Dunnings and Bouck: prosecutors sweeping rape under the carpet

Here’s a really common situation, pointed out to us by The Other Patrick. A woman is alone with some men. The men use body language to signal her that she will not be allowed to leave the room. What ensues is perceived by the victim and one of the participants as sexual assault. The other participant claims he thought it was consensual, and may even be telling the truth about his perception.

Unfortunately, the next bit is also common. Prosecutors Dunning and Brouck decided not to prosecute the alleged rapists. They, too, thought the victim agreed to dropping the prosecution. Are you seeing a pattern yet?

“After reviewing everything with the young lady, this was a mutual decision,” Dunnings said in a phone interview Monday. “She [the victim] fully understood and agreed, is what Ms. Bouck [Ingham County Prosecutor assigned to review sex crimes] related to me.”

But the victim challenged the statements by Dunnings and Bouck…

“It’s really hard to actually get a case to go through because there are twelve jurors and to get them all to see it from my point of view is hard,” the victim says Bouck told her. “Then she said she was going to take a defense approach, she started asking me all these questions.”

The victim says Bouck grilled her about whether or not it was possible the perpetrators thought the activity was consensual, why she didn’t yell and scream and why she didn’t run or try and fight her way out of the room. The victim was reduced to tears by the hypothetical interrogation.

“She just kept going, and I was crying,” the victim said. “I really don’t think she asked me if I wanted to (prosecute).”

It is a good idea for a prosecutor to conduct a mock defense examination so the victim will be prepared for trial. But not two days after the assault. Not until the victim has had some counseling. And just so we’re clear: the alleged rapists were never even arrested. The district attorney’s office never issued warrants.

Nor was the case unwinnable. Shari Murgittroyd, program director for Michigan State University’s Sexual Assault Program, said:

“You’ve got a great police report with all those statements,” Murgittroyd said. “It’s ideal to have the victim participate in prosecuting a criminal sexual conduct case, but it’s my understanding that it is not necessary.”

The victim remains unsure whether she would prefer prosecution, which she sees as at least an attempt at justice, or just letting the nightmare fade into memory. The point is: that choice was taken away from her, just like the choice whether or not to have sex was taken away from her.

This is why people are completely serious and not being hyperbolic at all when they say, “It’s like the justice system just raped the victim all over again.” Because sometimes the justice system takes away a victim’s control and treats her like an object to be used rather than a human being.

If you’re wondering how so many people could be confused about this woman’s consent, there are two possibilities. Women are taught in many, many ways that saying no will get them disapproved of by society. I was taught to say no loudly and proudly by my mother, yet I have felt the pressure to soften it to “Not right now” and so on – if I don’t, I’m a hostile bitch who doesn’t deserve to be treated as human, and when the person telling you what a bitch you are is much stronger than you and unreasonably angry and entitled, that’s a scary position to play. It’s possible this woman protested as hard as she knew how to protest, in both cases, but was dealing with more forceful, empowered personalities who were not also counseled (as my mom counseled me) that not everyone is capable of such assertiveness. The second possibility is that this woman protested very clearly, but the more empowered people in both situations heard what they wanted to hear because it suited them.


  1. says

    Thank you very much for posting this, it comes along at a very useful time. As you may know, I’ve recently started blogging at Obsidian Wings, and I’ve started putting together a post about James Keefe’s attempted “punk” of CNN’s Abbie Boudreau. IMHO, Keefe wasn’t merely planning a “punk”, he was (also) planning a rape, or at least an aggravated sexual assault. Your post illustrates why he could have reasonably thought he could get away with it.

    In addition, I have the suspicion that video of a sexual assault makes it *more* likely that the rapist(s) will get off, not less. I can’t find any data on the topic, only anecdotes — do you or any of your readers know of a good link?

  2. Casey says

    I read about this yesterday on Shakesville and it’s no less rage-inducing now.

    Victim: I was raped.
    Rapist #2: Yeah, we raped her.
    Prosecutor: Well we don’t have a case.


  3. sbg says

    This is pretty much a textbook case for how much of a rape culture we live in, isn’t it? I mean, seriously, if prosecutors seem disinclined to try a pretty clear-cut case of rape, what does that say about our society?

    I was, though, pleasantly surprised by the comments section. There were plenty of well-reasoned and articulate comments to help counteract the assholes who don’t see or refuse to see the point. I don’t know why I’m ever astonished anymore at the “the alleged perps are innocent until proven guilty!” arguments which would never, ever, NEVER be afforded to the victim by these jerks. Men = assume innocent. Women = assume lying attention-grabber.

    Uck. I need a shower.

    • Sabrina says

      Men = assume innocent. Women = assume lying attention-grabber.

      Interestingly I see this usually accompanied with the claim “They are always believing the women and never the men! There have been soooo many men innocently put to jail because of this!!1” Yeah, right…

  4. SunlessNick says

    I came across it on the Curvature today, and like Casey I just sieze up at how corroboration from one of the rapists is somehow not enough to send a case forward.

  5. says

    Men = assume innocent. Women = assume lying attention-grabber.

    *rings a bell* The “attention whore” sledgehammer isn’t just for little boy gamerz, huh?

    I third Casey’s reaction. This is actually one rape case that sounds pretty winnable, but the prosecutors just don’t want it. Makes you wonder if all they care about is their win record, and they automatically assume a rape case won’t be winnable and work to convince the victim it’s not worth it.

    • The Other Patrick says

      Ed Brayton works for the newspaper and he has a blog thread here where he says,

      We’ve got a lot more coming in follow ups. One will look at this prosecutor’s history with sexual assault cases, which isn’t very good. Another will look at the broader history of athletes getting away with things that others wouldn’t. A third will look at the response of the school administration (which has not been good at all). And we fully expect a feeding frenzy from other news outlets that will reveal a lot more.

      And also, for those wondering,

      I made the decision to use the phrase sexual assault instead of rape. That is a more legally accurate term and it’s more dispassionate and less emotional. I did not want even the appearance that we might be sensationalizing the report in any way so I erred on the side of the most restrained language. I think that was the right decision.

      • Casey says

        “More dispassionate and less emotional”
        “Most restrained language”


        Urge to kill…RISING
        (or should I say “urge to terminate life”?)

        • says

          I feel the same, but I think the journalist is trying to tell these stories in a way that makes it clear beyond question that it’s not his words, but the events themselves, that are inflammatory. Also, to give no ammo to rape apologists who might claim he’s just stirring up sensationalism and can be dismissed.

          It’s angering as hell that we live in a world where that’s a concern, but we do, and I look forward to more of this coverage.

          • Casey says

            Yeah, I guess I get it, and I know it’s preaching to the choir here but I HATE how if it looks like rape, smell like rape, and tastes like rape you can’t come out and say it was RAPE because “it’s such a strong word!!” or some such nonsense.

            (and I hate how rape is deemed “sensational”, like we’re reading a tabloid)

  6. Patrick McGraw says

    This is a particularly pointed example of how jock culture and rape culture intersect.

    There was a case a few years ago where several players on my local college football team were charged with rape, and the coach threw them off the team. Was there outrage over the rape? No, there was outrage at the coach because he had hurt the team’s chances of winning “the big game.”

    • Casey says

      Reminds me in a way of that episode of King of the Hill where Peggy gives the high school’s star quarterback a failing grade in Geometry (which benches him) and the town basically treats her as a social pariah. ARGH. Just FUCK jocks and sports altogether. >_<VV

  7. The Other Patrick says

    On the most recent Declaring Independence podcast (10/14/10), Ed Brayton interviews Shari Murgittroyd, director of the MSU Sexual Assault Center, about sexual assaults on campuses in general. Warning: liberal politics before the interview.

      • says

        We’re not, actually. For example, many of my ideas about people’s rights align with the liberal ideas on that topic, but I disagree very seriously with their methods. We have people around here who like everything about the Republicans or Libertarians *except* some of their stances on human rights. So, really, it’s a mixed bag.

        Put another way: caring about the rights of minorities may be a traditionally “liberal” priority, but you don’t have to be a liberal in any other sense to share that priority.

        • The Other Patrick says

          Well, normally I prefer the Political Compass idea of affiliation, anyway :) But I figured especially on an international blog, there are bound to be rational conservatives.

          Now, these conservatives – I believe William Buckley might be representative of them (I’ve heard his name in this context a few times) – would probably not mind the content of the podcast, at least when it comes to bashing the likes of Joseph Farrah and other deluded right-wingers. It’s more about clear thoughts.

          Of course, for me as a German, the democrats are like our conservative party for the most part, so what do I know? :)

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