Cop Rapes Woman at Gunpoint, 11-Year-Old Rape Victim Smeared, Accuser Sued for $2 Million: Is US Society Failing Victims?
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If events of the last few months have sent any sort of message to women in America it's this: if you're raped or sexually assaulted, justice won't be on your side.
What happens when the people who are supposed to protect you are the rapists themselves--such as in NY, when cops on separate occasions have been accused of committing rape? What happens when the press and public spend as much time parsing a victim's history and "character" than the person accused of brutally assaulting her (like the New York Post calling Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser a "hooker")? What conclusion can we draw when a rape victim's attempt to confront a powerful entity is publicly acknowledged as futile?
Women can't win. The structures, institutions and organizations supposed to help rape victims are often simply tools of a social attitude that blames them for the crimes committed against them.
This week brought the collapse of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case amid a nasty, frequently racist and sexist media frenzy. Then, on the very same day, came the absurd announcement from KBR that it was seeking repayment of legal fees from Jamie Lee Jones, who had lost her rape case in front of a jury. Jones had accused her colleagues of raping her and the company of trying to cover it up (while the verdict reflected problems with her case, it went to a jury and was given a serious day in court).
In May, two New York cops, who were caught on video repeatedly returning to the home of an intoxicated woman to rape her, were acquitted. Jurors said it was mostly because the victim was drunk. (The two men, who have both been fired from the NYPD, were convicted of "official misconduct" and received sentences of one year and two months, respectively.)
And then just this week, an off-duty police officer was arrested for allegedly raping a woman at gunpoint in broad daylight, abusing his authority in the grossest way.
Meanwhile, these cases take place outside the mainstream media spotlight. AlterNet noted the recent story out of Springfield, MO, about the young girl whose school utterly failed her after she reported her rape to authorities, instead humiliating her and sending her back to be victimized again , violently, by the boy she initially accused (he later confessed to the second crime). The school continued to deny wrongdoing and doled out punishment instead of remediation for the traumatized young woman.
That's just this summer. Earlier in 2011 the women who accused Julian Assange of rape were tarred as CIA plants by even such progressive luminaries as Michael Moore and Naomi Wolf. Lara Logan, after being brutally raped in Egypt, had to face a firestorm of questions about whether women reporters belong in dangerous situations. An 11-year-old girl in Texas, who was caught on video being gang-raped by 14 men and boys in an abandoned house, had to face media scrutiny when a N ew York Times reporter reported accusations by townspeople about the clothes she wore and her mannerisms. And the Republicans kicked off the year by repeatedly trying to sneak a new definition of rape onto the books.
Yes, it's been a miserable year so far, and reading the comments sections on Internet stories about any of these incidents is likely to make anyone sympathetic to victims feel sick to his or her stomach.
This rather sweeping conclusion isn't meant to pick apart the legal details of any specific case--there's plenty of both astute and idiotic commentary taking place in the media--but rather to talk about the climate these cases create for victims, and the way these incidents, and how authorities handle them, both perpetuate and reflect rape culture.