There’s a lot happening in the world right now that I could write about. The final Presidential Debate (which I couldn’t watch re: stolen television). Several young girls gone missing and subsequently found dead (re: Colorado, New Jersey, New Hampshire). The latest Republican to speak out against women’s rights and offend rape survivors and rape advocates every where (re: Richard Mourdock, Indiana). But these things are being written about – my Google newsfeed is blowing up regarding these events. What I’d rather write about is something that’s tucked behind these big headlines: the civil suit that began against Lawrence Taylor by the young woman who he sexually assaulted in 2010.
The very way I framed that sentence is why I want to write about this today. The news is not framing it as such – with Lawrence Taylor the perpetrator and the young woman the victim. Rather, the news is saying
“A teenager who has accused former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor of sexually assaulting her when she was 16 cried Tuesday as she described her encounter with the NFL Hall of Famer at the start of a civil trial.”
That is the first sentence of this story in the HuffPo (I know, not the gold standard in journalism but it has hundreds of thousands of readers). I read this and thought “I thought Taylor was convicted?” and then I thought “who the hell cares if he was I the NFL Hall of Fame, he raped a minor.” At least my first reaction was most likely shared by everyone who also read this article. Well friends, Lawrence Taylor did sexually assault her. He pleaded guilty (see next paragraph from article):
“Taylor pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of sexual misconduct and patronizing an underage prostitute for having sex with her in 2010 and is serving six years of probation.”
To most, this is a trivial sequence of events displayed in the article. To most, they wouldn’t stop to think about why it was framed this way. To most, they would say “well they did eventually tell us that he pleaded guilty.” But I urge you all to think a little harder and look a little deeper into this story.
The victim was 16 at the time that Lawrence Taylor sexually assaulted her. He not only raped her, but he paid for the rape. Though Mourdock would probably say “Well, it’s God’s blessing that she had sex and got money” and Todd Atkin would say “… and her body shut the chance of pregnancy down,” I say that this is a federal crime of human trafficking. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, any minor (under the age of 18) engaged in commercial sex is automatically considered a victim of human trafficking. But NY State law does not parallel the Federal law. Therefore, this case was not treated as human trafficking – or at least it was not talked about through a human trafficking lens. In the article in the HuffPo there is one sentence telling the reader that the man who brought the minor to have sex at the hotel (with Lawrence Taylor) was sentenced to 7 years in prison. We are not told on what charges. Again, overlooking human trafficking and the essence of the crime.
Lawrence Taylor is a wealthy, well-known, successful athlete who was (not sure if he still is) married. To most, this is not what we imagine when we think of men who purchase sex. But the reality is that men who purchase sex have decent income and often fall into higher income brackets. They also often have consistent sex partners such as a girl friend or wife. Again, this wouldn’t be talked about in great detail because a) the awareness is not there b) Lawrence Taylor was an NFL player. Enough said. I mean, it is so obvious by the very last paragraph that the HuffPo leaves the reader with:
“Taylor, who lives in Broward County, Fla., led the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1987 and 1991. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was expected to testify Wednesday.”
We are left to walk away from this story remembering his football success and fame, not the fact that he forced himself on a 16 year old and then paid her for the rape.
Rewind a little bit in the article and we get a glimpse of the argument that Taylor’s lawyer makes from the outset:
“Taylor’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, said in his opening statement that Taylor never used violence, never threatened Fierro and thought she was sent by a friend who offered “female companionship.”
Mr. Aidala, you are a man of the law. You should know that rape is typically not a violent act. You are just feeding into the misconception that violence and physical force has to be inflicted in order to be considered rape. Your buddy Paul Ryan is calling, he wants his policy back. Then you make an idiotic excuse that Taylor thought the girl was being sent for “female companionship.” Well sir, when I know I am meeting potential friends or even current friends, I don’t go to a hotel room and get naked. Nor does the rest of the world. Also, let’s talk about why he wasn’t seeking “female companionship” from his wife. Oh, you don’t want to go into his personal life? Well, I don’t want the government up my vagina and in my uterus either nor do I want rape culture to continue to be reiterated in the media, but clearly it doesn’t matter what I (women) think.
Oh and then you, Mr. Aidala, try to blame the victim. You ask the judge to allow adding into evidence the results of the rape kit that allegedly show semen from two men, including Taylor. What you are trying to prove within the sole context of this crime I am not sure. But what you are trying to prove because you’re an asshole is that she was promiscuous and slept with two men therefore there’s no way it could be sexual assault. Again, I want to remind you, Mr. Aidala, that she was 16 and sold for sex. I also want to remind you that children in the commercial sex trade sleep with 10, 20, 30, 60, men per day. THAT is the reality you should be proving with this evidence. THAT is the reality society should hold attorneys accountable for proving. We are so far from there.
It is about damn time we start holding the correct people accountable in this country when it comes to violence against women. It is about damn time we stop victim blaming and start viewing as victims as such. It is about damn time we start taking about human trafficking and the realities of prostitution. These cases like Lawrence Taylor’s are not the exception. They are the norm. If you aren’t outraged that a 16 year old was in the commercial sex trade because you were blinded by the fame and athleticism of Lawrence Taylor you are as guilty as he is.