When people ask me how I can defend people accused of sex crimes, there’s often a look of disbelief on their faces. They’re conjuring images of a rape victim being dragged into an alley or car, to be later violently beaten and raped. That’s a horrible image, so I understand why some people can have a hard time understanding why criminal defense lawyers defend people accused of sex crimes.
What they don’t understand, is that in a significant number of cases where rape or some other Massachusetts sex offense is alleged, the “facts” are often anything but clear. As a Dedham, Massachusetts sex offense lawyer, most of the defendants I represent are anything but sex offenders: A great many of them are college students, who were on a date, in a relationship, or were involved in a consensual “one-night stand,” when the other person involved, screamed rape. When that happens, the accuser is almost always a woman; the accused almost always a man.
And when that happens, as a Massachusetts college sex crimes attorney, I can assure you that the next thing to show up on the scene is an invisible, yet very palpable presence: Gender bias. In too many cases that I have seen, there is an immediate presumption that the male defendant is guilty of the crime alleged. The rationale for this un-acknowledged bias, is the idea that most men are much, much physically stronger than women; that the average woman is a weak, frail being unable to defend herself against a brute man. (By the way: Don’t doubt that, as with all kinds of prejudice, the worst kind of bias is the kind that is unacknowledged.) The idea that women are unable to physically resist an attack is, of course, unfounded – and the lie to this has been demonstrated by the fact that women now serve on police departments, and in fighting, battlefield positions in the military.
Yet this bias persists. Care to know what really happens in a great deal of these cases? Some kind of a “dating,” intimate, or familiar relationship existed between accuser and accused. The “victim” became offended by something her partner did or didn’t do, and sought out retaliation, by accusing her partner of a sex offense. Perhaps the accused said or did something emotionally hurtful to them; maybe cheating was involved. Perhaps a girlfriend or date became jealous of another woman her boyfriend or date was eyeing. Perhaps harsh and hurtful words were exchanged. Perhaps the two engaged in consensual sex after a party or after a lot of alcohol was consumed, and later, the woman feels embarrassed, so she makes up a lie to “cover” herself.
Or perhaps the female college student is from an especially religious family or background, where pre-marital sex is prohibited or shamed. Or perhaps there are mental health issues on the part of the accuser. Or, in more cases than many people might imagine, maybe it’s just a case of “buyer’s remorse,” – the morning after embarrassment that results when the alcohol or drugs wear off, and you realize you’ve slept with someone that is universally derided or laughed at across campus. College students are extremely acceptance-needy and rejection-sensitive. A sense that the ‘wrong move’ with a sexual partner that might invite peer rejection, ridicule or embarrassment, can produce shockingly unjust accusations of “rape.”
Regardless, the point is the same: Due to unacknowledged gender bias on the part of many college campus officials, it’s often very easy for a woman to accuse a man of rape or a variety of sex crimes. Think this is not so? Then please click here to read a very revealing article that Cathy Young, a former Editor of Reason Magazine, and current columnist at Newsday and RealClearpolitics.com, has written.
As important as it is to understand what I am saying, it is equally or more important to understand what I am NOT saying: I am not saying that anyone – man or woman – has the right to take sexual advantage of another. Ever. And I am NOT saying that all women’s allegations of sexual misconduct – college age or older – are to be viewed suspiciously. I am only saying that, like it or not, there is a strong undercurrent of unacknowledged gender bias against young male college students, and for a truly blind justice system, that bias must end.
Otherwise, our criminal justice system, becomes anything but “just.”