News & Politics

Teen Girl Forced to Give Cop Oral Sex -- What the Sick Abuse of Authority Says About Our Rape Culture

A girl files suit after sexual abuse from a cop reveals a departmental pattern; what is with authority figures using sex to dominate others?

In our authority-oriented society, we're expected to put our trust in certain powerful figures: the police officers charged with protecting us, the clergy charged with guiding us.

So why is a culture of sexual abuse so rampant in many outposts of these kinds of institutions?

The answer lies in the question: wherever there is unquestioned power and authority, we'll see sexual abuse, because in our "rape culture" rape is above all about power, domination, and violence. And when the attacker feels that he or she can get away with it--as those who are revered or set aside by society do--the problem worsens.

Over Labor Day weekend, a chilling story came to light in Kansas City, Missouri. The court case arose out of a culture of police negligence around questionable sexual behavior, a culture that eventually led to a horrific assault on a young girl, a teen who was hanging out late in a park with her friends.

From Courthouse news service:

A teen-age girl says a Jackson County police officer forced her to give him oral sex in his squad car after he found her and some friends in a park after curfew. And she says that assault is just the tip of the iceberg of a pattern of sexual deviancy by Jackson County police officers...

Burgess told C.B.'s friends to leave, then he handcuffed C.B., fondled her breasts, vaginal area and buttocks, forced her to give him oral sex and ejaculated.  

C.B and her counsel have pointed to a number of other instances both with this particular officer but also with his department, which indicates that for years, officers were getting a pass for essentially predatory and disturbing behavior.

Some of the allegations include: a sergeant receiving just a 3-day suspension for sending 95 sexually explicit jokes and cartoons from department computers; another sergeant receiving just a 5-day suspension for sending and receiving sexually explicit emails on department computers; and reassigning an officer, accused of making an inappropriate joke to a female officer, to work as a school resource officer at a local high school. That officer has since had several complaints from parents of girls at that high school about his conduct.

It's important that this brave girl is taking her claims to court--because her problem isn't an isolated one.

While her assault took place several years ago, there have been a number of high-profile cases in which officers of the law were accused of sexual assault this summer. One, the infamous "rape-cop" story in New York, led to a not-guilty verdict and this stricken statement from the anonymous victim, to whose aid the cops had been called:

Hearing that verdict brought me to my knees; it brought me back to my bedroom on that awful night when my world was turned upside down by the actions of two police officers who were sent there to protect, but instead took advantage of their authority and broke the law.

If you need any more proof that sexual assault is about power, not sexual desire, then look at these cases in which the alleged victim was completely at the mercy of the person accused of assaulting her, someone who was, by nature of his authority, given good standing in the community.

And while the NYC officers were immediately fired, it seems that the officer in Missouri and his colleagues had been acting with impunity for a long time.

If there's anything that comes to mind when thinking about this story out of Missouri--particularly the bit about the cop who acted lewdly being sent to work with minors at a high school--it's that there's a marked similarity to the culture of cover-up and shunting abusers from place to placea that underscored the widespread sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.

This is not to mention the general culture of authority and entitlement that allowed the abusers in both situations to get away with it.

The church sex abuse story has been in the news, too, this weekend, in the form of the ongoing (and rather riveting) feud between the Irish government, which appears to very much have the populace behind it, and the Vatican--which is hitting back hard.

For the first time, basically, since pre-Christian Ireland, the special relationship between Rome and the Irish people is being strained to a heretofore unimaginable extent, thanks to the very same kind of systematic cover-up of rape and sexual abuse that we saw among law enforcement in the above instances.

Investigations revealed that the Vatican sent a letter discouraging the reporting of child abuse to local authorities. The letter made the Vatican look so bad that Irish Prime Minister Enda Kelly has gone on the record slamming the Church.

From the Guardian:

The findings encouraged Irish politicians, led by Kenny, to claim the Vatican's letter had effectively crippled the Irish church's efforts to tackle the abuse within its ranks.

Breaking with years of traditional subservience to the Vatican by Irish politicians, Kenny said: "The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold, instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'."

While there's now quite a bit of evidence pointing to the fact that the centralized church authorities were complicit, the culture of trust and reverence that underpins religious institutions is the same kind of trust we're supposed to have in law enforcement.

From the horror stories we hear about powerful politicians, to cops and priests and other religious leaders, to the leaders of religious cults like Warren Jeffs, the fact remains that rape and power are intertwined. While some violent rape may be about the powerless trying to assert dominance, these kinds of instances of abuse are all about taking advantage of the powerless, the voiceless, and in many cases the young.

While there's no question that there are many good individuals who hold these kinds of powerful positions, these stories remind us that wherever there's a systematic "above the law" mentality, the basest of human impulses can be given free rein.

 

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Jezebel.com and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Find her at sarahmseltzer.com.
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