I have prosecuted sexual violence in two states. I’ve trained and consulted for the United States military and in 49 US jurisdictions. I’m not aware of a single one where grabbing a person’s genitals or genital area would not constitute a crime of sexual assault.
In his latest column, focusing on various afflictions plaguing the American working class, David Brooks had this to say about gun control:
“It’s a culture [the American working class] that celebrates people who are willing to fight to defend their honor. This is something that progressives never get about gun control. They see a debate about mass murder, but for many people guns are about a family’s ability to stand up for itself in a dangerous world.”
I am a progressive, depending on how one defines the term. I also grew up largely as a part of, and certainly surrounded by, the American working class.
I can say with confidence there is nothing I don’t “get” where the enthusiasm for owning firearms is concerned, despite Brooks’ blunt and stereotypical accusation. Like many people who lean left as I do politically, I absolutely understand, and in most cases honor, the desire of individuals to protect themselves and their families. I would not seek to prevent Americans from owning firearms within common sense limitations, the details of which are beyond the scope of this piece.
But please, David, don’t tell me I simply “don’t get” what guns are to the working class or anyone else. I do. What I also “get” is that, unfortunately, far too many of them (along with people in other demographic groups, like Donald Trump) are not plain-spoken, responsible men and women wanting to protect their families. Instead, they are gun fetishists who believe- with adolescent naivety and emotion-driven fantasy- that guns are shields and not swords. With inattention to facts and utter blindness to human experience, they nevertheless assert that that arming everyone, everywhere, is the answer to preventing the kind gun violence that, in fact, stems from the proliferation of those very same guns.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape has done a great service to sanity in releasing an edited, non-sanitized version of what ABC’s press release on Barbara Walters’ interview with Mary Letourneau and Villi Faulaau should have looked like from the start.
PCAR’s unblinking release speaks for itself, but among the idiocies that it should help to contradict is the notion that Letourneau at this point really should be forgiven, since she’s been married to Faulaau for 10 years now- a longer period than many marriages in non-criminal circumstances.
Here’s a thought: Faulaau is likely still in a marriage with Letourneau because he was raped and broken at a remarkably tender age. His bouts with depression and substance are only a part of the testimony to this. His entire life was truncated and derailed to a degree none of us will ever fully know. This was done by Letourneau, willingly and repeatedly, until he was trapped, largely stripped of his identity, and lost.
Letourneau destroyed him. The fact that she’s “kept” him so far makes her no less evil, destructive, and selfish.
I wish I could say I was surprised. In 2013 I wrote a piece on what I believe are the inherent dangers associated with the “couch surfing” phenomenon, and sadly why I do not believe that the organization (Couchsurfing is described as a Certified B Corporation) has sufficient procedures or even warnings in place to prevent the kind of abuse that can occur under its rubric.
Next month, an Italian policeman, Dino Maglio, will go on trial for the rape of an Australian woman 16 years-old at the time of the crime when she was staying at his home on a visit to Italy. Her outcry and the resulting case has led other victims of the same man to come forward as well. It seems apparent that Maglio had an effective cover within the couch surfing world as a policeman, among other things.
Unfortunately, he also had an effective platform in Couchsurfing itself, and in its (in my estimation) “kind of feel your way” approach to judging the safety of a situation from afar, and then in the moment.
I’m still confident that couch surfing is a harmless and indeed quite positive experience for the great majority of those who utilize it. Regardless, one life-changing crime is too many, and it appears that Couchsurfing is still far too vulnerable to infiltration by offenders who probably find it remarkably convenient and victim-rich.
In my view, Couchsurfing enthusiasts and the leaders of the organization need to take a hard look at how the safety of a particular situation can be and/or is evaluated by typical users, and how users can better ensure against inevitable abuse.
I don’t claim to have many answers, but I’ll offer this hint: Communication, no matter how robust, with the host, and even face-to-face conversation before unrolling a sleeping bag, will not be enough.
Tom Hogan is the District Attorney of Chester County, Pennsylvania. He is seeking the death penalty under Pennsylvania law for the murder of three year-old Scott McMillan, who appears to have succumbed to multiple, repeated, and ultimately murderous acts of physical abuse from the defendants in the case, Jillian Tait, the child’s mother, and Gary Fellenbaum, her boyfriend.
These acts included beating the toddler with a homemade whip, smashing his head through a wall, and hanging him by his feet while beating him.
“Though the heavens may fall, justice will be done to these defendants” was Hogan’s final statement at press conference yesterday.
Capital punishment will likely end in this country as society continues to evolve, as the unalterable risks the death penalty imposes are further exposed, and as notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ continue to be shot through with the complex realities of mental illness and extenuating circumstances. That isn’t necessarily a terrible prospect.
Regardless, while a penalty of death is still an option, and assuming that Tait and Fellenbaum are 1) factually guilty of the pre-mediated, torturous murder of this child and 2) legally sane, I wish my brother prosecutor Tom Hogan one thing as this miserable case plays out in a court of law:
Success, all the way to the needle.