Rapt attention

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Victim and the crime.

Two confluent stories have got my attention of late. Very sad stories. The first is the saga of Brandy Buckmaster that was recounted in the Guardian the other day. An admitted tweaker is forced to exchange sexual favors with a jail guard in Oregon.
In 2012, at Coffee Creek, the only state prison for women in Oregon, Buckmaster met Balzer, a 42-year-old guard who she said repeatedly coerced her into sex and exploited her until her release in 2014. She spent some of her sentence in the prison’s mental health unit, records show.
“He was in a position of power … and took advantage of someone who wasn’t mentally stable,” said Buckmaster, adding that her past abuse made her vulnerable to his advances. “I didn’t have anybody.”
According to the Washington County district attorney’s office, Balzer “engaged in sexual conduct” with Buckmaster and gave her perfume samples, and the abuse only came to light after she was released, when she mentioned the “relationship” to a staff member at a facility where she was living.
Prosecutors charged Balzer with felonies of custodial sexual misconduct and supplying contraband. Buckmaster testified in front of a grand jury last year, and Balzer was indicted in November. On the day of his arrest, he posted $2,000 bail and was let go.
Brian Balzer, a guard with a passion for his "celtic" identity, bails out and she gets locked up as a material witness and is forced to appear at his hearing in belly chains and shackles.

And she could be in jail for a very long time, one poor guy did 900 days as a murder witness.

The Deputy District Attorney, Dan Hesson, says he had no other choice.
“It is a terrible idea that she is in jail,” Hesson said, “but I can’t find a better alternative.”
Not the first time for these sort of allegations of sexual impropriety at Coffee Creek.
From its inception, Coffee Creek has been a flashpoint for staff sexual assaults on inmates. By 2012, over $1.2 million dollars had been paid out to seventeen victims—not through trials, of course, but passed under the table in the muffled hush of a settlement agreement. This was only, of course, after the Oregon Department of Justice abandoned its argument that the women had brought the sexual assault on themselves through their conduct.
Something is very wrong here.

In Suwanee, Georgia a high school student was suspended after accusing a fellow student of sexual assault.

The girl reported the incident in tears. And then things went off the tracks.
The Peachtree Ridge resource officer who first questioned T.M. set the tenor of the school’s investigation when he asked her to describe what she was wearing at the time of the assault, according to the complaint, which the family’s lawyers provided to Slate. The complaint says the officer also requested that she explain why she didn’t fight off her assailant: “Why didn’t you bite his penis and squeeze his balls?” he allegedly asked. 
There are many common elements here; the double traumatization that sexual and physical abuse survivors have to grapple with, the stigma of reporting such abuse, the victim shaming.
“We begged and pleaded with the superintendent to hold the hearing for each one separately, so that it would be less traumatizing,” T.M.’s father told me. “We even considered not having her attend at all.” But not showing up would have resulted in an automatic finding of guilt. They weighed “the moral thing of what’s right—is it right to let that boy get away with it? Is it right to not try to hold the school accountable?” T.M.’s father says. “In the end, we decided, and [T.M.] decided, that she wanted to try to stand up for herself. Of course, that did no good whatsoever.”
The boy in question of course sees things differently:
“She says she told him to stop, and he does not agree with that, but both she and he agree that he never asked her whether [the oral sex] was OK.” When the male student was asked how he knew that the act was consensual, he said, according to the complaint, that from “the look that [T.M.] had on her face, I could just tell she wanted to.” 
I find the idea that the victims here should have been expected to fight off their attackers very troubling. As anyone knows who has fought a large bully, if you are not up to the defense, the attack and outcome might get a lot worse.

A Canadian judge used the same stupid logic recently; "why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" Uh, because she was terrified? Why are you so dense and clueless, your honor?

Brenda Buckmaster, sexually abused as a child and an admitted drug abuser, is a ripe target for a predator. Obviously with no self esteem and continually degraded, she enters into a Stockholm syndrome dyad with the guard but in such an unequal equation, no sex could ever be deemed willing and consensual. Now look who is paying the price?

Sick world.


Anonymous said...

They need to lock Brian Balzer up and throw away the key. This is a man with a history of domestic abuse against women. It is no wonder to me that he continues to abuse and take advantage of women. He did that as a juvenile and evidently continues to do it into adulthood. He deserves no mercy and I hope he finds himself on the receiving end of the justice system. It is about time he pay for all the hell he has caused others in their lives!

Kimberly Lochridge said...

I was the presiding juror on this case and we did convict Brian, however, the statement "who she said repeatedly coerced her into sex and exploited her until her release in 2014" was not the testimony Brandy gave on the stand. In fact she said they never had intercourse, even after her release when they were seeing each other. There was a relationship and "deviant sexual conduct" . I would like to know how the previous commenter knows about the previous sexual cause of Brian as a teen.

Blue Heron said...

Thank you for commenting Kimberley. Although the comment you refer to was not mine, I would submit that the definition of sex is certainly not limited to intercourse.

Do you think your perception of the case was altered when the witness appeared in chains and shackles? Do you think that sexual conduct is truly voluntary when it occurs in a prison context wherein the jailer has such an asymmetric advantage in power?

Thanks again for doing your duty and for commenting. I had less sympathy for Brandy when her racist, white superiority beliefs became known.