Probation for Another Privileged Perp

by Lauren Landau

Another day, another headline about a predator getting away with sexual assault.  Today in white privileged male news, we learn about a former high school star athlete (naturally his athletic prowess is immediately mentioned) who sexually assaulted two unconscious classmates, but is getting what essentially amounts to a slap on the wrist.

David Becker, 18, will be receiving two years’ probation for his crimes, which even he knew were out of line, to put it mildly. “Very sorry about last night I was very much in the wrong,” he texted one of his teenaged victims just a few hours after penetrating her with his finger. 

In compliance with his probation terms, Becker will have to refrain from consuming drugs or alcohol, be evaluated for sex offender treatment, and keep his distance from the two young women he assaulted. His lawyer Thomas Rooke is pleased to see the patriarchy at work.

"He can now look forward to a productive life without being burdened with the stigma of having to register as a sex offender," Rooke told "The goal of this sentence was not to impede this individual from graduating high school and to go onto the next step of his life, which is a college experience."

JWI travels all over the country teaching young men and women about the importance of enthusiastic consent (yes means yes, and it better be a “hell yes!”). Is that a lesson Becker still needs to learn? Probably. We can only hope this experience serves as a wakeup call, but if he’s hearing a chorus of excuses, what are the chances that Becker is walking away a changed man? 

"The charges of rape, we take very seriously," Becker's attorney, said in an interview. "David has no prior criminal history whatsoever."

Once again, a male perpetrator’s actions are excused because this was the first time he was caught. That argument rings hollow, especially when you consider that Becker’s friends allegedly call him “David the Rapist.” 

Rooke also mentions his client’s stellar scholastic record and his many hours of community service. See! He’s a “good guy.” So what if he sexually assaulted someone? 

While attorneys, judges, and the public empathize with wealthy, white, athletic, male perpetrators and perpetuate this “boys will be boys” mentality, women suffer. We can’t possibly expect to change the culture when there are no meaningful consequences for sexual assault. 

In a creative piece for The Washington Post, Alexandra Petri writes about “the Privilege Tree.” Inspired by the recent news stories about Olympic swimmer and disgraced party boy Ryan Lochte and Stanford rapist Brock Turner, Petri’s article is a spin on a story most of us know well, The Giving Tree

In this version, a little boy plays under the “privilege tree” and uses its branches, fruit, and leaves for his amusement. The tree and society protect the little scamp from facing any consequences for his actions, which grow more serious as the boy becomes a man. This is a playful but sobering metaphor for how our society coddles young men by shrugging and saying “boys will be boys.”  

Becker might have spent 35 hours picking up trash, but his community service hours are irrelevant. When we care more about the impact a crime has on the perpetrator than on his victims, we send a clear message that no matter how much it stinks, our society refuses to take out the garbage. 

It’s high time we stopped making excuses and cut down “the privilege tree.”