Last week the glorious US justice system brought us the acquittal of two NYC cops accused of raping an intoxicated woman they had escorted back to her apartment–this despite the fact that one of the cops admitted to climbing into bed with the nearly naked woman while his partner stood guard. This week we have a Pennsylvania jury failing to reach a verdict in the rape case of 31-year-old Jacquay Hall–this despite the fact that there’s a 911 recording of the assault in which the victim can be heard begging her attacker not to rape her while he tells her to “shut the fuck up” and threatens to “bust [her] up.” The same jury acquitted Hall of kidnapping, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful restraint and resisting arrest, but found him guilty of making terroristic threats and carrying a gun without a license.
According to the 18-year-old victim, Hall followed her down the street, pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her if she didn’t come with him. Unbeknownst to him, she had a cell phone in her pocket and managed to dial 911. For the next 24 minutes, she kept her phone turned on while he grabbed her by the arm and led her to an abandoned parking garage, where he raped her. On the 911 tape, the victim can be heard trying to talk herself out of being raped:
“I’ll give you my phone number and we can hang out or something… I wish you would let me go.”
She also offers to give him her bank card and asks him, again and again, to leave her alone:
“Please don’t do anything to me, please. Please leave me alone. Please. No. Please don’t do anything to me.”
Hall is heard repeatedly telling the victim to “shut the fuck up” and threatening to “bust her up.”
At one point, she tells him:
“Please don’t do this. I don’t want to have sex.”
To which he responds:
“Too late. Shut the fuck up.”
Eventually she says:
“I’ll do anything you want. Please don’t hurt me, please.”
911 dispatchers were able to determine the victim’s general location based on the closest cell phone tower, but Hall had already raped her by the time police arrived. When Hall and the victim heard the sirens, she told him she had no idea why police were in the area, reminding him that she hadn’t screamed. She then told him she urgently needed to use the bathroom and when he allowed her to go, she ran toward the approaching cop cars.
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So British Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has gotten himself immersed in some hot water by suggesting that “date rape” is different from “serious rape.” The truth, of course, is that he was merely saying out loud what many people continue to believe: Serious rapes are stranger rapes; when the victim knows the perpetrator in some capacity, that automatically makes the rape less serious.
Even feminists are not always immune to the misconception that stranger rapes and acquaintance rapes are fundamentally different. I’ve seen feminist bloggers conflate date rape and non-forcible rape and claim that acquaintance rapists lack “any obvious malicious intent.” And then there was the argument I got into with a couple of self-identified feminists on another blog who felt very strongly that a rapist’s relationship to the victim provides meaningful information about how dangerous he is and the “severity” of the rape, by which they meant the level of violence used, the injuries inflicted on the victim, and the likelihood of the victim being tortured (aside from the rape itself) or killed. They argued that stranger rapists are more dangerous and stranger rapes more serious and that feminists who insist on treating stranger rapes no different from acquaintance rapes are doing women a disservice. Because, you see, the reason the “most dangerous rapists” aren’t getting longer prison sentences is that misguided feminists have convinced the public that all rapes are the same and stranger rapes are no more serious than acquaintance rapes. And that’s obviously very bad because everyone knows that acquaintance rape isn’t very serious at all.
Of course there can be aggravating factors in rape just like in other felonies. What that usually means in the context of rape is the commission of other crimes, so it’s not so much that one act of rape is “worse” than another, but that some rape victims suffer additional violations such as kidnapping, imprisonment, drugging, battery, torture, mutilation, death threats, and death. Multiple rapes and multiple assailants obviously also count as aggravating factors.
Where people routinely go wrong is in assuming that:
- The presence of aggravating factors–particularly severe violence–is limited to or found largely in stranger rapes.
- The absence of aggravating factors–particularly severe violence–automatically makes rape less traumatic for the victim.
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