Imagining the Worst: Just What Was That "Assault" Precisely?

The next time you read in the papers or, more likely, hear on television, of an adult male being arrested for the sexual assault of a juvenile male, take a moment to ponder what could possibly be meant by the term "sexual assault'' or one of several other terms, such as "rape'' or "molest".

If you're like most people, you probably imagine the worst, or something close to it, such as forcible penetration (of the youth) or forcible fellatio (of the man). In other words, a non-consensual act with a goal of sexual satisfaction for the man but with wanton disregard for the pleasure or welfare of the youth.

If these are the first possibilities that come to mind, then the government agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting these cases are perfectly happy to have you believe so.

And, for that matter, those who pass for journalists today clearly take personal satisfaction in injecting additional scandal into any story involving "sexual assault" of a child. They are loathe to report any detail which either mitigates the circumstances or humanizes the adult "perpetrator". Getting public approval very much depends upon the level of outrage expressed by the reporter in any case involving children and sex.

But the reality is that simple "touching" of the youth of any part of his body-shoulders, arms, back, legs, hair- can and frequently do qualify as "sexual assault" or "molestation". Both parties can be fully clothed with all touching occurring over the clothes. It can still be charged as "sexual assault".

In their own assault on civil liberties, the grand alliance of sex-hating religious conservatives and sex-hating gender feminists have been wildly successful in defining "sexual assault" ever more widely. Indeed, they are still doing so. What was once considered to be affectionate became "inappropriate" and finally, "abusive" and "assaultive" and can now be prosecuted as a crime.

In addition to being distinctly inconvenient for the authorities to release those details constituting a "sexual assault", there is also a long-standing social taboo against openly discussing specific sexual acts in detail, especially when they involve children. This cultural prudishness further serves to obfuscate the true nature of a "sexual assault".

It should be obvious that any detail shedding light on the true nature of an alleged "assault" is necessary in forming an opinion upon its veracity. The media-consuming public seems unaware and unconcerned that they are being robbed of this opportunity.

So, the next time you read or hear of a case where an adult has been charged with "molesting" a child (or adolescent), ponder for a moment how little was actually communicated about the alleged "crime".

If Oprah's Lying About Being Sexually Abused As A Child, Who Else Might Be?

I want to be clear at the outset, I have no idea whether Oprah is lying about being sexually abused as a child or not. I have no way of knowing.

It has been alleged by her cousin, however, that she made the story up, as well as the story about growing up amongst filth, in order to help advance her career. Indeed, one could argue that Oprah's life-narrative of abuse and deprivation was essential in catapulting her to stardom and beyond.

Her cousin claims that, when asked why she had lied, Oprah replied "because that's what people want to hear" and that the abuse story "helped make me what I am today.''

But of course, I really don't know if she was abused or not. And I cannot know, since we only have Oprah's words asserting that she was abused and her cousin's words saying that she's a liar.

And that's just my point: hundreds of thousands of individuals, the great majority of them men, have been tried and convicted in this country for sexual abuse of children on the basis of their accuser's testimony and nothing else.

And often, the child accusers have themselves been arm-twisted into giving incriminating testimony by others, usually the police and prosecution team or even, perhaps, by one of their own parents.

Few people realize just how little evidence is needed to successfully convict someone of child sexual abuse.

After the Michael Jackson trial ended in an acquittal, many journalists, who should have known better, attributed his success in beating the conviction to "a lack of evidence.''

Actually, no. They're wrong. The evidence presented at his trial would have been plenty to convict him had he not had a defense "dream-team" and an adoring fan base who would have been scandalized to discover that it is really very easy to be convicted of sexual abuse in America.

Virtually everyone else of less-than god-like fame and fortune would be languishing in prison today with little hope of getting out within their lifetimes had they faced identical charges supported by identical victim testimony.

All it takes are words, painstakingly extracted from a kid on the stand, to convict. Testimony resulting from days of coercive coaching, cajoling and arm-twisting send men to prison in this country, in this day and age, for the rest of their lives. And it forever brands and marginalizes them should they ever be so lucky as to get out.

Let that truth sink in.

Family Extorts Paedophile of more than £50,000

THREE members of a family extorted more than £50,000 from a convicted paedophile by threatening to expose his sordid past.

Liverpool crown court heard their victim had turned his life around and had a good job after serving a jail sentence for indecently assaulting young boys in 1983.

But his life was thrown into turmoil after social services revealed his criminal past to his new “friends” – parents-of-six Kerry Edwards, 31, and her husband Leslie Johnson, 32, in June 2007.

Keith Sutton, prosecuting, told how over the next year the couple, and Johnson’s brother Edward Lawler, 38, threatened, intimidated and blackmailed him into handing over his life savings.

During the conspiracy, the scheming relatives sent “sackfuls” of threatening letters, warning their victim he would “leave in a body bag” if he refused to pay up.

Mr Sutton also told how he was marched to a cash machine in the middle of the night to hand over cash, while on another occasion he was assaulted and ordered to pay for a flat-screen TV and a child’s motorbike.

Judge David Boulton said when their victim eventually ran out of cash, a “wholly put up” allegation of child sexual abuse was made against him to police and he was arrested. It was only when he was released without charge he finally revealed the plot against him.

Judge Boulton said: “It was only when he was released he had the courage to produce sackfuls of letters which showed precisely what you had been up to over that year or so.

“It was little short of despicable.

“The threats were not only to reveal his previous convictions, which he had managed over the years to put behind him, but to threaten him with violence.

“One graphically put it that if he did not pay he would ‘leave in a body bag’.”

Judge Boulton told the gang blackmail was one of the “most vicious crimes in the calendar of criminal offences”.

He jailed Edwards, of Rappart Road, Wallasey, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail, to five years and four months.

Johnson, of Naples Road, Wallasey, and Lawler, of Balls Road, Prenton, who were convicted by jurors, were put behind bars for eight years each.

Barristers defending the men told how they maintained their denials, with Johnson putting the blame on his wife.

But Judge Boulton said they were found guilty on the “most powerful of evidence”.

Hand-writing analysis revealed Edwards had written many of the threatening letters, but Judge Boulton said he suspected she was not the “instigator”.

Mr Sutton told the court how a statement from their diabetic victim revealed how their crimes had left him financially ruined and afraid to leave his house.

He had become friends with Johnson and Lawler after moving to Merseyside in 2003 and had even loaned them up to £10,000.

But Judge Boulton said the family had “no prospect whatsoever” of repaying the cash and then, after learning of his background, used it as a “weapon” against him.

Gareth Bellis, defending Johnson, who has 20 previous convictions, said: “He denies any involvement in this offence as per his interview and his evidence-in-chief during the trial when he said this was Kerry Edwards’ doing.”

David Watson, defending Lawler, said his client only became involved at a much later stage, adding: “It seems clear Edward Lawler was not present at the inception of this offence.”

Lawler has 84 previous convictions, including 46 for theft.

Words Are Weapons -- Salem Revisited

This, from Norm Pattis' legal blog,

There will come a time in which our incredulity about the words of children looks as troubling as the manner in which we treated accused witches in Salem, Massachussetts. In 1692, 19 men and women and two dogs were convicted and executed for consorting with the devil. These deaths were the product of the words of children who claimed to have been seduced by a Satan-worshipping household servant named Tituba.

Arthur Miller wrote a play about the trials in 1953, The Crucible. He viewed the Salem trials as a parable through which the activities of the House Un-American Committee's prosecution of Americans for disloyalty could be viewed. What gives so much power to mere accusation?, he wondered. Why are some times ripe for an hysteria that is so easily seen to be false in a calmer time?

I wish Miller were writing now. I'd like to see what he would make of the moral panic present in our courts whenever the state chooses to adopt the words of a child as a truth worth fighting for. We do not permit children to make contracts and regard them as incapable in most of life's serious affairs. But yet, if the state chooses to take the uncorroborated claim of a child as truth, to treat it as a disclosure based upon which it can and should deprive a man or woman of liberty, then a defendant is left often as helpless to combat the claims as were the true victims at Salem.
I re-read The Crucible a few weeks ago to prepare for a civil trial in which a client sued the mother of a child who made extravagant claims. The mother defended by saying that it was her job to believe and support her child. I asked the jury to conclude that it was also the mother's job to behave responsbily, and to provide guidance to her child. Treating children as oracles is always dangerous. We won, proving defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, known in some states as outrage. It was an encouraging verdict.

I read the following words from The Crucible to the jury during my opening statement and closing argument. "Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem -- vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law."

Children do not deserve privileged status in our courts. Perhaps it is time to reinvigorate the Mosaic "two witness" rule, once required in homicide cases, and apply it to child sex cases. In those cases in which liberty hangs solely on the word of a child, and in which there is no other witness or any physical proof of harm, it should simply be too risky to prosecute merely on the word of a child. Massachussetts learned that the hard way in Salem; why do we need to learn the lesson all over again?