U.S. Sailor Acquitted of Rape, Despite Admission of Physical Force

by Cara on November 24, 2009

in Australia, courts, International, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, sex work, violence against women and girls

Trigger Warning for rape apologism and graphic descriptions of sexual violence

In Sydney, a U.S. sailor has been acquitted on charges of raping a sex worker who told him to stop — even though he admitted, in court, to using a “lock down maneuver” to pin her to the bed.

A New South Wales District Court jury cleared Petty Officer Timothy Davis, 25, of a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, with the aggravating factor of causing the woman actual bodily harm. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Davis was one of 3,000 Marines and Navy personnel on shore leave in Sydney after the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu and guided missile destroyer USS Halsey arrived in the port in October, 2008.

The woman told the court she had protected, consensual sex with Davis at the brothel where she worked, but said he became aggressive when she told him his time was up and forced her to have unprotected sex. The jury was shown police photographs of scratches on the woman.

Davis denied forcing the woman to have sex, but admitted in court that he used a “lock down maneuver” to pin her to the bed when she said she wanted to stop. He told the court he backed off when she kicked him, though he said he muffled her mouth with his hand when she began to scream after he demanded his money back.

Could we possibly be reading this correctly? Let’s try another source:

She said he “ripped” off his condom, telling her he had paid for sex and he was going to finish it off “like a real man”.

The slight woman said he pushed her head into the pillow, started suffocating her, and had unprotected sex for 30 seconds.

The jury was shown police photos depicting scratches on the woman, who described Petty Officer Davis as an “animal” during an angry outburst at the trial.

In his evidence, the sailor – who agreed his weight was more than double the woman’s – admitted using a “lock down manoeuvre” to pin her down to the bed when she said she wanted to stop.

He said he told her he was going to “finish”, but when she kicked him away, he backed off with his hands in the air.

So, she told him to stop. And even only as far as he admits, instead of stopping as he was told, he pinned her to the bed and told her he was going to continue anyway. I repeat: against her wishes. After she told him to stop.

Which means that as far as any reasonable definition goes — hell, even working off an antiquated and misogynistic definition of rape that requires physical violence to be present — he confessed to raping her.

And yet, despite his clear admission of rape, he simultaneously claimed that it wasn’t rape — as we know, men will frequently admit to behavior that classifies as rape so long as the word rape is not actually used. The fact that he would do so in a court of law, though, is particularly shocking, exposes some extremely concerning cognitive dissonance, and most appalling of all, displays a clear belief by his defense attorney that such a tactic would succeed, and that the jury would accept that cognitive dissonance right along with him.

That belief was, of course, ultimately validated by the jury. But why? Because the victim was a sex worker, and many people believe that sex workers have no right to bodily autonomy, and therefore cannot be raped? Because she had consented to the sex up to that point, and many people believe that women who have consented to sex generally have no right to bodily autonomy, and therefore cannot revoke or renegotiate consent once it is given? Because the rape may have “only” lasted a few moments, and how could a rape — of a sex worker! who had previously consented! — possibly “count” as real rape? Because Davis is a member of the U.S. military, and therefore he doesn’t look how most people expect a rapist to look?

My best guess is that all of these forms of misogynistic prejudice played a role, most likely in the order I’ve listed them. Yet again, even a blatant confession in a court of law is not enough to earn a conviction from a jury pulled from a culture that thinks men are never to blame, and women always are.

After all, the men and their feelings are the only ones that matter:

Davis made no comment to reporters following the verdict, but his attorney, Sam Macedone, said Davis was very happy with the outcome.

“He is glad it’s over,” Macedone said. “It has been very stressful for him.”

Yes, clearly too few of us spend enough time thinking about the toll that rape accusations take on rapists.

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{ 21 comments }

1 kaninchenzero November 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

Fucking heartbreaking. Some times I think there’s no hope.

2 Shiyiya November 24, 2009 at 11:51 am

Urgh. Seconded, kaninchenzero. I have no words.

3 Sarah TX November 24, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Absolutely ridiculous that the servicemember’s testimony was believed over the sex workers. Not surprising, but still ridiculous.

Even if he was telling the truth and didn’t “have unprotected sex for 30 seconds” as she claimed, I don’t see how threatening to rape someone (which he admitted to), and then physically restraining them with the weight of your body (which he admitted to) is anything other than criminal assault.

4 Jennifer November 24, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I have no words. Wow.

5 Jamie November 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I’m confused! Is he a Marine or Sailor?

6 SunlessNick November 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I don’t see how threatening to rape someone (which he admitted to), and then physically restraining them with the weight of your body (which he admitted to) is anything other than criminal assault.

So, they didn’t believe that part of his testimony?

7 Cara November 24, 2009 at 12:50 pm

You’re right, Jamie, he is a sailor; I’ve changed the post accordingly.

8 Jamie November 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Awesome! Thanks Cara =) Just wanted to get the facts straight. I’m a Marine and didnt want our name brought down with the Navy bad doings.

9 SunlessNick November 24, 2009 at 5:13 pm

The fact … displays a clear belief by his defense attorney that such a tactic would succeed, and that the jury would accept that cognitive dissonance right along with him.

And that the lawyer was right makes it… these jurors are accomplices; that’s the only way I can put it. They decided that the victim didn’t count; they’re no different from the jeering crowd in Richmond.

10 Paul November 24, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Heartbreaking….

11 OuyangDan November 24, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Thanks for correcting the service Cara. As a former Sailor, I apologize on behalf…

Not that it is good enough, but I can’t find anything that says he is being subjected to a Court Martial for the nonillion UCMJ articles he smashed apart…in the very least he should no longer be sullying the Navy’s name.

12 Sheryl November 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

This is so shocking. I just can’t believe how frequently this sort of thing still happens.

13 Jennifer Drew November 25, 2009 at 6:22 pm

The male rapist is correct because he, like so many men who rape women lie to themselves and believe they have not committed rape because rape is not rape unless a man defines it as rape.

Likewise male physical violence against women is never ‘physical violence’ because the men who commit such crimes always minimalise their actions and claim such actions are not violence against women. Add on the fact prostituted women have apparently forfeited their right of bodily ownership of their bodies this male sailor therefore did not commit rape and physical violence against a prostituted woman.

It is called dehumanisation because once society accepts certain women are not human but just men’s sexual service stations then any act of male violence is permitted because ‘no human was involved.’ Or so, male-defined and male-dominant culture constantly tells us.

14 Mcfly November 26, 2009 at 3:29 am

“He is glad it’s over,” Macedone said. “It has been very stressful for him.”
Oh fuck YOU buddy. Worthless human beings, the lawyer and the rapist.

15 Steve December 6, 2009 at 5:34 am

?Jamie on November 24, 2009 12:55 pm

“Awesome! Thanks Cara =) Just wanted to get the facts straight. I’m a Marine and didnt want our name brought down with the Navy bad doings.”

Whoa there, Jamie! Don’t fall down, getting off your high horse! News Flash time – in case you forgot, the U.S. Marine Corps IS part of the Dept. of the Navy! I am a retired Navy man and I sure as Hell DON’T condone what this dirtbag did (and got away with!) However,
the following link (this one, once again, happening overseas – in the Philippines) might refresh your memory!

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/12/03/18334886.php

Doesn’t matter WHAT branch of service you’re in – ALL rapists are scum sucking dirtbags!! Semper Fi!

16 Thealogian December 10, 2009 at 10:44 am

Wow, just wow.

First, here’s a sad thought that came to mind: I’m surprised to see that the prosecutor took the case all the way to court. I mean, one baby step forward because many prosecutors would not take the rape of a sex worker seriously.

Second: accomplices, exactly. What’s with juries and boards of directors not taking their role seriously? If you are so biased by your own desire to make sure that everyone knows nice men don’t rape, then fucking step down (or that nice CEO’s always have the public interest in mind, the BofD cases). Examine your damn psyche, dudes/dudettes.

Third: Although I know that the legalization of sex work is a contentious issue within the feminist community, I have to say that this case seems to be indicative that often men who go to sex workers want not just sex, but violent, dehumanizing sex/privileges to rape. Where you have legalized sex work, like the Netherlands, you also have an increase in delegitimate sex work/sex slavery/child prostitution. Johns aren’t necessarily out for an off, but a specific allowance to do violent, autonomy squashing things and where there are safeties involved (like brothels with guards, safer sex policies, etc) that need to humiliate, endanger and be cruel/violent still persists. Personally, I like the Swedish model, where sex work is not illegal, but buying sex is–and the focus is on John-education and anti-trafficking laws better than the Dutch model.

peace

17 SunlessNick December 10, 2009 at 6:37 pm

That last paragraph is an excellent argument.

18 Levi December 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I don’t know about the US Defence forces, but Australia’s Navy has a lot of issues with the respect of women, there are constant stories published (but apparently never heeded) about rape, assaults and such behaviour occuring while at sea and in national and international ports. I can even say from personal experience that the respect of women is almost non-existent for some seamen. I was seeing a Seaman briefly while in high school, we had had sex before, but there was an instance (which happened to be the last time I saw him) where he forced himself upon me, I was too scared to say no, but i was pushing him off me and crying until I finally gave up and let him finish. It was terrifying because he didn’t realise what he had done, like he looked straight through me. Perhaps if I had said no, he would have stopped, but the fact he didn’t feel, see, he didn’t sense that it wasn’t consensual, was enough to tell me that he wasn’t right in the head. And unfortunately a friend went through almost the same thing a few months on with a different man. I’m not saying they’re all like this, but it is definitely a culture within the Royal Australian Navy.

19 Rebecca December 17, 2009 at 5:05 am

Jennifer, you wrote: “Add on the fact prostituted women have apparently forfeited their right of bodily ownership of their bodies this male sailor therefore did not commit rape and physical violence against a prostituted woman.

It is called dehumanisation because once society accepts certain women are not human but just men’s sexual service stations then any act of male violence is permitted because ‘no human was involved.’ Or so, male-defined and male-dominant culture constantly tells us.”

You are in fact perpetuating the stigma and dehumanising attitudes held against sex workers by using the term” prostituted women”. We are sex workers. That is our preferred term to describe us.

Yes – the verdict is horrendous and I’m ashamed of the judicial system here in Australia. We have, today, recognised the International day to end violence against sex workers (17th Dec) by protesting outside the Sydney courts.

FYI: the “Swedish Model” of legislation is BAD. No sex worker wants it.It strips ALL sex workers – women, men and transgender sex workers – of all our rights, our ability to earn a living and our ability to live and to contribute as a regular member of society, just like anyone else. No one should ever advocate for it. It treats sex workers as victims, not as people and it does not recognise sex work as an occupational choice.

As a migrant sex worker who has worked and traveled all over the world I can assure you that everyone should ONLY be lobbying for decriminalisation for the sex industry. The fact that the legal system has completely let this Sydney sex worker-in a state that is decriminalised, is absolutely appalling.

Thank you for those on this site who have supported sex worker rights.

20 Thealogian December 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Rebecca, thank you for sharing your understanding/experience with the Swedish model. I’ve only read about it in English-language sources, so I can’t say that I’m as informed as I should be to endorse it as whole-heartedly as I did. So, for taking a stance without fully understanding its implications, I apologize to you and other sex-workers who may have read my comment.

I do think that it is important to note that there is an increase in illegal (underage) or sex-slavery (trafficked) networks in sex-work decriminalized countries, which to me indicates that my first argument, that the dehumanizing sex work and right to rape is what at least a certain percentage of Johns are really after. So, how should a legal system seek to recognize the work of sex workers, protect sex workers and protect trafficked women/children? Well, it has to be mixed. I’m not sure what that should exactly look like, but simple decriminalization isn’t enough.

21 Acey February 1, 2010 at 7:09 pm

My husband sexually assaulted me in my sleep four times.

I asked him once if it was just an in-the-moment decision. He said that he thought it through “for not just a minute”, knew it was wrong, knew I wouldn’t like it…and did it any way.

It was non-battering. Almost half of marital rapes are non-battering. 45% according to Maine State Bar Association Bar Bulletin.

So it’s pretty horrible that a court would focus on the physical violence part. Rape and sexual assault are violence in the first place. In fact, I wonder how many victims don’t realize there is a name for what happened — given that they too likely think force must be involved.

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