Richard Fourtin's Case: The Basics
Richard Fourtin was 28 in 2008, when he was convicted of raping a 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. Richard Fourtin was to serve 6 years in prison. The Supreme Court of Connecticut recently overturned his conviction, however.
(Sidebar: I typed "disabled woman rape" into Google News to try and find news sources about this story. I found several. I also found, in the first two pages of search returns, stories about six separate incidents of women with disabilities being raped in 2012. I don't want to think about how many that we don't hear about. I don't want to think about how many that just don't get reported.)
The woman that Richard Fourtin raped, referred to as L.K., is thought to have the mental age of a three year old. She is not legally able to consent to sex. However, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned Fourtin's conviction because 3 of 4 judges ruled that, despite the fact that L.K. has severe physical disabilities and can only communicate by lifting a finger, that she was able to express lack of consent by "biting, kicking, screaming, and gesturing".
Opinions, Opinions, Opinions About Richard Fourtin
Horrified? I was too. And judging from the comments on the articles that I read, I wasn't the only one. But I was surprised at some of the reasons.
What I thought was a surprising amount of people called Richard Fourtin a pedophile, for wanting to have sex with someone with the mind of a 3-year-old...like they'd totally glossed over the fact that she has a woman's body. I think that there's a tendency in general to "freeze" people with intellectual disabilities as children, when many are perfectly capable of consenting to sexual activity and want to do so. As is their right.
I responded to a comment that said that "People with physically and mental disabilities aren't able to defend themselves from attack." In L.K.'s case that may be true. In fact, anyone may find themselves, in an attack situation, unable to respond, for any number of reasons: shock, panic, a decision that staying still may ultimately be safer...but if I was attacked and decided to fight back, I think that anyone bargaining on the fact that my being disabled put me at a disadvantage might be surprised. I'm heavier than I look and I've got a lot of strength in my right side. (And I hate blanket statements, obviously...you might as well challenge me to prove that it's not true, although in this case I'm not about to go out looking for someone to attack me in order to do it.)
And there's my typical curiosity about whether the overturning of a rape conviction would be leave the commenting public calling for the judges' heads (and other parts) on a platter if the woman involved didn't have a disability. I realize that people would be angry. But people seem especially angry when injustice is committed against a person with a disability. This is an injustice against women - period. Not just women with disabilities. If you want to talk about sexual assault injustice that's unique to women with disabilities, talk about the fact that women with disabilities are at least twice as likely to be raped or assaulted than women without disabilities. http://www.ncdsv.org/images/sexualassaultstatistics.pdf
Not As It Seems
It all looks pretty bad. However, if you're going to angry at anyone that Richard Fourtin is out on the streets (and I think we can all agree that he shouldn't be), blame the prosecutor. He screwed up big-time on this one, and even the court tried to tell him so.
Instead of charging Richard Fourtin under a statute sub-section that the prosecutor could have made stick because of L.K.'s inability to consent, he (she?) chose to charge under a sub-section where he needed to show that that L.K. was "powerless" to consent. It seems like a small distinction, but as Ken shows at http://www.popehat.com/2012/10/09/frankly-i-dont-care-how-due-process-makes-you-feel/, it's actually fairly important. The judges didn't feel that the prosecutors showed that L.K. was powerless to consent, so they had to overturn Richard Fourtin's conviction, in order to uphold the law.
It's not within the scope of due process to then say, "But he did something awful, so let's find the right statute to charge him on." Unfortunately, because of double jeopardy, it's not within the scope of due process to charge Richard Fourtin again with this crime. So he's a free man.
Well, doesn't that lawyer deserve a pat on the back for fucking that right up?
L.K. Has to Live With It
I once worked with a young man with autism, whose family told me that he'd been sexually abused as a young child. They said that they didn't think it affected him. I filed the information away, thinking that perhaps we'd need a referral to a psychiatrist eventually, because I think that these things *always* affect us. I doubt that L.K. will forget what Richard Fourtin did to her, or the four days that it took her to testify about it in court.
Will we ever know for sure how it affects her? Probably not.
But I sure hope that the prosecutor does some thinking about how it might affect her...and loses more than a couple of nights sleep over it. Is that mean?
I don't really care.
More information: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-10-04/news/34264568_1_woman-with-cerebral-palsy-handicapped-woman-disabilities