Clinton owes rape victims a deeply-felt apology

Let me begin by acknowledging that the wrong people are asking these questions for entirely the wrong reasons. Conservatives have broken a story that looks to me like good investigative reporting, but they are also seizing on it to attack the presumptive (and it is much too early for such presumptions) 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee.

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative—possibly neoconservative—newspaper, has reported that in 1975, Hillary Clinton aggressively defended a man, Thomas Alfred Taylor, accused of rape. Although it may well be that a laboratory’s discarding of an underwear sample may have been the deciding factor in the case, Clinton also viciously attacked the victim[1]:

In a July 28, 1975, court affidavit, Clinton wrote that she had been informed the young girl was “emotionally unstable” and had a “tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing.”

“I have also been told by an expert in child psychology that children in early adolescence tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences and that adolescents in disorganized families, such as the complainant’s, are even more prone to exaggerate behavior,” Clinton said.

Clinton said the child had “in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body” and that the girl “exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way.”[2]

In a long, emotional interview with The Daily Beast, [the victim] accused Clinton of intentionally lying about her in court documents, going to extraordinary lengths to discredit evidence of the rape, and later callously acknowledging and laughing about her attackers’ guilt on the recordings.

“Hillary Clinton took me through Hell,” the victim said. The Daily Beast agreed to withhold her name out of concern for her privacy as a victim of sexual assault.

The victim said if she saw Clinton today, she would call her out for what she sees as the hypocrisy of Clinton’s current campaign to fight for women’s rights compared to her actions regarding this rape case so long ago.

“I would say [to Clinton], ‘You took a case of mine in ’75, you lied on me… I realize the truth now, the heart of what you’ve done to me. And you are supposed to be for women? You call that [being] for women, what you done to me? And I hear you on tape laughing.”[3]

In this legal system, any defendant is entitled to an aggressive defense. And in rape, especially, that means to some degree, putting an accuser on trial. Women rightly object to much of this as such proceedings frequently move beyond a burden of proof into slut-shaming. As women repeated in the recent #YesAllWomen hashtag, what a woman wears, whether she’s under the influence, and her sexual history are all irrelevant to the question of whether a particular act is consensual or is an assault. In addition, it appears that Clinton may have lied to the court in her affidavit.

The victim vigorously denied Clinton’s accusations and said there has never been any explanation of what Clinton was referring to in that affidavit. She claims she never accused anyone of attacking her before her rape.

“I’ve never said that about anyone. I don’t know why she said that. I have never made false allegations. I know she was lying,” she said. “I definitely didn’t see older men. I don’t know why Hillary put that in there and it makes me plumb mad.”[4]

And in this particular case, even if the act had been consensual, the victim was underage. Taylor was 41 years old; the victim was 12.[5] I haven’t been able to find what Arkansas’ age of consent was in 1975, but this sounds like statutory rape, a crime which is on the books because—and this is the failing of Gayle Rubin’s seminal essay, “Thinking Sex,”[6]—the power relationship between adults and children is deemed to preclude a child’s meaningful consent.

If Hillary says, “Yes, I regret it,” she’s admitting to an unpardonable sin in the eyes of the feminists, the Left, and honestly, a lot of Americans.

But if she says, “No, I didn’t do anything wrong, I did what every good lawyer would do” she looks callous and harsh and ruthless, confirming all of the old 1990s stereotypes.[7]

A paradox of feminism is that some women are feminists’ worst enemy. Men are self-serving, albeit shortsightedly, when they say sexist things. Women can be too. The notorious Phyllis Schlafly, for example, “seizes in particular upon premarital sex as depriving women of their means for ensuring their support from husbands.”[8] Schlafly now seems like ancient history, but some conservatives continue to retain views on rape, abortion, contraception, sexuality, and even divorce that seem centuries out of date,[9] and women such as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are to feminists what Bill Cosby, Clarence Thomas, and Herman Cain are to civil rights activists.

Not many feminists, however, will expect to count Clinton with Palin, Bachmann, and, for that matter, Schlafly. Clinton’s actions in 1975 were reprehensible. If she is to salvage any credibility whatsoever as a feminist, she must come clean. This cannot be a mumbled apology. Going well beyond the defense of her client, she embodied women’s well-founded fears of reporting and pursuing charges of rape in the U.S. legal system. She was heartlessly and mirthfully complicit in a system that rarely offers any justice at all to subaltern people. She should be ashamed—deeply ashamed.

  1. [1]Alana Goodman, “The Hillary Tapes,” Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2014, http://freebeacon.com/politics/the-hillary-tapes/
  2. [2]Alana Goodman, “The Hillary Tapes,” Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2014, http://freebeacon.com/politics/the-hillary-tapes/
  3. [3]Josh Rogin, “Exclusive: ‘Hillary Clinton Took Me Through Hell,’ Rape Victim Says,” Daily Beast, June 20, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/20/exclusive-hillary-clinton-took-me-through-hell-rape-victim-says.html
  4. [4]Josh Rogin, “Exclusive: ‘Hillary Clinton Took Me Through Hell,’ Rape Victim Says,” Daily Beast, June 20, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/20/exclusive-hillary-clinton-took-me-through-hell-rape-victim-says.html
  5. [5]Alana Goodman, “The Hillary Tapes,” Washington Free Beacon, June 15, 2014, http://freebeacon.com/politics/the-hillary-tapes/
  6. [6]Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality,” in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. Carole S. Vance (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984), 267-319.
  7. [7]Jim Geraghty, “Does Hillary Regret Her Actions in That 1975 Rape Case?,” National Review, June 16, 2014, http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/380468/does-hillary-regret-her-actions-1975-rape-case-jim-geraghty
  8. [8]Faye Ginsburg, “The Body Politic: The Defense of Sexual Restriction by Anti-Abortion activists,” in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, ed. Carole S. Vance (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984),  181.
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The Quixotic Quest to Comprehend Conservatism, Part 1,” May 16, 2014, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2014/05/16/the-quixotic-quest-to-comprehend-conservatism/

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