Two important events in the criminal treatment of sexual violence against women took place yesterday.

First: Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a criminal complaint against Sedrick Leman-Issac Mitchell, aka “Gruesome,” charging him with human trafficking, forced prostitution, criminal sexual conduct (including rape), assault with a firearm and other felonies in connection with a criminal enterprise forcing two girls to work as prostitutes in Detroit.  According to the complaint and Detroit News:

Schuette said Mitchell enslaved two girls, ages 14 and 15. The 14-year-old was held captive in a house on Detroit’s east side for two months after Mitchell invited her to a party in July of last year, Schuette said. Mitchell is alleged to have put them to work as prostitutes, collecting money and punching and slapping them when they didn’t earn enough.

The release said in addition to physical assaults, Mitchell repeatedly sexually assaulted the girls and held a gun to the head of the 14-year-old on one occasion. The 15-year-old was choked when she resisted his sexual advances, the release said.

Second: Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel employee who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape at the Sofitel Hotel, spoke publicly to a number of media sources about the events that transpired in the hotel room.  Meanwhile DA Cyrus Vance struggles with what to do with the case.

Why consider these two events side-by-side?  Well, they illustrate how “regular” sexual violence remains difficult, if not impossible, for women to complain about.  The DSK case reminds us how the victim’s reputation and entire life are put under a microscope while the alleged perpetrator’s violent sexual history seem not to be relevant.  This contributes to a climate where prosecutors are under enormous pressure to drop or settle cases they aren’t sure they’ll win, and they hesitate before bringing high profile cases fearing that their own reputations will be tarnished along with that of the victims.  This is exactly what Cyrus Vance, the New York County District Attorney, is now experiencing.  Rather than getting a political bump from “being tough on rape,” he’s scurrying out from under the withering criticism he’s been getting for losing a case involving sexual assault charges brought against two on-duty policy officers, and for the DSK case.

At the same time that “being tough on rape” seems a losing strategy for many prosecutors, they can’t be tough enough on human trafficking.  The Michigan case is only the most recent example.  The new President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Rob McKenna, Washington State’s AG, just announced that he has selected Human Trafficking as the subject of his year-long presidential initiative, unfortunately naming the project “Pillars of Hope.”  “Innocent victims” of human trafficking – particularly sex trafficking (see the images used on the “Pillars of Hope” promotional materials) – seem to deserve aggressive prosecutorial resources and public commitment, while regular old rape and sexual violence remain almost a dirty secret that prosecutors take on at their peril.  Last April, the New York City police department reported a dramatically lower homicide rate, while during the same period reported rapes had jumped 24%.  Oh well.

It’s not that prosecutors shouldn’t take human trafficking seriously, of course they should.  It’s just worrisome to watch how rape not involving trafficking remains so difficult to complain about, prosecute, and prioritize.  Let’s hope that the increased emphasis on trafficking doesn’t make the situation worse.  It need not, but there is some risk that it might.

10 comments

  1. New Gender & Sexuality Law Blog: DSK & Human Trafficking: Thoughts On How Prosecutors Prioritize Sexual Violence Cases http://t.co/opQL888

  2. New Gender & Sexuality Law Blog: DSK & Human Trafficking: Thoughts On How Prosecutors Prioritize Sexual Violence Cases http://t.co/opQL888

  3. DSK and Human Trafficking – Blogs @ Columbia Law School: First: Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette filed … http://bit.ly/oIAd5B

  4. DSK and #HumanTrafficking: Thoughts On How Prosecutors Prioritize Sexual Violence Cases http://t.co/HoaSTR3

  5. DSK and #HumanTrafficking: Thoughts On How Prosecutors Prioritize Sexual Violence Cases http://t.co/HoaSTR3

  6. DSK and Human #Trafficking: Thoughts On How Prosecutors Prioritize Sexual Violence Cases http://t.co/OOf6Y9N

  7. DSK and Human #Trafficking: Thoughts On How Prosecutors Prioritize Sexual Violence Cases http://t.co/OOf6Y9N

  8. Blogger says rape unrelated to #sextrafficking is unprosecuted, praises NAAG's #humantrafficking presidential initiative http://ow.ly/5OQtR

  9. Blogger says rape unrelated to #sextrafficking is unprosecuted, praises NAAG's #humantrafficking presidential initiative http://ow.ly/5OQtR

  10. Ask a lawyer how human trafficking and sex slavery is defensible.

    Barrister Nicholls was paid in trafficking profits to defend major brothel owner and kidnapper David Greenwood.

    Reach her by twitter @BarristerAccess.

    She can be reached by phone listed on her website: Elizabeth J Nicholls

Add a comment


Comments are subject to moderation and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
Columbia Law School or Columbia University.

FEATURED POSTS

CATEGORY CLOUD

"Homeland" Security Abortion Rights Activism Adoption adultery Advocacy Affordable Care Act Alien Tort Claims Act Amicus Brief Asylum Bankruptcy BDS Bullying Census Politics Children Citizenship Civil Unions Clinic Columbia Law School Compulsory Marriage Condoms Contraception Contraception Mandate Cordoba House Criminal Law Cures for Homosexuality Defense of Marriage Act Disability Rights Discrimination Divorce Domestic Partnership Domestic Violence Domestic Workers Don't Ask Don't Tell Earth Day Economic Justice Education Egypt Elections Employment Discrimination ENDA Estate Planning Events Family Law Fellowships femininity Feminism Free Speech Gender and Technology Gender Identity Discrimination Gendering the Economy Gender Justice GSL Online Haiti Hate Crimes Health Care Hilary Clinton Hillary Clinton HIV HIV Discrimination Hobby Lobby Homelessness Homophobia Housing Human Rights Identity Politics Illegitimacy (sic) Immigration Reform In-ing Incest India International Law Intersectional Feminism Islamophobia Israel Jobs Justice Sotomayor King & Spalding Labor Trafficking Land Reform Law School Legal Profession Legal Scholarship Lesbian & Gay Parenting LGBT Parenting Marital Status Discrimination Marriage Marriage Equality Masculinity Medicaid Michelle Obama Migration Military National Security Obama Administration Obama Appointments Obergefell Outing OWS Palestine Parenting Pinkwashing Policing Politics of the Veil Polyamory Popular Culture Pornograpy Pregnancy Presidential Politics Prisons Privacy Products Liability Profanity Prop 8 Prosecutorial Discretion Publications Public Rights/Private Conscience Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Queer Theory Queer vs. Gay Rights Race and Racism Racial Stereotyping Rape Religion Religious Accommodation Religious Exemption Religious Exemptions Religious Freedom Restoration Act Religious Fundamentalism Reproductive Rights Reproductive Technology RFRA Romania Rwanda Sartorial Commentary Schools Sex Discrimination Sex Education Sex Stereotyping Sexting Sex Trafficking Sexual Assault Sexual Duplicity Sexual Harassment Sexual Health Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Sexual Orientation Discrimination Sex Work Silencing of voices SMUG Sodomy Law Reform Solidarity Sports Supreme Court Surrogacy Technology Title IX Trafficking Transgender Uganda Uncategorized Violence Women and Poverty Women of Color Work Zimbabwe

Academic Calendar  |  Resources for Employers  |  Campus Map & Directory  |  Columbia University  |  Jobs at Columbia  |  Contact Us

© Copyright 2009, Columbia Law School. For questions or comments, please contact the webmaster.