The Paris Metro is packed tight at 8 am. So there I was, a 21-year-old English woman just arrived to work in France. I could feel a penis pressing between my legs from behind, but I couldn’t move and was much too scared to draw attention to myself. Fighting my way out of the train at Gare du Nord, I turned briefly and saw the well dressed man who had been standing behind me with a slight smirk on his face.
That was over 30 years ago, but I still remember exactly how it felt.
So it makes me angry to read that Darnell Hardware, indicted last summer on three felony charges of sexual abuse, was reportedly set free on probation by a New York City court. Why wasn’t Hardware’s crime considered a felony?
Here it is, as described by the Manhattan district attorney:
The defendant entered a crowded subway train during rush hour, pressed his body against a female victim, and rubbed his penis on her. Because of the crowded subway car, the women were unable to move away from the defendant, who ejaculated on the women’s bodies and clothing, and then fled. The victims were young women commuting to and from work or school.
As awful as this story is, there is a precedent for it that is even worse. That ruling occurred in March during the case of one Jason Mack, who committed a similar act of “subway grinding” ten years ago.
From The Atlantic Cities:
In 2002, the 300-pound Mack rubbed against a 14-year-old girl in a packed downtown 1 train, leaving a stain on her jeans and jacket, authorities said. In 2006, he struck again, prosecutors said.
Mack wasn’t charged until 2008 when DNA matched him to the earlier attacks. But Mack’s date with justice has been delayed as courts consider whether grinding, as the perverted practice is known, constitutes a felony.
In March, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the city maintenance worker’s brazen onanism did not involve force, and therefore he is not guilty of a felony.
If this case is dismissed, Mack would escape conviction even though he is guilty and, maybe even worse, he also would not have to register as a sex offender.
This is outrageous! How can the New York Court of Appeals get away with deciding that those who ejaculate on subway passengers aren’t guilty of felonies unless they use force? (Not to mention, why do they want to get away with it?)
Here’s the summary from the New York Court of Appeals, as quoted by The Atlantic Cities:
Here, there was no coordinated action by defendant and other passengers to hedge in the victim. Rather, the crowded conditions in the subway car merely masked and facilitated the unwanted sexual contact alleged. The sexual contact itself is the only physical force that defendant may be said to have deployed against his victim. This is not enough to establish that the sexual contact was “compel[led] by … use of physical force.”
Really? Just because the physical situation made it easier for these criminals to exploit their perverse intentions renders them lesser criminals?
Yes, really. Despite the fact that New York City law rates first degree sexual abuse as a Class D Felony, courts are treating this crime, even by repeated offenders, as merely a misdemeanor.
Many cities around the world offer women-only transit options, but that’s not really the point here.
As the New York Daily News puts it well:
By calculatedly choosing victims who had no escape, Mack and Hardware forced women to undergo sexual abuse just as surely as if they had done so with a bear hug. That’s the real world, a place the court chose to ignore. Cuomo and the Legislature must step in to reinstate the legal protections that women deserve.
The Courts should enforce the law and consider these sexual assaults as serious crimes.
If you agree that such treatment of sexual violence is outrageous, please join women and lawmakers demanding justice for the victims of these assaults. Tell New York courts that subway sexual assault is a serious crime.
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