Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
Married impossible men?
Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.
Repeat 'impossible men': not merely rustic,
Foul-tempered or depraved
(Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
How well women behave, and always have behaved).
Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
For whose appearance even in City parks
Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.
Has God's supply of tolerable husbands
Fallen, in fact, so low?
Or do I always over-value woman
At the expense of man?
It might be so.
— Robert Graves, A Slice of Wedding Cake
* * *
Sex crimes are about as ugly as it gets in a courtroom, and for the next few weeks that’s what it’s going to be in the Mendocino County Courthouse — ugly — with three sex cases stacked up, back to back.
There was a time when only women supervised children, and only women attended the development of adolescent girls. But times have changed, the genders equalized, and in our porn-drenched society there's confusion everywhere. Right here at Boonville High School, for instance, the authority is constantly on the watch for “inappropriately revealing female dress,” and you'll hear middleaged men, hopelessly unevolved, exclaim as a gaggle of shrink-wrapped 16-year-old beauties pass by, “Goddam! The gurls sure didn't look like this when I wuz in skool.”
But until very recently, it was practically unheard-of and manifestly foolhardy for a young girl to go to a hunting camp with a group of men. However, with the new attitudes that’s all changed, and the case that started Monday, a forcible rape trial for Aaron Johnson, who is accused of serially taking advantage of Brittany White, his stepdaughter.
The Prosecution says Mr. Johnson not only forced himself on his stepdaughter at a bear hunting-camp near Covelo where Johnson and the girl of 15 shared a camp trailer, but he ravished her at other venues as well, including the family home.
The Defense says she made the story up, and only went to the police much later to retaliate against her mother and step-father for taking away her car.
So, we've got a young-ish step-father drinking Jack Daniels with his bear-hunting buddies out in the hills of Covelo where he spends the night in a tiny camp trailer with his attractive teenage step-daughter.
What possibly could go wrong?
Deputy DA Heidi Larson put the victim, Brittany White, on the stand as her first witness. Brittany is now 19, a resident of the state of Washington. She's married to a soldier serving in Afghanistan, and she's pregnant.
Ms. Larson took Brittany back through the years of her fraught childhood where we learned that Brittany was the daughter of a Sheriff’s deputy who committed suicide. (That poor man also died in circumstances of alleged deputy wife-swapping and other unseemly sexual episodes.)
But even before her despairing father shot himself to death in Covelo, the girl said, she had been molested for years by her older brother. When old brother's predations were discovered, Brittany was removed from the home by Child Protective Services and put in Foster Care.
Brittany told the court that her older brother took himself and his incestuous penis to Maryland, and Brittany returned to her family's embrace (sic), which included two younger siblings.
But there was discontent, and Mom was soon seeing Aaron Johnson, and soon after Deputy White's suicide, Mom married “Aaron,” as Brittany referred to her step-father-defendant, Aaron Johnson.
“Did you like Aaron” Ms. Larson asked.
“Not at first.”
“Did you come to?”
“Did you love him like a step-father?”
“I thought I did.”
“When did you start going on hunting trips with Aaron?”
“I don’t remember exactly, but I was going to high school in Willits.”
“Where did you go on these hunting trips?”
“To Deer Valley in Lake County.”
“Did you enjoy these trips?”
“Whose property was it on?”
“Public lands, mostly.”
“But you went hunting near Covelo as well, didn’t you?”
“And whose property did you stay on then?”
“Aaron’s father’s land.”
“And Aaron has a trailer there?”
“And did something happen there?”
“Aaron raped me.”
“Did you call and tell your mother?”
“She wouldn’t believe me.”
“Did you spend the next night there?”
“Did other people come to the camp?”
“Yes. Aaron’s father and his friend.”
“Were the adults drinking that night?”
“What were they drinking?”
A teenage girl alone with several men and Jack Daniels in a remote hunting camp. “Totally inappropriate,” as they say on Ukiah's Westside.
Brittany says she was raped when Aaron Johnson came into the trailer; Brittany said she had asked to sleep in Aaron’s father’s trailer, but that request was refused. She came home on Sunday from her weekend with the boys and still didn’t tell anyone what had happened to her. She didn’t trust her mother she said, and Johnson had told her if she said anything she’d have to go into protective custody. So, she continued to go to the hunting camps on weekends and her step-father, she said, who continued to force her to have intercourse with him.
“Why did you go back?”
“My mother made me. She said she’d bought the (hunting) tags and license and so I had to go.”
But, if Brittany is telling the truth, she was the prey and it was open season.
Johnson's attentions became so frequent and bold, Brittany testified, that he even assaulted her in the family’s Willits home while her mother was at work.
Finally, Brittany told some friends and the police were called, a call to the police that happened to coincide with Brittany being in some trouble over a missing bottle of expensive wine she’d given away and lied about, saying she’d broken it accidentally.
Defense, in the form of the well-known Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney Chris Andrian, pounced, and a long, grueling cross-examination began, a grilling of the 19-year-old mother-to-be pegged to an assumption that Brittany was making all this stuff up. Andrian's feral questioning took days, and every incident the mother and step-father, allied against Brittany, could think of was brought up by the defense.
Which is what happens in rape cases. The victim, or alleged victim, is put on trial.
The verdict isn't in yet, but if bad parenting were on trial it would be Guilty. ¥¥