We Need to Address the “Good Family” Defense of Abusers and Rapists

NBC News reported on July 3, 2019 that a New Jersey judge’s decision that a 16-year-old boy who was accused of the rape of an intoxicated girl was overturned by a higher state court. The accused, according to prosecutors, also filmed the sexual assault/rape and sent it to his friends. The government sought to have the teen tried as an adult, but the lower court judge denied the request stating that the boy “comes from a good family” and that he’s destined “for a good college.”

The outrage was swift and unanimous.

This was not the first time a New Jersey judge had been publicly (if not officially) chastised for making inappropriate comments from the bench in regard to a sexual assault claim. The New York Times reports that “The Supreme Court of New Jersey, responding to a nationwide backlash over insensitive comments made by several judges in sexual assault cases, announced new mandatory training on Wednesday for judges across the entire system.” The judge in this case has since stepped down.

The facts asserted by the prosecution

Prosecutors said that the defendant filmed himself with the girl, who was also 16. He then sent the video to his friends with a text message: “[w]hen your first time having sex was rape,” according to the appeals court ruling. Prosecutors stated that the teens were at a pajama-themed party and that both were intoxicated. The teen-aged boy led the girl to a basement sofa where “a group of boys sprayed Febreze on her bottom and slapped it with such force that the following day she had hand marks on her buttocks,” the appellate court ruling said. The video then showed the teen penetrating the girl from behind. According to the prosecutors, the teen being charged knew that the area where the acts took place were “off limits.”

The appellate court ruling further said that the girl was driven to her home by a friend of her mothers. The next day, the girl sated she feared “sexual things had happened at the party.” She soon became aware that the male teen was intent on sending the video to his friends. When he refused a request to stop, the family pressed charges.

In New Jersey, prosecutors can seek to charge teens 15 and older as adult for certain crimes, such as a sexual assault.

Possible criminal charges could include:

  • First-degree aggravated sexual assault
  • Second-degree sexual assault
  • Third-degree endangering the welfare of a child
  • Third-degree counts of invasion of privacy
  • The requirement to register as a sex offender

The system needs an overhaul

The lower court judge based his denial to transfer the case to adult court on the devastating effects the adult charges would bring on the perpetrator. According to the NBC story, the judge also raised several questionable arguments including:

  • Questioning the girl’s claimed state of intoxication at the time of the assault, implying that she may have understood what was going on.
  • Whether the offense was legal a “rape” or was a “sexual assault.”
  • Whether the text message was a “calculation or cruelty on his part of a sophistication or predatory nature” or whether it was “a 16-year-old boy saying stupid crap to his friends.”

This is s systemic problem – and not just in the courts. The country is facing a reckoning for its long history of believing that sexual predators are not really as “bad” as their victims say. The acting director of New Jersey’s Division on Women said of the case:

“The ‘boys being boys’ mentality that excuses incredibly heinous crimes and treats offenders to a slap on the wrist, rather than true accountability [is] unconscionable. When it comes from a sitting member of the judiciary, it’s inconceivable. Dismissing these traumas with platitudes for an offender’s academic record, rather than in the interest of justice for the victims, is reprehensible.”

There’s no justification for sexual assault no matter the age of the accused or the victim. Sexual assault and rape cases traumatize victims, often causing long-term psychological harm. The Los Angeles attorneys at Taylor & Ring work with to show that a sexual assault did indeed take place and that the victim’s life, hopes, and dreams will never be the same. We fight to hold perpetrators accountable in civil court. We demand damages for these heinous crimes. For help now, call us at 310.776.6390 or complete our contact form to speak with an experience LA sexual assault lawyer.

 

 

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