Defense Attorney Claims Convicted Rapist “Didn’t Realize” the Severity of Rape

by Cara on May 18, 2010

in assholes, Australia, courts, International, misogyny, patriarchy, race and racism, rape and sexual assault, violence against women and girls

Trigger Warning for discussions of sexual violence, rape apologism, and racism.

In Adelaide, Australia, a taxi driver named Hajy Baba Rahmanian was found guilty of raping an unconscious passenger. The details of the rape itself are, of course, rather horrific:

The court heard that in June 2006 the 19-year-old victim got into Rahmanian’s taxi after a party at North Adelaide.

Her friends rode with her to Hindley Street in the city where they got out to continue celebrations and told the taxi driver to take the victim home because she had been passing out and was severely intoxicated.

The Court of Criminal Appeal judgment said a GPS tracking system in the taxi showed Rahmanian travelled towards the victim’s house in Adelaide’s southern suburbs but then veered off course.

He took her to his own house at Dover Gardens and had sexual intercourse with the unconscious teenager.

The victim remembers nothing of what happened, except for waking up some hours later with some clothing removed.

It was not until months after the rape that police tracked Rahmanian down, when he went to the victim’s house and left a jar of honey on her doorstop, then tried to call her.

It is, however, the descriptions and defenses of this heinous crime by Rahmanian’s defense attorney that particularly interest me. He has pleaded for mercy, and his reasoning starts off pretty appallingly:

In sentencing submissions, Rahmanian’s lawyer Grant Algie urged mercy, saying the crime was odd and at the lower end of the scale.

The lower end of the scale?

Personally, I abhor “ranking” sexual violence at all — sexual violence is sexual violence. But if kidnapping an unconscious woman who was entrusted in your care — which is precisely what purposely taking her somewhere other than her intended location and keeping her there was — and then raping her in his home is on the “lower end of the scale,” one really has to wonder what kinds of sexual violence just don’t register on Algie’s scale to begin with. As I’ve stated before, there is no such thing as an “accidental” rape, but choosing to kidnap the victim explicitly shows intent and premeditation on Rahmanian’s part. As for the crime being “odd” — I’m not exactly sure since when an act of violence being “odd” diminished the perpetrator’s accountability.

But the plea for mercy gets a lot worse. Indeed, Algie claims that because of Rahmanian’s background as an Iranian immigrant, he didn’t understand that rape is, well, wrong:

He said the Iranian immigrant did not fully appreciate the severity of the crime under Australian law.

“There is a very reasonable possibility that given his cultural background and limited insight into laws and sexual behaviour, he didn’t realise that having intercourse with somebody who is unconscious and therefore not consenting is a very serious crime,” Mr Algie told the court.

“Mercy, in my submission, could and should have a significant role to play in Your Honour’s sentencing.

“He is extremely remorseful about the current situation concerning the impact on his family.”

You know, cultural relativism is an interesting thing. Sometimes, it’s rightly used to point out to racist, condescending, xenophobic assholes that the awful thing “those people” do isn’t really so different from awful things that “good,” white, Western people do. Sometimes, it’s properly used to point out that attempts at changing “those people” are imperialist, colonialist, objectifying, devoid of context, and invoking a white savior complex, without actually asking what “those people” want and need in the first place.

Other times, it’s abused to argue that in certain contexts, and almost universally when victims are non-white, acts like rape and murder are okay. Indeed, frequently, supposed “cultural relativism” is just dressed up racism, used to argue that “those people” just don’t know any better, that they’re barbarians who aren’t like us and simply can’t help it. And it’s no less racist just because the trope is being pulled here out to defend the man it simultaneously maligns.

First of all, it’s my understanding that ignorance of the law is no excuse. And if there is ever a type of case where that rule really, really ought to be upheld, I’d say that rape is quite likely it. How exactly Algie thinks that “he didn’t know it was bad under Australian law” could constitute a valid defense is beyond me.

Secondly, Algie says it’s possible that Rahmanian didn’t realize that raping an unconscious woman is a very serious crime? He’s your client, Mr. Algie. Either he understood or he didn’t. Did you speak to him to find out? Or are you blatantly lying about Rahmanian’s knowledge, but using words like “possibility” to cover yourself?

Additionally, “having intercourse with somebody who is unconscious and therefore not consenting” is perhaps the most long-winded and convoluted euphemism for “rape” I’ve ever heard — both impressive and despicable at once. And am I supposed to feel sympathy towards Rhamanian’s remorse towards the impact on his own family?

Most importantly of all, Algie’s irresponsible defense unfairly and remarkably maligns Iranian men and Iranian culture. I do not doubt that Iran is a country full of misogyny — I’ve yet to encounter many countries that are not full of misogyny, including my own, and the work I’ve seen from Iranian women activists indicates that they face many, many forms of gender based oppression. But while far from being a paradise of gender equality, stating that an Iranian background makes one categorically unable to understand the nature of rape, consent, and violence — not to mention the basic cultural norms of a society in which one has been living long enough to gain employment — is racist, xenophobic, and white supremacist.

The facts are very simple: Hajy Baba Rahmanian did not rape a woman because he is Iranian. He raped a woman because he independently chose to do so.

Just like rapists who are American, Australian, British, Canadian, and from other Western nations where rape is very, very common, but about whom you’d never see such a similar, offensive defense made.

But in addition to what this defense says about Iranian men, what does it say about Iranian women? How badly have their rights and autonomy just been thrown under the bus? This line of argument was used in an attempt to mitigate an assault against a presumably Australian victim, it is true. But if the rape against this Australian victim is mitigated by the “fact” that rape of unconscious women is just run of the mill and unremarkable in Iran, how much has Algie just excused the actual rapes of Iranian women? How appallingly has he just brushed those actual rapes aside, presented them as an occurrence so mundane as hardly worthy of a shrug? How exceedingly has he just devalued the very lives, experiences, and suffering of countless women? How greatly has he just dismissed their pain and trauma as not “very serious”?

How many Iranian victims did Algie slap across the face with his words?

And how deeply have those words and ones like them sunk into Western consciousnesses? I find it no great coincidence that the only other reports on this story I found were from Islamophobic, white supremacist sites that are concerned about the purity of good, Western, implicitly white victims, and not the slandering of all Iranian men as rapists and the erasure and dismissal of all Iranian rape victims. (No, I’m not linking those sites. If you don’t believe me, or wish to see for yourself, harness the power of google.)

And no, it doesn’t surprise me that most of the outrage is not about rape apologism and racism, but about the threat of a non-white man getting away with a crime that white men get away with every single day.

Thanks to Cinnamon for the link.

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{ 14 comments }

1 Harry A Smith May 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I agree with what you said about Algie, but not the lawyer. Yes, what he did was horrible. He deserves to be in jail for the rest of his life. But it isn’t a lawyers job to find justice. It isn’t his job to be fair or accurate or honest. His only responsibility is to defend his client to the best of his abilities, come hell or high water, no matter if he is guilty or how bad the crime is. Violent crimes, particularly rape, are almost impossible to defend – you have to stand up for a despicable act and defend the scum of the earth. Knowing that, and knowing that it literally is an impossible task to excuse rape because all rape is inexcusable, this is possibly the least crazy of the insane techniques the lawyer could have tried. Also, he avoided the traditional pratfalls of attacking the victim or arguing the evidence he actually raped her was either falsified or not present.

2 Social Worker May 18, 2010 at 9:42 pm

You actually glossed over a very interesting part that I thought you were going to address: Rhamanian brought her gifts of honey and attempted to continue the “relationship.”
Could this be seen as additional “proof” for the attorney that the man thought they had had some type of legitimate relationship in his mind?
That his attempts to approach her somehow created reasonable doubt about his original intentions or understanding of what happened.
Perhaps even this attorney couldn’t bring himself to go there.

3 Cara May 18, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Harry:

1. Algie is the lawyer, not the convicted party.

2. It is any human being’s job to be responsible and to not do harm, especially to oppressed groups, no matter what your occupation. If you and I cannot agree on this simple point, will certainly not agree on anything else.

3. Rape is impossible to defend? Well, that explains the low conviction rate, then! Rape is very easy to defend in our current world. It’s done incredibly successfully. And with other crimes, you don’t get away with just claiming that the victim wanted it.

4. Please do not use terms like “crazy” and “insane” as a metaphor for irrationality and ludicrousness. It is ableist. I know people with mental illnesses, who self-identify as “crazy,” who are absolutely not rape apologists, and who are good people fighting in favor of social justice.

5. Maybe he did avoid those traps, and maybe not. This was his defense in terms of leniency for sentencing, after a conviction. I haven’t read anything about his arguments during the trial itself, or what his ground were for appealing the conviction.

4 sauerbean May 19, 2010 at 7:39 am

It seems sort of strange to argue that a man from a country where women are often severely punished for ‘sex’ outside of marriage (whether the activity is consentual or not) could not understand the severity of the crime in a country where sex with someone other than a spouse isn’t something women will necessarily be punished for. Maybe he didn’t understand the severity of how he might be punished? That’s not really an excuse though, is it?

5 Clarisse Thorn May 19, 2010 at 11:05 am

Have you ever read the book Is Multiculturalism Bad For Women? A lot of it is interesting, though some of it is pretty boring. Anyway, parts of it take on this exact argument, because yes — it has been made before.

I think my favorite bit is where one very smart essayist compares rape (or spousal abuse, or whatever kind of violence against women and/or children) to a crime like failing to pay back one’s Visa bill. Obviously, she points out, no one would ever consider making the “he’s multicultural and didn’t understand!” argument for something like paying back a Visa bill. “Money,” writes the essayist, “is, after all, too important to be disposed of in so whimsical a fashion. Women and children are another matter.”

Basically, this kind of “multicultural” argument would never even be considered in a culture that didn’t already constantly overlook and apologize for rape, and undervalue the sexual agency of women.

6 Songstress May 19, 2010 at 11:55 am

OT, but I’m curious what anyone thinks of the so-called Craiglist rape fantasy case. I haven’t seen much about it on the blogs and I wonder if it’s too sensitive to approach, given that it really is two-sided. A rape did occur and the assailant admits it AND he had no idea he was committing a crime because he received consent IN WRITING from the woman. Except the woman he communicated with was actually her ex who was setting them both up. Apparently, this has become a hotly debated topic in legal circles.
I may not be describing it well, but you can look up Ty Oliver McDowell; he’s the, I guess we have to say, alleged, rapist. Or the “other” victim? Weird and scary.
I also found a legal analysis here: http://factoidz.com/revenge-rape-and-reason-is-ty-oliver-mcdowell-a-rapist-or-a-victim/

7 Hecuba May 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I’m not sure what connection there is between the case of revengeful exboyfriend who arranged for another man to rape the woman who had dared to end her relationship with him.

However, the high profile UK case Morgan V Regina was very similar wherein a husband told three men his wife wanted to be subjected to violent multiple sex and if she resisted, cried out or even said ‘no’ the men were to ignore her because ‘she wanted it.’ The men charged with rape claimed they honestly believed the woman was ‘consenting’ and even though convicted of rape were later acquitted following an appeal. As a result of protests from feminists eventually the UK law was changed to prevent male defendants from claiming ‘but I honestly believed the woman/women had consented.’

The case involving ex boyfriend who deliberately arranged for another male to commit rape is very similar. Since when do men have the right to presume they alone are the ones who have the right to inform a third party, a woman wants to be subjected to male sexual violence because ‘she wants it.’ Both men hopefully have been charged with rape and men can easily prevent being charged with rape by directly asking the woman ‘do you agree to my subjecting you to rape and/or male sexual violence.’

The ex boyfriend used deception in order to convince another male it was acceptable to commit rape ‘because the woman had consented and she had supposedly given written consent.’ But the woman did not herself directly say she had ‘consented.’

Would I be allowed to make a similar claim if I arranged for a third party to burgle a residence because I told the perpetrator the home owner wishes their house to be burgled? No I would not because a crime would still have been committed. But when the crime concerns male sexual violence being committed against women there are innumerable excuses/justifications as evidenced by convicted rapist Rahmanian and his defence counsel.

Clearly Rahmanian’s defence counsel was attempting to obtain a lesser sentence by claiming Rahmanian did not realise he had committed rape. The fact Rahmanian attempted to make contact with the female rape survivor is irrelevant, many male rapists attempt and in fact do make contact with women they have raped. Reason is because these men justify their sexual crimes by believing they have not committed rape.

Racists attempting to divert attention away from the common methods male rapists use to minimalise/excuse/justify their pseudo right of 24/7 sexual access to any woman, only serve to divert attention away from the innumerable white male rapists who continue to have their crimes excused and/or justified.

Below is link to feminist discussion of Morgan V Regina case

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ka5Qu-mkGEQC&pg=PA198&lpg=PA198&dq=morgan+vs+regina+1976&source=bl&ots=fOsMEPs_Vk&sig=kuQ8AcdoKNZ-CDub-2enlyArAlI&hl=en&ei=SRv0S4DxBZr20gSbi4GPDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBcQ6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q&f=false

8 Songstress May 19, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Thanks, Hecuba. As I said, I wasn’t explaining it well. According to the reports I’ve read, the attacker believed he was communicating directly with the woman, not the ex. It was only after he was arrested that he found out what really happened.
I think it’s the “in writing” part that bothers me. Since some have argued that we need to move beyond verbal consent and get actual written consent for certain sexual involvements, like casual pickups or unusual circumstances like fantasy play. I’ve seen several colleges recommend (maybe implement?) something like this between students. Here there is written consent and it STILL goes wrong, all the way around.
Horrible for the victim, and I’d hate it if I were a guy in that situation as well. He should be able to charge/sue the ex for something.

9 Cara May 19, 2010 at 8:17 pm

What? The man is a rapist. He is owed nothing. The entire thing is his own fault. Has he never heard of the interent before? There is NO GUARANTEE that the person you meet on fucking Craigslist is who they say they are, and their written claims don’t mean anything until a physical meeting and transaction takes place. People understand this when they’re buying a damn coffee table through craigslist. And, notably, they understand it when they’re engaging in online dating. But not when there’s something saying “please, stranger, break into my home and act like you’re raping me, no matter how much I beg and cry for you to stop”? Give me a fucking break. He was negligent. And when you’re negligent about sexual consent and you end up raping someone as a result of it, that’s your responsibility.

This whole topic is a derail to begin with. But I definitely draw the line at sympathy rapists. Christ.

10 Cara May 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Also, I’m pretty sure that the whole “written consent as requirement as a part of sexual assault prevention policies on campus” thing is an urban myth. It’s usually used as a strawfeminist. “Pretty soon you’re going to have to sign a contract before having sex with anyone.” Etc. So unless you can find an actual case back it up, I’d say that it’s probably not true.

11 Songstress May 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Sorry sorry sorry! I didn’t mean to upset anyone or be a sympathy rapist. I don’t even know what that is, or a strawfeminist either, so sorry if I acted like that.
I just thought the case and the legal take was unusual since the guy didn’t know, even if he should have.
Cara, as bad as it was though, it sounds like you think it’s more a case of negligence than full rape? I was wondering that too. That’s sort of what the legal article I had above said. Cause it seems like the guy is trying to take responsibility and plead guilty and all, after he found out what really happened, to try and make it right.

On the written consent thing, I found a couple things just looking around, but I didn’t see anywhere it’s being implemented. More talked about like I said. I don’t have the stuff I was given from class anymore. On this link, there’s a copy of a form you can look at. It’s similar to the one I saw before.
http://www.thisishowyoudoit.com/blog/sexual-consent-form/

If you want me to try to find out more, I will. I’m sorry for taking this off the original post. Maybe this should have been in its own but I didn’t see how to do that.

12 Cara May 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm

There is no such thing as partial rape. Rape is rape. Failure to obtain meaningful consent through negligence and failure to obtain meaningful consent through malice are not meaningfully different in terms of the question about whether or not rape is rape. Sex without consent is rape, no matter the reason for the lack of consent.

Also, I don’t trust sources that make rape jokes in the process of linking to those sources. The text following the link to the form itself over at that post is pretty vile.

13 lauredhel May 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

I found what appears to be the original for that supposed “consent form”, at the website of a self-proclaimed “loveologist”. She introduces the form with a series of bullet points, including an assertion that having a signed form can “protect men from manipulative women who may bring false charges of sexual misconduct for financial gain” (oh yes, that well-known rape-accusation gravy train!), and the falsehood that “most rapists attack total strangers”.

14 Cats May 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Fuck that article.

As someone who is both a survivor of rape, and someone who’s interested in BDSM, the comparison of the two is utterly absurd. The idea that because “sadly” some women have fantasies means that a guy might decide to rape her is ridiculous. The guy is a rapist. Even if, and I don’t believe this, he really did think he was talking to the woman directly there’s no fucking way a reasonable individual would agree to show up to the home of someone they have NEVER met and commit violent acts upon them. Any responsible member of the BDSM community would ostracize anyone who considered such a thing. Even if someone is pretending not to consent you can immediately tell when something has moved from pretend to this is getting close to a line. Only sociopaths and rapists continue marching towards and cross that line.

This rape was not a product of a misunderstanding, or of women’s fantasies, or of BDSM. It was the product of two rapists. He knew before he showed up what he was doing. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and say he really thought that he was talking to the woman and really thought he had her full consent he knew 15 seconds after he showed up what the reality of the situation was. He raped her anyway because he also knew he would likely get away with it and even get sympathy.

Unlike that article implies NO reasonable person–and especially not a reasonable person who’s into BDSM–would show up to a stranger’s house that they met on the internet, break into their home, and commit violent acts against them. He wanted to rape someone, and knew that this scenario meant he’d likely get away with it.

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