Why minor assaults should be taken seriously

I’ve been following the Claremont Serial Killer trial via a couple of live-blogs, and I’ll write a proper post about it soon. But it’s brought up an interesting side issue for me.

Bradley Robert Edwards is accused of being the Claremont Serial Killer. As part of the trial preparation, police revealed that he’d previously been convicted of common assault for a 1990 attack on a social worker at Hollywood Hospital.

The thing is, that wasn’t common assault. It was an attempted sexual assault. But either he stopped or she fought him off (it gets told differently at different times), and he said sorry to her. So it was charged as common assault only.

When police were investigating the Claremont crimes they were looking for people with a record of sexual offenses, not everyone who’s ever been in a punch-up. So Edwards’ name didn’t come up, and his fingerprints weren’t checked.

Edwards has pled guilty to the charges for the Huntingdale prowler series of incidents, and for a rape in Karrakatta in 1995. The Huntingdale offenses were before the Hollywood attack, and would’ve been difficult for police to solve because it was before DNA testing was available. But could the Karrakatta rape have been prevented if the hospital assault had been taken more seriously?

Everyone gets upset when women are raped and murdered. But when a young man starts grabbing women and trying to drag them places, everyone starts looking for excuses for him.

“He was stressed.”

“He’s never done it before.”
(But how would you know if he’s been excused on a previous occasion?)

“He said sorry.”

“It’d ruin his chances of promotion.”

It’s time to stop making excuses for sexual offenses which don’t meet the technical definition of rape. People escalate the severity of their attacks over time as they gain experience. They learn how to get away with it. We need to take the unsuccessful attempts more seriously if we want to prevent murder.