How do you turn a so-called child victim into a real one? One sure-fire way is to have her locked up for 20 hours in a police cell after she has refused to give evidence against her lover.
That is what Judge Robert Bartfield did earlier this month when a 15-year-old girl would not testify against her 32-year-old boyfriend at Bradford Crown Court in northern England.
After the girl eventually testified under duress, the man was found guilty of sexual activity with a child. A spokesperson for Victim Support rightly said the girl had been treated in a “grotesque and, frankly, degrading manner by those who are supposed to be protecting her”. Even the NSPCC managed to get this one right, saying it was shocking – and, for once, they were not talking about the behaviour of the man on trial.
Judiciary officials have launched an investigation into the case.
It is probably too much to expect, but let’s hope the judge’s barbaric insensitivity will be followed by a change in the law, as happened in California following at least one similar case back in 1983, involving a 12-year-old girl called Amy. Her step-father, a US Air Force doctor, was on trial for alleged sexual contact with her.
Amy did not want to lose the man her mother had married four years earlier. Reportedly, she feared the family would be broken up in the event of a conviction. She was kept in solitary confinement for eight days but bravely remained rock solid in her refusal to testify. The case was abandoned only after she had been brought back to court six times, each time defying the judge’s demand that she give evidence.
The new law, passed the following year, was an amendment to the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1219, to the effect that “no court may imprison or otherwise confine or place in custody the victim of a sexual assault for contempt when the contempt consists of refusing to testify concerning the sexual assault.”
Ten years later the authorities tried to change this law in order to force 13-year-old Jordie Chandler to testify that Michael Jackson had molested him. It didn’t work, and the law fortunately still stands. As I wrote in my book about the superstar’s relationships with boys:
… here were the authorities proposing to force Jordie to testify against his will. Even Michael, with all the insults and humiliation that had been heaped upon him, was never accused of resorting to forcing a child into anything.
Arguably even more shocking than the judge’s tough tactics in the Bradford case was the reaction of at least one feminist commentator, Deborah Orr, in her Guardian column. She supported the judge, on the grounds that his hard line was for the girl’s own good in the long run: just what Jordie’s father said when he betrayed his son’s confidence – which turned out to be a disaster. Feminists rightly used to be angry over men telling women what is for their own good; now they have become the new authoritarians.
Orr then went on to describe a really sinister recent addition to the ever-expanding empire of false victimhood. It goes like this: if the “victim” you aim to “protect” does not feel like a victim, and refuses to be cast as one, then you just change the rules of the game to make sure they cannot escape the victim label you are determined to pin on them.
The “victim” refuses to say they have been sexually assaulted? Very well, in that case you re-brand the man’s crime: it was not sexual assault but “exploiting the victim’s vulnerabilities”. In this scheme of things, if the child had been a willing participant in a sexual act with a grown-up she must have been vulnerable by definition. In other words, she would be deemed automatically to have been unwilling but for her vulnerability to the wicked attractiveness of the adult, who must have been criminally handsome, or outrageously charming, or talented, or famous, or rich, or strong, or protective, or maybe even just a diabolically nice guy. Any or all of these attributes, which might be thought positive qualities in another context, are perversely turned by this dogma into negative ones. They just become tools of “the grooming process”.
The fundamentally anti-sexual agenda behind all this becomes apparent when we see that the vulnerability concept is being applied to adults as well as children. These extremists effectively want to abolish the age of consent. Yes, you did read that right, but don’t rush to crack open the champagne. They are trying to infantilise everyone, making consent more and more difficult at any age. The logical endpoint is no sex at all for anyone, no matter how old they are, rendering an age of consent redundant.
Orr quotes with approval a certain Professor Betsy Stanko, assistant director of planning with the Metropolitan Police. After a decade of research on rape (note that we are talking primarily about adult alleged victims now) she concludes that a way to deal with low conviction rates is effectively to ditch the consent criterion. If the woman consented, so you cannot convict a man, you find ways of finding that consent did not count because the woman was vulnerable. What makes her vulnerable? Being drunk at the time, wearing sexy clothes, being swept off her feet by a tall, dark, handsome stranger, especially if he happened to be rich and famous. Pretty well anything, really, that would show she was up for a roaring good time.
Neatest of all, vulnerability would be demonstrated if the woman had been in a steady relationship with the man. By the Stinko Standard, evidence of such a relationship would count against the man, not for him. What absolutely Orr-some Alice in Wonderland logic!
Bearing in mind the interesting current debate here about feminism, in the comments on Gentle poet Ginsberg doesn’t deserve this, I should perhaps ask fellow heretics whether Deborah Orr is a feminist worth discussing things with, or whether she and her ilk are beyond redemption. I would just throw in the thought that she is married and has children (which in itself surprises me, in view of her seeming anti-sexuality) by the novelist and ubiquitous public intellectual Will Self. I cannot say I have read his books or have any in-depth knowledge of the guy, but he comes across in his articles and broadcasts as intelligent and perceptive.
Maybe we should write to him, in a devious attempt to influence his wife. How about this:
“Sir, your wife is a shrew. It’s time you took her in hand.”
Umm. Maybe not. The Cunning Plan might need a bit more work.
One angle might be to play on his justified sense of grievance over being suspected as a paedophile by a security guard and a police officer when he was in the countryside hiking with his 11-year-old son last year. Justified, as I say, but by Jesus, Mary and all the saints did Self bang on about it! A torrent of indignation poured forth from his keyboard about what was admittedly bound to have been an upsetting experience, although it’s not as though he was arrested or had his reputation trashed in the media. His tale of woe was nevertheless spun into an epic yarn of over two and a half thousand words in the Daily Mail.
As the Mail’s headline put it, “Will Self reveals moment an innocent ramble became a nightmarish tale of modern Britain”. Who knows, having had a slight taste of the nightmare some of us have to put up with every day of the week, maybe the traumatised Self could be tapped as a source of sympathy.