Accused Rapists Just “20 year-olds Behaving Like 20 year-olds”

We’ve been following the De Anza case for years now. The quick recap for those who are unfamiliar is that a 17 year-old girl attended at party at the house of a local college baseball team where she says she was gang-raped by 9 of the ballplayers. She says that she was too drunk to consent, so drunk in fact that she has no memory of the incident. Much to everyone’s shock, the DA at the time refused to prosecute the case, claiming that there was no evidence (despite the three other young woman at the party who intervened, saying they witnessed a passed out girl being assaulted by multiple men). A civil case followed, but no one was found liable.

Although the new DA is apparently reviewing the evidence to see if a criminal case is in fact warranted, Jessica Gonzalez (who had never been publicly named before) has chosen to speak out about what happened to her four years ago (video above). She is now 22, and maintains that she was passed out and could not have consented to sex. The local news also interviewed three of the jurors in the civil trial, who say that Jessica’s inability to remember anything, as well as a blood alcohol level did not seem to indicate that she would have been passed out, made it impossible for them to find anyone liable. (See the video after the cut for more.)

We all know that rape cases are difficult to prosecute. Even though this case seemed to have more hard evidence of a rape than most do (LIKE WITNESSES), I’m not surprised by the response of the jurors, and honestly don’t envy their task. But I am extremely disquieted by the language of the defense lawyers, who contend that their clients did not gang-rape anyone. They say that the young men were invited to have group sex and they happily participated. One lawyer completely blows my mind:

“I don’t see what else they could have done…they were lured into a very troubling scenario by a provocateur and they fell for it.”

How many levels of fucked up is this? Let’s just focus on one: it was a “troubling scenario” yet there was NOTHING THEY COULD DO? Yeah, I’ll say it’s troubling. When I walk into a room and see a group of men taking turns having sex with a visibly intoxicated woman and cheering each other on, I am troubled. But ya know what my mind doesn’t do? It doesn’t process the situation as “oh gee, guess there is NOTHING I CAN DO but join in!” In fact, I think there are a lot of alternative actions any of those young men could have taken. For one, they could have stopped what was going on to ask Jessica how she was doing and try to figure out if she was in a state to consent to sex. What a novel idea!

But, apparently we don’t expect that kind of basic decency and conscience from our youth. Because really, they were just being kids! That’s what kids do all the time, right? Get wasted and have group sex? This one lawyer seems to think so:

“This wasn’t anyone’s finest moment. It was 20 year-olds at a party behaving like 20 year-olds at a party.”

Kids these days and their gang bang parties! Amirite??? In all seriousness, I consider myself to be a pretty sex-positive person, and if you are in control of all of your faculties and want to have sex with nine guys at a party, I mean it wouldn’t be my choice but it’s also none of my business. HOWEVER, is it just me or is this not a particularly common occurrence? I mean, did I just miss out on all the consensual 10-person sex parties in college? Is this really “20 year-olds behaving like 20 year-olds?” I find this justification absurd and offensive. It’s the same thing as saying that sexual violence is a result of “guys being guys.” In sum, no matter what the outcome of a case like this is, the shit defense attorneys say in regards to rape continues to be completely insane.

I remain impressed by Jessica Gonzalez, who somehow managed not to slap the ABC reporter interviewing her. At one point in the video below, the pictures that the defense used against Jessica are brought up—these pictures were taken years after the incident when she had moved to Nebraska and show her partying and being “lewd,” etc. Says the reporter: “how could you put yourself in another situation…drinking to excess and exhibiting this behavior that they could point to…?”

Jessica Gonzalez just looks at her and says, “Well, how do you deal with it? How do you deal with something like this? I mean, I still don’t know. I’m trying. I’m trying to move on.”

    4 thoughts on “Accused Rapists Just “20 year-olds Behaving Like 20 year-olds”

    1. “This wasn’t anyone’s finest moment. It was 20 year-olds at a party behaving like 20 year-olds at a party.”

      This is highly offensive mostly to this VICTIM, but also to all the 20-year-old party-going men who have somehow managed to keep their unwelcome junk out of other people’s crevices.

      Also, I am deeply disturbed that the above statement could even be considered an acceptable argument. Besides the fact that you’re supposed to prove that your client DIDN’T DO IT AT ALL, it doesn’t MATTER if they’re “just behaving like 20-year-olds at a party”. She didn’t consent, so it’s rape! It’s ILLEGAL, and the lawyer basically admitted that it happened!

    2. I think the fight for safe and accountable, consensual sex is very important, and I find your passion admirable. However, please, please edit your blog posts. The grammatical errors and attacks on the English language that you commit distract from the important cause and coverage that you put forward. Keep up the great work, but please proof read.

    3. Noelle: I completely agree with you about the offensive piece and the argument in general! I will say that I don’t think the lawyer is admitting that it happened–she is admitting that there was sex, yes, but her argument is that it was consensual sex–that Jessica wasn’t as drunk as she claims to be, and that while most folks may find group sex to be “distasteful,” it wasn’t a crime, just kids messing around.

      John Doe: As someone who (shockingly perhaps) has spent a good deal of time editing other people’s writing, I hear you loud and clear. Because I attend school, work, and help run this organization in my spare time, my posts are often (by necessity) written quickly and only given a cursory glance before I hit publish. But no excuse for bad writing. I gave this post a quick edit and will remember to give a more thorough look to future posts.

    4. John Doe, you might want to think about what is tacitly being expressed in your comment. It’s nice that you “find [Sarah's] passion admirable,” but where is your own? If you would like this site to have better copy editing, why not volunteer your services? After all, it is as much your responsibility to end sexual violence as it is Sarah’s.