It was malarkey, total nonsense, I was told in response to the complaint by some young men that they would no longer take the “risk” of approaching a young woman in real life. The men feared that they could step on a mine at any moment which would blow up by screams of “rape.” The women, together with their male allies who flit about their feet, responded with deeply simplistic snark that if they didn’t want to be called “rapist,” don’t be a rapist.
“The complainant’s evidence was very clear, logical and without embellishment,” a magistrate told the young man. “We can think of no motivation for you to touch the victim other than sexual. Had she not taken evasive action the assault was likely to have been even more serious.”
Griffiths was an awkward 19-year-old. The complainant, a 17-year-old classmate. His conduct, through her eyes, was a prelude to sexual assault.
“I was just set on getting home and [reviewing] for my mock exams, but as I was coming over the bridge I saw him facing a hedge and I thought it was really weird. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just facing the hedge, staring at it.
“As I walked towards him, I was watching him and he suddenly swung round so he was facing me.
“I remember it happening fast. As soon as he moved, I moved, and I said: ‘stop’ and he touched me on my arm. I sort of jolted out of the way and I went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away…
“I forgot about it for a while because I had my exams. I just thought it was weird behavior.”
After some reflection, she went to the police, realizing that she had been sexually assaulted by his touching her arm. At the hearing, she testified “she had ‘no doubt’ that had she not moved away from him that first time he touched her arm, he would have gone on to touch her breast.” Who wouldn’t believe her?
But this wasn’t the only time Griffiths “attacked” the woman.
In a second incident, the young woman was walking to school when Griffiths walked in front of her and touched her side. “It was quite a while—three to five seconds,” she said. “He smirked at me, he didn’t stop, he just touched me and walked off and I broke down crying in the street—it was quite traumatic.”
After doing research on Facebook, the “survivor” realized that she, too, had been sexually assaulted. After all, what type of guy would “smirk” at her?
Afterward, she said, “Every time I started working I would cry because I would think of it. I felt very unsafe, even in my own home.”
Griffiths explanation was that he was trying to talk to her, and touched her in a manner he thought was normal to get her attention. It didn’t prevent his conviction for two sexual assaults, facing a sentence of up to ten years and registration as a sex offender.
But he touched her. He didn’t have to touch her, and he had no consent to do so. You can’t just go around touching people, willy-nilly. Of course, even if touching a person is unwanted, undesired, and it’s not unfair to complain that being touched by a random person without consent is beyond proper conduct, is it a crime? By what twist of belief does an undesired touch become prelude to sexual assault such that there can be no purpose to it other than sexual?
In fairness to “victims,” they’ve been “groomed” to believe that any male who approaches them is likely to be a rapist. After all, rape is epidemic, as all the heroes on Facebook say, and so the likelihood of any touching being not merely sexual, but assaultive, must be extremely high.
An atmosphere of fear, of women fearing men and, correspondingly, men fearing women, has polluted the possibilities of normal human interaction. If something “feels” weird, then it is, and if something “feels” like a sexual assault, even if it remains a giant leap or two away from consummation, how can one do less than trust one’s feelings?
Then there’s the back end, the climate of trauma, that every weird thing that happens is a traumatic event, one to be shared with all one’s closest friends on Facebook to evoke the thoughts and prayers, a sad tear and a storm of outrage, at the suffering a woman will endure in perpetuity at the rapist’s touching her arm.
Should Griffiths have known better than to touch, uninvited, a human being of the putative other gender?
As for Griffiths, he had been dealing with something on the side. Unbearably lonely, he told the magistrate, he googled “how to make a friend.” It was good to start off with a joke, he read, and decided to give it a try.
“I went to touch her arm to start a conversation and she just walked off,” he said. “My intention was to make a friend. All my friends had left. I was lonely. I just wanted to speak to someone,” Except, he explained, “The words just didn’t come out.”
Was this true, that he was merely a lonely guy in search of a friend? Certainly it’s possible, although one’s acceptance of this as being sufficient to prevent conviction seems to be wrapped up in who deserves greater empathy. Griffiths lost that battle, even though the doubt it created might be reasonable.
Not every woman whose arm is touched will either run to the police or vent her trauma years later by telling Ronan Farrow about it, whether it happened or not. But don’t rape? Those days are gone, not because a young man like Griffiths had any intention of engaging in a sexual assault, but because fear and loathing are now the ordinary expectations of some women in a climate of rape and trauma. If they believe, it’s close enough.