‘Rape by deception’ charge rings false
It’s a Saturday night in a Pittsburgh bar.
A young, well-dressed man approaches a woman and orders her a drink. They strike up a conversation and the spark of chemistry is lit. By night’s end, the man invites the woman back to his apartment. She agrees. At this point, she only knows a few facts that the man has revealed: he’s a pilot, his favorite author is Ayn Rand and he’s a vegetarian.
They arrive at his apartment and have consensual sex. She leaves the next morning.
Weeks later, the woman accuses the man of rape. On what grounds? Well, says the court, their sexual encounter was “rape by deception.” You see, the night after the tryst, the woman learned that the man works as an office clerk, only reads Men’s Health magazine and frequently eats hamburgers. Had the woman known this, she says, she never would have slept with him.
The man is convicted and sent to jail.
If this fictional story sounds ridiculous, that’s the point. What’s more ridiculous is that a real-life version of the story just took place in Israel.
In 2008, a Jewish Israeli woman met a man and had consensual sex with him minutes later. She believed him to be a Jew interested in a serious relationship. He wasn’t; the man, named Saber Kushour, was an Arab from eastern Jerusalem. A Jerusalem district court ruled last week that Kushour was guilty of “rape by deception” and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
The racial undertones of this case are especially troubling — the fictional example seems impossible, and yet substitute race for reading preference and we’ve got reality.
As Gideon Levy, columnist for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote, “Do the eminent judges understand the social and racist meaning of their florid verdict? Don’t they realize that their verdict has the uncomfortable smell of racial purity, of ‘Don’t touch our daughters?’ That it expresses the yearning of the extensive segments of society that would like to ban sexual relations between Arabs and Jews?”
But the race issue is only the beginning.
Though Kushour has not denied the encounter, he said the woman never so much as asked if he was Jewish, meaning her charge rests on the grounds that she believed he was Jewish, and she was wrong.
Rape is a serious, horrific crime. By extending the definition of rape to include this case, the gravity of the crime is devalued. Could rape now include any instance when the consenting parties regret the act after the fact because they didn’t know everything about their partner? If so, how many countless people would be sent to jail due to another’s regret?
This case softens the distinction of what rape is damagingly, setting a precedent that we can only hope isn’t upheld in future cases. Rape is defined by the lack of consent, not the presence of regret.