Via Hoyden About Town comes the story of New Zealand rugby player Jake Paringatai, who committed an act of sexual violence against a woman in at a social function. Of course, as seems to always happen when a perpetrator is a famous sports star, rape apologism from both the media and the courts has ensued, complete with boo-hooing about how the man’s career has been ruined over one silly little incident!
Exhibit A is the headline Former Crusader fined over grope, followed by this opening to the story:
Former Crusaders No 8 Jake Paringatai today saw the price he has paid for a clumsy drunken grope of a woman at a social function – $12,500 and most of his rugby career.
The price he has paid for a clumsy, drunken grope? You can hear the remorse for what that horrible woman did to this poor man, who made one teeny, tiny error, just dripping off the page. This would be bad enough on it’s own, of course. But it gets a whole lot worse once you realize that Paringatai did much more than “grope” his victim:
Paringatai, who is now living in Australia, grabbed the bottom of a woman he did not know at a social function in Christchurch in May 2007.
The 22-year-old woman felt a finger penetrate her vagina through two layers of clothing and Judge Neave described it as “humiliating and devastating ordeal”.
Yeah, here’s a clue. Forcibly penetrating a woman without her consent, even if you don’t use your penis, is rape. Period. It’s rape.
But that, of course, has not stopped all of the sniffling on his behalf:
His name suppression lapsed at his sentencing by Judge Raoul Neave in Christchurch District Court today when Paringatai did not ask for it to be continued, the Christchurch Court News website reported.
Instead, he can now expect a great deal of attention with his name made public at the end of a case the media have been following under suppression orders for nearly two years.
During that time, the media were not even allowed to describe him as a professional sportsman.
“The publicity will be much greater in your case and the damage to your reputation, if not irreparable, will be significant,” Judge Neave said.
“The vultures are already circling over the carcass as I speak.”
Oh noes! Us vultures, when confronted with a rapist, call him a rapist! Indeed, what horrible people we are. I don’t know how we live with ourselves, dragging this clearly good and decent man through the mud.
After all, he didn’t mean it.
Defence counsel Jonathan Eaton said it turned out that a drunken, impulsive act that lasted a couple of seconds had caused harm and had lasting consequences for all those involved.
It had brought shame for Paringatai and his family, teammates, coaches, and the sport which had occupied him fulltime since he was 19 years-old.
He had written letters of apology, and Mr Eaton expressed those sentiments in court.
Paringatai had unquestionably permanently lost the opportunity to represent New Zealand at rugby, Mr Eaton said.
He had been forced to ply his trade overseas – he has been playing in Ireland and in Japan – and there were serious questionmarks over whether his career could now survive his guilty plea and conviction.
Come on, folks! This was drunken and impulsive! No worse than putting a lampshade on your head and dancing around the house like a moron! Well okay, maybe a little bit worse, but can’t we all agree that this man has suffered enough? After all, he said he was sorry, the people he knows have been very upset to learn what kind of guy they’ve been hanging out with, and now he has to go to such godforsaken lands as Japan! And Ireland!
Obviously, all of that is much more powerful than the impact on the woman that Paringatai raped, who described herself as wondering what she did to deserve this, having lost weight and self-esteem, facing difficulty finding work shortly after the assault and still experiencing “intimacy problems.”
But amazingly, the worst apologism does not come from the defense attorney. It comes from the judge:
Judge Neave referred to Paringatai possibly believing at the time that his status as a professional rugby player gave him a greater entitlement to respect.
There was hypocrisy in the community being happy that these young men were paid large sums of money, and consistently telling them they were wonderful.
It was hardly surprising if Paringatai ended up with an inflated idea of his own importance.
He accepted that Paringatai had never intended his actions to be as intrusive as they were.
He noted that afterwards, Paringatai had been asked whether offence-related sexual issues needed to be considered.
He replied: “Nah. I was just being a meat-head.”
Yes, don’t you hate it when you accidentally rape someone? You didn’t realize that raping her was going to be intrusive! How could you know? It’s like, you’re messing around and, oops, all of a sudden — rape!
Oh wait, what’s not how rape happens at all? Rape is designed to be intrusive and even if you didn’t “intend” to be intrusive, you really should have thought about that before committing the rape in the first place?
Someone ought to tell it to the judge.
On a further note, since when is it customary to use the “what do you think your punishment should be?” style of parenting in a courtroom? And since when did one using that style of parenting just shrug their shoulders and say “okay” when the the offender says “I think you should punish me by expecting that I’ll try harder next time”?
Really, everything about this is disgusting. Because, in closing, the judge justified his decision to merely fine Paringatai with the fact that big old meanies like me were going to just tear him down.
Judge Neave fined Paringatai $2500 but stopped short of imposing a supervision sentence, because he now lived in Australia. The crown had sought a community work sentence.
The judge said he took into account Paringatai’s remorse, the effect his actions had already had on his career, the reparation payment he had made voluntarily, and the publicity he could now expect.
Maybe we’re giving this publicity to the case because someone needs to take the actions seriously. Someone needs to take this rape seriously, and this woman’s trauma seriously. And it’s obviously not going to be the government.