Rapists Who Get Off Easy Don't Get Off Scot-Free

Updated: Apr 19

Even when they're acquitted they get punished


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It's a worse outrage than the Brock Turner verdict three years ago.


Christopher Belter, 20, over-privileged and requisitely entitled affluent white man, was convicted in November of raping four teenage girls in Lewiston, NY. He and his victims were all under eighteen at the time.


Conviction is good, right? Since so many accused rapists get acquitted, if they're even reported at all?


Belter won't see any jail time. The judge, a 'Christian' man who 'prayed' about what sort of punishment to levy, decided prison would be 'inappropriate' for the defendant and gave him eight years of probation, and he must register as a sex offender. Maybe Jesus is a white supremacist because historically, he never seemed to instruct Christian judges to go easy on black men accused of raping white women, especially with near-to-zero evidence it occurred.


Or to push Hizzoner to acknowledge that the man or men are pretty likely innocent.


Worse, there will be no recall for prayerful Judge Matthew Murphy as there was for Brock Turner's judge Aaron Persky. Murphy is set to retire in a few weeks. How convenient.



The punishment we don't consider


It was a light sentence for sure, but did Belter get off as easy as we thought?


An encouraging note to this story: Belter 'threw up' in the ladies' room after receiving the sentence, according to his attorney, who reports the defendant was 'deeply disappointed' by the ruling.


Never mind why he was in the ladies' room. He clearly doesn't think he got away with anything and was hoping to be held accountability-free.


The key takeaway: Belter was punished for what he did. It may not be what his victims wanted, or what rape rights activists and armchair judges wanted, but he'll suffer more than just the indignity of probation and the public humiliation of being a registered sex offender.


Let's not discount the stress, depression, anxiety and outright fear of going through a rape trial, particularly one this high-profile. Just imagine what his nightmares must have been like as he contemplated hard time where he might have experienced rape from the other side.


Brock Turner, the prettyboy California swimmer who got six months in jail for getting caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman and didn't even explain or defend himself to the two men who stopped him, had to register as a sex offender for life.


Let's recognize two carriages of justice that happened in both cases: They got convicted. They didn't get off with acquittal by sympathetic judges who might identify a little too closely with a guy they think maybe 'went a bit too far'.


Trials even for acquitted rapists--however undeserved the acquittal--bring their own punishment. The victim isn't the only one, now, who endures a terrible ordeal. So, too, does the accused, although pretty arguably a more justified and deserved one. I reserve zero sympathy for their 'ordeals'.


We don't think about that. We don't talk about that. We debate and decry the injustice meted to the victims who deserve to see their sexual abuser put away for a long time to ponder his actions. We don't think about what it's like to go through a rape trial, wondering what your immediate future holds, especially if you're convicted. Worrying about rape of your own pretty ass in prison. Your whole life has changed, and you'll never be the same again.


Prison is unpleasant but finite. Sex offender registry can last for ten years or until you die.


Unlike their victims, they asked for it.



Is prison really the best punishment?


We still delude ourselves that prison teaches men like Belter and Turner a lesson, when in fact we already know that it can as easily turn out hardened, better-trained criminals as it can men who learn from their experience.


If you think Belter is a misogynist now, consider how much sympathy he'd have gotten from his fellow inmates, especially the ones themselves accused of rape and other sex crimes. They'd have assured him he got screwed by those bitches, although their language would be less printable.


Maybe some would even help him identify his 'mistakes' so he didn't get caught next time.


Belter's statement in court sounds exactly like the flagrantly dishonest B.S. you'd expect from a man who'd say whatever it takes for a light sentence. Did he even write it himself?


"Through treatment and reflection, I've come to feel deep shame and regret for my actions. None of you deserved to be in this situation...I hope each of you could close that wound I gashed. I know though, that a scar will remain that will serve as a reminder of the evil of that night."

Uh-huh. Cry me a river.



They don't get away with it when we report them


Here's an ugly rape statistic women don't want to contemplate: Research shows that 100% of unreported rapes and sexual assaults result in zero convictions.


Okay, I made up the part about the research. You can't convict a rapist without a trial, and you can't have a trial for an unreported crime.


I'm going to say out loud what we especially don't want to acknowledge: Women let men get away with rape when they don't pursue charges.


There are many good reasons why they wouldn't, including enduring a rape trial where they themselves might be put on trial by the defense ("What were you wearing that night? Were you intoxicated or high? Had you had consensual sex with the accused before?").


But five rape victims in two trials came forward and told their stories. Their perpetrator didn't get the prison time they'd hoped for but they did get something many other rape victims never do: A conviction!


If you think 'getting off easy' albeit with a conviction doesn't send a message to others, consider this: Promising competitive swimmer Brock Turner, 'outstanding student' and Stanford swimming scholarship winner, was banned from Stanford and competitive swimming, which put the kibosh on his Olympics dreams.


Today, in 2021, he's working a $12/hour job at a cooling technology company in Ohio. He's described as quiet and reserved, he drives a 2008 Chrysler, and he still lives with his parents.


Yes, Brock Turner got soundly punished for his deed, and I'm not shedding any tears.


How did his victim fare?


Chanel Miller self-identified as the trial's 'Emily Doe' and wrote a memoir of her experience, Know My Name. It won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2019 and she appeared on 60 Minutes. The New York Times selected it as one of '100 Notable Books of 2019'.

Chanel Miller is living much better than her rapist, thankyouverymuch. CC0 3.0 image from Room For Discussion on Wikimedia Commons


Her art has appeared in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and she sparked a renewed national discussion on campus rape.


Miller, most certainly, is still dealing with the consequences of that horrible night but she's doing much better than her rapist.


Two high-profile convictions are heartening.


It's not everything those of us who want justice for rape and sexual assault victims want, but it's encouraging. It's more than we've been getting.


They didn't get away with it. They were convicted.


And while we have to talk about the need for greater jail time, we need also to ponder that alternate universe where both these young men served time in prison for years. Who would have emerged from that ordeal? Older, wiser, chastened men, or hardened misogynists armed with greater sexual assault knowledge?


The fact that we can even ask that question is a sign of progress.


They're not 'getting away with it' as much as they did before, and every time a woman or women come forward - like, say, 70 accusers of a certain ex-popular comedian - they hold these men accountable, and send a strong message to others: This could happen to you.


I wonder what Brock Turner tells any young man, if they ask, about what prison life was like. I wonder if he wishes for a 'do-over' of his '20 minutes of action' as his father described it. I wonder if he ever sends anyone away thinking twice about raping a woman, unconscious or not. Is the risk worth it?


When women report, men get punished.


Let's keep up the momentum!




This article originally appeared on Vocal in December 2021.

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