So, as I said: Kyle Payne has been sentenced to 6 months in jail, among other punishments:
Stating that a major violation of trust had occurred, District Court Judge Don Courtney sentenced Iowa blogger and self-proclaimed male feminist Kyle Payne to serve time in the Buena Vista County Jail for invasion of privacy.
Payne received 360 days, with 180 days suspended on each of two counts of invasion of privacy, a serious misdemeanor charge. He was also given one year of probation on each count. On the charge of 2nd degree attempted burglary, a felony, Payne received an indeterminate term of prison not to exceed five years, with incarceration suspended. He will placed on probation for three years.
In addition, under a new portion of Iowa law that involves sexually-related crimes, Payne was given a 10 year period of parole. That sentence begins at the end of his regular term of probation. Because of the nature of his crime, he will not be required to register as a sex offender in the state of Iowa.
What to make of the sentence? When I saw the words “Kyle Payne Jailed,” my first reaction was utter relief. I know that I was not alone in fearing and expecting, with good reason thanks to the apologist nature of much sexual violence sentencing, that Kyle Payne would never see the inside of a jail or prison cell.
Then, of course, I couldn’t help but think: “only 6 months out of a possible 5 years? Jail instead of prison? Not having to register as a sex offender?” Bullshit.
It’s the last point that bothers me most. While there are often problems with enforcement of the sex offender registry to begin with (both failing to track sex offenders, and putting so many restrictions on sex offenders that chances of reformation are minimized), it makes me start to wonder why we even have the damn thing. There are people on it for crimes such as publicly exposing themselves right along gang rapists. And thanks to plea bargains, men like Kyle Payne who actually did commit a violent act against another person don’t have to register at all.
With that being said, I think that regardless of whether or not we agree with it, expecting prison for a first-time offense was unrealistic. I never expected in my wildest dreams that he would get the full 5 years. And though there was the possibility of a fine of up to $10,000, I’m glad that the judge didn’t decide to go that route — sexual violence isn’t something that you should be able to buy your way out of, and instead he received a much more meaningful sentence of 3 years probation and 10 years of parole.
Though due to efforts to protect her identity, we have not heard a whole lot about the victim in this case, she did indeed want to see Payne incarcerated:
“This is the type of thing that happens, but not to you,” said the victim as she read a pre-prepared impact statement in court today. “… You might be given jail time, but for me this is like a life sentence.”
She added that since she was unconscious, Payne is the only person who truly knows what happened that night and left the implication hanging that there might have been more to the event than him partially undressing her, touching her inappropriately and shooting photographs and video.
The victim’s mother, who also provided an impact statement in court, said that the incident had “crushed the spirit of her daughter” and has fractured her ability to trust others.
“You are a sick young man,” the mother said. “I think you’ve done this before and will do it again. Our family does not accept your apology. We do not care about your self-inflicted suffering. You reap what you sow.”
I agree with both the victim and her mother. Jail time doesn’t take back what Payne did and never can; trust is often the thing most violated during sexual assault; I find it hard to believe that Payne has not done this before, and his narcissistic statements leave me deeply worried that he will do it again; and of all things, he doesn’t deserve for his useless, insincere apologies to be accepted.
A bit on how the prosecution and defense argued:
Quoting repeatedly from Payne’s most recent blog post and pointing to what he described as a “narcistic” tendancies, Buena Vista County Attorney Dave Patton requested the court sentence Payne to prison.
“[His blog post] indicates that he believes this is not all about the victim,” Patton said. “He believes it is all about him.”
F. Montgomery Brown, who served as Payne’s attorney, argued for a deferment while documenting how “the blogosphere lit into” Payne.
“Why was this kid so sensational?” Brown asked the court. “Because he made a spectacle of himself, in part. … But being a hypocrite is not a sentencing factor.”
[. . .]
Payne spoke briefly in his own defense, apologizing to the victim and her family and promising “to make changes in my life so it doesn’t happen again.” He then sobbed openly.
Poor. Fucking. Baby.
I’m really glad the prosecution pursued that line of arguing — the same one most of us bloggers have been using — and that in the end Payne’s statement designed to manipulate people into sympathy was used against him for what it was. It wasn’t an apology, and it wasn’t a statement of wrongdoing; it was a list of reasons why we ought to just drop it and move on. It sure as hell was not about the victim. And despite Payne’s proclamations that he really had the big meanie fest coming to him and he supposedly so respected the right of the feminist community to denounce him, in the end the outcry was only a tool used to shoot for a shorter sentence.
Lastly, I want to note Brown’s question of why Kyle Payne was “so sensational.” It’s a question that he’s not he first to ask, and though we haven’t heard much from them, I’m sure that many out there feel it to be unfair. Firstly, I’m wholly unconvinced that being a hypocrite should never be a sentencing factor. I believe that sometimes it should, particularly in such extreme cases such as this where a person who advocated to end sexual violence committed sexual violence himself, and then continued his advocacy work. The fact is that thanks to all of Payne’s “work,” he knew perfectly well the impact that his violence would have. He knew, and he chose to act in spite of that, or perhaps because of it.
Further, his being a hypocrite is far from the full point, and it’s not the most important when it comes to why Payne’s case was so special that we all felt the need to write about it. I feel, and many others feel, that in addition to being a hypocrite, Payne purposely put himself in a place of trust for the purposes of exploiting it. In the same way that pedophiles often become teachers or priests, he put himself in a position of very great responsibility and necessary trust, so that he would have easy access to victims and be least suspected of committing abuse. Further, while the woman he assaulted is by far the ultimate victim, and the most important to consider, he violated many other women through counseling them about their sexual abuse while being a sex offender himself. Due to his actions and hints in his writings (like his plan to write a book of victim stories he’d heard through counseling others), I don’t doubt that he actually got off on it. As I said, the violation of trust is often one of the most lasting effects of sexual violence. He made the conscious decision — again, knowing this fact — to take the trust of women whose trust had been violated, at a point when it was most vulnerable, and violate it again. He did it over, and over. He did it knowingly.
Kyle Payne was so sensational because what he did was so sensational, so audacious, and so unbelievably calculated and cruel. We “lit into him” because we have a right to police our movement. Payne infiltrated it for the absolute worst purposes. He abused our movement for his personal gain and the exploitation and victimization of others. He laughed in the face of perhaps feminism’s biggest conviction, that no woman should experience violence, and he used that conviction to win the trust of a woman only to violate it along with her body. He used our beliefs against sexual assault to more easily commit it. For that he deserves nothing less than our contempt, and the vast dissemination of what he did in the hopes of preventing it from reoccurring.
I hope to never hear the name Kyle Payne again. I hope that the victim will not have to either, though I know it’s unrealistic and that in any case she will never forget it. More realistically and importantly, I hope that she finds real help from people who actually believe in what they do, and that she is able to heal and move on. And despite all of my hunches and reason, I still hope most of all that she will be the last of this man’s victims.