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Assange’s Rape Charges

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested in Britain on charges of rape and sexual coercion for a warrant issued in Sweden.  Given the timing of the arrest, coming so soon after WikiLeaks posted a large number of U.S. diplomatic cables, combined with the fact that rape charges are so often disbelieved anyway … well, it’s no surprise that the discussion has gotten ugly, and fast.

A Slate article quotes a Washington Post blog, claiming that the actual charge is “for violating an obscure Swedish law against having sex without a condom.”

Right.  In Sweden, it’s illegal to have sex without a condom.  This is why the Swedes died out after a single generation, and their land was immediately colonized by sentient ninja velociraptors.

The Swedes are making it up as they go along, proclaims another news story, describing the charges as “absurd” and talking about how the victims went to the police for advice, “a technique in Sweden enabling citizens to avoid just punishment for making false complaints.”

I’m having a hard time finding many official documents or sources about the case.  It’s getting buried under the conspiracy theories and the attacks against Sweden and/or the alleged victims.  But according to a report by The Press Association:

[T]he first complainant, Miss A, said she was victim of “unlawful coercion” on the night of August 14 in Stockholm … Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.

The second charge alleged Assange “sexually molested” Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her “express wish” one should be used.  The third charge claimed Assange “deliberately molested” Miss A on August 18 “in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity”. The fourth charge accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on August 17 without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.

I’m neither judge nor jury, and I can’t say what actually happened.  But it strikes me as rather telling that all this outrage about condoms completely ignores the parts of the charges where he allegedly used force to hold one victim down, and assaulted another in her sleep.

As for the condom issue, let me put this as clearly as I can: consent for one action does not imply consent for another.  If I consent to kissing, it doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to grope me.  If I consent to mutual masturbation, it doesn’t mean I consent to intercourse.  If I consent to intercourse with a condom, it does not mean I consent to intercourse without one.

Meaning, if Miss A did consent to sex with a condom, but Assange didn’t use one, then he was committing a sexual act against her which she had not consented to.  Remind me, what do we call it when one person commits a sexual act against another without the other person’s consent?

There may be other issues here, political and otherwise.  And if I’m understanding the chronology correctly, Sweden didn’t do itself any favors by flipflopping on whether or not to charge Assange with rape.

However, I’m getting awfully damn tired of yet another round of Smear The Rape Victims.  Of the assumption that women lie.  Of the myth that if you tweet about hanging out with cool people at a party, then nothing that follows could possibly be “real” rape. (After all, you went to the party, right?  Doesn’t that equal consent to be assaulted?)1

I don’t know if Assange is guilty or not.  But I’m disgusted with how we so often and so quickly leap to attack and condemn the alleged victims in cases of rape.

  1. A commenter correctly pointed out that I had the chronology backwards here. The party was thrown after the alleged rape. There are any number of reasons a rape victim would go through with a party after an assault (denial, shame, efforts to pretend life is “normal,” pressure from others, etc.), but I wanted to acknowledge my error.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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( 79 comments — Leave a comment )
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jl_merrow
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear.
ginmar
Dec. 8th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
If they trumped up charges, they'd have picked something more devastating, wouldn't they? Meanwhile, the victim blaming reveals there's a lot of people out there who can't be trusted.
nick_kaufmann
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
Miss A has also been referred to in some pro-Assange accounts as a "radical feminist," for no discernible reason other than to perpetuate the myth that feminists cry rape at the drop of a hat. It's been sickening watching so many people I thought were level-headed and thoughtful suddenly turn into blame-the-victim advocates. It's as if they don't understand one can admire Assange's mission to keep information transparent while at the same time wondering if Assange, whom none of us know personally, might be an asshole.
jimhines
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
I had missed that particular branch of attack. Ugh. Because yes, we all know that rape is really just a feminist weapon to control the poor, helpless men.
(no subject) - nick_kaufmann - Dec. 8th, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ginmar - Dec. 8th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jaylake - Dec. 8th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - csmaccath - Dec. 8th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Dec. 8th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - csmaccath - Dec. 8th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 8th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - csmaccath - Dec. 8th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - longstrider - Dec. 9th, 2010 12:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - csmaccath - Dec. 9th, 2010 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 8th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - autopope - Dec. 8th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 8th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shadesong - Dec. 8th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 9th, 2010 01:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rimrunner - Dec. 9th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Dec. 8th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - autopope - Dec. 9th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bemused_leftist - Dec. 9th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
rkbwrites
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
The 'raptor line goes almost as good as Asimov's mutton chops.
jimhines
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Sometimes humor and ridicule is the best response to ridiculousness :-)
dweomeroflight
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
The world's stupid fills me with rage. Why do people still not get what consent means? STILL.

But plus one for this line because I choked with laughter:

Right. In Sweden, it’s illegal to have sex without a condom. This is why the Swedes died out after a single generation, and their land was immediately colonized by sentient ninja velociraptors.

cathshaffer
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
I was struggling with why people don't understand that consenting to sex with a condom is not the same as consenting to sex without a condom. This post at Salon has a good treatment of the subject:

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/12/07/julian_assange_rape_accuser_smeared/index.html
(no subject) - dweomeroflight - Dec. 8th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - unwoman - Dec. 8th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
smiko
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU FOR THIS. It's been really unsettling watching a lot of people I usually respect use this whole incident as an excuse to dismiss a rape charge.

I do suspect they wouldn't have pursued it if it weren't an excuse to arrest Assange for the Wikileaks, but that doesn't mean it's okay to mock the actual charges. Like OH GOOD, I was hoping for another round of Blame the Women!

I am making a side-eye at Naomi Wolf, seriously.
jimhines
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
It wouldn't surprise me at all if there was political pressure or motivation behind the arrest. I don't know for certain one way or the other, obviously, but that seems a very reasonable suspicion.

But leaping from there to the assumption that the charges are therefore trumped-up, and the women completely unreliable/angry/vindictive/whatever ... not so much, no.

And I hadn't seen the Wolf article before. I now wish I could go back in time two minutes and tell myself not to read it...
(no subject) - mrs_norris_mous - Dec. 8th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - la_marquise_de_ - Dec. 8th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
orbitalmechanic
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
la_marquise_de_
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
I'm not totally clear on the chronology either, but it seems not impossible that a charge has emerged that is more serious that the earlier ones. It should also be borne in mind that a recent Amnesty report on rape in Scandinavia has been quite embarrassing to Sweden. I for one find the assumption that Sweden is simply bowing to US pressure faintly unlikely (and full of US exceptionalism): I suspect there are internal factors at play here. I intend to ask a Swedish speaking friend about this when I see her.
The attitude of many commentators of blaming the women, however, is deeply, deeply offensive.
jimhines
Dec. 8th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
Good points. I'm not aware of the Amnesty report -- is that something that's available online?

I'd love to know what your friend says, if that ends up being something you can share.
(no subject) - la_marquise_de_ - Dec. 8th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
mtlawson
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
Considering the timing, you're right in that there's plenty of defenders saying these are trumped up charges.

That said, Assange's defenders ought to consider that Sweden is doing him a big favor. By taking him off the street and putting him in prison, it lessens his chances of drinking a radioactive cocktail courtesy of the Russians and/or Chinese.

One thing I will say is that I doubt Sweden would bring these charges against him if they didn't think it would stick. That's enough for me to view the charges for what they really are.
julieandrews
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
"Right. In Sweden, it’s illegal to have sex without a condom. This is why the Swedes died out after a single generation, and their land was immediately colonized by sentient ninja velociraptors."

This paragraph is why I don't have to visit any other blog for the rest of the day.

Thank you. :)
mtfay
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid that this time, it's going to get especially nasty, given the very political nature of the rest of Assange's activities.
Because of the comments from certain actors from one side of the political spectrum, Assange's supporters are going to spend a lot of time saying that these charges are a back door to allowing the US to procure Assange. Olberman has already pointed out that one of the victims was associated with "Anti-Castro" forces, as though that means she automatically made up the charges to support some right wing conspiracy.
Color me disgusted.
dweomeroflight
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
Color me disgusted.

You and me both.

steve_buchheit
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
Besides the normal dissembling we now have the added silliness of "but he's a hero of freedom," and the culture has even more problems with thinking our "heroes" could do anything like this. That's just of multiplier of the ignorance around the issue.
jimhines
Dec. 8th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
Only the Sith deal in absolutes! Or something like that...
(no subject) - ginmar - Dec. 8th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
jhetley
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
I think Assange was unwise to play around with international espionage without learning some of the basics of the trade.

Beyond that, deponent knoweth not . . .
cathshaffer
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
There's a lot of muttering about the U.S. government wanting to have him killed, but I think he is in more danger from Russia. The U.S. is one of the safer governments to have angry with you.
(no subject) - mtlawson - Dec. 8th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Dec. 8th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jhetley - Dec. 9th, 2010 01:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
barb27
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
Julian Assange
If justice is served, Assange will stand trial on the multiple sexual assault charges in Sweden, and if found guilty will be punished and not available for extradition to the US on "hurt feeling" charges. Remember Roman Polanski? A few great movies--child rapist.
jimhines
Dec. 8th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Julian Assange
I've been thinking about the Polanski case a lot as I read through various stories about Assange...
Re: Julian Assange - sargent - Dec. 8th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Julian Assange - bemused_leftist - Dec. 9th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
shogunhb
Dec. 8th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
Clarification?
I was confused by this, "Of the myth that if you tweet about hanging out with cool people at a party, then nothing that follows could possibly be “real” rape."

The article that you linked to indicates that the party happened after... I believe the implication is not that the party constitutes consent, but that Ardin would not have thrown a party for Assange if she had previously been assaulted by Assange.
cathshaffer
Dec. 8th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Clarification?
I think a lot of people don't understand that when a woman experiences date rape, is sexually abused, or is raped by someone she likes and admires, she can go through a period of denial where she pretends everything is normal. This is made much more difficult by the lack of sympathy of friends, family, or the public (in the case of a high profile rape) who don't think she could have been hurt because she seemed "fine."
Re: Clarification? - bemused_leftist - Dec. 9th, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Clarification? - jimhines - Dec. 8th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
sethrak
Dec. 8th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
Posts like this are why you rock, and why I am glad I enjoy your novels. ^_^

I do suspect that somehow the authorities wouldn't be taking the charges quite so seriously if it weren't for the WikiLeaks angle, as happens all too often.
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