Holtzclaw

This is an exceptionally good question:  why the long media silence regarding this fairly sensational series of crimes?

The featured correspondent from MSNBC thinks it’s about race.  And that might be partly true, but the better answer is that the media are extremely reluctant to report crimes by cops, the preferred narrative being that cops are heroes.  Which they sometimes are, of course, but that’s beside the point.

Facts are facts, and stubborn things.  They should give rise to narratives, and not the other way around.  Intellectually, we can all understand that cops can be criminals like anyone else.  Viscerally, this is an extremely problematic proposition, because in our minds cops are the protectors from criminals.

The cop-as-criminal narrative, in other words, causes the lizard brain to recoil and hide from facts that threaten to undermine people’s sense of safety.  Unlike news stories that positively engage the lizard brain and sell newspapers, the cop-as-criminal narrative will cause people to avoid the news outlets that are its source.  The media don’t report such stories because they don’t sell.

The most disturbing thing about the Holtzclaw case is not the media’s failure, however, because that is happening all the time to many others, and I know worse stories.  No, the most disturbing thing is how aware Holtzclaw was about his advantages in credibility; and he maximized that by picking vulnerable victims who would almost certainly lose a swearing contest with a cop.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a bad cop.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Holtzclaw

  1. GB

    Well, perhaps. I have seen it covered.

    I think most people find this case unsurprising.

    Armando Saldate, the bad cop whose perjury sent Debra Milke to death row for 20+ years had a similar record.

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  2. Jessie

    For the media thinking this doesn’t “sell well,” there’s sure been a lot of bad cops in the news lately! (The idea that the media focuses on what “sells newspaper” is more than a little silly, considering subscriptions don’t pay their bills, but I suppose that’s a different debate.)

    I would posit that Holtzclaw is less of a household name (though a quick Google search brings up a shitload of hits, so there hasn’t exactly been a media blackout on him), but women in general are not believed about sexual assault and they’re blamed for their own victimization.

    I wouldn’t find this offensive if the public always tended towards skepticism about crime accusations — in fact, I wish they did — but of course that’s not the case. Sexual assault is one of the few crimes where society suddenly becomes extremely pro-defendant’s rights. There can be videotape of frat boys raping a passed-out girl, scrawling words on her body in marker and ejaculating on her—but innocent until proven guilty! ‘Cause, you know, women are ho-bags who lie and were asking for it.

    Look at the case of Sara Reedy. A 19-year-old girl, she’s working at a gas station. A man comes in with cellophane on his hands. Sexually assaults her at gunpoint. Steals the money from the till. Then takes her in the back and tells her to rip out all the phone lines. There are no security cameras.

    Reedy goes to the hospital for a rape kit. They don’t believe her. The police come to take a statement and, not only don’t believe her either, they arrest HER for stealing money from the till. ‘Cause, you know, women are ho-bags who lie and were asking for it.

    They dragged the case out for quite some time too — not because they didn’t have prints, which would legitimately hurt the investigation/prosecution, but because the time the phone lines were ripped out did not appear to match the time Reedy claimed this occurred. Turned out this wasn’t true, but the police couldn’t read the printout and assumed….you know, women are ho-bags who lie and were asking for it.

    They did catch the guy, only because he made a habit of it and he eventually confessed to the Reedy assault, which finally cleared her name.

    And that’s just ONE example….but I’m supposed to be shocked or think it’s a pro-cop narrative or think it just “doesn’t sell newspapers” that Holtzclaw’s rapes were not big news (though Google seems to disagree even with that)?

    Both the Reedy case and the Holtzclaw case also represent the kind of sexual assault that is most likely to be properly investigated and prosecuted—the stranger attack, the rarest of them all. The most likely person to rape a woman is her husband or boyfriend. But…..you know….women are ho-bags who lie and were asking for it.

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    • Jessie, you’re right too, I think. And maybe I focused on the wrong thing, but if you follow the link it’s someone else who was claiming that there was insufficient media attention to the matter and I just picked up on it with my own take. Which might not be as good as yours.

      I mean, I agree with you. There is a practical – still blameworthy, but practical – explanation for the attitude you cite: rape convictions are notoriously difficult to get. And when I say difficult, what I mean is that there’s a conviction rate of roughly 50-75% as opposed to the usual government wins ratio of 95% or so. Prosecutors are acutely aware of this, and I think they subtly discourage police from bringing them rape cases where there is such a high risk of a loss.

      Now, it could be that there is a high risk of loss because there is a higher proportion of false accusations when it comes to rape. I’ve read stuff by people who maintain this.

      It could also be that rape almost always takes place in private, so it’s a swearing contest, and although the prosecution overwhelmingly wins swearing contests that’s probably because their swearers are normally police. Which brings us back to the beginning, I guess.

      I think the feminist ideology about rape may have had a boomerang effect as well.

      And maybe juries are mindful that rape is an especially shameful crime and demand better proof than for robberies and larcenies.

      Obviously, I have personal experience with a horrifying injustice directed at a rape victim and I have puzzled over this a lot. But in the end I don’t have a good answer about the whys and wherefores of this.

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      • Jessie

        But none of this is how things play out in the real world. Lots of crimes with no other witnesses are prosecuted — the Jodi Arias case being one high-profile example. No witnesses and very little evidence Arias was even there. Many non-sexual assaults have no other witnesses except the parties involved, but no one shies away from prosecuting those.

        Meanwhile, the example I used of an unconscious woman being raped on camera was a real case from 2006 in Chicago. The men videotaped themselves raping her, spitting on her, and ejaculating on her. (In fact, I couldn’t remember the year, so I did a Google search and apparently taping oneself raping an unconscious woman is a thing. They don’t even bother destroying the tape; they pass it around to their friends.) If evidence were the real problem, these should not be difficult cases.

        The “feminist ideology” about rape is that no one should be forced into sexual contact without their consent and that consent can be withdrawn at any time. Has this caused a boomerang effect, as you say? Probably. But any thinking person should find that outrageous. To say, well, y’know, the feminists have made such a big stink out of this that there’s bound to be a backlash is just to blame women all over again for being raped.

        Seems pretty clear the problem here isn’t one of evidence, but of the assumption that women are less credible. Would Holtzclaw have even been brought up on charges if he’d raped just one woman? What if that woman was his wife? It’s like Biblical times. Once you get up to eight or ten women…well, ok, now it’s believable.

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        • Well, here’s one way I’ve heard it described by prosecutors: you need the prompt report and the rape kit. That gives you physical evidence to corroborate the rape, but then of course the defendant is going to claim it was consensual. No other witnesses and no other evidence. It’s a thin case.

          I can’t agree with you that other kinds of crimes routinely fall into the same category. The Jodi Arias case? You had a body and conclusive evidence that a homicide occurred. You don’t get evidence like that with rape. Even the rape kit doesn’t necessarily mean that a rape took place. And few assaults of other kinds don’t have multiple witnesses, but if they don’t you might well run into the same kind of proof problem, except of course that a prosecutor should at least be able to demonstrate significant injury. Nobody consents to having their nose broken (for the most part, anyway) but people do consent to sexual relations, which makes the rape case comparatively more difficult: “without consent” is an element of the crime. And there’s even more to it than that.

          Consent can be withdrawn at any time? This is unarguable, of course, in the abstract. But if there has been consent to sexual intercourse, and in the middle of the act consent is withdrawn, will the slightest further continuation make a man a rapist? And is the crucial thing actual consent, or the accused’s belief that there was consent? I would say the latter; that is, a rapist must intend to subject the other person to sexual contact knowing that the person does not consent.
          I certainly recognize that this results in situations where a person has not in fact consented and for them there’s no difference between what occurred and rape, so it wouldn’t mean, say, that I wouldn’t believe that person; it’s just that where there is room to doubt that the accused understood the person to have not consented, or to have withdrawn consent, I don’t think we can call the accused a rapist.

          All this aside, the 2006 Chicago case you cite is unambiguous. Were the men prosecuted and convicted?

          I guess the problem I see with the ideological approach feminism has taken is that by insisting that even the most ambiguous proof is to be resolved against the accused they merge the unambiguous with the ambiguous. Men of low character, of which there are many, interpret the false equivalence in a self-serving way, which might help explain why videotaping has become a thing, as you say.

          I appreciate your comment. If I need to be straightened out on any of this I hope you’ll do it.

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          • Jessie

            The only thing I think needs straightening out is this notion of a “feminist ideology.” There are a lot of feminist ideologies—even about rape—and they vary widely. If there’s some ideology you’re opposed to, then name it. Don’t just call it “feminist,” because that’s not specific enough to know what you’re talking about.

            No, the Chicago 2006 case resulted in an acquittal. Boys will be boys. They were just having fun. The girl shouldn’t have put herself in that position. Blah, blah, blah.

            Does any further continuance after consent is withdrawn make it rape? Well….yes….I should think that would be obvious. Stop means stop now, not five minutes from now. One state (I think it was Maryland) actually tried to pass a law that, once intercourse has begun, consent cannot be withdrawn. It failed, but…..Jesus! That was right around the same time that an Australian jury acquitted a man of rape because the victim was wearing tight jeans and they surmised that he could not have taken off the jeans without her consent.

            And none of this was in Biblical times. This shit was all within about the last decade.

            I think the key here is that I wouldn’t find this stuff so offensive if all criminal accusations were treated with this degree of skepticism. In fact, I would much prefer universal skepticism, where the equivalent of Nancy Grace is on TV, saying, “Well….I don’t know, folks…people do make false confessions…” But that would never sell EXCEPT as it pertains to crimes against women. That’s the offensive part.

            You’ve been the one who’s educated me as to just how little evidence is required to bring criminal charges. I was surprised to learn from you that even a body is not needed for a murder charge. So why is evidence the big hang-up with rape charges? Excepting the stranger attack, which is rare and much more likely to result in charges, there could be all kinds of non-eyewitness evidence: A history of bad boundaries with other women, text messages or emails that indicate continued unwanted contact, other evidence of violence or stalking in the relationship (prior injuries, prior police reports), etc.

            “…few assaults of other kinds don’t have multiple witnesses…”

            This is true for men, who are far more likely to be assaulted outside of their homes. A woman is far more likely to be assaulted inside her home. But, then, children are also much more likely to be assaulted inside their own homes, yet we don’t have any problem prosecuting those cases, even though young children make terrible witnesses. So I’m not buying that one as a reason.

            In addition, not to get too graphic, but non-consensual intercourse can produce vaginal tearing and bruising. Not always, but it is used in autopsies to determine whether a homicide victim was raped.

            So there’s evidence to be considered if anybody wishes to consider evidence.

            “And is the crucial thing actual consent, or the accused’s belief that there was consent? I would say the latter; that is, a rapist must intend to subject the other person to sexual contact knowing that the person does not consent.”

            I’m not even sure what this means. All I can think of is that line from Thelma and Louise, right before Susan Sarandon shoots the guy: “When a woman’s crying like that? She isn’t having any fun.”

            In the end, though, I don’t actually believe that violence against women can be solved through the court system. Same as I don’t think exacerbating charges can resolve hate crimes — and violence against women is a hate crime. It’s enabled by a misogynistic culture the same way racist crimes are enabled by a racist culture, while, say, robbing liquor stores is not enabled by a “robbing-liquor-stores” culture. Changing the culture will not change the fact that people sometimes knock off liquor stores, but it CAN change the incidence of hate crimes.

            One place I think it begins with sexual assault is learning that the opposite of rape is not consent — it’s ENTHUSIASM. I find it a bit chilling how many men can have sex with a partner who has completely checked out mentally (women talk about these things—checked-out sex is shockingly prevalent).

            Now, this might have been what you meant by the accused’s belief that there was consent, but it’s irrelevant. Sex with a checked-out partner is not rape, legally or morally. But what’s the distance between enjoying sex with a partner who’s just lying there thinking of England, and enjoying sex with a partner who’s actively saying no? And if he “can’t tell” she’s not into it, even that speaks volumes about the male-centeredness of sexuality that even kids pick up in their earliest experimentation.

            It would be nice if rape victims could get justice through the court system, and some of the excuses why they can’t are maddening, but I think it’s these sorts of cultural changes and re-thinking sexuality that will make a real difference.

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