Can We Improve the Way the Legal System Deals with Predatory Men?

Men aren’t looking too great right now. While obviously not all men are sexual predators and should be innocent until proven guilty (because there are some women who make up rape cases—remember the infamous Rolling Stone rape article?), it’s disheartening to hear more and more of these stories of sexual harassment and assault in the news these days. I didn’t publicly participate in the #MeToo movement because I’m a private person and I’m not one to post news articles about Matt Lauer and Al Franken or anything in the news for that matter, but I’ve reached my breaking point.

Outside of the growing list of famous men being fired for harassing or assaulting colleagues, I’ve recently read a few other articles about past trials that are back in the news. Brock Turner wants to overturn his conviction and have a retrial. If you don’t know who Brock Turner is, he was involved in a court case that made national headlines for raping an unconscious woman. He was caught in the act by two men, so there’s no denying that he committed the crime. What’s even more disgusting about the case is that he was sentenced to six months in jail because the judge claimed a longer sentence could have a “severe impact” on his swimming career (while disregarding the “severe impact” his rape victim will have for the rest of her life, which she poignantly wrote about in a famous letter).

Even still, he only ended up serving three months.

That’s right, a convicted rapist served less time than many shoplifters. As if he wasn’t despised enough, Turner wants to overturn the case because some of the facts presented weren’t entirely correct. Sure, he still raped the unconscious woman, but it wasn’t “behind the dumpster,” it was just near it. He said that these misleading facts from his trial mischaracterized his behavior. Because apparently the heinous crime of rape itself didn’t mischaracterize his behavior.

On an only slightly less infuriating note, you may have heard about Taylor Swift suing a man who groped her. Well, she technically countersued him because he sued her first for falsely accusing him of groping her. Yes, there are many cases of women falsely accusing men of sexual harassment and rape, but this didn’t seem like one of them, and the judge agreed. Taylor Swift said that David Mueller grabbed her on the bottom while posing for a photo with him, and after he was fired for the incident, he sued Taylor Swift. She stood her ground and countersued him—for one dollar. She wasn’t after attention or money; she was simply trying to have her body and privacy respected, like any woman wants. After Mueller’s lawyers tried to get under her skin and prove his “innocence,” the court ruled in favor of Swift and ordered Mueller to pay the one dollar.

It apparently took him months to do it, but he finally paid. But instead of paying Swift with a one dollar bill, he paid her with a Sacagawea coin because, as he said, “I mean if this is all about women’s rights… It’s a little poke at them, a little bit. I mean, I think they made this into a publicity stunt, and this is my life.” So not only did Mueller never admit he was wrong and seems not to have learned his lesson about groping women, he had the poor taste to then make light of his awful behavior.

How did things get so bad? We shouldn’t vote for a woman just because she “doesn’t have a penis” (yes, that is in an actual politician’s ad), and we certainly shouldn’t automatically assume that every man is a rapist. But it’s time that people start facing consequences for their actions, including public shaming when they make it clear they’ve learned nothing from their mistakes. We’ve gone from punishments like branding people’s hands or even hanging them for stealing a few centuries ago, to only serving three months in jail for rape and suing someone you groped. Of course we shouldn’t hang people for stealing, but we might need to reconsider whether our legal system is actually crafting punishments that fit the crime.

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