Monday, June 18, 2007

Why is burglary a bigger crime than sexual molestation?

I clicked on this headline because it was something about a fashion writer, but as it turns out the article has little to do with writing, except for the fact that it makes male fashion writers look like creeps: The former fashion writer Peter Braunstein has been sentenced for sexually molesting a former colleague.

Apparently Braunstein posed as a firefighter, entered his colleague's apartment, drugged her, tied her up, drugged her some more, and then sexually molested her for hours while videotaping the whole thing.

For this crime, the judge gave him five years. For the crime of burglarizing his victim's apartment, Braunstein got fifteen years.

Now, I know that the point is supposed to be that it all adds up to twenty years. But would someone please tell me why the burglary is viewed as comprising three-quarters of this crime?

The judge didn't give the maximum sentence, and in his defense, he claims, "I have seen enough sentencings with victim impact statements delivered by grieving mothers to know the type of case that truly deserves a maximum sentence."

Excuse me? So, because the victim's mother didn't come in and cry, the sexual molestation -- which lasted for hours, I might remind you -- only deserved five years, while breaking in earned him fifteen?

Personally, the only reason I can imagine a grieving mother's statement being considered relevant evidence is if the victim has been maimed or killed -- which gets a whole different range of minimum and maximum sentences. And regardless, why should it require a tearful mother's testimony to determine that the victim had been impacted by being tied up to her bed and sexually abused? Who the he!l wouldn't that impact??!!

In the end, this really has very little to do with writing, except that it pissed me off and made me want to write about it. According to a book I recently read, Are Men Necessary? by Maureen Dowd, feminists are a dying breed. Does this judge's sentence reflect society's values when it claims violating someone's property is three times worse than violating a woman's body? If so, Dowd is wrong: Women's rights, and not just feminism, is on the verge of extinction.

Does anyone else feel, as I do, that making a premeditated attack on a woman, tying her up, and spending hours sexually abusing her deserves more than just a five-year sentence -- at least as much time as he got for merely breaking in? If so, I hope you'll speak up, online as well as offline. Society obviously needs to be reminded that even if the women's movement is no longer moving, that does not mean we want to lose all the ground we've already gained.


Anonymous said...

Burglary is a legal term that means an unauthorized entry with the intent to commit a felony--like rape, torture, etc. It is the strongest count (what else would he be DOING in there, trying on shoes???) so it is unlikely to be reversed on appeal.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with you!! Thanks for writing your article. It was badly needed.

Katharine Swan said...

To the first anonymous:

I understand that burglary is a legal term referring to unauthorized entry; however, it does NOT refer to the intent to sexually molest someone. Burglary can also occur with the intent to steal or vandalize.

I still don't feel that burglary is the bigger crime here. If he had caught her in the parking lot and molested her there, where there couldn't be a burglary charge, would he still be getting only five years for sexual abuse?

And finally, I'm not concerned about what happens on appeal. I am concerned about the fact that our judiciary system is sending the message that sexually molesting the victim was second to the crime of breaking into her apartment.

To the second anonymous:

Thank you for your comment. It is nice to know someone agrees with me. :o)


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