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Cop Rapes Woman at Gunpoint, 11-Year-Old Rape Victim Smeared, Accuser Sued for $2 Million: Is US Society Failing Victims?

What is it with our inability to find justice for victims?

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But first, what exactly is a rape culture, anyway? Personally, I always think of rape culture as all the assumptions that come from society's assuming sex is a transaction involving men taking what women have to offer--but not offer too enthusiastically, lest they be deemed promiscuous--thereby creating a Catch-22 (and ignoring violence that falls outside the gender stereotype boundaries).

Toward the beginning of a long and comprehensive  post on rape culture,  Shakesville's Melissa McEwan says this, which sums up the anti-rape message of the burgeoning anti-rape "Slutwalk" movement, itself a reaction to a policeman urging women not to dress like sluts to avoid rape:

Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is bad fucking luck. Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is  never be in the same room as a rapist . Rape culture is avoiding talking about what an absurdly unreasonable expectation that is, since rapists don't announce themselves or wear signs or glow purple.

This massive spate of 2011 rape cases and controversies in their wide scope and variety, and the inevitably depressing results, are a perfect illustration of the cultural problem writ large.

Let's start with two examples from the winter and spring which are in fact on the opposite ends of what the media sees as a "rape spectrum."

First, you have Julian Assange, a powerful man accused of "acquaintance rape,"  based on two women's accounts. One involved a forcible sexual encounter that began as a consensual one, and another involved penetrating a woman while she was asleep. Both women were sophisticated professionals who knew Assange, and both were alone with him when the alleged assaults took place.

Both women were  blamed, smeared and their identities revealed online, accused of being part of a supposed worldwide conspiracy to bring Assange down (just as the press has insinuated that DSK's accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, was an unlikely pawn of a conspiracy to silence Strauss-Kahn).

Second, we have the Texas gang-rape case, in which a large group of boys and men were caught on video brutally and repeatedly gang-raping a young girl. In this case, there was physical corroborating evidence, the victim was too young to legally consent, and the accused were relatively powerless men in a poor community. 

The cases couldn't have been more different, and yet in this case also, the young woman was smeared when prominent  newspaper stories fixated on her appearance, her dress, and her behavior rather than the demeanor and histories of the men involved.

So the lesson is clear: if you report an unexciting rape that happened in your home while you were alone with the perpetrator, you get blamed. If you are recorded on video being repeatedly raped by a massive number of people, you also get blamed. If you're a grown woman: blamed. If you're a child: blamed. If it's your word: blamed. If there's physical evidence: blamed. 

And that mentality extends to the jury:  read this heartbreaking piece by one of the jurors in the "rape-cop" case who was sympathetic to the victim but wouldn't convict because of her intoxicated state. "There were holes in her story, again because of blacking out and-or passing out," the juror said. 

Is it any wonder, then, that it's next to impossible to get clear and decisive justice for these crimes in a system that is tainted by social attitudes toward rape? In cases like this one, Jamie Leigh Jones and Diallo, it may be that well-intentioned people have been simply unable to use the law to the advantage of redressing victims' wrongs.

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