Growing up in Utah, my biases about polygamy and polyamory were deeply marked by the oppressive religious practice of control and child rape practiced by some splinter sects of the LDS faith. The obvious difference is consent, but I had to unlearn years of association of polyamory with coercion and abuse.
It’s easy to condemn those in other places that condone child rape through marriage. It’s safe and comfortable. But the painful fact is, I live in a state where child brides have been (and almost certainly continue to be) part of an ongoing system of abuse. I have a deep rage that the communities where it happens are calculatedly isolated, and they exert total control over the lives of growing children, who have even less capacity for autonomy & consent than most.
We are talking about the kind of subculture that has literally burned books intended for a local library to keep control and maintain ignorance. It’s been almost impossible to find and prosecute the child
marriages rapes because the communities have their own police and shunning the outside world is a religious imperative.
What’s even worse, even men who have admitted their child rape may not even be eligible for prosecution because within the last decade Utah’s legal code allowed the rape of girls as young as 14 so long as their parents consent.
At the time, Utah’s marriage age was 14 with parental consent. In 2005, the Utah State Legislature changed it to 16. In 2003, the legislature made any polygamous marriage involving anyone under 18 a felony of child bigamy.
Shit like this shows just how uninterested our judicial system really is in prioritizing the protection of adolescents from predators using religious coercion. When as recently as 10 years ago, parents’ will could substitute for full legal consent to sexual activity, it’s clear that far from being the enlightened moral actors we make ourselves out to be, we are just beginning to question living in the dark ages.
A criticism (I believe fairly) lodged against more moderate religious voices is they give cover to, and downplay the abuse of more extreme versions because they find criticism of religiously backed abuses uncomfortable. There is no more clear example in our modern backyard than the fact that a man like Winston Blackmore may not even have committed a crime under our laws.
I’m sure no one has been surprised that the tactic used by George Zimmerman’s defense counsel is to try to put a murdered black minor on trial instead of the man who stalked, harassed and ultimately killed him. The entire trial has seemingly been an attempt to make us distrust the morals and credibility of the black people involved in front of a nearly all-white jury.
So it’s offensive, but not sadly consistent that Mr. Zimmerman has regularly referred to a dead kid, Trayvon Martin as “the suspect.”
Suspected of what crime? Blackness in Zimmerman’s neighborhood, but the defense is obviously hoping the jurors don’t register this prejudicial language and think about the naked racism it expresses.
I’m furious that this needs to be stated, but Trayvon Martin was not a criminal, was not a “suspect.” He was a boy who will now never know what it’s like to live as a grown man.
Professor Myers has already more than adequately addressed two remarkable cases of strong individuals speaking against rape, but I can’t get over the injustice and horror involved in the account of Ms. Elizabeth Seccuro.
She is simultaneously one of the most courageous people I can imagine and typifies everything that is wrong with how our society and legal system approaches the unique and terrible crime of rape*. She was always a strong, proud heroic woman with incredible integrity, who was denied even token justice immediately after the rape. When her rapists arrogantly re-inserted himself into her life by making contact 20 years later, the “justice” she received just shows how far we are from where we need to be.
* Hint: stop treating it like a property crime, or a beating/assault of a non-sexual type. It’s not. It is the total violation, dehumanization and assault on another person’s self. I view it pretty much on par with murder on the bad to evil continuum of behavior.