Rape verdict confirms American values

October 4, 2019

A Sussex County jury sent a strong message last week when it convicted Clay Conaway of fourth-degree rape. Mitigating circumstances and rationalizing presented by the defense, and the judge’s instructions allowing the jury to consider a lesser charge, undoubtedly persuaded the jury to convict on a reduced charge of fourth- degree rape.

But in the end, the jury did not absolve Conaway of his responsibility to control himself by honoring the wishes of the victim when she ultimately withdrew her consent.

The jury concluded that when he proceeded despite her protests, what started as an apparent consensual sexual encounter turned to a forcible brand of rape. 

Forcing, in the negative sense, implies, at the very least, a misuse of power.  At the worst, abuse of power.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of such abuse, locally and nationally, through the years. It can lead, and has led, to the most heinous of crimes including rape of children and murder of adults.

It has to be guarded against with the greatest of vigilance and must be pursued by law enforcement and through the courts vigorously and unstintingly.

Those who shine a light on such abuses, victims and witnesses, often do so at their own peril. But in so doing they exhibit the kind of courage needed to right wrongs, protect others, and promote a more stable and, ultimately, civil society.  For that, we should all be thankful.

We’re in a time of great social unrest, not unlike the 1960s. Then, by people coming forward, intolerance of a wide variety of injustices – social, personal,  environmental, political – led to positive change. This rape case, fueled in large part by boundary-breaking activity on social media, is part of the current social unrest.

The verdict confirms, in accordance with fundamental American ideals articulated in our Constitution, reaching back to the days of Aristotle, and tested time and time again, that might – and force – do not make right.


  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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