• author
    • Kate Laddish

    • October 4, 2018 in Columnists

    The ‘good guy defense’ against sexual assault is complete and utter horsepucky

    When somebody – be he a student, athlete, priest, doctor, friend, relative, federal judge who’s been nominated to the Supreme Court, etc. – counters a credible accusation of sexual assault with outraged proclamations of being smart, successful, rich, talented, well liked and an all-around good guy, that man is making a case for his ignorance, not his innocence.

    Men who, like Brett Kavanaugh, rush to stridently declare their own rosy views of themselves show just how little they understand about what sexual assault is, what types of men commit sexual assault, and how pervasive the scourge of sexual violence is.

    Let me break it down for you: Men who force women to engage in sexual activity by coercion or without consent are exactly the kind of man who commits sexual assault.

    That’s it. That’s the only criteria.

    Touch somebody intimately without her consent? You’re a sexual assailant. Get her drunk so she’ll be “easy?” You’re a sexual assailant. Force your wife or girlfriend to have sex when she doesn’t want to? You’re a sexual assailant.

    Force a girl into a room and onto a bed, grind yourself against her, try to tear her clothes off and hold your hand across her mouth so nobody will hear her cries for help?

    You’re a sexual assailant.

    It doesn’t matter what else you are, or where you fall on society’s strata — if you commit sexual violence, a sexual assailant looks back at you every time you look in the mirror.

    But too many people have the logic of this backward. Too many people employ what I call the “good guy defense.”

    The good guy defense is when men say they couldn’t have committed a sexual assault – or that an act they did do doesn’t constitute sexual assault – because, after all, they’re a “good guy.”

    Just one problem: The good guy defense is complete and utter horsepucky.

    Brett Kavanaugh indulged in this nonsensical construct repeatedly during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I know I wasn’t the only one seething and muttering, “Irrelevant! Irrelevant!” every time he listed his oh-so-many accolades and accomplishments.

    When he tried to evade Sen. Mazie Hirano’s questions about excessive drinking by describing instead how hard he studied and practiced his basketball skills in college and saying that, gosh, he went to a nifty law school, I knew exactly what song Kavanaugh was singing. I’ve been sick of that song since the first time I heard it.

    News flash: Studying hard, going to a top school, and practicing a sport do not mean you (a) didn’t drink to excess and (b) haven’t committed sexual crimes.

    I mean, Kavanaugh, was it really such a swell idea to remind us all of the similarities between you and convicted sexual assailant Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer found guilty of assault in 2016 for grinding himself against an incapacitated woman behind a dumpster and penetrating her with his fingers? Sure, sure, you went to different schools and played different sports, but being white, smart, successful and entitled as all-get-out didn’t mean Turner didn’t commit sexual assault and sure as hell doesn’t mean you didn’t either.

    But, hey, if you want to argue that you couldn’t have committed a violent crime because you’re a smart fella and attended snazzy schools, there’s another name that belongs in this conversation: Ted Kaczynski.

    You know, the Unabomber.

    Kaczynski got his bachelor’s from Harvard and his master’s and Ph.D. from Michigan and was then a tenure-track faculty member in U.C. Berkeley’s mathematics department.

    He also made bombs, killed three people and injured 23 others and is currently serving eight consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole.

    Clearly, being a smartypants with an ivory tower pedigree doesn’t mean you don’t hurt people.

    Far too often, the “let me read you my rėsumė” defense goes hand in hand with attempts to turn the tables and play the victim, with the accused saying that the accusation is ruining his life by besmirching his good and gracious name and by attacking the woman who marshaled the courage to speak up about being assaulted.

    In fact, there’s a label for this behavior: DARVO.

    According to Dr. Jennifer J. Freyd, DARVO stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender,” and is “a reaction perpetrators of wrong doing, particularly sexual offenders, may display in response to being held accountable for their behavior.”

    According to Dr. Freyd, “The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim – or the whistle blower – into an alleged offender.”

    Oh, you mean like when a Supreme Court nominee verbally attacks the senators, particularly the senators who are women, who question him about a credible accusation of sexual assault?

    You mean like a sitting federal judge who makes shockingly bizarre and convoluted allegations while under oath that sexual assault survivors are somehow connected to a political couple that that self-same federal judge did his best to destroy in his previous career working for a special prosecutor?

    It’s tempting to say that Kavanaugh’s DARVO dance is so illogical that it’s straight from the Twilight Zone — that’d be ignoring the reality of so many women who are all too familiar with the dynamics of the current situation.

    What’s even more familiar is seeing the people in power have a hard time deciding if it’s more comfortable and convenient for them to not give sexual assault survivors’ accusations real weight. Every woman whose college chose not to punish the man who assaulted her, whose company promoted rather than fired the man who groped her, whose society apparently values the man who committed sexual violence against her more than it values her recognizes what’s going on here.

    When men selfishly employ the good guy defense for themselves or others (here’s looking at you, Sen. Lyndsey Graham), it shows an astounding lack of understanding of the seriousness of sexual assault, the lasting impact it has on victims and the malignant misogyny it displays. Using this defense asks the world to completely discount a woman’s account of and the repercussions from a VIOLENT CRIME – all because the accused either doesn’t want to take responsibility or doesn’t think of himself as somebody who’d commit an assault, or because it would inconvenience the people in power.

    After all, good guys don’t commit sexual assault.

    But how many women of the #MeToo movement were assaulted by self-professed “good guys?”

    Apparently, an awful lot of the senators who are preparing to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court would be surprised.

    Listen, senators. Listen.

    And – this time – learn.

      • Terri Connett

      • October 7, 2018 at 9:29 am
      • Reply

      Fantastic column, Kate! I love your style and command of the facts!!

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • October 12, 2018 at 6:39 pm
      • Reply

      Nailed. It. Malignant misogyny defined and even women who deny it have lived it in one form or another.

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