be victimized with even more impunity because of your finger-wagging nonsense. I’m talking about the ones who may or may not break your rules, but who will be damned to either silence or shame because of ignorant hawkers like you who give them 1) unfair standards to uphold, and 2) false senses of security to boot.

We’re lawyers, A.J. We never had to professionally take the “first, do no harm” oath that physicians do. But seriously? You should consider it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iowa, and 47

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The Cedar River at sunset, Waterloo, Iowa, after a child abuse prosecution training last week.

The one (and perhaps only) important thing I didn’t have to learn the hard way is this:  Never fail to appreciate small moments and simple beauty.

A railroad crossing, a grain elevator, a farm stand, an AME Baptist Church.

At 47, ain’t that America?

If you’re listening, Lord, forgive me my petty complaints. It’s all a blessing.

 

 

Bigotry Is Bad. And Bad for Business

Anti-black bigotry in the American South, persisting with political cover well into the latter half of the 20th century, was an utter disaster for an economy already struggling to overcome unindustrialized, agrarian roots.

Anti-gay bigotry, led in part (again) by misplaced religiosity, will now further damage the same region, and perhaps with it parts of the Southwest as well.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’d tentatively add that it also bends toward intellectual growth and common sense. Environments where bigotry thrives will inherit the wind. And little else.

James Taranto and the Wall Street Journal: The Issue is the Platform, Not Censorship

Phrenology, the attempt to explain brain function and activity through analyzing the size and shape of a subject’s skull, was seriously discussed within neuroscience circles as late as the mid-19th century. Its adherents can be forgiven for their ignorance based on what was observable and evident at the time. But it’s now known definitively as baseless, and thus would not be discussed seriously in a news article by a reputable media source in some attempt at giving equal time to an opposing view point.

But might an opinion piece- on why phrenology should be not only seriously considered but in fact applied in order to meet societal challenges- still merit consideration by, say, the nation’s financial newspaper of record? Of course not; it’s a theory that is not only thoroughly discredited but dangerously misleading and potentially harmful if adhered to. Similarly, we no longer give serious voice to the opinions of those who would persecute azimuthal map-makers, who view their race as genetically superior to others, or- and strictly relevant to the matter at hand- who argue that communistic, central planning is a terrific tool for economic growth.

And yet the Wall Street Journal has given a tremendous voice to a collection of ideas just as thoroughly discredited and potentially harmful with the publication of James Taranto’s remarkably ignorant opinion piece on non-stranger sexual assault. The backlash against Taranto has been harsh, but it is richly deserved. In short, there is no excuse, after years of replicated, respected research on the topic, not to mention the observations of hundreds of thousands of victims (and many offenders), to give a voice Taranto’s opinions under the banner of that publication. This is not about “feminist” or “liberal” censorship; it’s not about censorship at all. Taranto is more than entitled to his opinion and he may offer it to the marketplace of ideas like anyone else. The issue is the responsibility of the WSJ editorial staff to make better decisions on what merits publication within its pages.

A belief that alcohol creates the urge to commit rape, that offenders and victims are “colliders” in alcohol-fueled sexual situations and thus generally of equal blame, and the claim that false accusations are anything more than rare and usually easily detected events, are all ideas that have been thoroughly discredited.

Dr. David Lisak is often rightfully credited with the ground-breaking research that first shed light on the motivations and methodology of the relatively small group of sexually deviant offenders (mostly male) who commit most of the non-stranger sexual violence we endure (his work was replicated with startlingly similar results in 2009). But decades before Lisak, other pioneers (Mary Koss and Joan Zorza come to mind) were making keen observations about the true nature of predatory behavior and the reality of the experience of sexual violence. Their work has proved out convincingly and continues to do so. The further we lessen the stigma against victimization, the more we hear from courageous women and men willing to give accounts that confirm, overwhelmingly, the observations of these experts.

In my experience, the only remaining groups that cling to the ideas Taranto was able to espouse to millions are some (not all) so-called “men’s rights advocates,” interested criminal defense firms, and men who have been charged with rape. True, there is still ignorance about the topic in not only the general population, but within the law enforcement and prosecution communities as evidenced by the dubious quotes Taranto printed by members of both. But that’s not a reason to proliferate ignorance further.

Taranto may or may not choose to educate himself on the dynamics of alcohol-facilitated, non-stranger sexual assault as it actually and typically plays out: In a premeditated, methodical fashion by pattern offenders who identify, manipulate, attack and then discredit their victims, aided before and after by a larger society still ignorant of predatory behavior and punishing of female sexuality. Either way, I would never seek to prevent him from continuing to hold and espouse his views. My issue is with the major media outlet that chose to showcase them as serious editorial discourse. It’s anything but.

Dylan Farrow’s Allegations Against Woody Allen: A Short List of Truly Unfair Considerations

Sexual abuse allegations against Woody Allen were made first in 1992 by his daughter Dylan. They’ve resurfaced since Allen was honored at the Golden Globes, culminating with an open letter last week from Dylan herself.

Allen stands legally innocent of any crime. The question in raising the issue is whether he’s acted so dishonorably as to be morally disqualified for an honor like the Cecil B. DeMille. I don’t know what if any character component is relevant to the award; personally, I long ago abandoned the idea that talent or even hard work at a particular pursuit necessarily have much to do with character and honorability in any other sense.

What I would suggest, after prosecuting, evaluating and consulting on child sexual abuse cases for over 15 years, is to largely disregard a few of the more popular considerations currently being touted as reasons Allen should be exonerated and Dylan (or Mia Farrow) either blamed or pitied. While nothing can be debated now that will ever settle things factually, there are a few “points” being touted that simply merit far less consideration than they’re being given:

1. No physical evidence “proving” the case. Anyone with a cursory understanding of both the typical nature of child sex abuse and pediatric anatomy knows that child cases almost never yield compelling physical evidence, even when reports are immediate. Very few abusers seek to inflict injury and know that doing so will likely interrupt the grooming process and trigger a report. Further, the genital area is blood-rich and heals very quickly even if tissue is damaged. Dylan reported nothing to my knowledge likely to yield physical evidence.

2. The allegations arising in the context of a custody dispute. Many have bought into the pernicious myth that children are easily and often coached to fabricate allegations of sexual abuse, usually by their mother against a targeted male figure. This is a particularly attractive idea against Mia Farrow, whose perceived bitterness at Allen’s actions with Soon-Yi Previn fuel the myth. In fact, sex abuse allegations made during custody disputes have about the same very low rate of false reporting as in any other case. Further, the risk of suggestibility drops off sharply after around the age of 5, two years before Dylan reported.

3. The Yale-New Haven Hospital report. A team of investigators, in the still early days of modern child sexual abuse investigation, appear to have questionably investigated and then questionably concluded that Dylan had not been abused. Aside from other very troubling aspects of this investigation that observers have raised, that particular conclusion was neither theirs to reach nor accepted practice with the information they appear to have had.

4. Most of what Robert Weide says in his 1/27 Daily Beast piece on the subject. Weide apparently knows Allen personally (and his pro-Woody bias is clear) but he knows almost nothing about sexual abuse dynamics or what is reliable in terms of indicators. What we believe we know about friends or colleagues is simply not relevant, most of the time, to what they might be capable of, period.

5. Evidence that Dylan suffered with mental health issues, either as a child or since. Nothing indicates that mental illness- certainly the kind she appears to have faced- is likely to cause delusions of abuse or an inclination to lie about being abused. Further, individuals who suffer sexual abuse often develop mental illness subsequently. And, if the condition was pre-existing, it tends to make sufferers tragically logical choices for abusers who know they won’t be believed.

As for what’s worth considering?

Dylan’s account. It’s not dispositive either, although it could be sufficient in a criminal court. The kind of sensory detail she gives even now, and the surrounding details of other acts she remembers very clearly, are exactly the kind of indicators that have helped win rightful convictions in child abuse cases as we’ve improved in investigating it over the last 25 years. Those memories, in a competent investigation and prosecution, can also yield powerful corroborative evidence.

I love Allen’s work and have no desire to demonize him. But I cannot in good conscience deny the plausibility- at least from where I stand- of Dylan’s accusations. It’s sad. But as Allen himself often showed us, so is life.