Bringing up that men accused of sexual assault are “good guys” by means of defense is the oldest and most tired trope: The idea that men who come from “good families,” have “good jobs,” are students at a “good school,” are endowed with a “good reputation,” are certainly not rapists uses practically incomprehensible logic. Still, it’s an incredibly common tool of defense attorneys—namely, because it works.
Here’s another case of the “good guy” defense in action, this time brought by a team of lawyers for a former University of Toronto medical student, convicted in 2018 of raping an unconscious woman after a night of partying, who are now arguing he should get less prison time because he was an “exemplary” student.
Prachur Shrivastava, the former med student, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman named Laura (her last name has been withheld due to a Canadian court rule to protect her identity) one night in 2014. On Thursday, Shrivastava’s lawyer addressed Albert Justice Jolaine Antonio, who will rule on the length of Shrivastava’s sentence, and argued that his client fell victim to temptation, and should receive a lenient (per the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation):
Shrivastava’s actions were a case of “drunken stupidity,” argued [Dale] Fedorchuk, who said his client was “faced with an opportunity, tempted in that moment” and made “a stupid decision to cave to temptation.”
Fedorchuk has compared Shrivastava to Bill Cosby and Tiger Woods—I guess, intending to making the case that successful men operate under an amount of pressure, which sometimes leads them to do bad things:
A former medical student who raped an unconscious woman “availed himself of an opportunity” he could not resist due to the stress of “leading an exemplary life,” his lawyer has argued.
Laura’s lawyers recommended a prison sentence of four to five years (Fedorchuk had originally asked the judge for 90 days, served on weekends, and then suggested nine months instead), and stated the obvious: That being “exemplary” does not mean someone is not guilty:
“Exceptional people do not rape unconscious women,” said Dwyer. “The fact that he’s educated and his parents are wealthy does not change what he did.”
“Incapacity of a woman is not an ‘opportunity’ … it wasn’t an opportunity, it was a choice. He is a predator.”
Last year, when Antonio found Shrivastava guilty, she wrote in her decision, “I believe he wanted to obtain sexual gratification from an unconscious stranger, and that is what he did.” She added, “He deprived her of control over who touched her body and how, and thereby criminally violated her human dignity and autonomy.”
He was under too much stress, he was unable to delay gratification, he is exceptionally talented—where have we heard this before? Oh, maybe Rape Culture 101. The point of these is that perpetuator’s place in the world matters more than that of the person he harmed. It seems to be working: The CBC notes that Shrivastava graduated with his master’s in biotechnology in 2018, the year that he was convicted, and is now weighing two job offers.