Voices: Judge Robert Adrian, who reversed a teen rape conviction this week, should be deeply ashamed

·3-min read
Rape Conviction Tossed Illinois (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Rape Conviction Tossed Illinois (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Another day, another case where an alleged rapist walks free in America. Disappointing, but not surprising. In the world of rape and sexual violence, what does justice look like to its survivors? When only 25 out of every 1,000 rapists are imprisoned, how many men are walking free, unaware or even proud of the havoc they’ve wreaked on their victims’ lives? Today, due to Judge Robert Adrian’s decision to reverse a rape conviction, there’s one more out there.

Judge Adrian, who presided over the Drew Clinton case, where an 18-year-old boy allegedly raped a sleeping girl at a graduation party , decided that five months in the county jail was “ plenty of punishment” and wiped Clinton’s record clean this week. Clinton had been found guilty of one count of criminal sexual assault, but had his conviction reversed so that the judge could lessen his prison sentence. What legal precedent decided this? The young woman concerned, who described being violated last May, had to leave school for remote learning, dropped all her extracurriculars, and watched her grades fall from honor roll to barely passing. Five months of Clinton’s life in exchange for hers never being the same. During the trial, this young woman alleged that she asked Clinton to stop repeatedly, and he wouldn’t until she physically pushed him off her body.

Judge Adrian managed to blame everything and everyone for this rape but the accused rapist. “This is what happens when parents do not exercise their parental responsibilities, when we have people, adults, having parties for teenagers, and they allow co-eds and female people to swim in their underwear in their swimming pool. And, no, underwear is not the same as swimming suits,” he said. “They allowed 16-year-olds to bring liquor to a party. They provided liquor to underage people, and you wonder how these things happen. Well, that’s how these things happen. The court is totally disgusted.”

I can’t help but wonder if his thoughts on who was responsible would have been the same if the victim was his daughter.

I drank at 16. I was around boys in their underwear and mine, and I went to co-ed parties. I didn’t rape anyone, nor did any of them rape me. So no, that’s not “how these things happen”. When I was raped at 20, I was drunk and my rapist was sober; he was also someone in my life who I trusted enough to help me get home safely. His actions turned my life upside-down in a way similar to Clinton’s victim: my grades tanked, I isolated myself from my friends, I couldn’t sleep in my bedroom where it happened for months.

It wasn’t my, or her, fault for trusting that her consent and boundaries would be honored. No one asks to or expects to be raped, least of all when they’re sleeping in an environment they presume to be safe among friends and peers.

What Judge Adrian fails to understand is that men see cases like this one, and they see that there’s more jail time in stealing a watch than in violating a woman via rape. They see that there’s truly no harm, accountability, or repercussions for sexual assault. They see people like Brock Turner and Christopher Belter, and they draw their own assumptions about how men are expected to behave and who’s to blame when they don’t.

This is how rape culture persists. Rape culture blames everything but men and their decision-making for male actions. It blames clothing, drinking, gender roles, parents, all in order to recuse the men of sexual violence and act as if it wouldn’t have happened except for those factors. And then men feel entitled to women’s bodies.

The only thing that causes rape is rapists. That’s the reality. In failing to acknowledge that reality, Judge Robert Adrian and judges like him are enabling the behavior they claim to oppose. If they want to see change? Show that in their sentencing of young men in rape cases.

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