Rape is one of the biggest issues for American feminists, I think. Nothing says “object” like being forced or coerced into non-consensual sex. There are tons of people far more educated than myself who’ve discussed this topic and delved into what is called the “rape culture” of today – aspects of our culture that facilitate the tacit acceptance of rape’s presence. It’s taken years for rape victims to get protection and rights and recourse available to them, and the case I’m about to present is one of the reasons why.
In Washington, a pre-teen girl went to her teacher, then the police, because her father was sexually assaulting her. Her father stood trial and was sentenced to fifteen years minimum. This was in 2001. Two months ago, the same girl – now about twenty-two – came forward and said that she lied.
This is many men’s nightmare: a false claim of rape and time in high-security penitentiary as one of the most-hated, most-harassed offenders in the American prison system. False claims are what have and continue to be a barrier to stricter legislation against rape and cases in court passing a guilty verdict. To lie about such a thing is very, very despicable.
However, this particular case is interesting because of how it’s being handled.
The county’s prosecutor, Sue Baur, was the one who tried this man and believed his daughter over a decade ago. Judging by the interview in the article linked above, I think she’s just as surprised as anyone else that it was a false story. It’s very difficult for your average eleven-year-old to tell the same (apparently disturbingly detailed) account over and over with no inconsistency. There was no physical evidence, but in cases of sustained abuse over the course of a lifetime from a father, there often isn’t. (The only physical evidence was trauma to the groin area of the victim, but this was likely caused by unnamed, apparently consensual sexual encounters the woman claims she’d been having since about age seven.)
However, the prosecutor has decided that she will not try the woman, Cassandra Kennedy, for lying and purposefully exacting “vengeance” in the form of eleven years in prison upon her father. The reason? “…partly because prosecutors do not want to discourage people in similar circumstances from coming forward.”
Now, I’m not sure how that phrasing happened. Cassandra Kennedy’s circumstances were thus: she was a young girl whose family went through a divorce. She felt she had substandard attention from her father, so she wanted to “exact revenge” (her adult words) upon him by putting him in jail. She came up with the idea when a friend’s stepfather had met a similar fate. She obviously had issues even at this age, not only because of her family splintering, but because of claimed drug usage and having already been “sexually active” (again, her adult words) for more than four years. She’s also abused nearly every substance under the sun and is reportedly currently in an addiction treatment center.
Personally, I would like to discourage people in that circumstance – wanting to lie to get even with someone – from “coming forward.”
However, I understand the real meaning: the prosecutor is worried about women being discouraged from coming forward about sexual assault and rape if they see that, as long as they can be made out to be liars, they can be prosecuted. This, I understand. No one would like to see a trial against Cassandra Kennedy used as precedent for a true victim’s testimony getting twisted in court and then thrown back at them as a sentence in prison (or whatever else).
Currently, I’m very torn up about this issue. Is it right to not prosecute this woman for clearly lying under oath and effectively ruining her father’s life? Perhaps you couldn’t prosecute the actual lie itself – she was, after all, eleven – but what about the few years’ time she had as a legal adult that she spent without telling anyone about what she’d done? Some people have argued in the comments of the article that she should be tried for the three or so years she withheld the information as a legal adult.
Also, according to the prosecutor, there “should be no indictment of the system.” Really? No one could get a child psychologist to profile the child and outwit a disturbed eleven-year-old to realize that she may not be telling the truth? Was a psychologist even called in at all? Even if not to profile her, one should have been brought in by police to check her mental state and see if she was fit for court.
(As an aside, someone did mention in the comments section that their father was killed under this woman’s jurisdiction. He was hit by a driver while he had the right of way crossing a street in his motorized wheelchair. No BAC tests were performed on the driver, and “the sun was in his eyes” when he wasn’t facing anywhere near the sun’s direction at that time of day. The prosecutor supposedly told the family that she didn’t think she could find twelve people in the county who would think the driver was negligent, and that she had a conviction rate to consider. Methinks some foul small town politics are afoot.)
Whatever the case – whether or not this was preventable, what should be done – it is a potential step backward for the rights of true victims. My personal opinion is that our country should have stronger mental health initiatives and less taboo toward mental health issues. Perhaps, then, we wouldn’t have an unhappy, obviously unstable young girl bringing false charges against her father. I sincerely hope that this case and any cases like this end up working against rape victims in the future.
As always – but particularly now – feel free to leave a comment response voicing your opinion. It’s a complicated issue both within this particular case’s context and without, and it’s something that demands open dialogue.