Trigger Warning for rape apologism and graphic descriptions of sexual violence
In Sydney, a U.S. sailor has been acquitted on charges of raping a sex worker who told him to stop — even though he admitted, in court, to using a “lock down maneuver” to pin her to the bed.
A New South Wales District Court jury cleared Petty Officer Timothy Davis, 25, of a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, with the aggravating factor of causing the woman actual bodily harm. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Davis was one of 3,000 Marines and Navy personnel on shore leave in Sydney after the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu and guided missile destroyer USS Halsey arrived in the port in October, 2008.
The woman told the court she had protected, consensual sex with Davis at the brothel where she worked, but said he became aggressive when she told him his time was up and forced her to have unprotected sex. The jury was shown police photographs of scratches on the woman.
Davis denied forcing the woman to have sex, but admitted in court that he used a “lock down maneuver” to pin her to the bed when she said she wanted to stop. He told the court he backed off when she kicked him, though he said he muffled her mouth with his hand when she began to scream after he demanded his money back.
Could we possibly be reading this correctly? Let’s try another source:
She said he “ripped” off his condom, telling her he had paid for sex and he was going to finish it off “like a real man”.
The slight woman said he pushed her head into the pillow, started suffocating her, and had unprotected sex for 30 seconds.
The jury was shown police photos depicting scratches on the woman, who described Petty Officer Davis as an “animal” during an angry outburst at the trial.
In his evidence, the sailor – who agreed his weight was more than double the woman’s – admitted using a “lock down manoeuvre” to pin her down to the bed when she said she wanted to stop.
He said he told her he was going to “finish”, but when she kicked him away, he backed off with his hands in the air.
So, she told him to stop. And even only as far as he admits, instead of stopping as he was told, he pinned her to the bed and told her he was going to continue anyway. I repeat: against her wishes. After she told him to stop.
Which means that as far as any reasonable definition goes — hell, even working off an antiquated and misogynistic definition of rape that requires physical violence to be present — he confessed to raping her.
And yet, despite his clear admission of rape, he simultaneously claimed that it wasn’t rape — as we know, men will frequently admit to behavior that classifies as rape so long as the word rape is not actually used. The fact that he would do so in a court of law, though, is particularly shocking, exposes some extremely concerning cognitive dissonance, and most appalling of all, displays a clear belief by his defense attorney that such a tactic would succeed, and that the jury would accept that cognitive dissonance right along with him.
That belief was, of course, ultimately validated by the jury. But why? Because the victim was a sex worker, and many people believe that sex workers have no right to bodily autonomy, and therefore cannot be raped? Because she had consented to the sex up to that point, and many people believe that women who have consented to sex generally have no right to bodily autonomy, and therefore cannot revoke or renegotiate consent once it is given? Because the rape may have “only” lasted a few moments, and how could a rape — of a sex worker! who had previously consented! — possibly “count” as real rape? Because Davis is a member of the U.S. military, and therefore he doesn’t look how most people expect a rapist to look?
My best guess is that all of these forms of misogynistic prejudice played a role, most likely in the order I’ve listed them. Yet again, even a blatant confession in a court of law is not enough to earn a conviction from a jury pulled from a culture that thinks men are never to blame, and women always are.
After all, the men and their feelings are the only ones that matter:
Davis made no comment to reporters following the verdict, but his attorney, Sam Macedone, said Davis was very happy with the outcome.
“He is glad it’s over,” Macedone said. “It has been very stressful for him.”
Yes, clearly too few of us spend enough time thinking about the toll that rape accusations take on rapists.