Rubbed Wrong

The trial may be exactly what rape activists contend is the reason the police cannot be trusted to investigate or charge men accused of rape.

The trial came to an abrupt halt after a Las Vegas police detective took the witness stand and offered his unsolicited opinion that no crime had occurred. Detective Michael Fortunato gave that opinion as his explanation for not sending the victim for a sexual assault examination and for not seeking a warrant to search Goins’ home.

No crime?  The police in Henderson, Nevada disagreed. They charged 54-year-old massage therapist James Brian Goins with sexually motivated coercion. The story behind the charges is, well, creepy.

The woman claims Goins sexually assaulted her on July 29, 2013, after she went to his home studio in Las Vegas for a massage. Another woman claims Goins groped her during a massage on Aug. 6, 2013, at a Massage Heights franchise in Henderson.

The victim in the Las Vegas incident testified that she did not tell Goins to stop when he used his hands to sexually assault her or later when he performed oral sex on her. She said she was scared and “didn’t know what to do.”

What Goins has to say about this is unknown, as the case ended with an Alford plea. Whether he would testify that there was consent, or lack of refusal to consent, or something else, may never be known. What if Goins was a barely concealed male prostitute, “pleasuring” the women who needed a little attention? It could happen.

But that the victim was too scared to object, first to touching and then to oral sex, is part of the narrative. This is why rape activists reject “no means no,” as women are too easily afraid to say “no.” Twice. There is no information about whether she paid for the massage, or gave Goins a tip afterward.

Despite Goins’ silence, the women had plenty to say at sentencing:

The two victims, however, had plenty to say. In emotional victim-impact statements, both women described Goins as a predator who deserved the maximum possible punishment.

“Every time I hear or see the word ‘massage,’ I have flashbacks of what Mr. Goins did to me in July 2013,” one woman said. “It makes my skin crawl.”

“He had no right to violate me and touch me the way he did,” the first victim told Leavitt. “Mr. Goins knew it was wrong, yet he did it anyway, and not just to me. There was two of us that came forward. And just imagine how many other victims are out there who didn’t come forward because they were scared.”

The woman said she has developed an eating disorder and has been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder since the crime occurred.

The second victim told Leavitt the experience has ruined her. She said she once was an outgoing person but now hides “in a shell.”

She called Goins a predator who “does not deserve to be on the streets.”

The exposure was a life sentence. The judge, Clark County District Judge Michelle Leavitt, adhered to the recommended sentence of three years probation, six months incarceration. Goins will be put on the sex offender registry upon his release from jail.

But he may still get a chance to tell his story.

Both victims have filed a lawsuit against Goins and Massage Heights. A trial in the civil case is scheduled for March 2017.

And who can blame them, having lives ruined, an eating disorder and suffering severe PTSD from unwanted oral sex. If only one of them could have mustered the courage to say no.

This bizarre case proves it, “it” being whatever your bias going in might be. It either proves how the police, prosecution and courts don’t take sexual assault seriously, or it proves that the wealth of explanations for why women are absolved of responsibility for their actions at the expense of a man’s conviction are crazy.  It proves how traumatic, how damaging, a sexual assault is to its victim, or how ridiculously hyperbolic the claims of harm can be.

And, of course, it proves that there can be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if you happen to sue after alleging criminal oral sex.

The plea offer was a smart move. Acceptance of the plea offer was a smart move as well.  The trial could very well have ended in acquittal, but it could also have ended in conviction. The difference would have depended on a where the jurors were on the confirmation bias spectrum, whether they would accept the excuses for the victims’ failure to object, whether they would believe their claims of trauma or thought them exaggerated to gain a leg up in their civil trial.

But no one will be happy with the outcome, as it’s unsatisfying no matter which side you take.  If you’re a rape activist, then Goins got away with murder. And if you’re not, then an innocent man copped out to avoid a wrongful conviction.

What this shows is how muddy the waters of rape and sexual assault have become, as the elements of crimes and expectations of conduct have become secondary to culture and gender politics and revisionism.  No longer can anyone be assured of what conduct will give rise to an arrest and prosecution. No longer can anyone be assured of an outcome based on the establishment of certain facts at trial.  It’s now contingent on the jury’s acceptance or rejection of shifting societal norms, vague beliefs in what people should do, or why they shouldn’t be expected to do anything.

This is no way to run a legal system, where the vicissitudes of gender politics matter more than the conduct proven.  And yet, it’s the natural outgrowth of what has been developing on college campuses, changes in the lexicon of sex offenses, adoption of rhetorical excuses for ordinarily expected conduct, and the embrace of myths surrounding the infantilization of women.

Goins will get six months in jail to think about what he did. Those six months will leave an unpleasant taste in everyone’s mouth. As for the rest of Goins’ massage customers, the ones who didn’t come forward to accuse him of wrongdoing, perhaps they liked the way he rubbed them.

11 comments on “Rubbed Wrong

  1. Kathleen Casey

    Good for the detective.

    What would any of us expect going to a male massage therapist anyway? The defense would have fought to keep me on the jury, I guess, to blame the complainant. Because I do. When an opportunist expects me to believe. That goes double for the civil case. Assumption of risk.

      1. Keith

        Do you out physicians and massage therapists in the same category when it comes to sex with patients?

        I’m specifically thinking about the ethical rules involved.

        1. SHG Post author

          Is today free collateral question day? I didn’t get the memo. And the answer is, of course, of course. What could possibly make you ask why ethical requirements would matter for one but not for the other?

      1. SHG Post author

        Legit massage therapists might not appreciate the snark. They work hard to be professional, and this is the sort of story that does enormous damage to the reputation of their profession.

        1. Kathleen Casey

          True. It slipped my mind about the licensing at least here in NYS. They are professionals. But I do admit bias.

  2. REvers

    “Those six months will leave an unpleasant taste in everyone’s mouth.”

    I see what you did there.

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