Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Judicial Variations on Rape

rape (v.)
    late 14c., "seize prey, take by force," from Anglo-Fr. raper "to seize, abduct," a legal term, probably from L. rapere "seize, carry off by force, abduct" (see rapid). Latin rapere was used for "sexual violation," but only very rarely; the usual Latin word being stuprum, lit. "disgrace." Sense of "sexual violation or ravishing of a woman" first recorded in English as a noun, late 15c. (the noun sense of "taking anything -- including a woman -- away by force" is from c.1400). The verb in this sense is from 1570s. Related: Raped; raping. Uncertain connection to Low Ger. and Du. rapen in the same sense. Rapist is from 1883.
According to Bloomberg, the agent's first question to the suspected criminal was, "We’re here to find out if there’s an innocent explanation.”  The suspected criminal in the case was not Dominique Strauss-Kahn, but Bernard Madoff.  Both men have been accused of rape, if you'll permit its broader meaning.  An examination of the differences and similarities between their cases and treatment by the Justice system exposes curious divergences in current Judicial sensibilities on crime.

Before going further, in anticipation of a justified critique, let's pause and consider the broad use of "rape".  I assume many (perhaps most) female, and quite a few male readers will take offense at the use of the same term in both cases.  I don't intend to downplay the alleged thuggish actions of Mr. Strauss-Kahn towards a hotel maid.  If the allegations against him are true, he, in my view, is a criminal.  His victim (or victims as seems to be the case) has suffered and may bear the scars, both visible and invisible for life.  Yet, so too will the many more numerous victims of Mr. Madoff (who interestingly also had something of a reputation as a "seducer" to use a term applied to Mr. Strauss-Kahn). 

In blunt terms I'm all for jail terms for convicted rapists in its broadest sense.  My question is this. Why do financial rapists, who admittedly inflict, in many cases, less acute trauma but to many more victims deserve the benefit of the doubt and more gentle handling than physical rapists by our Justice system?

Mr. Madoff confessed the crime to his sons, who then alerted the FBI.  Despite the confession, and years of SEC investigations, as detailed in Harry Markopolos' book No One Would Listen, the first question asked of Mr. Madoff, as noted above, was, "We’re here to find out if there’s an innocent explanation.”  

I doubt that was the first question asked of Mr. Straus-Kahn, who was arrested within 6 hours of the alleged crime (in my next post I'll examine more thoroughly the incredible speed with which the NYPD managed to nab an official who had cleared immigration and might be expected to have diplomatic immunity- talk about cutting through red tape). 

At his arraignment, Mr. Madoff was released to house arrest despite failing to provide the Judge's recommended 4 signatures (only his wife and son signed) on a $10M bail bond. 

Mr. Strauss-Kahn is in Rikers after the Judge refused a $1M cash bond and similar offer of house arrest at his daughter's residence in NY.

The moral of the story is apparently this.  It's better, in the sense of preferred US Judicial treatment, to rape many financially than to rape a few physically.  Those raped physically can not only hope to see their rapist in jail, they can sue for damages in civil court.  Those raped financially are quite lucky to see their rapists in jail.  More often they not only lose their investment, they have to bail out (financially) their rapists!