Via the Hand Mirror (h/t Lauredhel), I came across a story this morning about a line of questioning used by a New Zealand defense attorney in cross-examining a woman who alleged that a taxi driver attempted to rape her:
After a long cross-examination, the taxi driver’s lawyer, Letizea Ord, put it to the complainant [that she] said “no” in a joking, flirting or teasing way.
“What I am suggesting to you is the way you used the word `no’ is you weren’t using it seriously,” the defence lawyer said.
The complainant – the primary witness in the case – strongly denied Ms Ord’s suggestion.
After wondering for the umpteenth time whether or not defense attorneys are actually born with a conscience (while simultaneously recognizing the genuinely dire reasons that defense attorneys are needed for a just legal system), and of course yet again going through the fact that a supposedly “joking” no, assuming women actually gave them, should always be verified as joking rather than assumed as such, period, I had to ask myself: what did this attorney hope to gain by this line of questioning?
Really — did she think that the victim was going to have an “aw crap, I didn’t think anyone would realize that despite my struggling, I wanted to have consensual sex with this man and was so incredibly embarrassed about it and desperate for no one to ever find out about my private thoughts that I filed legal charges of assault for an incident that no one would otherwise ever know about!” moment right up there on the stand?
Well, that would be a pretty dumb thought to have. And no, misogynistic defense attorneys who use rape myths in court to defend rapists aren’t actually that stupid; the problem is, they’re really, really smart. Smart enough to make this bullshit work. So I thought about it some more. What could she be trying to gain?
The answer that I came up with, of course, isn’t pretty.
Obviously, the victim was going to deny her ludicrous charges of actually desiring consensual sex in the back of a taxi with, as Anna put it, “a stranger who got his wanger out by way of introduction,” despite the admitted fact that she said “no.” But that was precisely the point. By forcing her to deny such ludicrous charges, the idea was planted in the jury’s mind that such a ludicrous charge might actually have some merit. Why else would she bring it up in court? And isn’t that what women do, anyway? Have sex and then regret it in the morning, therefore deciding the “ruin” the life of some poor chump by filing rape charges? And say “no” in order to preserve some kind of illusion of their “virtue,” while really meaning a hearty, desperate “yes”?
Remember, juries actually believe this stuff.
And even worse than that, I bet that the defense attorney expected the woman to be offended, upset, and flustered by her outrageous, misogynistic, insulting, accusatory, and downright triggering line of questioning. She would have expected her to nervously deny it, perhaps with a quaver in her voice, perhaps a little “too” adamantly. How could most of us not? And she would have hoped that a jury would see her quavering voice not as upset and shock but as uncertainty, and a vigorous denial as an attempt to cover up a lie rather than valid self-defense.
I could be wrong, of course. I’m not this defense attorney. I don’t know precisely what’s going on in her hateful mind. But you tell me: if she could not have been reasonably been expecting an admission by the victim (and seriously, she couldn’t), what could she have been going for, other than what I outlined above?
And if you do come up with an alternate answer . . . I can pretty much guarantee that it’s not going to be any better than this.