Are Powerful White guys the most vulnerable group in America?

We have been in he middle of what could be called the Dog Days. Or rather, the Bad Dog Days. Every day it seems that one more rich and powerful white guy is accused of sexual assault or harassment. We have to remember that these men have not yet been convicted and have to be presumed to be innocent. Yet this troubling fact raises some interesting questions.

A good friend of mine recently told me that he felt sorry for NHL hockey players. He said, “Imagine how difficult it must be for them to go on a date? They are completely vulnerable.” “Can they even date?” he asked.

I admit there are some men who have been maliciously and falsely accused of sexual assaults. It happens, but I believe it is rare. Very rare. On the other hand, many women have been sexually assaulted and few of them have successfully reported the crime and then even fewer see the assaulters charged and then fewer again see their tormentors actually convicted. To get to that stage the woman has to go through a legal wood chipper. Often her life is reduced to a black hole of pain. I call it a black hole, because it is a place from which even light cannot escape. Only the bravest of women can survive the challenge reasonably intact.

It is a fact of modern society that most sexual assaults go unreported. According to Statistics Canada (2014) a “large majority of sexual assault [is] not reported to the police…Research has widely documented that sexual assault is an underreported crime…According to the 2014 GSS on Victimization, more than eight in 10 (83%) of sexual assault incidents were not reported to the police.”[1]

As if that is not bad enough, only a small percentage of those cases reported to the police lead to charges being laid against the perpetrator.

According to Statistics Canada again,


  • Over a six‑year period between 2009 and 2014, sexual assault cases experienced attrition at all levels of the criminal justice system: an accused was identified in three in five (59%) sexual assault incidents reported by police; less than half (43%) of sexual assault incidents resulted in a charge being laid; of these, half (49%) proceeded to court; of which just over half (55%) led to a conviction; of which just over half (56%) were sentenced to custody
  • About 1 in 10 (12%) sexual assaults reported by police led to a criminal conviction, and 7% resulted in a custody sentence. This is compared with 23% and 8%, respectively, for physical assaults. [2]


The reasons for this are complex. Some history may help to explain it. The fact is that for centuries rape was not even treated as a serious offence. Let that sink in. Is that not astonishing? Today we think of it as one of the most serious offences yet for centuries it was more or less tolerated. Today we understand that rape combines pain, degradation, terror, trauma, an unjustified seizure of a woman’s means of propagating life, and a disturbing intrusion into her progeny, that often leads to long-lasting if not permanent damage to her body and psyche. Today we realize sexual assault is abhorrent. That was not always the case.

In the Old Testament the brothers of a raped woman were allowed to sell her to the rapist! Soldiers of course were routinely permitted to rape their captives, and kings could do as they pleased with thousands of concubines. What ISIS does today, was routine.

The 10 Commandments do not mention rape as a serious offence. The Bible considers it much more important not to take the name of the Lord in vain, or make carved images, or remembering the Sabbath. Now the 10 Commandments are pretty lame, but it is interesting to see what horrible offences are worse than rape that they warrant being on the list of the top 10. The 10th Commandment warns us not to covet anything that belongs to our neighbour. That includes his house, his wife, his servants or his ass. Important property and in that order. Clearly the wife is part of his property. In one passage in the Bible it even says that a married woman who is raped should be stoned to death. Not the rapist; the victim! Sharia law contains a similar provision. Rape was seen as an offense against the woman’s owner—her husband or father or if she was a slave the slave owner. No mention of it being an offense against her.

This clearly shows the place of woman at least in societies governed by 3 of the world’s major religions. Men were dominant and women were subordinate. That is how it has been for centuries. We have come a long way from this, but we have not come far enough. That culture still lingers and we continue to suffer from its legacy.

In recent times that dominance of men has diminished. Some men are pained by that lack of dominance. This has led to all kinds of psychological trauma in men. Many people experience a loss of power as deeply painful. Too often men react with blind belligerence when women challenge their dominance, or heaven forbid, “the liberal state.” That too often drives the men to irrational fury.

One of the reasons so few women even report sexual assaults to the police is the historical futility of such reports. The man usually gets off. Even if he does not, the woman is tortured in court by defence counsel. Many have expressed this as “being raped a second time.”

I have no statistics to back this up, but it is my firm belief that since only 12% of sexual assaults are reported, the number of false reports is much lower. Women don’t want to go to court against men who have assaulted them; surely much fewer want to go to court against men who have not assaulted them! I am not saying it never happens, I am just saying it is rare—very rare.

Women are particularly leery to report powerful men. The judicial system is severely slanted in favor of those who can afford the best legal counsel and in favor of those who have the respect of society—like powerful men, particularly white men. Like athletes for example. It takes an incredible amount of courage or folly to take on the powerful elite.

A couple of years ago I read a fascinating article in the New York Times by Ross Douthat. He wrote about assaults by Asian men in England, but many of his remarks are applicable to many other situations. This is what he said,


Show me what a culture values, prizes, puts on a pedestal, and I’ll tell you who is likely to get away with rape. In Catholic Boston or Catholic Ireland, that meant men robed in the vestments of the church. In Joe Paterno’s pigskin-mad Happy Valley, it meant a beloved football coach. In status-conscious, education-obsessed Manhattan, it meant charismatic teachers at an elite private school. In Hollywood and the wider culture industry — still the great undiscovered country of sexual exploitation, I suspect — it has often meant the famous and talented, from Roman Polanski to the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, robed in the authority of their celebrity and art. And in Rotherham, it meant men whose ethnic and religious background made them seem politically untouchable, and whose victims belonged to a class that both liberal and conservative elements in British society regard with condescension or contempt.

The point is that as a society changes, as what’s held sacred and who’s empowered shifts, so do the paths through which evil enters in, the prejudices and blind spots it exploits. So don’t expect tomorrow’s predators to look like yesterday’s. Don’t expect them to look like the figures your ideology or philosophy or faith would lead you to associate with exploitation. Expect them, instead, to look like the people whom you yourself would be most likely to respect, most afraid to challenge publicly, or least eager to vilify and hate. Because your assumptions and pieties are evil’s best opportunity, and your conventional wisdom is what’s most likely to condemn victims to their fate. [3]


So don’t expect the modern “successful” rapist to necessarily look like that ruffian in the alley. He may look like a “successful” business man, or celebrity, or hockey player.

Hockey players, like other professional athletes are routinely worshipped. Remember Iron Mike Tyson, the former Heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Surprisingly, perhaps, he was convicted of sexual assault and sent to jail. Then when he returned to the ring after serving his sentence he received a lengthy standing ovation. Now I can see that a criminal who has served his or her time should be accepted back into society. That is only fair. But what had he done to warrant a standing ovation?

Jordan Klepper referred to “the most vulnerable group in America–powerful white guys”. But he meant it as a joke. It is no joke. But powerful white guys are hardly the group we should be most concerned about helping. There are much more vulnerable people than that who deserve our concern.

[1] Shana Conroy and Adam Cotter, “Self-reported sexual assault in Canada, 2014” Statistics Canada (July 11, 2017)

[2] Shana Conroy and Adam Cotter, “Self-reported sexual assault in Canada, 2014” Statistics Canada (July 11, 2017)


[3] Ross Douthat, “Rape and Rotherham,” New York Times, (Sept. 6, 2014)

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