Monday, December 05, 2005

A Cruel Injustice

Occasionally there comes along some event, in this case a criminal trial, that so outrages the senses as to be almost unbearable.

From Seeing The Forest:

After a day-and-a-half trial, Municipal Judge Peter A. Ackerman on Friday convicted the woman of filing a false police report, a class-C misdemeanor. Ackerman explained his decision, saying there were many inconsistencies in the stories of the four, but that he found the young men to be more credible. He also said he relied on the testimony of a Beaverton police detective and the woman's friends who said she did not act traumatized in the days following the incident.

[. . .] The woman, who was 17 at the time of the April 30, 2004, incident, testified Friday that she was attacked by an 18-year-old boyfriend and his two friends. She said she was in the boyfriend's bedroom preparing to go to a party when she was sexually assaulted by the men. The three men testified Thursday that the acts were consensual and at the girl's initiation.

I suppose I shouldn't be too shocked. This is, after all, the inevitable result of our "blame the victim" culture where rape cases are involved. Somehow, some way, it must be that the woman was asking for it. A few details from this sickening case really jump out at me, however.

The first is the involvement of three boys in the rape. I may be a few years removed from 17, but I find it impossible to believe that this young girl actually consented to being sexually assaulted by these three men. I'm willing to concede that false rape charges are probably filed from time to time, but this stretches credulity to its breaking point. It certainly speaks volumes about this judge's view of women that he could find such a notion credible.

The second thing that really makes me gag is the testimony of the girl's friends that she didn't seem traumatized enough by the event. That sets an awfully dangerous standard; that rape is only rape if a girl's life is sufficiently shattered by it. And what makes the friend's of this girl even moderately qualified to testify about her mental state? Again, this just screams to me of a judge with a social agenda in mind; a preconceived set of ideas about feminine behavior.

These two points aside, this still begs the question of why the judge didn't just dismiss the case. If there were inconsistencies in the individual stories, then why exonerate the defendants and charge the victim with a crime? I believe it points to the pervasive impression in America that female sexuality is somehow immoral. The belief persists that a sexually active woman is engaging in questionable behavior and that she must give up her right to be free from assault. Somehow "No" doesn't mean "No" if certain other mitigating factors are involved, including altered states or prior sexual history. I find that reasoning to be nothing but sexist garbage, generally put forth by men who see fit to act like rutting dogs when the mood strikes them.

The biggest problem I see coming from this case is the chilling effect it will have on incidents of sexual assault being reported. Clearly this case sends the message again that women are required to take responsibility for "enticing" men into committing sexual acts. That relegates the responsibility for a rape on the victim, again lowering the number of assaults that will be reported. Going so far as to slap a 17-year old girl with a misdemeanor for reporting a sexual assault is uncommonly cruel.

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