A recent case in NYC has been really challenging for me on two counts. First, the way that the dismissal of sex trafficking, prostitution and rape charges were treated by the media and second, the way a victim was treated by the police and justice system because of her "traumatic bond" to her assailants. Its a really complicated case that seems to be getting short shrift from the media or commentators, so I was wondering if anyone here has thoughts, because I can't stop thinking about the case. I have kept this as non-triggering as possible, but there are some upsetting and graphic accounts on the links
In the underlying case, an Orthodox woman, now 22, came forward to police after speaking to her professor
and telling him that she had been raped and forced into prostitution for 8 years by a group of young men. She said that the abuse had started when she was 13, and that she had kept diaries and had gone to the police in the past but that it had never been taken seriously, because she was "known" as a prostitute in the neighborhood. She talked about trying to leave the situation but hadn't been able to do so, because the young men would threaten to harm her family. Her professor encouraged her to come forward and the four young men were arrested. She made statements about the events, and then recanted them the next day (according to her family she did so while she was in the hospital under pressure from a police officer in uniform). As her recovery progressed, she became more and more clear on what had happened and wanted to have the case tried. The prosecutor then made the mistake of not handing over the information
on the recanting and other statements of regret that the victim made, in violation of her duty to hand over all the exculpatory evidence to the defense (which is absolutely terrible and I don't condone in the least). Because the evidence wasn't handed over, the DA's office made the decision not to prosecute the case and released the young men. For more background (some of it very triggering): Untangling the Crown Heights Rape Case
I heard about it when NPR was covering their release as the most important news of the hour, saying that all charges had been dropped, and making it sound like the victim had finally admitted that her story had been a lie. The media covered it, with two of the young men talking about how they forgave her for pressing false charges
, but didn't give much coverage to the victim's father's statement (released the same day), giving a very different version of events. As a result, there were so many comments about how women lie about rape, and how the accuser needs to be sued for false prosection and lying under oath etc.
I felt like the father's statement (here
) gave a far more problematic version of what had happened. The idea that the NYPD would ignore years of an underage girl trying to report violence and threats of violence against her because she was a known prostitute and that a NYPD officer would pressure a victim to recant, while she was in the hospital being treated for injuries, under the threat that unless she did so she would be prosecuted as a prostitute, is troublesome, as is the fact that the Brooklyn DA seemed so willing to disregard the fact that prostitutes often have a complicated relationship with their pimps, often described as "traumatic bonding."
Victim advocates are saying that this is a very problematic case, and shows that sex trafficking/forced prostitution cases are where domestic violence cases were 30 years ago, with little understanding for the complicated bond between the prostitute and the pimps. The pattern of wooing her as a 13 year old to feel special, followed by the degradation and humiliation that followed is a lot like other forced prostitution cases that take place with young female victims in the US The average age for entry into prostitution is between 12 and 14
Norma Ramos, executive director of CATW, said the dismissal of charges against the four men was a "stunning failure" to pursue justice. "This is a classic case of sex trafficking as the victim was gang-raped at the age of 13," she said. "Police records and neighbourhood witnesses support her and her families account that they made complaints to the local police about her victimisation but the police did nothing to protect her. She experienced repeated failure of government entities."Source
Victims' advocates say the young woman at the centre of the case suffers from a psychological condition similar to Stockholm syndrome known as "traumatic bonding".
Clinical psychologists say the condition – in which victims bond psychologically with their attackers after experiencing a cycle of affection punctuated by brutality, blame themselves for the abuse and at times wish to protect their tormentors – is widespread among victims of prolonged sexual and physical violence. In such cases, recanting evidence is typical, they say.
Ramos said the DA failed to understand this key element of the case. "It is unfortunate that statements made by the victim what should be viewed as evidence of traumatic bonding have been wrongly interpreted by key legal players in this case as evidence of consent and have become the basis for the Brooklyn district attorney's office to dismiss the charges against the defendants."
She criticised the failure by the DA to not employ witness testimony to "educate the jury and the general public about the meaning and significance of theses statements".
Echoing the views of the family, Ramos said the dismissal also sent a dangerous message to traffickers, which was: "You will not be held accountable for sex trafficking."
I can't find anything on Feministe or Jezebel or other blogs, so I thought I'd ask you for any thoughts you may have.