CommunityPam's House Blend

Victimized twice

You have to shake your head in disbelief at some of the sh*t that happens in this country.

Shakes Sis and many others (via The Heretik) have blogged mightily about the disgusting case of a 19-year-old woman in Beaverton, OR, who has been charged with filing a false police report of being gang-raped by three men — even though she never recanted.

The woman’s attorney and advocates for rape victims say the prosecution sets a dangerous precedent and could discourage others from reporting sexual assaults.

“This will have a huge chilling effect on men and women across the board,” said Erin Ellis, executive director of the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Washington County. “We’re sliding backwards.”

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.

Come on. Is there a specific way a victim must act in order to be “credible”? This judge has his head up his ass. While there are always many facets about a rape case and credibility is always a question, the deck was stacked against this woman.

Why?

Blogger Kevin Hayden of The American Street has known the survivor since she was a baby, attended the trial, and had these observations:

The judge found inconsistencies in all of the stories, thus establishing reasonable doubt in every story. Yet he convicted the victim. ‘Boys’ will be ‘boys’.

The young woman’s friends were a classmate at high school and her mother. The mother a) has always been seen with an alcoholic beverage or high on prescription pills by all who know her, b) provided the 17-year old with the alcohol she’d had that evening, which she stole from the store she cashiers at and c) was awaiting her boyfriend’s return to her home within two months of the rape. That boyfriend was in prison for molesting his own daughter. That’s hardly a credible witness with any sympathy for victims of sexual assault. But none of this could be introduced into evidence. Only the 17 year old’s sexual history could be exposed.

Additionally, the two ‘friends’ were the ones who convinced the 17 year old that she should report it to the police. So if the young woman is guilty, the instigating accessories to her ‘crime’ are considered credible experts about how a rape victim should act.

Shakes Sis eloquently makes the point that this “act traumatized” bullshit negates the breadth of human response to the life-changing impact of a rape.

Immediately following a rape, some women go into shock. Some are lucid. Some are angry. Some are ashamed. Some are practical. Some are irrational. Some want to report it. Some don’t. Most have a combination of emotions, but there is no standard response. Responses to rape are as varied as its victims. In the long term, some rape victims act out. Some crawl inside themselves. Some have healthy sex lives. Some never will again.

…And now, women have one less reason to come forward—the possible horror of watching their attackers go free while they are found guilty.

And Amanda at Pandagon adds this…

Reporting a rape to the police is a living nightmare. I can assure you that most people would really just prefer rape victims to shut up, go away, and not trouble them and definitely not cause problems for the rapist. I wouldn’t have prosecuted except I couldn’t bear the guilt if he did it to someone else. I still almost didn’t, except at the insistence of my boyfriend at the time that it was wrong to just roll over and pretend it didn’t happen. It took me a week to work up the courage. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d thought I’d get in trouble with the law for seeking justice.

This judge and the prosecutors are a disgrace to their profession; I can only hope they never have to experience the horror of any of their children being sexually assaulted and suffering a second painful, damaging indignity of not being believed by those that have taken an oath to protect her as a citizen.

And imagine, we recoil in horror at the worldwide atrocity of rape as weapon and instrument of control during wars, but we don’t have to look beyond our own borders (or legal system) to see this is a crime that continues to barbarize and intimidate victims who choose to speak out because of ignorance, misogyny or both.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding