Archive for the ‘Reporting Rape’ Tag

Rape and Consent: Shifting Burdens   27 comments

We’re facing an epidemic of rape in the United States, and the costs to individual victims and society as a whole are enormous. Based on national victimization surveys, somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 women will become victims of an attempted or completed rape at least once in their lifetime (in my circle of friends and acquaintances that number is closer to 1 in 2). The annual victim costs are estimated at a staggering $127 billion (not including child sexual abuse). That’s substantially higher than any other crime. At least 80% of rape survivors suffer from chronic psychological and/or physical conditions as a result of being sexually assaulted. Rape survivors also face a significantly elevated suicide risk: 600% higher than victims of other crimes and 1300% higher than non crime victims. Additionally, the omnipresent threat of rape limits the freedom of ALL women and prevents us from participating in the world as equals.

Yet only a small percentage of rapes are reported and of those that are reported, few end in a conviction. This means that rapists are free to go on raping, creating more victims and destroying more lives.

The rape culture myths addressed in my last post have a lot to do with the low reporting and conviction rates for rape. So does this:

The law presumes women old enough to legally have sex to exist in a state of perpetual consent. Unless you are able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt–a very high standard–that you did not consent to sex, the law assumes that whatever dude came along and forced himself on you had the right to do so.
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When Rape Victims Lie   112 comments

No, this isn’t a post about how women are lying hussies out to ruin the lives of good men with wrongful rape accusations. If that’s what you were expecting, you’re definitely reading the wrong blog (actually, come to think of, stick around; you may learn something).

What I’m talking about is this: Living in a rape culture, women are acutely aware of the type of rapes–and the type of victims–that are taken seriously. And the type that aren’t. The “good” victim (the only kind that counts in the minds of many, many people) is attacked by someone she doesn’t know while dressed “modestly” and not under the influence of alcohol/drugs or engaged in “risky” behavior. She’s an upstanding citizen with no history of criminal activity, mental illness, or conduct outside the norms of mainstream society.

Thanks to prevailing rape mythology, many people also have very definite ideas about what happens before, during, and after a “real” rape. Real rape victims want no sexual contact of any kind with their attackers and make this crystal clear right from the start. When attacked, they don’t just say “No;” they scream, fight, yell for help, and/or try to escape. Ideally, the victim will duke it out with her attacker to such an extent that she is left with obvious physical injuries. After the rape, she will be visibly distraught and in tears, but this will not prevent her from reporting the attack right away. In the days and weeks following the assault, she will spend a lot of time in the shower and be too traumatized to appear to function normally.

Some rapes do indeed happen like that; most don’t. And the more a rape departs from this script, the harder it is for the victim to be believed and taken seriously. She didn’t fight or try to escape? She must’ve wanted it. She wasn’t crying or visibly upset right after the rape? She’s probably lying about being attacked. She was seen laughing and seemingly having a good time just days after being raped? It couldn’t have been that bad.
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Jury Deadlocks on Rape Charges Despite 911 Recording of Rape   6 comments

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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On Being Raped More Than Once   52 comments

Last week I was leaving a comment at Corrente, referencing my own rapes and PTSD in response to a rape-minimizing, victim-discrediting post. As soon as I typed the word “rapes,” I was seriously tempted to hit the backspace key and erase the “s.” Because while virtually all victims who speak out about their rape have, at times, been greeted with that special combo platter of disbelief, blame, othering, and trivialization, an additional stigma frequently attaches to those who’ve been raped on more than one occasion.

It’s been my experience that even individuals who respond sympathetically to discovering that a woman was raped once, often have the following reactions upon hearing someone was raped on two or more separate occasions:

Response #1: “She is probably one of ‘those’ feminists; you know, the type that thinks of nearly all heterosexual intercourse as rape. I bet if I heard the details of those supposed rapes, they wouldn’t sound like rapes at all.”

Response #2: “I wonder what she’s doing to bring on these attacks; after all, most women are never raped, so someone raped multiple times is probably being extremely reckless/stupid/provocative/victim-blaming-adjective-of-choice” (note that response #1 frequently turns into response #2 once the individual is satisfied that the victim’s experiences don’t sound like consensual sex after all).

In the US, one in four women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape at least once in her lifetime. That’s an estimate based on victimization surveys, and it means that 75% of all US women will go through their entire life without anyone trying to rape them. So how is it that some women are raped not just once, but multiple times?
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Here We Go Again: Media Coverage of High Profile Rape Cases   5 comments

Another powerful man has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman, and while it may be tempting to say that the media coverage has been shockingly bad, the truth is that there’s nothing shocking or even surprising about it. This is the type of coverage we’ve come to expect every time a woman has the tremendous courage needed to report a rape, particularly when the man who raped her is rich and powerful and she isn’t.

Unless you’ve spent the past week under a rock, you’ve heard about the arrest of International Monetary Fund chief (now resigned) Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges. DSK, who also happened to be the likely presidential candidate of the French Socialist Party and a very real threat to Sarkozy, stands accused of anally and orally assaulting a hotel employee and attempting to rape her vaginally. The victim, a poor African immigrant employed as a chambermaid, reported the attack to hotel management who eventually called the police. When the cops arrived, DSK had already left the hotel and was headed to JFK to grab the afternoon flight back to France. Police caught up with him at the airport ten minutes before take-off and took him into custody.

It’s not so much the actual case I want to discuss as the puke-worthy media coverage on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s as if feminism never happened! Feminists have tried to get across the message that rape isn’t sex and isn’t even about sex for, oh I don’t know, several decades now. Rape can be about power, control, entitlement, anger, rage, domination, and hate. Sexual contact/penetration is just the weapon. FBI profilers divide rapists into four categories–Power Reassurance, Power Assertive, Anger Retaliatory, and Anger Excitation–based on their motivation and modus operandi. Nowhere to be found in this typology is the “nice guy” who is so overcome with sexual desire by the sight of an attractive woman that he “just can’t help himself.” That’s because that guy doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately this message has clearly been falling on deaf ears. Not only does the mainstream media believe that rape is about sex, but they’re actually repeating the refrain of rape apologists everywhere that rape is just sex. News report after news report refers to the allegations against DSK as “sex charges,” a “sex scandal,” and a “hotel-sex case.” And I’ve lost track of the number of articles equating an act of torture (yes, rape is recognized as a form of torture) with extramarital affairs or eccentric but consensual sexual practices, while the author ponders the “cultural divide” between France and the US. The LA Times, for example, informs us that “(i)n sexual matters, the French consider themselves open-minded and liberal and dismiss Americans in particular — and Anglo-Saxons in general — as puritanical and uptight. It follows, therefore, that a French politician’s sexual peccadilloes, extramarital affairs and indiscretions are nobody’s business but his own.” Oh yeah, totally. Some dude tearing off your clothes and ramming his dick into every orifice as you’re desperately trying to fight him off, hey, that’s just a minor indiscretion on his part. Nobody’s business but his own and certainly nothing to make a big deal about. After all, you wouldn’t want to be “puritanical and uptight.”
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Reporting Rape – Women Are Liars Edition   Leave a comment

In the latest Republican attack on rape victims, Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican state lawmaker from Georgia, has introduced legislation that would replace the word “victim” in criminal statutes with the word “accuser” (hat tip to Melissa at Shakes). But not all criminal statutes, mind you. Only the ones where the victims are predominantly female and typically targeted by men precisely because they are female: rape, domestic violence, stalking, and obscene phone calls.

While Rep. Franklin is apparently considered a bit of an extremist even in Republican circles and this bill may have little chance of becoming law, the reasoning behind it is all too familiar. It surfaces every single time a rape case makes headlines. Women lie about these things, we are told. Apparently the world is full of lying, scheming women out to destroy perfectly innocent men’s lives and reputations. For no reason at all. Or, in some cases, it’s because they had consensual sex and regret it. Or something. While filing a police report and submitting to hours of grueling questioning and medical exams hardly seems like a rational response to regret, we’re talking about women here, and everyone knows women aren’t rational.
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Posted February 11, 2011 by Sasha in Rape Culture, Violence Against Women

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