Home / Man, 55, rapes girl, 14: There is no defense

Man, 55, rapes girl, 14: There is no defense

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Like most people who’ve studied philosophy, I went through a period of wrestling with the issue of cultural relativism: how can I say my cultural norms are good, and your cultural norms are repugnant?

A brief study of the issue of female genital mutilation resolved that problem for me – there are cultural practices that are simply indefensible and should be stamped out by all means possible, just like a species’ general right to exist can be waived in a case such as smallpox.

And for all their faults – and Third World criticisms about their lack of attention to rights such as food and housing are legitimate – the United Nations human rights framework is a pretty good place to start in making value judgments.

But cultural relativism has taken hold in surprising quarters, including it would seem, the Northern Territory in Australia, where a 55-year-old tribal elder who anally raped and bashed a 14-year-old girl, who had been “promised” to him when she was just four years old, was given a jail term of one month. (Although the fact that the Territory’s white culture is extremely masculo-centric might also, I can’t but feel, have something to do with this.)

This was on the grounds that he apparently didn’t know he was doing anything wrong under Australian law, and was merely following cultural norms.

Some of the background to this, as I understand it. A number of the tribal groups in the Territory have a tradition of very young girls being promised as wives to senior men in the tribe, and given to them at a very young age. I’ve seen explanations for this along the lines that this was a harsh, arid, unforgiving environment, and only experienced hunters were likely to be able to support a family. Maybe that was true, maybe it wasn’t. It is not, of course, true now.

The only good news is that someone has stepped in as the poor girl’s advocate and is trying to have the sentence increased, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • As the father of a daughter, I am always concerned by these stories. How can this little girl (yes, 14 is little in my book) ever have a normal life? Ever?

    The answer is she cannot. But this monster gets off, even if they increase the sentence. He gets off and probably rapes again. And again.

    I’ve always had a tough sentence for rapists in my mind:

    – remove their genitals completely
    – incarcerate for life in prison

  • RedTard

    Is it always wrong for a fourteen year old to have sex? I don’t think so. Setting an arbitrary age, whatever that may be, is always inappropriate for some people. There are some individuals at fourteen who are more physically and psychologically mature than many eighteen year olds, and vice versa.

    That being said, true rape (not the statutory kind) is an exceedingly vile offense which should be punished extremely harshly.

  • RedTard

    Is it always wrong for a fourteen year old to have sex? I don’t think so. Setting an arbitrary age, whatever that may be, is always inappropriate for some people. There are some individuals at fourteen who are more physically and psychologically mature than many eighteen year olds, and vice versa.

    That being said, true rape (not the statutory kind) is an exceedingly vile offense which should be punished extremely harshly.

  • Toss out the numbers… man rapes girl. End of conversation. Lock his ass up.

  • RedTard

    Also, what in the world would cause you to link ancient aboriginal traditions to “white culture” of the province?

    I’m guessing your a liberal since you took the blame whites first approach to the problem. At least you see your sides cultural relativism for the BS that it really is.

  • steve

    Fry that M.F.!!! DUBYAH style…texas sizzlin!!!

  • Well, for those advocating capital punishment, I consider that equally – or indeed more barbaric – as the international human rights community consensus now agrees.

    As for the question of age, that simply exacerbates the offense and thus should increase the penalty.

  • Is this the same human rights commission at the UN that was chaired by Libya or Cuba or some such nation known worldwide as a champion of human rights?

    I am not advocating the death penalty, by the way. International consensus is worth something, I suppose. I am just not sure how much. You can find lots of people who agree on the wrong thing.

    I am more interested in what is right rather than who agrees with me.

  • The membership of the UN Human Rights commission has actually changed fromt he particularly horrible configuration it had a few years ago, but it still has a half-dozen nations which are famous for human rights abuses on it.


  • The Searcher

    Including the United States, as some assert.

  • And a fair point. There are some countries who have disagreements with the United States as is their right.

    All of which makes me wonder if there really is a consensus in the international community. Does it change the moral or factual correctness of a position if there is?

  • Nancy

    Cut off his balls & dick & make him eat them. Then blow his head off. There are far too many criminals that they should be allowed to continue to live at public expense.

  • Whatever the composition of the human rights commission at any point in time, the declarations of basic human rights are the products of broad international consensus. I’d agree that “general opinion” is not always “right”, but you need some criteria for making judgements between different cultural and legal practices, and this seems to be the best we have.

  • I would maintain basic human rights really have not changed that much over the years. Right is right and wrong is wrong whether or not the international community wants to define them as such.

    Of course, to counter my own argument, just because the ‘group’ is not always right does not mean they are always wrong either. Maybe it is the best we have and if so we should at least give them a listen. But if this is the best we have we should also be prepared to tell them to ‘get bent’ every once in awhile, too.

    For example, the issue that started this discussion… the international community can agree or disagree all they want. Rape is wrong regardless of the victim’s age or gender.

  • Nancy

    Those that commit crimes of violence have forfeited their human rights, along with their humanity. They have NO “human rights”. Period.

  • Even if I accepted the premise that violent criminals have forfeited their human rights (and I do not) there is still the matter of who will carry out the inhumane punishment.

    It is not just a matter of what the guilty deserves. I can understand the desire for vengeance on a raw, emotional level. Does anything good come from vengeance? Is it good public policy?

  • Nancy

    If she’s up to it, the victim. As a woman, I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than being allowed to carve up the guy who raped me and make him swallow his weapons. If she’s not, then her family or friends. “Inhumane”? Since when do violent criminals deserve or have a right to “humane” anything? They don’t. There is nothing wrong with vengence, despite christian bs to the contrary. It can salve a lot of pain, and it’s fitting. Let the punishment fit the crime, or ‘you use it, you lose it’. Ha.

  • I am not a woman and I have never been raped so I will not embarrass myself by trying to pretend otherwise.

    Having said that… exacting a cruel revenge does not ‘unrape’ a woman. Would there be salve to the pain? I question it. As I said above, I don’t know for a fact. I guess (emphasize ‘guess’) because we are all individuals there would be different reactions. I will assume you know yourself well enough (and obviously better than I know you) to know how you would react (although I pray you never have need to find out first hand).

    A person who commits a vile and violent act is still a person. They absolutely deserve punishment and society absolutely deserves protection. But a person does not cease to be a person until they die. Do all people deserve humane treatment? I think they do. Even the vile and evil.

    No amount of cruely or violence will ever be able to visit upon the criminal what his or her actions have visited upon the victim. A serial rapist or murderer- someone with many victims – can only be torturned or killed once. The criminal can never answer for all the lives he has wrecked and dreams he has destroyed. In my opinion (and it is afterall only that, my opinion) the torturing and killing of a violent criminal has more corrosive effect than healing.

  • I agree DJRadiohead. The state doing something vile to the criminal, or licencing even the victim to do something vile to the criminal, reduces it to the same level, and sends the message that violence solves problems.

  • I agree there should be a tougher penalty for the crime.

    I wouldn’t toss out the numbers. Rape of a minor is different than rape of an adult. A minor has no economic means of support since the legal age to work also means the minor is by definition dependent upon some adult.

    Ignorance of the law is never a good defense.

  • Nancy

    Violence does indeed solve problems. Guys are notoriously protective of their peckers. More so, even than their lives. And besides, if a criminal can only die once, well, what the hell, at least letting his victims or their families vent their spleens is better than letting him spend the rest of his life in jail at taxpayer expense, getting his medical problems attended to, being able to take classes, work out, read, et al.

    And no: you do NOT retain your “person” status. Nor should you.

  • I agree with half of what Nancy has said. It seems most fitting that the rape victim should get to do the honors (sanctioned by the state) and castrate the rapist. If there is more than one victim, they all get a little piece of the action.

    I don’t think killing is an answer, but the rapist should have no chance for parole and VERY uncomfortable circumstances.

  • I understand the emotion behind the words of rage but I do not see where lopping of ‘peckers’ is a wise or suitable public policy response to rape.

    Victims and families can vent their spleens without torturing or killing other people (some psychologists would suggest that is a healthier way to go about it). I think I could almost look past the inhumanity of it if I really thought allowing victims to torture their attackers would bring about healing. I can’t quote thousands of pages of research but I feel confident in suggesting that an obsession with lashing out at the people who hurt someone is not a good path to long-term healing.

    I don’t want to coddle violent, evil people. I have no problem with handing down a life sentence to a sexual predator. I don’t believe treatment works. They shouldn’t be allowed back into society. Society has a right to protect itself. I believe there is a way to handle antisocial behavior without becoming antisocial. I don’t believe fighting fire with fire is the only solution and I don’t believe it is the best solution most of the time.

  • But what is that achieving for society. Revenge? Is that an honourable objective?

  • Nancy

    Take away his dick & balls, & you’re guaranteed he damn well won’t do it again. How typical of a man to be unable to think that permanent physical emasculation is a viable solution. Always defending the balls, eh? Even someone else’s. Men are pathetic.

    Yeah, Natalie: revenge is VERY honorable, especially for the victims & their families. God knows they don’t get any satisfaction with the current, “no-fault” legal system that rewards violent criminals with, at most, a decade or so behind bars (with perks, as noted above) IF that, and then usually lets them out.

  • It’s usually the man thinking with the wrong head… the crime starts not in the genitals but in the mind. Removing the penis and testicles does not make someone with violent, deviant thoughts less of a threat. Removing them does not guarantee safety for anyone.

    Consider the Amadou Diallo story in New York. He was assualted by New York cops but was never assaulted with a penis. He was penetrated with foreign objects.

    The perversity does not begin and end with the penis. Men are not pathetic- rapists are.

    If anyone is guilty of not being able to think outside the box it would the bloodthirsty people championing torture. It is inaccurate and unfair to draw the conclusion that those not in favor of meting out torture and death to perverts somehow favors the current system.

  • Nancy

    Why should they be shielded from what they mete out? Criminals should at the least have to suffer the pains they inflict.

  • Cunning linguist

    You can bet that if this had happened in America the ACLU would be trying like hell to get this guy off.

  • I say permanent loss of freedom is a suitable means of punishment and providing protection.

    Arming victims with pliers and blowtorches still doesn’t cover all of the pain they will endure the rest of their lives.

  • Nancy

    It goes a loooooooong way to help. And it’s FITTING, just, and fair – something just locking them up is NOT.

  • And it is here where I take my leave of the conversation because I just cannot accept that “an eye for an eye” is ‘fitting, just, and fair’ and it sure does not seem I am going to change the mind of anyone else which is fine.

    I do not believe it is good public policy. I do not believe it is good for the individual. And one final sidenote: Christianity is not the only religion that warns against the corrosive nature of vengeance.

    Despite the occasional heatedness of this, I have enjoyed the conversation and the points of view.

  • Nancy

    Ditto. I don’t believe anyone here is going to change their minds on this subject.

  • One thing is for certain: an emasculated sexual predator will never rape again. Yes, perhaps he may still be violent, so serving life in prison will do him just fine.

  • victor, if the predator doesn’t have a penis, he can, and they do, use other implements…prison isn’t fine by me, and i explain why further on…

    per other assertions, a 14 yr old is a child…forcing a child to have sex is molestation…anyone who thinks differently hasn’t been a 14 yr old girl and/or doesn’t have a 14 yr old child — or lacks the capacity for compassion and empathy and ought remove themselves from any further discussion…

    i have debated the idea of exterminating sexual predators with those who think my position as a survivor clouds my thinking and those who think it supports my thinking…
    the bottom line is that sexual predators don’t stop…this has been documented time and time again…they leave desperation and despair in their wake whether or not they finish off with murder…death isn’t the worst thing, it’s having to live with the horror of someone else’s crime that’s the worst thing, especially if that horror was inflicted upon a child who has neither the same rights or resources as the criminal…
    the idea that murder is the worst thing someone could do has a lot to do with why, as a society, we don’t regard sexual predators as the worst of criminals…i grew up in wichita (the killing field of btk) and thought, even as a child, that death wouldn’t be the worst thing…at least it was an end…what happened to his victims before they were killed was the tragedy, i thought, not their deaths…at the same time there was a massive manhunt for btk, i was being molested by the neighbor whose house i went to after school until my folks got home from work…at the time it was barely illegal what he was doing to me…btk is in jail because there is no statute of limitations for murder, but the guy who molested me walks free because of legal limitations — limits that existed then and now…sure we can blame my folks, and blame me for not telling although i’ll tell you to pound sand (he said he’d kill my mother if i told and he did kill our dog as a way to seal the pact, a convincing tactic to use on a 7 yr old), but the reality is that he’s still free…
    the irony is that i had to spend my own money, and lots of it, to clean up the mess he made of my life…even if he had gone to jail, my taxes would be spent on his upkeep…whose briliant non-molested idea was that? i took responsibility for my own life, having gratefully and willingly paid for my own recovery…why should any victim have to foot the bill for the predator’s crime twice?

    there is no way to provide for both the rights of the children AND the predator…by fully providing for one, you cheat the other…children have a right not to be molested…you can’t fully provide for this right if you provide for the predator’s rights AT ALL…providing for the punishment of predators isn’t good enough obviously as they will repeat their offense until they’re stopped…you’ve prevented nothing…i’ve yet to see a predator in the united states that didn’t kill get sentenced to life without parole…this means they will get out at some point and this in turn means they will be able to prey again…is this protecting the children who haven’t yet bumbled into his path? no, it’s not…it’s providing for his rights, one of which is NOT the right to the opportunity to molest children…and again, making the victim pay for the predator’s upkeep in prison via taxes is not providing for the victim’s right to be free of the predator — it’s providing for his…

    there is no proven cure for predators and it’s financially irresponsible, in my mind, to spend money keeping them in prison when that money would be better spent helping victims put their lives back together…any talk of treating a sexual predator humanely when dolling out punishment is considerably more hurtful to victims than any shallow gain that would come of the victim getting to kill the predator him/herself…speaking of his “rights” is to speak more of him than of me…it’s insulting to suggest that he is as much a human being as i am…i dare anyone who thinks as much to accompany a young victim through her physical exam and tell her “he’s as human as you are with as many rights, well, more rights really because as a big person he will never be like you, a little person who has been molested”…i think they should just try that…
    no good of any kind on any level comes from allowing a sexual predator to live…
    yea, so killing him wouldn’t make me unmolested…so what? that isn’t the goal…it’s also not a goal of any victim i’ve ever met to see a predator suffer…suffering means they’re still alive, and in the victim’s mind, alive = able to prey again…the predator will never be a child again, never experience what he himself has inflicted upon children, so there is no eye-for-an-eye, and victims know this…and if he had been a victim of molestation himself, so freakin’ what? look what he did with the experience!
    the goal is to remove said offender from society so that he can never offend again in the most cost-effective manner possible…
    if this is not your goal then kindly bow out of the process because you’re in the way of those who know what’s best for the children of the world — and that’s to prevent molestation where ever possible…

    if this is not your goal, perhaps you’ll volunteer to work with young victims in the emergency room until your stomach turns inside out…if after this you still think these young people should have to grow up and pay taxes for the upkeep of the predator, then i’ll listen…

    you’d think family men would be more vocal about their daughter’s rights above the predator’s rights…after all, it’s the family man’s gene pool that the predator seeks to stain, to rob, to conquer…what a predator does to a young boy’s ability to ever foster a decent relationship runs ever so counter to that which any family man would hope to instill in his sons…you’d just think family men would be more vocal…

  • Diana,

    You make so many valid points, and I have advocated (see above) very harsh punishment. I believe the sexual predator should have his genitalia removed. I understand about using implements (hadn’t thought about that before), but if ALL rapists had to serve life with no parole, the only persons they could attack would be other prisoners.

    I just have a problem with the death penalty. Notwithstanding, I can understand parents wanting nothing less for the animal who attacks their child. So, I agree that maybe the only certain method of no repeating the crime is death. As a parent (above my feelings about capital punishment) then death it should be.

  • to be clear, i only advocate death for sexual predators of any kind to include their passive brethren, the view-only predator…it’s my opinion that view-only predators wouldn’t hesitate to fill any gaps in the active predator world if those gaps meant having nothing to view…i don’t advocate the death penalty for any other crime or criminal and i’m not opposed to footing the bill for the upkeep of other criminals…further, i don’t advocate a suffering death or any time on death row; the less time it takes to go from conviction to death the better, the less fanfare the better, as one would put down a rabid dog…at least a rabid dog was at one time not rabid…

    i firmly believe sexual predators are born sexual predators…i don’t believe they are a product of their environment and thus cannot be rehabilitated any more than someone born without a leg can be made to grow a leg…i’m not comparing someone born without a leg to a predator, i’m equating the impossibility of growing a leg where one is not to the impossibility of rehabilitating a predator…

    to even suggest a predator could be rehabilitated would first require studying the live brains of known predators, isolating the problem consistently enough to say for absolute sure “this is the area of the brain that’s the problem”, and removing it…again, there would have to be studies to assure the removal resulted in a “cure” before ever releasing someone back into society…

    short of that (and i’m fine with not spending all that money on them), i’m all about getting the lot out of the gene pool as completely as possible as soon as possible…

  • 14 deffinitly IS too young for sex. 14? they are little girls for gods sake!
    how are they supposed to get their lives back on track if something like this happened?

    14 is like the same age as those little girls on the musical Annie…Lol! ‘its the hard knock life for us’

    its disgusting for older men to do something like that!