Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rape, or a very severe case of Morning After Remorse?

MGR's Opinion -
Claims of American cruise passenger "assaulted" in Cozumel looked bogus from the beginning

Mérida, Yucatán --
Rape is nothing to be joked about or made fun of. Nor is falsely accusing someone of it, which at times is the predictable product of MAR - Morning After Remorse.

Sometimes MAR can strike even in the middle of the afternoon. Especially if an excess of alcohol leads to the abandonment of ordinary caution and discretion.

I've handled many sex offense cases (on the defense side) in American courtrooms - far more than any other type of criminal matter. It can be very difficult to do when you believe the complainant (the victim) and you don't believe your own client. But it's easy to do, and at times even rather invigorating, when you don't believe her (yes, men can be sex victims as well, but for the purpose of this analysis let's keep things very simple and stick to traditional female-as-the-victim scenarios).

I once watched a criminal case tried to a state district court jury by a colleague. A young woman was the sole witness for the prosecution. She and her boyfriend (perhaps on their third or fourth date) went out to dinner. They had some drinks. They returned to her apartment. They had some more drinks. They sat on the couch and listened to music. They started kissing. Soon they began embracing and touching each other intimately. A few of their clothes came off. The woman readily testified to these things in a very public (and very hushed) courtroom. The prosecutor had told the jury in his opening statement that the evidence would prove it was a clear cut case of "date rape," a popular theme in U.S. courts.

They decided to go into her bedroom and lie down so they could be more comfortable. More clothes came off. When they elected to get under the covers, they shed the remaining ones. They kissed and hugged more. Two naked, youthful, slightly intoxicated bodies lying there side by side, all alone. And that's when the young woman was raped - or so she said, and so the prosecutor contended. She had not agreed to go "all the way" with her boyfriend, she confidently told 12 jurors, and thus it was rape.

But in truth, the moment they crawled into bed naked they had already crossed the Rubicon. (The Rubicon is a river in northern Italy, and crossing it is often used to describe a point of no return in a precarious situation. When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 B.C. and entered disputed land, such risky adventures forever found a handy label.)

The young woman in the rape case (and her boyfriend) had crossed the Rubicon on an adventure of their own. When you take off your clothes and lay against someone's naked body, you've crossed the Rubicon. There's no turning back, and fortunately the jury had the good common sense to understand that. They acquitted the defendant. The enamored couple had copulated, yes, but no one was raped.

Now it appears that another Rubicon was crossed last week at a Señor Frog's in Cozumel.

A 19 year old woman and her family dropped in on Friday afternoon. They claim employees fed them drinks and encouraged them to dance. The young woman entered the DJ's cabin from where music is played, a room which we now know is all of 32 square feet. There were several men in the cabin with her, all of them apparently restaurant employees. The victim says she was given a "strong drink" and lost consciousness. It is unclear how long she was in the cabin, or what other family members were doing during that time. But later, once back on board ship, she and her family played the rape card.

The case was so weak that it was dismissed at the very first hearing, not a common event in Mexican jurisprudence. Seven men came forward voluntarily, we're told, to make declarations before the Public Ministry. The complainant - the 19 year old woman - was uncooperative in the investigation according to this follow-up story, and displayed an "aggressive attitude." The American consul in Cozumel even apologized to local authorities for the woman's bad behavior and arrogance (and that of her father), after having accused the men of an assault which could have landed them behind bars for years.

We know other things about the case, too. As the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say in his magnificent gravelly voice, "And now, ladies and gentlemen . . . the rest of the story."

A medical exam of the woman revealed evidence of recent sexual intercourse, but no injury or trauma consistent with forcible rape. A Frog's security cam video showed the woman dancing "provocatively." The upper half of the door to the DJ's cabin is made of a clear acrylic material which admitted light and allowed some visibility. One of the men may have had consensual sex with the woman (the follow up piece is hopelessly imprecise), but there is no evidence of a criminal assault in the confined, and readily accessible, cabin interior. Family members did not report hearing or seeing anything amiss, and had no suspicions until they returned to their ship and listened to the woman's accusations. Her story violates all human experience, and as a great judge once observed, that is the essence of law.

Two decades ago, U.S. author and journalist Katie Roiphe (b. 1968) wrote a highly controversial book which infuriated American feminists. The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism (1993) was born of Roiphe's doctoral research (Ph.D., Princeton), and offered as its central premise the notion that most women who claim to have been acquaintance raped have "reinterpreted in the cold grey light of dawn the 'bad sex' they were too passive to refuse, while being too enamored of victimhood to acknowledge their own responsibility." Food for thought, perhaps, for those dining at Señor Frog's in Cozumel.

As I wrote in the original article on this case, "In 2005 a company executive told Forbes magazine, 'You go to Señor Frog’s when you're on vacation, if you want to get crazy and nobody knows you.' " That probably best describes what really happened. That, coupled with an afternoon surge of MAR.

Paul Harvey, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for a lifetime of radio broadcasting. Harvey's style was patented, not likely to be seen again.


  1. Your article is bang on - however, your reference to "crossing the Rubicon" is not.
    Caesar crossed the Rubicon LEAVING Gaul, where he was governor, and had the right to be at the head of an army. He entered Italy, where he did NOT have the right to be at the head of his army. This was seen as an act of treason, or rebellion. In fact, he was in rebellion, and he went on to conquer Rome. When he crossed the Rubicon, he had no choice - conquer Rome or be tried as a traitor.

  2. Usually my sense of direction is very accurate . . . but this time it failed me. Julius Caesar, it seems, was headed south - not north (correct?)

    All of this terrain, however - Gaul, the Rubicon, etc. - is situated in modern day Italy. At least I got that part right.

    I hope the Jesuits do not see this piece. I once had to read the Gallic Wars in Latin ("Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres," it began), and they would discipline me severely for confusing such elementary facts.

    Thank you, Del, for dragging me across the Rubicon and educating me.

  3. At age 19 she should never have been left alone and drinking with a bunch of strange men. The parents failed here.
    When I traveled to Mexico as a younger woman (26) I encountered a few very predatory males who were obviously accustomed to getting their way with the gringas. There definitely are a few bad apples out there but they are pretty easy to spot. You just have to be careful and avoid the sharks. Luckily nothing bad ever happened to me. Being savvy and knowing some Spanish helped.

  4. Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts. Your comment evokes a brief reply.

    This young woman was never "left alone with a bunch of strange men" for a single moment; that really distorts the issue, as I see it. We're talking about a restaurant/bar on a busy tourist island at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday -- Happy Hour, you might say. Her family -- parents and two brothers -- were along. She entered the DJ's booth of her own accord, an area which is about the size of a restroom or clothes closet (if not smaller). We don't know exactly where the booth was, but it stands to reason that it must have been within a few feet of where her family was seated. None of the "victim's" story to police makes much sense, which is probably why the case was trash-canned at the first hearing.

    I have no doubt that there are "predatory males" in Mexico looking for their "way with the gringas," as you put it. There are such men in every country and society. There are also plenty of sexually promiscuous women at large, and some of them learn to re-write history after the fact. Some of them get quite skilled at it.

    One another point. You suggest that the problem is/was the woman's "tender age" of 19. Sorry, I could not disagree more. I have a daughter (now 26) who would NEVER have walked into a DJ's booth with even one man when she was 19 years old . . . or when she was 16 years old. Why? Because she understood the importance of propriety and decency and safety and security, especially as a young female. She also understood that all of us are responsible for our own actions.