During the preparation stage for the criminal trial of my ex-guru, the District Attorney told us that lawyers for the accused in child sexual assault cases use one of three defenses — the victims are either liars, crazy, or sluts. My ex-guru’s 12-member legal team chose to call the two women in his criminal sexual molestation trial “liars.”
In the end, the whip-smart DA proved without a shadow of a doubt who the real liars were. After a long parade of witnesses called to the stand in defense of the guru, each of whom was shown to have no proof or clue whether or not he molested the girls—the defense was falling apart. The coup de’grace occurred after the “star witness” took the stand (the organization’s head preacher and sister of two of the girls). It took only one day for her to get caught in a big flaming lie. Despite having several more witnesses ready to call up to the stage, the defense brought the case to a sudden close.
The guru was convicted on all 20 counts of child molestation of the two girls, when they were 12 to 14. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but escaped into Mexico with the help of many of his followers the night before sentencing. He eventually made it back to India, where he was fully protected by his devotees and a butt-load of cash for payoffs. The police in India would not arrest him even when given his address.
Not every American has gained a first-hand education on how child sex abuse trials typically work in the USA, as I have. If you have the wrong lawyer and the wrong jury, sex offenders can often get off, because the defense lawyers successfully portray the victims as “bad girls.” And the jury buys the con game thanks to our country’s authoritarian-riddled culture.
Common Con Game — Abusing Abuse Victims
I’m seeing this same dynamic play out in the current case of Roy Moore. Although there’s been no arrest, the women are being tried in the court of public opinion. The “defense” of Moore seems to be shaping up to position the women who were allegedly abused by him as children as liars. At the start, Moore planted the idea that “the timing (of the women’s outcry) is coincidental.” His followers picked up on this dog whistle. The next day, in an interview with a reporter, one woman stated: “I still support Roy Moore, because the timing of the women’s stories is strange.”
It’s maddening, because what do regular people know about the “timing” of an outcry from a victim of child sex abuse? Thanks to today’s greater exposure of sex crimes, it doesn’t take a college degree to know that the timing can vary from the same-day to multiple decades afterward.
In the case of my ex-guru, the girls had not reported their abuse for nine years. And they might have never report the sex abuse if it were not for a sex scandal that exposed another leader in the same organization. After that arrest made international news, the women realized that by not speaking out sooner they might have inadvertently contributed to more sex abuse of young females. So, after much soul searching, they embarked on one of the scariest journeys of their young lives — speaking out against the man they once worshipped (if you can call what a child does as “worship”), and whom their parents and many friends still worshiped.
For reasons I do not understand, Moore has a great many defenders. It appears to me that they aren’t even giving the alleged victims a chance to tell their stores before squashing their experiences — and, as a result, denying their pain, suffering, and voices.
What Kind of People Support Child Sex Offenders?
At my ex-guru’s trial, the courtroom was filled to the brim with his followers. They stood by him like unwavering foot soldiers. The only people in the courtroom supporting the three women (a third woman participated in the trial as a witness, because she was just a few months out of the statute of limitations) were two husbands, a boyfriend, and a brother. I was a potential witness, so could not be in the courtroom until the sentencing phase. From the door of the witness room, I watched the guru’s devotees gallivant down the hallway, looking cocksure that their guy was as innocent as a newborn puppy and the girls were dirty rotten liars.
I had known those people. Lived with them in the guru’s ashram. Prayed with them. Worked beside them. I knew what made them tick. I knew they believed the guru was God incarnate and above the desire for sex. But, interestingly, they had a back-up explanation, just in case. He didn’t touch the girls — BUT if he did touch the girls, he was performing a highly spiritual act that “graced them” with his divinity. In other words, he was God, so his actions were divine and, therefore, above the law.
Apparently, so are the acts of Roy Moore in Alabama. Although he isn’t an orange-clad guru preaching a path to divinity, his supporters are acting exactly like brainwashed cult followers I’ve known. They would rather side with a man with a sketchy history and a lot of evidence than support his victims. They are taking this stand because they would rather be right about giving him their unwavering support for so long, rather than admit that they made a mistake.
Not the First Time. Not the Last Time.
The DA in my ex-guru’s criminal case told us a story about another child sex abuse case she had prosecuted in which Christian minister had molested a young girl. The entire congregation stood by the minister, including the girl’s parents. At the trial, the girl had absolutely no one on her side of the courtroom. Nonetheless, the jury saw through the con and convicted the minister. The young woman, who had faced unbelievable odds, was believed and supported by 12 strangers — while her own parents disowned her.
My experience as a participant in a child sex abuse trial not only taught me how defense lawyers and supporters of sex abusers operate in these kinds of cases, but also inspired me to stick up for the victims of child sex crimes and support them in telling their stories and helping them get justice. Probably the worst thing that can happen to a child is to become a victim of a sexual assault. The second worst is to not be believed. The third is to have everyone supporting your abuser.
However, the Roy Moore case turns out, it will have a powerful impact on future victims of powerful men. If our country does the right thing and shows the victims they matter, it will empower more victims to speak out in the future. This will hopefully prevent more sexual assaults from occurring in the first place. If this case is swept under the rug and Moore is allowed to hold a seat in the U.S. Senate, it will have a devastating impact on child sex assault victims. It will shut up some of them, while emboldening more defense lawyers to keep launching their wicked “attack the victim” strategies.
Please do the right thing. Our nation’s children are watching — and they need to know that we care and that we believe them when they are sexually assaulted. More than anything, they need to know that child sex offenders are not going to win.
Read more about my ex-sex-cult in my memoir — Sex, Lies, and Two Hindu Gurus. (Click here for Amazon India version of Sex, Lies and Two Hindu Gurus.) Think: Eat, Pray, Love meets John Walsh’s The Hunt.