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.