I try not to pick low-hanging fruit. Sometimes the lessons to be learned from a failure to accept responsibility are so easy to detect, so simple to discern that I decide readers have no need for my comment or analysis. I decide that it would be an insult to the intelligence of the followers of this blog to point out the obvious responsibility-acceptance shortcomings in some statements. Like an Anthony Weiner press conference. I try to reach for the tall branches of the tree.
But sometimes I can’t ignore the low-hanging fruit. Sometimes there’s a good reason to state the obvious. So it is with the outrageous comments that Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro made at his recent sentencing.
Castro abducted three women off the streets of Cleveland’s west side starting in 2002. They were 21, 16 and 14 years old. He kept them locked in separate bedrooms in his home, repeatedly raping them vaginally, orally and anally. He got one of the women pregmant and forced a second to act as the midwife to deliver the child. He then kept his own daughter captive, forcing her to live in the same locked room as her mother. Castro made sure other pregnancies were terminated. He used terror, brutal beatings and the threat of more violence to keep them compliant. Among Castro’s tactics: frequently displaying a gun and forcing the women to play Russian Roulette. When the women were finally rescued in May afer a decade of captivity, they were pale, under-nourished and dehydrated.
Castro snapped up a plea deal that saved him from the death penalty. After pleading guilty to 937 counts, he received a sentence of life in prison–plus 1,000 years. (My advice: a low-fat diet, no smoking and plenty of exercise. Who knows how many of those years he could knock down?)
Every defendant has the right to allocute before sentencing. (That’s a fancy 50-cent lawyer/judge word that has a 10-cent meaning: defendant gets to make comments to the judge before getting sentenced.) Castro made the most of his allocution opportunity. His comments included:
–The sex was consensual; in fact they asked him for it.
–His was “a happy household” marked by “harmony”.
–None of the three were virgins when he abducted and began raping them.
–He was not actually a criminal, just a victim. He can’t be responsible for something he can’t control: his disease of sex addiction.
–”I’m not a violent person. I simply kept them there so they couldn’t leave.”
–He pleaded guilty only to save the three women further trauma.
The outrageous nature of these statements is obvious. This fruit is low on the tree. But what makes it important to pick this low-hanging fruit is that Castro’s comments are not at all uncommon. When men commit sex crimes and other crimes of violence against women, it is not unusual for them to engage in all sorts of twisted thinking to justify and minimize their behavior.
–She was asking for it.
–Let me tell you how she was dressed. What else was I to think?
–It’s not like this was the first time for her.
–At first she said yes. Then when she said no, I couldn’t stop myself. And I didn’t really think she meant it.
–She’s the one who chose to get drunk.
–She was out by herself at night. What did she think was going to happen?
–She didn’t even fight back.
–She was flirting with me all night. What else did she expect me to do?
–I’m not getting any at home.
–It wasn’t really rape, just a hookup that went too far I guess.
What makes the Castro case blog-worthy is that it vividly illustrates the need for men to step up and acknowledge their own responsibility to avoid sexual assault. Learn what rape is. Learn how to ask for consent. Accept that “No” really means “No”. Understand that women are people–not just objects for your sexual gratification–and begin to treat them like people. Realize that casual, no-strings sex is a myth; it’s a big deal with possible long-lasting emotional consequences for both partners. Learn how to be a real man, one who enjoys consensual, passionate, powerful sex with a committed partner.
CNN article about Castro’s sentencing comments: