Fighting Rape

Victoria Brownworth is back in form with a very fine column in the April 2006 print issue of Curve. You need to buy the magazine to read the whole article, but I want to just recap a few of Brownworth's major points here.

Citing DOJ statistics, Brownworth notes that a rape occurs in the United States every two minutes - and only 39 percent of rapes are reported. But the college campus is an especially dangerous place for women: some 25 percent of college students reported being raped. In a majority of cases, the perpetrator is the victim's boyfriend or a male acquaintance.

Brownworth contends that "any man can become a rapist." This might sound like gratuitous anti-male rhetoric, but she is simply pointing out that all of us are responsible for our own actions. It's also important because "the average rapist is just that: average" and he will not necessarily oblige you by looking sleazy and dangerous.

Last spring, Brownworth writes,
a couple of basketball players at a Philadelphia university were charged with raping a female basketball player at the same school. The young woman told police the men rapedand sodomized her at a party. She admitted she had consumed at least nine drinks, which made her extraordinarily intoxicated (and thus unable to give consent). ...

The players were tried and acquitted. The judge deemed the sexual encounter sonsensual, despite the victim's testimony that it was not, because the young woman had willingly gone to the party. The alleged victim reported the incident immediately to campus authorities, but it was not reported to police until much later; campus authorities considered it an internal matter. This too weighed against the woman at trial. The men continued to play on the basketball team. The young woman left school.

Via Alas, we get the repulsive details of the Orange County rape case:
As most "Alas" readers know, the three boys videotaped themselves gang-raping their classmate Jane Doe over and over (including rape with a pool cue and a lit cigarette), and then spent years legally harassing and smearing Jane Doe in every way they could.

The victim's punishment:
It wasn't just the predictable "she's a slut" attacks during the trial, but also paying jurors from the first trial to try and change the minds of jurors from the retrail (is that legal?), and recruiting several of Jane Doe's "friends" to tell stories about her which were later proved to be lies. When Jane Doe moved to a new school, under an assumed name, to try and start over, the defense's private detectives stood in the parking lot of her new school screaming her real name at her.

Read the post at Alas to find out the sentence these vermin received.

Meanwhile, Pinko Feminist Hellcat has complete coverage of the case. Don't miss the survivor's statement:
I will relive forever in my head the morning that my father got a call from the Newport Police Department telling him they had a videotape of his daughter being gang-raped. I remember waking up to my parents standing over me, the look of horror and disgust in their eyes. My father asked me what happened on July Fourth and I told him, "I don’t know," because I couldn’t remember what happened to me.

That is when he grabbed me and he held me in his arms and tears rolled down his cheeks. He proceeded to tell me a videotape was given to the police that unveiled myself being brutally gang-raped by three men, the three men that I gave all my trust to and thought were my friends. ...

The harassment and torture started immediately after the assault became known to the public. It started with private investigators sitting in front of our house day in and day out, watching our every move. Our family’s privacy was completely eliminated. The private investigators got worse when they began watching my parents at their places of work. One day I was driving home and a private investigator began following me. I panicked. I did not know what to do. I called my mom on her cell phone for help. All she could do was tell me to drive to the police station and try to calm down. In the parking of the police station the private investigator cornered me and began taking pictures of me. ...

The worst day of my life was when I heard the verdict of the first jury. I was in my room waiting for the verdict. I remember my mom walking into my room. She sat next to me on the bed and hugged me, looked me in the eye and said it was a hung jury. I felt my stomach drop and my heart being ripped out of my chest. There was no way this could be true. My mom had to be mistaken. When she started to cry I knew she wasn’t. I was in such shock I didn’t know what to feel. I became hysterical and started screaming.

All my anger I had towards these men and the verdict came out. I thought I was going crazy. Why didn’t anyone believe me? ...

Before the second trial I was asked if I wanted to see the videotape of the assault. I was terrified. What if I watched it and it literally put me into a mental institution? I spent many weeks deciding. I knew that if I saw the video I would be able to express my feelings better to the jury while testifying, but I also knew how real it would make the assault to me.

In my heart I knew I had to see it with my own eyes, to be able to know exactly what these three men did to me, so I chose to watch it. I remember my mouth started burning while I was watching the video because it was so dry from hanging open in disbelief. I cannot and don’t think I will ever be able to describe what I felt while watching that video. I remember asking myself, "When did I become a piece of meat and not a human being to these men? How could any sane human do these things they did?" They did things not even savage animals would do. They violated me in every way possible.

As I watched that video, I remember feeling two distinct feelings. I remember becoming furious at the animals that were attacking me because no human could do such a thing. And I remember feeling my soul and inner being completely deteriorating. I was empty. They had now taken every last bit of who I was and no longer felt human. I was like a lifeless and feelingless doll that these men thought they could use and abuse in any way they wished.

A part of me died that day, a part that I don’t know if I’ll ever get back.

The rape happened when she was 16 years old.

Back to Alas: It's pretty sad that Ampersand has to write,
Two years is nowhere near enough, but it is almost a miracle that the OC rapists are being punished at all.

Amp argues that changing rape law alone isn't going to solve the problem; what's needed most is a basic change in the thought patterns of ordinary, "average" people. Amp concludes:
Real reductions of rape - and increases in the likelihood of convictions - may be accompanied by legal reforms, but they won't be caused by legal reforms. It's only by a massive alternation in how our society thinks of rape at every level - so that "boys will be boys" and "the slut defense" is understood by the average person, the average judge, and the average juror as not merely wrong but also repugnant - that real change will happen.