When I read about the story of a Dallas County judge’s light-tap-on-the-wrist handling of a confessed rapist, because the 14 year old victim wasn’t a virgin and had apparently given birth prior to the rape (discussion, <here>, I threw up a little in my mouth.
I agree with Carol Costello’s (CNN news anchor) discussion and question: why is it so difficult for people to understand that rape is a crime? That a Montana school teacher who also committed rape on an another 14 year old girl was sentenced to merely 31 days of jail, because the judge at the time said the girl acted older than her age, and was “in as much control of the situation” as her perpetrator is vomit inducing as well—although at least that sentencing was overturned (discussion <here>), but only after much public outcry and media attention.
In this context, it is no wonder that women and feminists (and why are we so afraid of being named a feminist in this day and age? Clearly, gender inequality exists and continues to be perpetuated by our society, by media in all formats, but that’s subject to another post) would be angry, upset, frothing at the mouth with rage. And yet if we do and are those things, then the world responds that women are just women, and cannot be reasonable, and cannot be trusted to tell the truth, as so aptly written about <here>.
Which I think is the crux of the matter regarding rape. Rape (and domestic violence for that matter) is the only crime where the victims credibility is questioned under the most undignified and for the most part, unfair, lens. What was she wearing? Was she a virgin? Why was she walking outside at that hour? Which is kind of stupid, because most rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Then it’s, why did you go with him? Why are you married to him? Why did you let him do these things to you? You shouldn’t have snuck out to see him, because he would drug you, rape you, and leave you on your front lawn to freeze to death, as in the terrible Daisy Coleman case.
And I understand while women are the majority of the only victims in the cases of rape, it is reported to happen in 10% of the cases with men and boys, who are also ashamed to report their crimes, and there are a whole host of complicated and complex issues that come up for male victims. Is it more difficult for these men and boys to report their crimes because this is a crime perpetrated 90% of the time on women? That somehow, as men (or boys) they should have been able to ‘fend off’ their attacker? (A load of hogwash!) But when looking at the statistics, why would anyone (women or men?) go forward with reporting a crime that happened to them, when only 3% of the perpetrators will actually get sentenced (maybe 31 days, if that)? (statistics <here>)
Yet, no one anywhere asks—why did you let yourself get stabbed? Why did you let your house get burgled—surely you must have done something to invite the burglers in your house. What’s wrong with you, why did you ask to have someone run you over with their car? I mean, you were in the crosswalk, didn’t you know cars drive in the street?
The Dallas County judge’s handling of the rape case is ridiculous and upsetting. Apparently she gave more credence to the defense counsel that the perpetrator had scholarships and merely had a “lapse” in judgment. So, she ruled that he not be held accountable for his crimes, because…the victim wasn’t a virgin. Seriously, the only “lapse” in judgment is the justice system’s conundrum with understanding that rape is a crime and that perpetrators need to be brought to justice. By not doing so, by not sentencing rapists (and confessed rapists at that!), sends a message to the world that rapists can get away with rape.
I am raising two daughters—to be socially responsible, active, engaged with making the world a better place, with a knowledge of self-respect and respect for others, with optimism that if we work hard and put our best foot forward, we can bring good things into our life and accomplish just about anything we set our minds to. We have that privilege because we live in “first world” country, where little girls are not kidnapped and terrorized for going to school; we have that privilege because we live in a “civilized” society that has laws and rules and order, which apparently supports freedom and civil rights. I am teaching them that they are responsible for their actions, that if they have a ‘lapse’ in judgment and hurt someone’s feelings, they take ownership and say they’re sorry. And no fake sorries, but taking the time to understand what they said or did and how it would hurt someone, and then saying their sorry—not because I’m busting them, but because little sister or big sister is sitting there crying, which means they are hurt. (I realize I’m dealing with a preschooler and elementary schooler at this point, so the ‘crimes’ are stealing each other’s toys, or talking back, or calling each other names, but you get the gist.) I’m setting a foundation that we are accountable. (at least, that’s the goal!)
Yet—this context of sexual violence, which reaches across class, race, socio-economic status, where the majority of the victims are women, and our society and our justice system’s way of viewing it and handling it that results in victim blaming (i.e. 55 colleges/universities being investigated by the federal government for botching sex assault investigations, discussion <here>)—it stacks the deck against my daughters, against me as a woman and a mom. How I wish I could wave a magic wand, just say STOP IT! Stop letting rapists rape and get away with it. We are in the 21st damn century, after all. Wake up and be informed and be conscious that rape is a crime. Period.