Confession: I’m a criminal

The sexual assault happened when I was 14, about 60 years ago. The crime scene was the staircase in my Moscow block of flats, permeated by the smell of sauerkraut, sweat and unlaundered clothes. The victim was a neighbour, a dark-haired girl named Natasha, same age as me.

Her anguish has aged Miss Hirsh beyond her years

I had known her for 14 years, give or take a couple of months, but it had never before occurred to me to objectivise Natasha, partly because I didn’t know the word at the time. My excuse is that neither did anyone else.

Then again, I had only recently become sufficiently aware of my vague urges to know how how to translate them into concrete actions. That’s what I did on that occasion.

As we were walking up the stairs side by side, I suddenly kissed Natasha on the lips. If I had expected reciprocity, I received none. She pushed me aside violently and called me a word that decorum prohibits repeating here.

That’s as far as it went, but even such a seemingly trivial act leaves deep scars in the psyche of both parties, especially the victim.

Natasha must have spent the intervening 60 years writhing in agony. The trauma she suffered must have been gnawing at her wounded soul every waking moment – which means almost all the time, for she must have suffered acute insomnia ever since.

There, I’m glad I’ve been able to get this off my chest. For I too have suffered, and I too have had sleepless nights, with a piercing sense of guilt keeping me awake. I feel much better now, even though I know there’s the danger of Natasha seeking legal recourse.

On the off chance that she reads this confession, she could either seek substantial compensation in the civil courts or even file criminal charges. Since I have no money, the latter course would probably bring her more satisfaction, especially in the British courts. After all, British jurisprudence has no statute of limitations.

Is she does have me arrested, I’ll feel mortified – but also proud. For 60 years could well be the record-breaking interval between crime and punishment in such cases.

Warren Beatty, for example, has only managed 50 years and, as one hears, for no lack of trying. For it was half a century ago, when he was in his mid-thirties, that he allegedly raped his current accuser, the actress Kristina Hirsh.

One can only admire Miss Hirsh’s patience. It’s only when the empty feeling in her soul, and doubtless also in her bank account, became unbearable that she instructed her lawyers, choosing that course of action over criminal proceedings.

That choice betokens wisdom. For one thing, US criminal law does have a statute of limitations for all crimes except, if memory serves, murder and a few other gruesome acts. Then again, unlike me, Mr Beatty does have money with which he could be forced to part.

Also, the standards of proof are less stringent in civil cases than in criminal ones. And in non-violent sex cases they are laxer still. On rapidly accumulating evidence, the victim’s word usually does the trick.

Miss Hirsh is accusing Mr Beatty of no gruesome crimes. His alleged offence is rape, of the statutory variety. For Miss Hirsh, 14 at the time, was what’s known in the common parlance as jail bait.

It’s not only her patience that I admire, but also her tact and discretion. Reluctant to submit Mr Beatty to trial by tabloids, she didn’t mention the actor by name in her lawsuit. Instead she only identified her rapist as the star who had received an Oscar nomination for his role as Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde, which every American has seen several times.

Mr Beatty, whose identity was thus securely protected, met Miss Hirsh on the set of The Parallax View. Sparks flew and, according to her, “from the spring of 1973 until the following January of 1974, we carried on a relationship that I thought was something that was special.”

Special or not, “it was a crime that Beatty was committing by raping me, having oral sex with me… and emotionally damaging me for the past 44 years,” she added.

In her lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles on Monday, Hirsch, now 63, claims the nameless Mr Beatty, now 85, groomed her for sex. And if you don’t believe her, you are a misogynist and, by extension, also probably a homophobe, transphobe, global warming denier – and almost certainly a latent rapist yourself.

This seems to be the only case her lawyers can possibly make against my fellow sex offender, the nameless Mr Beatty. After all, given the passage of time, they’ll find it hard to come up with tangible evidence. Thus the case they’ll bring will be not so much legal as political.

It’ll feed off the MeToo campaign that makes it next to impossible for a man accused of sex crimes, especially non-violent ones, to defend himself. His accuser isn’t just the victim but the whole of womankind, presumed to be a collective victim and united in its victimhood.

Now I wasn’t entirely serious about my own sexual offence: it was merely a silly childish prank. The nameless Mr Beatty is accused of something more serious: sex with a minor who is ipso facto unable to give consent, not even to an Oscar nominee.

Admittedly, teenage girls weren’t as thoroughly sexualised 50 years ago as they are now. But I still find it hard to believe that a 14-year-old Hollywood actress didn’t know about the birds and the bees (or, in San Francisco, the birds and the birds).

Still, the law is the law, even if Mr Beatty’s alleged deed only makes it into the malum prohibitum category, sinful only because it’s proscribed. True, it’s tawdry for a 35-year-old man to have an affair with a 14-year-old-girl.

However, I can’t help remembering that 14 is the legal age of consent in seven European countries, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Portugal. Yet in the state of California, known for its heightened morality, it’s 18, and it’s by California laws that my fellow sex offender will be judged.

Actually, his plight is of no interest to me. I really don’t care if Miss Hirsh manages to get millions in real and punitive damages. In fact, I hope she does, for this will reinforce the point I make so often.

This kind of mockery of justice diminishes not just those on the receiving end but all of us. Politicised justice spells the end of civilised polity.

Cases like Miss Hirsh’s won’t decapitate Lady Justice with one swing of the axe. But their accumulation will eventually kill her by a thousand cuts.

Then there will be nothing left to protect any of us, including young girls, from crimes much worse than one supposedly perpetrated by Mr Beatty. And, well, me.

4 thoughts on “Confession: I’m a criminal”

  1. It’s a particularly toxic blend of feminism and Puritanism that makes Americans lose their minds over this issue. I think 13 would be the most sensible age of consent- just a minute, I can see some flashing lights outside my window…

  2. You have shown me the light. I have sat right down and started writing letters of apology to a few hundred fashion models and many of the girls who attended school with me. Even without any direct advances, I am sure my impure thoughts have damaged them. I can remember one poor girl I assaulted at university on the escalator, telling her after class that I liked her hair (she had it pulled tightly back into a bun that day). The shame I feel now is unbearable. I shall ignore my wife for two hours to make up for it. Imagine! Having the temerity to compliment a young woman!

    I recently watched an interview where the topic of relationships was discussed. apparently young men are finding it harder and harder to approach young women. In my day, the risk was being rejected, possibly in front of friends. Today the risk is much greater, even if the result is years down the road.

    In the few cases where a woman has been bold enough to start a conversation with me, even going so far as to compliment me, I have been flattered (when I wasn’t so obtuse as to miss it completely). It never occurred to me to sue. Ah, well, vive la difference!

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