Quick Trigger Warning. If you're triggered by sexual assault, you may want to skip this post.
A week or two ago a friend and reader sent me a link to a story that was more than a little infuriating. It seems a convicted rapist in Thomson, Manitoba was given a slap on the wrist
because the victim and her friend had "made their intentions publicly known that they wanted to party"
In the article it's noted that the judge felt that there was miscommunication and so instead of mandatory jail time, the perpetrator, Kenneth Rhodes, was given a conditional sentence, even though the Crown wanted three years minimum.
Rhodes pleaded not guilty at the trial on the basis he thought the woman had consented. Dewar rejected his defence -- but said aspects of it can now be considered in sentencing.
"This is a different case than one where there is no perceived invitation," said Dewar. "This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behaviour."
At first I didn't really know how to deal with this. Any articles I found didn't give many actual details of the evening, other than than the usual speculation of what the women had been wearing (typical, right?), the fact that they went into the woods with Rhodes and his friend, and implications that Rhodes had "misunderstood her intentions when he forced intercourse" on her. P.S. Kenny, if you have to 'force' it, it's probably unwanted. Enthusiast Consent, folks, it's a wonderful thing.
Still, part of me wondered if maybe there was some mistake? So I hesitated on commenting on the story, until later I had a 'Slap-your-forehead' moment and went "Hang on a minute! This was a SENTENCING hearing.. not the trial itself!" So even thought I didn't know the details of what actually went on, based on media coverage, clearly, the jury and/or judge or whatever felt there was enough evidence to support a rape conviction, a charge that, in Canada, requires jail time at minimum. The sentence is the equivalent of saying "Okay, well *technically* you're guilty, but not really, because she had it coming, being all sexy like that. Silly girl."
The judge on the case, Robert Dewar was later reprimanded for his comments and removed from cases of a sexual nature
Have we not gotten over this yet, people? Have we not gotten over the idea that someone can 'ask' to be raped? No, apparently not.
A local radio personality, Meg Whitton of the 104.1 The Dock wrote about an experience she had at a campus safety assembly at York University. One of the Toronto police officers told the assembly they could avoid rape by not dressing like a slut.
Thankfully the Toronto police chief was quick to eschew the troubling statement from his underling, but as Meg had pointed out, the issue is a lot bigger than a lack of sensitivity on the part of one or even a number of police officers. It's a problem that is STILL rampant in society. We constantly look for reasons to justify rape, even in the most heinous of cases.
Take this past week. The New York Times came under fire for their wholly slanted coverage of a story of an eleven-year-old girl in Cleveland Texas who was gang-raped in an abandoned trailer by up to 18 men. The NYT were called to task
for their coverage that seemed to smack of victim blaming. Local townsfolk were quoted asking where the child's parents were (fair question, but more importantly, where were the parents of the boys involved?). They also quoted townsfolk
about the little girls manner of dress and activities:
They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.
This quote is my personal favorite (note dripping sarcasm):
“It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
I sure the fuck hope so. I hope it haunts them in their nightmares. I hope at least one of them wakes up in a cold-sweat, night after night, screaming and shaking with guilt over what they have done to a little girl.
Can I just reiterate that this was an 11-year-old child?
A LITTLE GIRL.
I'm wondering where the concern for this little girl is from the locals. I haven't even mentioned that the men, who ranged in age from roughly 14 up to 27, videotaped the attack on a cell phone and passed it around. This is how the situation came to the attention of the police, when one of the victims classmates told a teacher that they had seen a video of the attack.
Speaking as the mother of a beautiful, innocent, almost-ten-year old, I'm concerned for this poor East Texas girl, who may have already been dealing with issues at home or in her life, who now has to live for the rest of her life with not only being brutalized by up to 18 men, but also having the knowledge that via wonderful fucking technology, god only knows how many people have witnessed her humiliation. And to top it off knowing that most of the community seemed to be more concerned with how this little girl may have brought it on herself.
I say, fuck that community. They sound like a bunch of backward assholes.
Those that claim that the Times article wasn't slanted at all may wonder why they left out this particular quote, that was included in the release from the Associated Press
"She's 11 years old. It shouldn't have happened. That's a child," said Oscar Carter, 56, who is related to an uncle of one 16-year-old charged in the case. "Somebody should have said what we are doing is wrong."
Regardless if it's the media or a group of townspeople or the comments section in some of these articles, which I try not to read as it makes me stabby and kind of like I want to vomit, I really have to ask what kind of effed up world we live in where people will look for a reason to justify the gang-raping of an eleven-year-old girl. That we would look for reasons such as someone's dress in order to take responsibility off of that of the rapist and on to the victim.
These attitudes not only harm women, but men as well. Because it paints the idea that men cannot help raping women, that, if provoked by a woman (or, shit.. an 11-year-old CHILD's) attire they will have no choice but to attack. It presents the idea that men are driven so wild by the sight of a woman dressed provocatively that they are unable to control themselves. Which is bullshit, at absolute best.
I know a lot of men who are fully capable of reasoning beyond the needs of their own dick. I believe that the majority of all men out there are fully capable of this. Fully capable of reading signals, and looking for enthusiast consent. And the ones that aren't, need to be in prison.