Why is a justice who argued against statutory rape laws on the R. I. Supreme Court?

If you’re a fan of Reel Girl, you know I blog about gender representation in children’s media and toys. For the past few months, I’ve been focusing all of my creative energy, mind power, and available time on finishing my book (a middle grade fantasy-adventure about two magical girls who save the world.) Apologies to those of you who want to know where my reviews are, including “Star Wars” (I LOVED it, so did all my kids) but I’ve got to finish this damn book. However, I’ve been pulled away from fairyland by a horrific story of sexual abuse and rape at one of my high school alma maters, St. George’s in Newport, R.I.


Just yesterday, I blogged about how St. George’s continues to hold back information in its sexual assault investigation. The school will not release the name of the attorney who advised them not to report the rapist to child protective services. (State law requires that all persons must report suspected cases of child abuse to Rhode Island Child Protection within 24 hours “when they have, or had reasonable grounds to believe a child is being abused.”) It is possible that the attorney who recommended the school break the law is William P. Robinson, now a justice on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Robinson represented St. George’s in the 1980s when Anne Scott, a former student, filed a suit against the school. Though we don’t know if Robinson is the one who told the school not to report the perpetrator, court documents show he argued that if Scott, a 15 year old, had sex with Al Gibbs, the school’s 67 year old athletic trainer, it was consensual. When I blogged about all this yesterday, I asked if Robinson is a guy that we want on the R.I. Supreme Court, and this is the question I can’t stop thinking about. How did he get into this position of power with a public record of misogyny? I didn’t know about Robinson’s appalling argument blaming Scott for her rape and neither, most likely, did you, but whomever confirmed him to the court must have looked into his background and his case history. Probably multiple people checked him out. I don’t think it’s a fact that could’ve been missed or overlooked as Robinson didn’t just argue against statutory rape laws, he was publicly admonished for doing so. After Robinson suggested the sex was consensual, The Providence Journal reports the response was furious:

U.S. Magistrate Jacob Hagopian chastised Robinson:

” … Now you explain to me under the criminal laws of the United States, or of any state of this Union, or of any civilized country, where the element of it being volitional or non-volitional, or voluntary or non-voluntary, has anything to do with this type of detestable allegation made by a person who is not of age of consent, can you explain that to me?”

When Robinson tried to explain, Hagopian cut him off, stating, “It’s impossible. It violates the criminal laws of the United States.”

So why was Robinson allowed to be a judge on a state Supreme Court when he argued fiercely against the laws of a civilized country? Because he’s changed? He’s grown, come to his senses, and realized he made a mistake? Apparently not. When Robinson was asked if he was the attorney who advised St. George’s not to report the rapist to child protective services, he responded with this statement:

“In the 1980s, while engaged in the private practice of law, I represented St. George’s School in certain litigation in the federal court which has recently become the subject of interest in the media. I represented the client as an attorney must, zealously, ethically and to the best of my ability. I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.”

So in 2016, Robinson claims that his past argument against statutory rape was ethical. He says: “I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.” Is that OK with you, America? That a justice on a state’s Supreme Court argued against statutory rape? Do you think justices who share Robinson’s view are on your state’s Supreme Court? Do you want your country to take rape more seriously? Do you care about stopping this national epidemic?

in 2014 the federal government released the names of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual violence or harassment complaints. Under Obama, there has been more of an attempt than ever before to make ending rape a national priority. Still, Washington Post columnist George Will and others ridiculed the action and questioned the 1 in 5 statistic of women raped on campus, calling all this attention “rape hysteria.”

Rape is rampant in the USA because as a culture, we allow the violence to happen again and again. We punish and shame the survivor by elevating those who collaborated in silencing her. I don’t know how Robinson secured his position on the Supreme Court, but he shouldn’t be allowed to stay there.

Read my previous posts about St. Georges:

St. George’s school continues to hold back information in sexual assault investigation

St. George’s releases report on sexual assaults at the school

St. George’s alumna creates fund for survivors sexually assaulted at school

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school

Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

3 thoughts on “Why is a justice who argued against statutory rape laws on the R. I. Supreme Court?

  1. Great questions. if you read Ryan V. Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, et al. you will see that Robinson didn’t change his stance at all.

  2. Your recent blog posts regarding St. George’s School shed light on our patriarchal, often misogynist culture even at this late date in 2016. Thank you for writing about this because it is an issue that must be spoken of openly so that we as a culture can stop condoning it by not speaking up.
    Best Regards,
    Meredith Turner Chapman

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