Bigger than Lawrence Taylor

I really hate to do this, him being a Tar Heel and all, but Lawrence Taylor and everyone riding with him is on some bullshit. Innocent until proven guilty is a concept and rule of law that I value so I’ll try and uphold that idea throughout this post. I’m not here to condemn LT but I am going to judge the hell out of him. Media outlets reporting that LT could be vindicated by a new witness and folks are already discounting the accuser’s story just because of who she is and that’s ridiculous. I’m getting ahead of myself so let me recap the story thus far.

On Thursday, May 6th, former NY Giants player and Hall of Famer Lawrence “LT” Taylor was accused of solicitation and third degree rape of a 16 year old sex worker in Rockland County, NY. It’s alleged that LT paid the girl $300 for her services. Sixteen is below the age of consent in New York, so even if the girl did consent to have sex with him for money, it’s rape – statutory rape – but rape nonetheless. The solicitation charge is a misdemeanor and carries a max one year prison sentence. The third degree rape charge, however, is a felony which could send someone away for up to four years. Earlier this week, CBS reported that LT admitted  he paid for “sex acts” with the girl. A couple of days later, LT clarified “sex acts” and said he only pleasured himself with the girl in the room, he didn’t have intercourse with her. The latest news in the case came a day later when a “friend” of the accuser came forward, supporting LT’s masturbation story. Here’s what she said as reported by the Daily News:

“She starts explaining that it was weird because she didn’t even have sex,” the pal told investigators, according to the source. “When she got back in the car, she wasn’t mad or anything like that. She was like, ‘Wow’ – she got paid $300 and didn’t have to have sex with him.”

The accuser sticks by her story and insists that she and LT had sex. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for a second and believe the “I only wanked my yang” story. Is that still supposed to be okay? What part of the game is it to sit in the room with a prostitute – an underage prostitute – and beat off? Even if you didn’t know a child was underage, that is no defense under the law. This dude is a criminal no matter what. Just because he may get off on the rape charge doesn’t clear him of wrongdoing and fault. The worst part, though, is that people are going to start shouting about how you can’t trust the accuser because she’s a prostitute… or is she?

Marcia Yerman makes a great point over at HuffPo:

In March, the authorities were informed by the family that the girl was missing. The Associated Press detailed that she met Davis [her alleged "pimp"] two to three weeks ago at a Bronx bus stop. She described to investigators how the 36-year-old man offered her a place to live and a way to earn money.

When a girl is under-age, she is automatically classified as a trafficking victim. Norma Ramos, Executive Director of Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, spoke to me about the rapidity with which traffickers “identify runaways and move in on them.” The statistics show that these children are picked up between six to eight hours after they have gone missing from their homes.

Her point is well made. This is a bigger issue than whether a guy can tell how old a girl is by looking at her. Bigger than the minority of false rape claims. Bigger than a 16 year old girl trying to blackmail a retired football player that no one under the age of 22 has heard of. This is about the exploitation of women and girls that leads to a 16 year old ending up in a hotel room in upstate New York getting screwed by watching an old dude jerk off. Rachel Lloyd of Gems breaks it down for Yerman:

“It’s not a unique story,” she emphasized. “It’s only unique because a celebrity is involved.” Gems has worked to bring attention to the fact that the entry point for girls into the commercial sex industry is between 12 and 14 years old. For underage girls, it is not a question of choice – as they are lured, misled, forced, and manipulated into the role. The numbers show that annually, 100,000 children in the United States are victims of trafficking.

I’m reminded of the Duke lacrosse case and it makes me sick. In that case, the accuser was a stripper and the accused were a group of privileged, young, white men. In that case it turned out that the accusations were false but the firestorm that surrounded the case was a lot to deal with. I was in Durham at the time, working at a domestic violence agency down the street from the alleged scene of the crime. Needless to say, the case literally hit close to home. The most striking thing to me was not that the accusations were false, but how people talked about the woman who made them even before they knew the outcome. Because she was a stripper, she couldn’t be raped. She couldn’t be trusted. She was not worth the effort. The lives of the lacrosse players were more valuable and shouldn’t be ruined for someone like her. Sounding familiar right? The talk online about LT’s accuser (who just turned 17, by the way) is that she is a “hooker” who can’t be trusted. Kriss from The Insanity Report and This Week in Blackness goes IN on LT and his “supporters”:

After several marathon heated arguments on Twitter about rape and what constitutes “real rape”, a phrase I abhor, I find myself deeply disgusted with mankind. Particularly men. In 2010 I never thought I would see men try to argue that statutory rape isn’t real rape or that blackmailing a woman to have sex isn’t real rape either. [...]

I bring up all this to say: Fuck Lawrence Taylor (and anyone else who says he’s not guilty of rape). Sure, Taylor will probably get off (of the rape charges). Hell, R. Kelly had a sex tape of himself having sex with a 14 year old and was able to beat the charges. Nothing surprises me these days when it comes to the criminal justice system and celebrities. But to me, both those perverts are child rapists. Everything we read about Taylor’s actions and the events of that night suggest he had the intentions of paying for underage sex.

He’s not employing my innocent until proven guilty rule, but he makes a point – people are bending over backward to point out the small percentage of false rape accusations while blaming anyone who comes forward with an accusation. If it doesn’t fit the “stranger in a dark alley” ideal of rape, well it probably didn’t happen. Kriss focuses on men who are making excuses for LT and dudes accused of rape in general but women are guilty as well – sometimes even more than men – of blaming the victim. A recent UK study found that while both women and men tend to blame female rape victims for sexual assaults, women are actually “less forgiving” than men. In another case involving a celebrity sports figure not too long ago, the woman who accused Kobe Bryant of rape had her photo and phone number plastered across the Internet, received death threats, and saw her sex life dragged through court as proof that she wasn’t a credible witness. “She is not worthy of your belief,” said Bryant’s attorney. Wow.

The whole thing just stinks and anyone making excuses has got some serious problems. What say you? Is it okay if he just masturbated? What of the state of young girls being trafficked in outrageous numbers in the US? Why is everyone so quick to blame the victim? How can we balance the accused’s right to be judged innocent until proven otherwise with the importance of validating and empowering victims to speak out?