Trigger Warning: 10-year-old rape victim “probably agreed to have sex”

by Cara on December 10, 2007

in Australia, class and economics, courts, International, misogyny, patriarchy, race and racism, rape and sexual assault, slut-shaming, violence against women and girls

As Feministe reports, an Australian judge has failed to imprison 9 males who gang-raped a 10-year-old girl. And though it sounds like it can’t get any more horrible, her justification is the worst part:

Cairns-based District Court judge Sarah Bradley did not record convictions against six teenagers and gave suspended sentences to the three others over the 2005 gang rape at the indigenous Aurukun community on Cape York. Three others were given suspended sentences.

The girl had “probably agreed” to have sex with the nine, Judge Bradley said during her sentencing remarks.

Yes, the judge is female. And apparently a highly respected judge a that. I hope that all of us understand that a 10-year-old cannot agree to have sex. Because she is 10. Any “sex” with a 10-year-old is rape. And even if children that young could agree to have sex — which again, they can’t — 10-year-old girls in that horrible alternate world who could agree to sex of their own free will certainly would not do so with 9 significantly older males. She was 10. Here is all of Judge Bradley’s contact information, which I encourage you to use:

Address:

Judges Chambers
District Court
PO Box 7515
Cairns Q 4870
AUSTRALIA

DX 41349
CAIRNS

Telephone : 07 4039 8909
Facsimile : 07 4039 8006
E-mail: associate.bradleyjdc@courts.qld.gov.au

The sentence is being appealed, and there have been high levels of outrage from just about everyone, from the new Prime Minister to women’s groups, to Aboriginal experts:

The comments of Justice Bradley were swiftly condemned by prominent Brisbane-based Aboriginal academic Professor Boni Robertson, who called for her to step down.

“It’s actually undermined everything we have worked for over the last 10 years to get our women justice in this country,” Prof Robertson said in Brisbane today.

“There is something even more sinister – it’s actually given a very clear message to perpetrators out there generally.

“I don’t care that they are black, white or whatever.

“I think it’s allowed perpetrators to think if you can come up with a defence that she asked for it or she condoned it, then that gives them a sense of leniency.”

Something does indeed need to be said about the factor of race in this case/ruling. Aboriginal males in Australia are disproportionately sent to prison, both because the social conditions that Australian history and the Australian government has forced them to live in promote criminal behavior and because Aboriginal men who commit crimes also tend to be treated much more harshly than are other men, particularly white men, who commit crimes.

For that reason, it’s easy, understandable and probably wise to take pause before lashing out at such a ruling. But I absolutely do not believe that this particular case is one where harsh sentencing would have been motivated by the race of the perpetrators. In fact, I believe that this ruling had much more to do with the race of the 10-year-old victim. There’s not a chance in hell that this ruling would have been the same if the same Aboriginal perpetrators had raped a white girl. Some may say that this would show racial prejudice against Aboriginal males. I say that it shows racial prejudice against Aboriginal females who are popularly construed as being “promiscuous” — even, apparently, at the age of ten. We also have to remember that when dealing with perpetrators and victims all of the same race, class tends to have a huge role in trial outcomes:

The four juveniles are aged 14 to 16 years. They and the adults come from some of the most prominent and powerful Aboriginal families on Cape York.

Two more juveniles pleaded guilty on November 6 to raping the child, and were also given probation with no convictions recorded.

The child victim, now aged 12, does not enjoy the elevated family status of her attackers, and has had to be removed from Aurukun and put with foster parents.

News of the non-custodial sentences has added to the violent hatreds that exist in Aurukun between families and tribes and which have played a part in recent brawls involving dozens of assailants, many armed with sticks and spears.

One of the adult rapists, Raymond Frederick Woolla, 26, is on the Australian National Child Offence Register following a conviction on March 29 last year for unlawful carnal knowledge of a female child – an offence committed after he was charged with the rape of the 10-year-old girl.

This is not a case of a judge considering social issues of race and class and then making a ruling that encourages just and equal treatment under the law, or of a judge reasonably valuing rehabilitation for individuals who have had a hard life over punitive measures. Though certainly racist society puts all Aboriginal people at some sort of disadvantage, these rapists are very well-off by comparison to most Aboriginal people, to many white people in terms of class, and certainly in comparison to the Aboriginal child they raped. Justice here has been served to absolutely no one.

I certainly do not rule out the possibility that race is playing some factor in the huge outpouring of public outrage. I do, in fact, imagine that it does. That sucks on every level. I also don’t think that this sad factor can or should be construed by anti-racists to let these rapists off the hook. We have to fight racist legal and prison systems, but we also have to fully support justice for victims of sexual assault, and those two are not mutually exclusive.

Judge Bradley’s extended comments are below, and they are highly disturbing.

When sentencing the juveniles, Justice Bradley said: “All of you have pleaded guilty to having sex with a 10-year-old girl and (one of the juveniles) has pleaded guilty to having sex with another young girl as well.

“All of you have to understand that you cannot have sex with a girl under 16.

“If you do, you are breaking the law, and if you are found out, then you will be brought to court and could end up in jail.

“I accept that the girl involved, with respect to all of these matters, was not forced, and that she probably agreed to have sex with all of you.

“But you were taking advantage of a 10-year-old girl and she needs to be protected, and the girls generally in this community need to be protected.

“This is a very serious matter.

“It is a very shameful matter and I hope that all of you realise that you must not have sex with young girls.

“Anyone under 16 is too young.

“Some of you are still children yourselves.

“Others of you are adults but I am treating you all equally in terms of the behaviour.

“I am not treating any of you as the ringleader or anything like that.”

She asked each prisoner to stand up and said she hoped they would realise it was wrong to have sex with young girls.

Justice Bradley then offered them probation and when each agreed to accept that, she said she would not record a conviction.

To one of the juveniles, she said: “You are still a child. You have pleaded guilty to one offence of rape.

“You have been in a lot of trouble in the past, though, and you still have some community service to do.

“You have not been doing that well. I am prepared to offer you probation but you have got to stick with the rules of probation.”

The juvenile agreed and was then placed on 12 months’ probation, with no conviction recorded.

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{ 7 comments }

1 BettyBoondoggle December 10, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Oh yes, I’m sure, while you let them free without one bit of punishment for RAPING A CHILD, they *totally* got the message that it was wrong to rape.

Asshole.

2 Thealogian December 10, 2007 at 2:01 pm

I’ve seen this case on several feminist blogs today–I’d like to compliment your breakdown and presentation of the complicated intersecting issues of race/class/colonialism without equivocating on the fact that the ruling was totally fucked!

Also, though this is just an aside, notice how many cases of judicial asshatery on matters of rape recently have come down from the benches of women? I’m wondering, are these cases just getting more attention because the justices are women (like, Ann Coulter can call for women to lose the right to vote) or is this just a coincidence? I hope its a coincidence–because if it is some kind of elaborate anti-feminist propaganda (see feminists, women aren’t better than men, etc), then damn its elaborate! And yes, when I watched “Undercover Brother” I did relate to Conspiracy Brother.

Anyway, back to the case, I think that a crucial piece of this individual case that you pointed out is that class issues–particularly between the victim and the rapists–are really more complex than one might be able to grasp from an outsider’s perspective (especially, since we’re talking about colonized people).

Also, another thing to think about is how the particular fetishes of the dominant culture (Anglo-Austrialians) might help to frame the “who is rapable” mechanism. If the perspective is that aboriginal women “mature early” or are always willing to have sex (think 19th C. American perspectives on Black Women), then the idea that she could consent (by virtue of her sexually mature status) trumphs the “usual” laws which are for white girls.

I don’t know how anyone from the judge to the court transcriptionist could sleep at night after such a case, let alone the ruling…maybe they pick up tips from George W. Bush.

peace

3 Mary Tracy9 December 10, 2007 at 5:35 pm

“There’s not a chance in hell that this ruling would have been the same if the same Aboriginal perpetrators had raped a white girl.”

NONE. NONE NONE. ABSOLUTELY NONE. If it had been a white girl, her pink cheeks and goldilocks would be on every single form of media known to humankind. The whole world would know and the ruling would get changed in a minute.

AAAHHH, MEAN-NESS ALL AROUND!

4 BettyBoondoggle December 10, 2007 at 5:46 pm

““There’s not a chance in hell that this ruling would have been the same if the same Aboriginal perpetrators had raped a white girl.”

I’m not so sure. This is the same country that let the group of boys who gang raped a developmentally-disabled girl, made and sold the attack as porn off with just a few years therapy. No jail there either. COrrect me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that girl white?

5 Cara December 10, 2007 at 5:52 pm

I don’t know, Betty. But it’s my understanding that those boys weren’t all Aboriginal boys, either, which would greatly change the dynamics. Rape cases work like this: White boy trumps white girl. White boy trumps black girl. White girl trumps black boy. Black boy trumps black girl. And the way in which we devalue the disabled is a whole different story.

6 Book Girl December 12, 2007 at 9:59 am

There is a `perception’ (read: prejudice) that women with developmental disabilities are highly promiscuous and over sexual, I know far too many women with disabilities (white and non-white – the girl in Melbourne is white) who have been abused and had that used as an excuse to deny them justice. The child in this case is mildly intellectually disabled, according to some news reports, combine that with the prejudice about Aboriginal women, and, well… :-(

The levels of abuse of people with developmental disability are horrifyingly high 80 % +

Also, children with congenital/developmental disabilities, are often `trained’ into a high level of compliance (smile even when people are hurting you, don’t say no, don’t argue, be a `good little cripple’), as I know from my own experiences as a child with Cerebral Palsy.

More on this sort of dynamic at my blog.

7 Que July 21, 2008 at 7:54 am

I heard the girl tried to commit suicide. Clearly it’s normal for people to try to kill themselves after they’ve supossedly had consensual sex.

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