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Editor’s note: A recent Ebony.com interview with a convicted rapist set off a firestorm of complaint and crosstalk in the blogosphere. I have chosen to publish the letter of one reader, herself a law student, who makes some enlightening and damning points. I have followed that with Ebony Magazine’s response. –Oretha Winston Elev8 Lead Editor.

I will give you a little background on the story. In 2003, Genarlow Wilson was a 17-year-old high school senior convicted on child molestation charges for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old female classmate. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the state of Georgia. After serving nearly three years, he was released early due to what that state admitted had been “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The actual law case (HUMPHREY v. WILSON., Wilson v. The State.  Nos. S07A1481, S07A1606. — October 26, 2007) stated the following:

Because Weems was decided on direct appeal, and the present case stems from Wilson’s habeas petition, we cannot direct the trial court to set aside the judgment and to dismiss the proceedings against Wilson. Instead, the corresponding and appropriate habeas relief would be for the habeas court to set aside Wilson’s sentence and to discharge Wilson from custody.

In other words, Wilson filed a writ of habeas corpus, not a direct appeal from conviction, therefore his conviction was NOT overturned. Rather, he was released. Ebony.com ran a piece on Genarlow Wilson. The former headline (changed after an outcry by the Ebony readership) asserted that “[Wilson] is no child molester and never was.” Well, the video tape, trial documents and his release decision say otherwise. Even if the young girl in question consented, that assumes that a young girl who is drunk and surrounded by horny teenage boys in line to get sexual services can reasonably consent. I think not.

Below is a letter I wrote detailing my disapproval of the article:

Dear Editors,

I am seriously, seriously disappointed in your recent coverage of Genarlow Wilson. Even the title is problematic: “From Notorious to Glorious.” You are literally glorifying a rapist.

As a law student, it’s clear to me that Wilson was not innocent because his sentence was never overturned. He was released because the judge felt that 10 years was too long to serve in jail for that type of crime, when he would only have gotten 12 months if the act was intercourse instead of oral sex. Still, the fact remains that under any interpretation of the statute at that time, he was guilty

Statutory rape IS actual rape. As a woman, I resent any attempt to gloss over that truth. Statutory rape laws are in place because the state has an interest in, and a duty to protect children. At the time Wilson was convicted the definition of “child” included a young girl who was 15 years old. It doesn’t matter that she was flirtatious. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t say no (if that was, in fact, the case). It doesn’t matter that she was six months away from her birthday, making Wilson only 1.5 years older than her. Under the law, she was a child. Beyond that, she was drunk! This article implies that because the girl may have been fast, and was certainly intoxicated, that she no longer deserves the protection of the law. Somehow, she has victimized Wilson by not acting in a completely chaste manner. When are we going to expect more from our black men? When are we going to expect them to act with nobility, integrity and restraint in the face of temptation? This article simply reinforces the thought process that any woman or young girl who dares to display anything less than “lady-like” behavior is somehow asking for it

I really hate that Wilson is being let off the hook for his bad judgment. Sure he made a mistake, but it was a CRIMINAL mistake, and he rightfully paid for it with jail time! Both of my parents talked to my older brother about consent. Anything less than a yes, when the young woman is in her right mind (i.e., not high or intoxicated) is a no. Period. Given the prevalence of rape and domestic violence in our communities, you’d think we’d want young men to get this message. When men force themselves on a woman, they not only make themselves vulnerable to getting thrown in prison, but scar a woman for a lifetime. Yet somehow, we see another black man in jail as the ONLY tragedy, despite the fact that he brought it on himself.

As a black woman, I am especially disappointed that one of the few mainstream media outlets that caters to our people would be so reckless about the message they are sending. I’m a Christian, and I believe in forgiveness. I don’t begrudge Wilson moving on with his life and trying to better himself. However, I will not applaud him for doing so. I will not stand idly by as Ebony trashes half of its fan base.

I love black men. I have a wonderful father, an older brother who is also a great friend to me, and a fiance who lights up my life–all of them are examples of how brilliant black men are. However, we will not mold any more of them by simply forgiving and forgetting when they do wrong. If Wilson was going in to the community, teaching our young boys that any time you have sex with a drunk woman it is rape because she cannot consent in that situation–then I would support this article. If Wilson wrote a public apology to the young women he took advantage of, and went in to the community to tell young girls that rape is not their fault, and they should never feel too ashamed or afraid to report on their abusers–then I would support this article. But Wilson has done none of that. Does he deserve a second chance? The Christian in me says, yes certainly. But until he truly grasps that is not a martyr, and that he did, in fact, do something very wrong that he should want to make amends for–he does not deserve any accolades for simply managing not to rape anyone else.

Ebony. com responded by posting the below:

Regarding our Genarlow Wilson interview…

Less than 48 hours after our interview with Genarlow Wilson went live, it is clear to us that this story and subject remain highly controversial.

For those unfamiliar, in 2003, Wilson was a 17-year-old high school senior convicted on child molestation charges for receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old female classmate. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the state of Georgia. After serving nearly three years, he was released early due to what that state admitted had been “cruel and unusual punishment.”

We have read every email, tweet and note regarding your concerns. We understand that many of you were seriously angered by three main things: our implicit support of Wilson; the story’s title, “Notorious to Glorious: Genarlow Wilson is Not a Child Molester and Never Was”; and a perceived lack of compassion towards the two young women who were involved in the case.

Regarding the title, we sincerely apologize for what was clearly viewed as insensitivity by EBONY.com about issues related to sex crimes against women and girls. We are not insensitive and it was not our intention to appear flippant about a most serious matter. Since the relaunch of EBONY.com six months ago, we have been diligent and steadfast in the promotion of information and healthy dialogue around subjects related to the emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing of Black women. In the very first week of launch we ran a story brazenly titled “Stop Telling Women How Not to Get Raped.”  In the weeks and months after that, we continue on that path.

At EBONY.com, in particular, we are largely a female editorial team and we take pride in our consistently progressive stance on women’s issues. To suggest otherwise, simply means that you are not familiar with this website. To any who would charge EBONY.com with being “apologists” for Black men, you are wrong. We strongly doubt that you would find agreement among any of the brothers who have been taken to task in this space. What we are, and what the EBONY brand has always been, is a home for information, discourse and uplift for Black men AND women…

…However, in our opinion (based on our writer’s original reporting and her eyewitness account of watching the videotape), Wilson is neither a rapist, nor a “child molester.”

You may read the rest by going here.

Make sure that you read: Joseline Hernandez & Mimi Faust Are Perfect Examples Of Toxic Love and HBO’s “The Newsroom”: “America’s Not The Greatest Country In The World !” [Explicit Language]

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