In 2015, a so-called “ethicist” at Rutgers University by the name of Anna Stubblefield was convicted of sexual assault and handed a 12-year prison sentence. She was accused of assaulting a 30-year-old man with cerebral palsy, one whose condition is severe enough that he has never uttered a word in his life, and requires care for even the most basic of personal needs.
Stubblefield had initially crossed paths with the victim, known only as “D.J.,” in a therapeutic setting, helping him to make some progress in his ability to communicate through a computer keyboard. Eventually, Stubblefield came to make a shocking revelation to D.J.’s family that the pair were “in love,” and it was learned that Stubblefield had engaged in sexual intercourse with the man. Considering the obvious characteristics of each of the principals involved, a jury in New Jersey decided Stubblefield was guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
Now, as detailed in a piece over at Life News, another noted “ethicist,” Peter Singer, has come to the aid of Stubblefield in the form of an op-ed over at The New York Times, declaring her prison sentence to be much too harsh. It is, however, the specific basis for this belief that may well curl your hair.
Writing with still another ethicist, Jeff McMahan, Singer says, in part, “If we assume that he [the victim] is profoundly cognitively impaired, we should concede that he cannot understand the normal significance of sexual relations between persons or the meaning and significance of sexual violation. In that case, he is incapable of giving or withholding informed consent…”
In other words, the mentally challenged essentially cannot be victims of sexual assault, even as they have been sexually violated, because their handicap does not allow them to understand the nature of what has happened.
You’d think, with all of these ethicists, there might be some actual ethics at play here.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large