L.B. v. Naked Truth: the naked truth about the so-called targeted-crime defense.

A woman was working the overnight shift as a clerk at an adult video store…

At around 5:30am, a man entered the store.

After walking to the back of the store, the man returned to the front counter, pointed his gun at the woman, and ordered her to give him the money from the register.

He then raped her.

The crime was investigated.  And, the store’s history with criminal violence came to light.

As it turns out, this was not the store’s first rodeo.  

The location had previously been the target of at least four successful armed robberies.  One of these had taken place only two months before the robbery in which the woman was raped.

The woman filed suit against the store, believing that what happened to her was foreseeable and could have been prevented.

The store was shocked by the suggestion.

At trial, they brought in an expert who declared that what happened to her, in fact, could not have been foreseen by them.  In the expert’s opinion, the store’s owner could not have possibly imagined this was going to happen.  This crime, they argued … well, this crime was special.

This, you see, was a victim-targeted crime.

The targeted crime defense, as it has been applied by some courts, is the notion that there is a subset of crimes that are special snowflakes.  Unlike regular crimes, the reasoning goes, these special crimes are not foreseeable and therefore cannot be prevented.

Why?

Because unlike regular crimes, these victims were hand-selected by the assailant.

And so, the argument goes, a store or business, or any other establishment that ordinarily would have had a duty to provide protection, is now off the hook. They can wash their hands of the entire matter. Not their problem.

Because this victim was targeted.

In the woman’s case, the assailant had been found. A man named Jose McCrary.

The woman did not know him.

But this fact – this undisputed fact that the woman did not know the man – was a minor insignificant detail, the store argued. A trifle.

Because the assailant “knew” her.

More specifically, the store introduced evidence from a co-worker at the store who said the assailant had come into the store a few days prior to the assault and had asked for the woman.

BOOM.

This, the store said, is proof that the woman had been specifically targeted, and so, what could the store have possibly done? How could they have possibly known?

The store won at trial.

On appeal, one of the issues the woman raised was what difference does it make that the assailant had already spotted me?

In response, the store maintained that they were entitled to win because, you know, targeted-crime defense.

Forget that the store had been the targeted for prior armed robberies.

Forget that this woman was working the overnight shift at their adult retail store.

Forget that the assailant had robbed the store before raping her.

Forget all of that, they argued, what matters is that the assailant had set his sights on the woman.

This means, they argued, that there was no possible way the store — an adult retail store— could have known that this woman was at risk for being raped.

The co-worker’s statement is proof, they argued, that the store could not have foreseen the rape.

And it is proof, they said, that there is nothing the store could have done to prevent it.

And the court agreed that the co-worker’s testimony could be proof of that.


 

From the decision L.B. v. Naked Truth III, 117 So.3d 1114 (2012), the co-worker’s testimony:

Yes. I mentioned a gentleman who actually—he stood out because he did something that normal customers don’t do. He walked into the Store. He stopped in front of the ATM machine. … He asked me, was [she] working, and I told him, “She doesn’t work this shift anymore,” and he made a face and turned around and walked out the door.

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Why don’t college rape victims report what happened?

What are the biggest issues keeping college female students from speaking up when they are victims of sexual assault or rape?

In my professional experience, the reasons why college students may be hesitant or fearful to report they were raped or sexually assaulted usually fall somewhere along the following lines:

  • 1. Fear of being blamed.

The number one reason I see college students hesitating before coming forward is they are worried that if they complain, the finger will be pointed squarely at them.

In both, incidents of acquaintance rape and stranger rape, students are fearful that the response from friends and officials will be that the victim is responsible – whether partly or entirely – for what happened.

Although we have presumably reached the point as a society that many understand that it is entirely irrelevant what it was she was wearing at the time, there certainly remains progress to be made.

  • 2. Shame

Feelings of culpability hold many college girls back from speaking up about their rape. Self-questioning and regret can cause students to become trapped in thoughts of I shouldn’t have gone there, I should have known, I should have been more careful, I should have

These thoughts cause many college victims to avoid discussing what happened.

Moreover, if the surrounding circumstances leading up to the incident were anything less than wholesome (which, come on – it’s college), a student may feel that telling any part of the story is not an option. What will my parents think of me?

  • 3. Unsure whether what happened qualifies as “rape”

College girls may be unsure whether what happened to them was, in fact, sexual assault or rape.

While any college student knows what rape is as a theoretical proposition, the reality of college rape -in particular, acquaintance rape – can often feel much blurrier.

  • 4. Thinking there are not many options

Once they become a victim, college girls are now faced with the pragmatic decision of what to do next.

In my experience, college students often engage in a practical weighing of their options and too often conclude that what happened is already in the past and nothing can be done about it now.

Students need to be educated as to the reality that much can be done after the fact.

And that doing something now may save another girl from experiencing the same.

  • 5. Not wanting to ruin his life

Whether she knew him well or not, many college girls would rather take on the burden of suffering silently, than reporting him and “spreading the suffering.”

This stems in part from a strong sense of compassion, and in part from the faulty utilitarian thinking that since not much will ultimately result from reporting him, there’s no point in damaging in his reputation.

  • 6. Worried they won’t be supported and/or that the matter will be publicized.

To many college girls, the idea of “everyone knowing” can be the most fearsome aspect of coming forward.

This fear that the matter will be made public, and that others will hate them, blame them, and judge them prevents many college victims from coming forward.

Students should know that the matter will be treated with the utmost confidentiality, on a need-to-know basis.

  • 7. Thinking that maybe it wasn’t that big a deal.

College students often engage in a silent inner battle in which they debate whether what happened was that big a deal.

Am I just overreacting? Maybe I’m just being dramatic…

Even though they may feel disgusted, traumatized, or violated, they may nonetheless question the validity of their own feelings.

  • 8. Thinking that they don’t have the strength or courage to fight.

College girls often have way more strength than they realize.

Rape prevalence by month

Read more about college rape.

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