Tarot Cards Tricked Them… July 2, 2009

Tarot Cards Tricked Them…

Usually, when I hear about someone getting duped into giving tons of money to a Tarot card reader or a “psychic,” I don’t feel all that bad for them. Yes, they were taken advantage of, but they were also gullible enough to believe in complete nonsense.

This story is far worse than that:

[A 15-year-old girl] told jurors that Hector Ayala, 59, tricked her into having sex with him by convincing her that it would get rid of any bad luck and help her wishes come true, according to The Daily News.

Ayala, who was a family friend, read her Tarot cards when she was 13 and told her he saw misfortune in her future, but he could take care of that by performing oral sex on her.

“I kept thinking, ‘Is this rape? Is this rape?’ ” she testified. “I thought, ‘No, it wouldn’t be, because he cares about me.’ ”

Obviously, Ayala is a monster. He deserves whatever punishment he has coming to him. Whatever I say below is not intended to let him off the hook in any way.

But the girls… should they be let off the hook for being young? Gullible? How much blame do you put on them? They voluntarily did what this man wanted.

The girl in the article thought about it for months before having sex with him, He didn’t force it upon her. Doesn’t she bear some responsibility for this?

They were all young, but not so young to be let off the hook for believing in this junk. You don’t have to be a genius to realize the creepy old man was just trying to get into your pants.

Am I being totally insensitive here?

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  • What do you want the girls to be on the hook for? Statutory rape is statutory rape, whether the victim realizes it or not.

  • beckster


  • Consent is not a defense in statutory rape because the victims haven’t reached the “age of consent.” It’s an established legal principle.

  • It’s called “child grooming” and it is very, very wrong.

  • Tarrkid

    Yeah, you can’t pin this on the girls at all. Like Milena said, it’s statutory rape. The whole point behind statutory is that even though an underage girl (or boy) might willingly decide that they want to have sex with an adult, the law has said they’re not capable of making that decision, and anyone of age who has sex with them is breaking the law.

    And before you say that they were 13, 15, and that should be old enough to make a decision like this, well, maybe they should be, but our culture doesn’t get them there by that age, and doesn’t expect them to get there by that age. The law says they’re underage, and our culture reflects that too.

    Look at it this way. Do you blame Daniel Hauser for refusing chemotherapy? I don’t. He’s basically just parroting his mother’s viewpoint because that’s all he knows, and he trusts her. These girls trusted Ayala.

  • I don’t think you are. Previous commenters are missing the point, I feel. The point is not that they consented, and that this lets the guy off the hook. As you say, he deserves all that’s coming to him. Any blame attached to the girls does not detract from the blame attached to Ayala.

    The point is that these kids were remarkably foolish. This is not a defence of what he did. This does not make what he did not statutory rape. It makes them incredibly foolish, and more foolish than we should expect from people their age.

    There are too possibilities: either these kids were unusually gullible, or most kids that age are that gullible. If the latter, then we need to work harder to teach our kids to be better critical thinking. Teaching them what nonsense tarot is would be a good start.

  • A 15 year old being manipulated by a 59 year old is not responsible. In a legal sense she hasn’t reached the age of consent and therefor it’s statutory rape. A 15 year old doesn’t have the experience or judgment to realize what was going on.

    Of course statutory rape has a lot of gray area, if this was her 19 year old boyfriend she had sex with I’d see it differently. However the man is 59 which is well outside of the gray area.

  • I don’t think it’s fair to say that the girls were tricked by the tarot cards. They were tricked by Ayala, who knew how to manipulate them by scaring them with the tarot cards, among other things. You don’t have to be “remarkably” foolish to fall prey to someone who is a convincing-enough liar.

  • Josh BA

    I’m with Garic. You seem to be missing the point.

    Imagine this scenario: a 15 year old boy is standing in the middle of the street, not paying attention to traffic; a car comes down the street with a psychotic driver who like to run people over; the car hits the boy.

    Now, obviously the driver is at fault for purposefully running the boy over. But the boy must take some responsibility for himself being hit as he was stupidly and without regard to his own safety, standing in the middle of the damn street.

    Just because the boy shares responsibility, does not in any way lessen the crime of the asshole who hit him.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Garic: “The point is that these kids were remarkably foolish.”

    Well, yes, but then, they were kids. The young tend to be more foolish. This is why we don’t give them the same privileges as adults.

  • A 15 year old doesn’t have the experience or judgment to realize what was going on.

    Really? Perhaps you’re right, but I’m surprised if so.

    There are three quite separate questions here:
    1) Does what Ayala did count as rape?
    -Definitely yes. This is defined quite clearly in law.
    2) Is what he did very bad?
    -Definitely yes. He took advantage of these girls’ gullibility.
    3) Were these girls more gullible than one would expect for their age?
    -Here, it seems to me, Hemant and I part company from most commenters. I (and I think Hemant) think that they were surprisingly gullible. Perhaps I have a higher opinion of the average 15 year-old’s intelligence than most people here. Perhaps I’m wrong in that estimation, but there we are: their gullibility shocks me.

    And I stress again: the third question is independent of the others: regardless of the answer, what Ayala did remains just as wrong, and counts just as surely as rape.

  • Guffey


  • Garic: “The point is that these kids were remarkably foolish.”

    Well, yes, but then, they were kids. The young tend to be more foolish. This is why we don’t give them the same privileges as adults.

    But my point is not that they were remarkably foolish by the standards of an adult. I mean that they strike me as remarkably foolish for people of their age. I wouldn’t expect them to be as sensible as an adult, but I’d expect them to be more sensible than this. As I say, maybe I’m wrong. Either way I’m surprised.

  • What Noadi said, it’s not so much the girls absolute age as it is the difference between their ages because there is a power factor involved.

    Middle teenagers are still at a stage where they are vulnerable to an older person because they are still wired to obey a parental figure.

  • ErinM

    As a former 15-year-old girl, let me say: They do foolish things, especially when it comes to getting approval from people they look up to, or feeling loved, in general. Girls that age are astoundingly unsure of themselves, and they will do a lot of things in the name of preserving valued relationships that older kids would know were dumb. That doesn’t make falling for this guy any less foolish and stupid; but it’s not abnormal behavior for the age and gender.

  • Tarrkid

    OK, now imagine that the psychotic driver is a trusted family friend, who told the boy that bad things were going to happen unless he stood in the middle of the street.

    And while the car is barreling down on him, the boy thinks, “Am I going to die? Am I going to die? No, it can’t be – because he cares about me.”

    So let’s take the Tarot out of it.

    What if the guy had been a chiropractor (too keep it in the woo) and told them that oral sex would help align their whatevers. If they believe in chiropractic, that does not make them to blame for being abused.

    We have two different things going on here. Girls who believed in woo, and a perverted man. In the middle, he found opportunity.

  • Whoever was responsible for imparting a capacity for critical thinking to these girls clearly failed them. But that additional vulnerability doesn’t absolve the rapist of full responsibility for his crime.

  • Whoever was responsible for imparting a capacity for critical thinking to these girls clearly failed them. But that additional vulnerability doesn’t absolve the rapist of full responsibility for his crime.

    I think that sums it up admirably.

  • beckster

    Read it carefully again. She was 13 when this happened to her, not 15. Two years makes a difference when we are talking about a teenager.

  • BruceH

    Two salient facts there: the girl trusted the person, who was an authority figure, and she was 13 at the time of the incident. Thirteen year olds are not equipped to make value judgments.

    There’s also a further point. If the girl had declined, the assailant simply would have tried another tactic. Who is to say it would have stopped just because she said no.

    The man is clearly at fault (which Hermant is not trying to deny), and the girl was a child who should not be expected to make mature decisions, however grave the consequences. This is why children need responsible authority, and why it is such a tragedy when they are manipulated instead.

  • Brent

    First off, I agree that absolutely nothing absolves this man of any wrongdoing on his part. Second, I think that due to the age of the girls, they do not have any responsibility in this either. Sure, they were very foolish based on the information at hand, but the blame for that lies with their parents/guardians/family/community. These girls clearly were conflicted about this, it was stated that this girl considered it for months. It does not say that at any point did she consult her parents or any other adult. Children should be given the tools to deal with this kind of situation, in the form of the knowledge to identify what is going on, and a support network of trusted adults they can turn to with problems. It amounts to the kind of talk kids get at 4 or 5 years old, to not talk to strangers and no one should touch their no-no parts. These girls were obviously quite older than that and did not apply what should be basic knowledge imparted by their parents, belief in woo or otherwise. There should probably be a child services investigation into this home to find out why no one is protecting these kids from sexual predators.

  • This is a problem of credulity. The young girl was not properly equipped to detect the utter stupidity in the concept of oral sex being a temporary cure for bad luck with regular vaginal sex as the permanent solution. If she has the cognitive capacity to have the thought “this isn’t rape because he cares about me” then she is obviously mature enough to handle self-reflective debates about her sexual activity and make decisions that are pretty damm adult-like.

    Even if she is legally considered unable to make consentual decisions, her own behavior shows that she is at least on the same cognitive level as an 18-year-old when it comes to weighing sexual matters in a non-naive fashion.

    So, the real issue is that this girl, equipped with mental faculties beyond her legal status, voluntarily participated in statutory rape. She could have said no. She could have, after months of debate, decided that it was silly to have sex with a psychic to cure your bad luck.

    Yes, he’s a creep. Yes, he should be prosecuted for his offenses and never be allowed to rape little girls again. That should all go without saying. But yes, I do agree with Hermant and a few others here that there is a bigger, cognitive, nonsexual issue going on here. Under the standards that this girl sets for herself by her own admitted thoughts, she failed to act properly. She wasn’t under constant stress (unless your home life “getting complicated” is a constant deterrent to rational thought), and yet she still made a rational decision (by her standards) to participate in an activity she should have known was wrong if she was slightly less gullible or slightly more informed.

    I think a statutory rape that could have been prevented by proper logical thought is a very interesting case. There was no physical force here. This was pure intellectual coercion. In most rapes, the power game plays out on a physical level as well as a mental one, with the attacker often physically and violently restraining or abusing the victim. While not excusing the act as a whole, the fact that this appears to be an entirely nonviolent rape (at least in the setup — I have no idea what “abuses” are detailed in the testimonies) makes it qualitatively different in my mind.

    If she was not physically coerced, you can rule out size and strength as attributes which would help her fend off the attacker. It doesn’t matter that she’s a 13-year-old girl on the outside. It’s what’s on the inside that counts — her brain. What went wrong in her brain that could have prevented the rape? Were her parents religious or spiritual? How much critical thought was she exposed to as a child? Was she familiar with the scientific method, evidence-gathering, or any other endeavor to uncover the truth of a claim?

    I’ll say it again because I think this is an important point. Pepper spray and self-defense training would not have stopped this rape. Critical thinking and proper testing of a claim would have. An argument for healthy skepticism if I ever heard one.

  • Siamang

    I agree with hoverfrog.

    And read closely folks, it’s 13, not 15.

    Children’s understanding of the world around them is shaped by what grown ups tell them.

    At the age of 13, it’s ONLY shaped by what grown-ups tell them. If there’s ANY blame to go to anyone beyond the molester, it’s ENTIRELY at the feet of the guardians of the child who didn’t do their job of warning, teaching and protecting.

    No WAY is that the child’s fault.

  • This is absolutely not an issue of credulity. The Tarot aspect of this case is a complete red herring. The salient fact is that the man was a family friend. He was trusted by the parents to be alone with the girl. Said situation transfers an implicit trust of the man to the girl. Her mother trusts him, so it’s all OK. The psychological dynamics here make it so that he could have manipulated her just as easily with any old story – even one far more unlikely than Tarot card readings.

  • Erp

    No physical coercion but definite mental coercion.

    Note there are three teens who at this time are 16, 16, and 15 but who were younger (13 in one case and as the others reported being abused for years, likely 13 and younger for them) when the rapes took place or started.

    I’m not sure from the article whether there was just one incident of him telling the one girl that sex with him would lift bad luck or whether he repeated it over the course of several months (perhaps pointing out every time something bad apparently happened). I’m inclined to think the latter since he is described as a close family friend.

    According to another article, one of the other girls’ mother got her 9 year old daughter to have oral sex with Ayala apparently to lift bad luck.

    One gets the feeling that their families’ culture believed in Tarot; these girls had apparently not been given the tools to defend themselves.

  • beth

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I agree with the first few that I saw. Rape is rape. Period. Victim blaming is not the answer.

  • CatBallou

    I recognize that Hemant isn’t blaming the girls, but he’s questioning whether they’re unusually gullible for their ages. As another former adolescent girl, I agree with ErinM here. Girls that age are often incredibly unsure about sexuality and the “gray” areas of sexual behavior. The stranger in a dark alley is clearly a rapist, but how could a family friend be?
    Perhaps a more central problem, however, is that girls are often taught not to be challenging or confrontational, especially with authority figures. They’re taught to be obliging, charming, accomodating, friendly, polite, passive, etc. These lessons last well into adulthood.
    For a 13-year-old to call a much older family friend on his bullshit would actually be remarkable.

  • Amber

    As a former young girl who was molested by a family friend this issue hits close to home. I do not deny that in some ways the girl’s (and my own) actions were part of the reason the whole situation arose. But to blame the girl is very harsh, and will often leave a lot of scars if pursued. I know from experience 🙁

    I was put into a very similar situation, the only difference being there was absolutely no knowledge of the sexual activity before it actually happened, so I did not have time to contemplate it. But I can recall that afterwards, before I had told my mother, that it was perhaps my fault and that it perhaps wasn’t something bad after all. The man was a very close friend of my mother’s and I trusted him more than my own father. At such an age it’s very difficult to distinguish between what’s right and wrong with those you look up to. The more time that passed after the event the more I realized how stupid I was to have placed myself in that position in the first place. But it had never even occurred to me that something bad would happen, even though the warnings were there long before hand.

    When I was a child I was taught to believe everything my parents told me. I have no doubt in my mind that if my mother had taught me to think more critically it (the event) never would have happened in the first place, and that’s something I fully intend to fix with my kids.

    “For a 13-year-old to call a much older family friend on his bullshit would actually be remarkable.”
    I completely agree.

  • Brian C Posey

    The girl at best was extremely naive. However, we properly allow 15 year old children to be gullible. A grown man is different.

  • People can be foolish. Nobody deserves to be raped for it.

  • Philosos

    The problem Hemant is that not every human being develops their ability to reason at the same rate. This 59 year old man obviously has a problem and preyed upon these young women because he knew that they are more susceptible to his trickery. In this case, they are victims… they were not trying to lead on the man.

  • Tom

    I know how to read tarot cards. I am *very* good at it.(*) I learned how when I was a teenager, and at the time, I didn’t really understand how it worked or what, precisely, I was doing. I was enough of a skeptic to not leap to the conclusion that this was supernatural powers at work, but at the same time I was young enough to question the possibility that it was. (I always insisted on giving a disclaimer to anyone who asked me to do a “reading”, explaining that I didn’t know if anything mystical was involved or if I was merely doing something clever subconsciously.) I was very interested in it because, should the cards prove to be “functional”, then I felt that this would point to an unexplored area of science.

    The teenage mind does not work the way the adult mind does. The brain continues growing and maturing until a person is about 21, so a teenager is literally doing their thinking with unfinished equipment. They are sometimes able to make leaps of creativity that an adult can not. They are still more able to learn languages than an adult. And, they are more likely to make false positive pattern matches than an adult. A consequence of that is that a teen is more easily convinced to believe in religion or paranormal phenomena, such as tarot cards, than an adult.

    Tarot cards are designed as combinations of archetypical images (*2) with no highly specific meanings. Each can usually mean several things (depending on how you do the interpreting, up to a dozen different meanings per card). The “reader” chooses from among these many meanings to create a set of them which seems to tell a coherent story. In doing so, they almost always weave in their knowledge or observations of the subject to create a story that seems to fit them. Then, the subject takes this tapestry of vague archetypes and applies it to their life, and because it’s so vague it’s easy to find fits. So, it’s easy to have a “wow that’s so true it’s spooky” experience, and several such can easily turn a teen into a believer.

    So, I would not hold it against a 15 year old girl that she believed in tarot cards. However I do reserve the right to believe she was gullible and acted illogically.

    I still collect tarot cards, but only for the artwork. I will only do readings for others if I want to show them how it works, as a sort of debunking. I do occasionally (every few years) do readings for myself, as I find it an interesting way to jog my thoughts out of a rut and gain fresh perspective. But I understand they’re just cards, and that the exciting part is my intuitive thought process.

    * For purposes of discussion, I will define “good at reading tarot cards” as meaning “strongly able to review the cards and provide to the subject a statement based on the cards which the subject will interpret as being meaningful to their life.”

    *2 Trivia: There isn’t actually any card that means “death”. Even the card called “death” which depicts anthropomorphic “death” does not actually mean “death”; like every other card, it’s a metaphor for something else.

  • AxeGrrl

    CatBallou wrote:

    For a 13-year-old to call a much older family friend on his bullshit would actually be remarkable.


    If this had been some stranger, I’d be more likely to agree with the ‘gullibility’ arguments some posters have posited….

    but he wasn’t. And it makes a huge difference.

  • thea

    In a society that worships youth, it is often forgotten what youth really means. It means inexperience, immaturity, vulnerability and insecurity. There are some exceptions to this case, however, it is rare. Human beings are not like other creatures that have instinct to guide them. People grow by learning both by observing and being taught and hopefully nothing bad happens to them by becoming prey to predators of all kinds.

    Some kids have the fortune of having good adults to show them how to spot a liar and a theif, as well as how to pick someone who is trustworthy. Common sense is a skill to be learned. Every parent of pre-teens and teens have their work cut out for them.

    As for me, sadly I learned all too young to watch out for adults who say one thing and then do another-and that I couldn’t trust just anyone no matter how much other adults like them.

    Even more sad, I learned that adults are just as easily misled sometimes.

  • It is quite simple, there is no question about putting any responsibility on the girls.
    As with any crime the victims should get support and in addition to getting support for the physical trauma that has been done to them those girls should get some education in what is real and what is not.
    And as a case it already serves as a warning to parents and other teens to be more skeptical.

    That said, I can see his fortune in the chicken entrails that here on my desk, I’m pretty sure its very accurate and not very good either!

  • Chris

    I agree that the role Tarot cards played is a red herring. Do children have a healthy skepticism when an adult when tells them that putting their seat belt on will protect them from harm? Or that putting on sunscreen helps prevent skin damage? Or that wearing a bicycle helmet while riding a bike might save their life someday?

    Adults are constantly getting children to behave one way or another by using coersion – their authority, physical strength, love, guilt, lies, etc. These adults feel they are justified when such coersion is in the interest of the child.

    In this case, the adult knowingly commited a crime by coercing a child to perform a sexual act. Shame on him.

  • Greg B

    Its a good metaphor

  • laterose

    For a 13-year-old to call a much older family friend on his bullshit would actually be remarkable.

    Quite right! The tarot is a total red herring in this case.

    Also when I was a teenage girl one of my best friends was an atheist, and she would do tarot readings. And all of the girls I knew were on some level interested in occult things, particularly ouiji boards and tarot cards. Of the three of us who are still close we all still grew up to be critical atheists. It’s just that the tarot is a very attractive fantasy for a teenage girl. In my experience of it, my teenage years were the fist time I really experienced sexism because my parents and teachers were able to protect me from it before then. Which just made all those things I was going to do with my life all of a sudden feel very unattainable. Tarot was a way of trying to reclaim that future. Yeah it was pretty gullible too, but I think it’s understandable.

  • jemand

    I have read some of these comments and am about ready to throw up. I was five when my uncle had oral sex with me… I remember not wanting it but not knowing how to cross a trusted adult, I didn’t fight, I didn’t even say no. But I knew I didn’t want it and later I knew I could have said no– I blamed myself, and attributed knowledge I really didn’t have at the time. This girl says she should have know better but the fact is SHE DIDN’T. She wasn’t given the tools. Yes, I had already been given the “don’t let strangers touch you in ways that make you feel comfortable.” But this, WASN’T A STRANGER! I can attest to the confusion this generates. Ok, she was 13, but 13 year olds ARE extremely gullible. 13 year olds DO mostly believe what they are told, ESPECIALLY by people they’re parents trust. But, they are growing up and they think they should be more mature than they are and that leads to self-doubt and self-blaming and it is SICK SICK SICK that you are taking that maturation process and using it to underscore her own self doubt. It’s one thing for HER to say she should have known better, it’s part of her growing up. But you should KNOW BETTER, you should know that she DIDN’T know better and that it ISN’T her fault! Her self-blame is a short phase she needs to grow up and then she can accept her childhood self didn’t know everything her grown up self does– and accept it wasn’t her fault. If she was 18 and had high intelligence and was taught critical thinking, THEN you can say she should have known better. But most families still expect 13 year olds to trust and do what they are told. You can’t blame the 13 year old for it. Even 18 year olds can be crippled mentally if grown up in fundamentalist houses, or other domineering houses, and maintain that trust for longer… it isn’t their fault. But in a 13 year old… it isn’t even to be expected…

  • I’m kind of happy that so few people understand what “child grooming” means in the context of paedophilia. It means that you’ve had little contact with that aspect of human nature and little reason to think about it. However I think that it is a topic that people should have some knowledge of, for their own safety and for the safety of their (future) children if nothing else.

    People like Hector Ayala don’t stalk children and grab them on their way home from school. Instead they befriend the family, become helpful to the parents and a friend to the children. They are surrogate uncles or aunts to the kids. They want to take them on camping trips or to the cinema or ice cream bar. They’re giving the parents a weekend off or providing a place for the kids to go to when they want to talk to an adult who won’t judge them.

    I know paedophilia is a sexual behaviour and not a mental illness but in this context the actions of child grooming should be seen as something that the paedophile does to help rather than to harm. Their mindset is such that their actions are not manipulative or wrong. The sexualisation of their actions comes about through opportunity and the help they offer merely sets up the opportunity for them. Interviews with some child rapists often indicate that they don’t think what they have done is wrong and that they don’t think they belong in a cell block with “those perverts” who act differently. Perhaps one might view sexual maturity as coming at age 12 and be horrified at a rapist who harms an 11 year old or might view girls as sexually mature at 13 and boys at 15. I don’t mean the biological meaning of sexual maturity but the emotional or chronological age where a person is ready for sexual exploration. It is a complex issue and each paedophile is different in their own thoughts on the subject. Many of them take their views from their own early sexualised behaviour or their own assaults.

    Anyway back to the specifics of this topic. This playing with tarot cards is simply a game in the ongoing actions that Ayala must have set up. He’d gained the childrens’ trust and we must assume the parents’ trust as well. If he hadn’t played on their fears of the tarot, which he may well have set up anyway, he would have played on their fear of a god or of spiders or horoscopes or something else. There is no way that these girls could be held responsible for anything that Ayala had set up or for anything that was done to them.

    Should the children have been skeptical of an adult being involved in their lives? Perhaps but would they be skeptical of a doctor, a priest (if that’s your thing), a teacher or scout leader? Of course not. Should their parents have been skeptical? Bloody right they should but it is important to remember that months had passed if not years when Ayala had presumably demonstrated his trustworthiness. The only one I can see who is actually at fault is Ayala. These girls and their parents, the teachers, carers, and social network that support the family in one way or another are not wrong to act in the ways they did, they just aren’t right to do so either.

  • jemand

    I’m still shaking here. You ARE being very insensitive. And I find it illuminating that the only people who agree with you are commenters with male handles, and at least one female reader has added her own story of childhood abuse. I suggest you read this post and it’s comments every time you wonder why there are not more female atheists. Girls are much more often taken advantage of as children, and when told they should have “known better”, well, they know VERY well that they DIDN’T know better, and that it wasn’t their fault they didn’t. You lose the vast majority of your credibility with a woman when you start blaming her for being victimized. TRUST me, women have spent years blaming themselves, and realized the psychological damage that causes and the complete fallacy mixed with sexism that creates and supports that blame… and they will emotionally react to anyone who continues to send “blame” messages.

  • jemand

    OK, again.

    Here you go Hement: http://friendlyatheist.com/2009/05/20/daniel-hausers-mom-takes-off-running/



    When you are talking about a BOY you place his stupid beliefs at the feet of his MOTHER, claiming three different times at least from a very cursory search that he has been brainwashed. Daniel, is 13 years old. He has been thinking about his medical/religious beliefs for at least several months.

    This girl, was 13. She also thought about her sexual/tarot beliefs for several months. They were placed and encouraged by the adults in her life. But is she brainwashed?

    No, she is “gullible” A 13 year old boy is brainwashed, a 13 year old girl is gullible. Double standards here?

    Truly I thought you were much better than that. I hope you confront this manifested sexism and remove it from your thought processes… because it’s solidly in the same category of stupid outdated beliefs that harm people as religion… and you’ve left that one…

    I’m going to try not to post again! But this one got me really upset, angry and riled up.

  • Truly I thought you were much better than that. I hope you confront this manifested sexism and remove it from your thought processes… because it’s solidly in the same category of stupid outdated beliefs that harm people as religion… and you’ve left that one…

    To jemand and others — I didn’t intend to be insensitive, but it clearly came off that way. Obviously, I’m not saying the girls asked for it or anything like that. I’m just surprised they believed what this man was saying despite the trust they had in him — I’ve never been in the situation many of you say you have been in, though, so I suppose my insensitivity comes with some good fortune never to have had to deal with that.

    I’ll post a more public explanation shortly.

    As for Daniel Hauser, I feel his situation was different in that it was a medical condition. I can actually understand someone (boy or girl or even an adult) thinking God could fix those things.

    In this particular story, I was surprised because I was always taught no adult should ever touch you in “those areas” except perhaps a doctor… and it didn’t matter how close someone was to you.

    Thanks for calling me out on this.

  • Jemand, this is obviously an emotive topic. I’ve posted my own comment in the forum if you want to discuss it further.

  • Sebeka

    “I kept thinking, ‘Is this rape? Is this rape?’ ” she testified. “I thought, ‘No, it wouldn’t be, because he cares about me.’ ”

    This line is pretty telling. Yes kids are told about paedophiles and not letting strangers touch them, but it’s typically presented as a Bad Man wanting to hurt them. If they identify a Bad Man (they are told) they should tell a Family Friend. Confusing the situation, they may also hear about Bad Kids who falsely accuse Good Men of rape and cause harm that way. They also may have odd or narrow definitions about what sex/rape “is” and not know how to classify oral sex, sex where they didn’t fight, or if it wasn’t painful or didn’t involve bruises.

    Back to the story, this girl was confused be cause her rape and her rapist didn’t match the definitions she’d been given. She hadn’t yet been given the tools to identify statutory rape on her own and she didn’t feel like she could ask her parents for advice.

    For a 13-year-old, her reasoning makes sense. Rape is hurt. People who care about you don’t hurt you (remember thinking this when you were made at your parents?). This man cared about her, wanted to help her, so it couldn’t be rape. An adult would have told her otherwise, but the only adult she felt she could confide in was her rapist and HE told her it was ok, even necessary. This is why we have statutory rape charges and the concept of age of consent.

  • Adele

    Lurker here…

    Hemant, I don’t think you need to take all the negative comments entirely seriously. This is a very emotionally charged topic and people, especially those who have experienced sexual abuse, can find it difficult to separate their own intimately personal experiences from the facts of a given case. For example, one commenter argued against you using their anecdote of being abused as a 5 year old. Obviously a 5 year old is nowhere near a 13 year old in terms of maturity and knowledge.

    I’m female, and a teenager (late teens, but still), and what gets me is how these girls were brainwashed or neglected into thinking that any kind of sex at 13 was okay, let alone sex with a much older man. Seriously. What did their parents teach them?

    I also think early sex education is critically important. I clearly remember being taught about the subtleties of abuse at around the age of 9/10 (in Australia). I was taught that you can say no to anything that involves your body, even if you can’t think of a logical reason why it would be wrong. We were given scenarios of trusted family members and friends touching kids in ways that are not obviously wrong (rubbing lotion after a shower, for example) but which made the child uncomfortable, and were told that this was a situation where the child should tell them to stop. In hindsight I consider myself very lucky to have received these early lessons.

    The issue of blame is irrelevant here. That lies on the perpetrator, as I think Hemant made clear. This is an issue about the protection of children. These girls missed some vital pieces of information that could have protected them. Whether it was the school system, their parents, or their society, this needs to be rectified.

  • This kind of thing literally turns my stomach to read, Hemant.

    Trying to say IN ANY WAY that a child who was raped has “responsibility” or should take “blame” for what happened to her…


    Child grooming is disgusting and not the fault of the child, the girl was THIRTEEN when this happened, and…


    Look, if I really need to explain this to you…

    I’m too appalled to keep typing. Seriously, it doesn’t matter how reasonable you are about religion, if you can’t do a little bit of poking around into the reasons why GIRLS WHO ARE RAPED DON’T DESERVE -ANY- BLAME FOR THEIR RAPE, then I don’t know how much longer I can read here.

    Saying that *we* should be more responsible for giving children the tools to avoid being groomed is not at ALL the same as saying that children should take some “responsibility” for being “gullible” enough to fall for grooming – and the latter position is all I see coming from your post.

  • The girl is not guilible. She is totally, absolutely innocent.

    We, as a scociety have failed to instill critical thinking in her, maybe that wasn’t encouraged by her parents either.

    We also fail her because we don’t point out such frauds and quacks everywhere we see them, disproving and debating them and warning our kids about them.

    A girl of 12 can’t be guilty of any sexual misconduct. She can make mistakes, but that is not the same as guilt.

  • Heidi

    Ok, when I was 18 and in college (university for those outside the US), ALL my friends, believed in Tarot cards and Ouija boards. Every last one of them. Christians, Jews, undecided/agnostics, many of whom had genius-level IQ. We used to have seances in my dorm room, and a couple of the girls who lived on my floor were too scared to attend. And several of us read Tarot cards.

    Now, when I was 18, I actually believed the woo. As an adult, I understand now that Tarot cards are a tool for getting you to think, and there is absolutely no woo involved.

    As for the difference between this girl and Daniel Hauser, I’m of quite the opposite opinion. I can totally understand her situation. Groomed by a trusted adult, unsure of yourself, nervous, frightened, embarrassed. But for the life of me I can’t see why anybody would think magic woo was going to heal their cancer. Everybody knows you have to go to the doctor to treat cancer. That I could have figured out at 8, let alone 13.

    And I have to ask this of the few men who think the girl should have known better. What if it was your daughter? Or your little sister? Would you then say it was “voluntary?” If you would, well, I’m sorry for you, and rather largely revolted.

  • And I have to ask this of the few men who think the girl should have known better. What if it was your daughter? Or your little sister? Would you then say it was “voluntary?” If you would, well, I’m sorry for you, and rather largely revolted.

    I hate this argument. I know it’s intended to elicit an empathetic reaction, imagining that the person is someone close to you, but that shouldn’t change the facts of the situation. If someone did something stupid, it doesn’t matter if they’re your daughter, your uncle, or your pet shi tzu. Daughters, uncles, and shi tzus all do stupid stuff sometimes.

    Just because you do something stupid doesn’t mean you’re at fault, or deserve blame. But it should be pointed out to you that you could have acted better. Or, better put, the next time you encounter a similar situation you should know better. It’s an opportunity to learn a lesson. Yes, it’s terribly unfortunate that she was raped, but in the grand scheme of things rape is just another horrible thing that happens to you, which, if you survive and can get over it, you will be a better, stronger person in the end. If, on the other hand you can’t get over it, you’ll probably spend the rest of your life in a padded cell screaming at men not to touch you. C’est la vie.

    And if it was my daughter, she would have been taught to call the adult on their bullshit (in as respectful a manner as possible). I firmly believe that children who are intellectually equal or superior to some adults should challenge those adults when they attempt to assert undeserved authority. I was quite a defiant child because my parents put me on their intellectual level from a very young age. It made me some enemies, but it also protected me from pretty much every variety of child predator, swindler, or scam artist. I would teach my daughter to do the same.

  • llewelly

    Am I being totally insensitive here?

    You’re grossly underrating the difficulty of making rational decisions, and recognizing scams for what they are.
    You’re underestimating the power imbalance between a 15-year-old and an accomplished con man.

  • llewelly

    Garic, July 2nd, 2009 at 4:04 pm:

    The point is that these kids were remarkably foolish.

    Hundreds of millions of Catholics, most of them adults, believe a magic ritual turns a Eucharist into Jesus flesh, and you think an experienced con man fooling a few young people is remarkable?
    Tarot card reading is a multi-million dollar industry, mostly targeting adults, and you think it is remarkable a few teens got fooled by it?
    Sadly, this incident isn’t ‘remarkable’ at all. People are much more easily fooled and manipulated than most of us would like to believe.

  • She was 13. No, she absolutely does not bear any of the responsibility. Statutory rape laws are there for a reason. The other girls were sixteen when they testified to being abused for years..so who knows when it started for them.

    As to the issue of “gullibility”, pedophiles like these know how to choose victims who are insecure, and know how to prey on that. They provide emotional support and gain their trust, and then use that trust against them. It is not a matter of intelligence.

    I love your site but I’m honestly disgusted that you would even suggest that they should take some of the blame.

  • “Yes, it’s terribly unfortunate that she was raped, but in the grand scheme of things rape is just another horrible thing that happens to you, which, if you survive and can get over it, you will be a better, stronger person in the end”

    Do your research. An experience like this does not make you a better stronger person. It can have lasting, even lifelong effects that can be debiliating. It can lead to addiction, depression…and these things can lead to death.

  • JHSteinberg

    I’m rather amused by the number of responses that went immediately to a point like, “Well the law says it’s definitely statutory rape!” or made some other allusion to the law as an answer.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I understood the post to be asking about whether the girls bear some of the responsibility for their decision – not what the laws judgement on the issue is. It is, without question, a case of statutory rape: I don’t see anyone disputing that, neither in the OP nor in the comments that followed. But that has absolutely no bearing on the question of “Do the girls bear some responsibility for their foolishness and poor decision making?”

    Given that I scold and lecture my six year old nieces for expressing their frustration in blows rather than words, I think it quite clear that I believe children are, at least in part, responsible for their choices. A thirteen year old that spent six months debating whether or not she should perform a sex act could presumably at some point in that half a year asked a confidant their opinion.

    The guy was a predator and a monster, and has a world of well-deserved pain coming to him. That mitigates, but does not utterly absolve, the girl’s responsibility for her own actions.

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