CNN has a story about a teenage girl, Crystal, who turned to the Internet for help after being raped at the age of 15 and after the criminal justice system stopped working for her. The first part of the story focuses on rape victims who decide to go online and the risks they face by doing so.
Many of these rape victims abandoned the criminal justice system after those systems abandoned them or worse turned on them. Other rape victims saw this abandonment by the legal system and decided the safest option was to avoid a system which can so easily turn on rape victims. It this danger which often gets minimized or simply accepted as being a normal part of the process in so many stories about survivors and the Internet.
What stood out for me as a key problem impeding the recovery of rape victims -- and motivating this girl's call for help -- was this section near the end of the article:
Orange County authorities charged the 23-year-old man Crystal accused of assaulting her with lewd or lascivious battery. According to court documents, Crystal and the man both said they had an ongoing sexual relationship.
The prosecutor, who declined to comment to CNN, concluded that the teen and the 23-year-old had consensual sex, according to the case file.
Florida law states that a 15-year-old cannot give consent to sex. And though Crystal was 15 at the time of the alleged forced encounter, the prosecutor wrote that the case would not be prosecuted because Crystal was "a mere 1 month away" from turning 16, when it would be "legal to give consent," according to documents.
This prosecutor's conclusion goes against the law -- even the statutory rape law -- and it directly dismisses the experience of the girl who was forcefully raped. Now that CNN picked up her story I wouldn't be surprised if her case has been reopened, but it shouldn't take going public for a rape victim to get what should have been done in the first place.
Even if she had some sort of sexual history with her rapist -- that would make him a criminal even with her agreement -- yet in the eyes of a prosecutor a forceful rape magically became consensual sex and the statutory rape laws were treated as if they didn't exist.
That is as logical as using the fact that a man previously got a boy to spar with him in the boxing ring -- as if the boy were an adult capable of making an informed decision about the risks of allowing someone to punch him in the head -- in violation of the gym's rules as proof that when the man sucker punched the boy outside the boxing ring that the assault was no assault at all but merely another occurrence of sparring.The previous disregard of the rules by the man in this scenario actually supports the plausibility of the later allegation of physical assault. The man's attempts to shift responsibility for his actions onto the boy would likely fall flat.
No reasonable person would view an adult sparring with a child in direct violation of the rules as nullifying the possibility that this man was guilty of physically assaulting that child. But when the violence is sexual many seemingly reasonable people instantly lose their reason.
And that loss of reason is what makes survivors going online to talk about their rapes so risky to the survivor's mental well-being and why having identifying information is risky. This online danger is only a more easily identified manifestation of the danger rape victims face when they tell people offline.
These pervasive attitudes which are hostile to those who disclose rape are also why talking about having been raped will give some people justification to treat that survivor as a liar the moment they learn that survivor's rapist was not convicted of a sex crime.
Here's what one blogger (I refuse to give this person a link) had to say about this girl's YouTube video:
A 16 year old self proclaimed rape victim reaches out to You Tube to help with her case. Real or not? Decide for yourself
The problem with this question is that it is an invitation for unfounded allegations.
It didn't take long to find people who have judged this girl's case without any genuine concern about the actual evidence in her case. They are instead judging her case by comparing this video to what they believe a "real rape victim" would do. For some people the making of this video is all the proof they need to declare her a liar or to declare that she is perpetrating a hoax. These people are revealing their eagerness to attack rape victims. Any excuse will do.
Ironically, those who rush to make unfounded and false accusations against rape survivors are among the loudest opponents of unfounded and false rape accusations. This contradiction means that these people are in reality hostile to all rape accusations. The few reports which are proven to be false simply give them an excuse to continue with their unfounded and false accusations.
Judge Phillip Brown in Georgia is one such person who seems to have no idea that his assessment of a lawsuit filed by Melanie Ross against Daniel Day over a rape was prejudicial. After demanding her entire sexual history -- in opposition to state and federal shield laws -- he threw out a civil lawsuit and fined her $150,000.
If his demand for a woman's entire sexual history is legal because the rape shield laws only apply to criminal cases that needs to change because this demand is a form of intimidation that clearly protects rapists by looking for an excuse to dismiss the relevent evidence in the case.
The claim that having a sexual history means that all rape accusations are false is what is truly frivolous and illogical unless current sex crime laws are ignored in favor of the old laws written before women had the right to vote. Those old laws didn't outlaw rape, they defined who men could and could not legally rape. This means that those old laws legally sanctioned the rape of certain girls and women.
The judge found that since Ross and Day had previously had a sexual relationship, Ross should have known her claims were “frivolous... there was no reasonable belief that a court would accept Plaintiff’s claims...”
This judge's ruling places Ross in the group of women who can be raped by Day with the full blessing of the law. But because the judge supports this man's right to rape indirectly by calling this woman's claim frivolous, Judge Brown can deny the reality of what he did.
This judge's assessment in this case goes beyond mere illogic because in their previous sexual relationship, it was reported that Day's actions hurt Ross and when she asked him to stop hurting her, he refused.
The moment Day refused to stop hurting Ross during sex, he became a rapist. That violence ended their relationship. Yet this judge viewed this as evidence against the woman hurt, not against the man who demonstrated a willingness to be sexually violent a month before the alleged rape which left Ross with bruises.
If this is logical, it is the logic which acquaintance rapists use to decide who they can rape.
I believe this judge should disclose his entire sexual history with the same level of detail he required of this woman to prove to the appeals court that his ruling on this lawsuit was in fact impartial and not self-serving.
If this woman's entire sexual history is relevant to this lawsuit then his is as well. If he is unwilling to make such a disclosure, he should be viewed as unable to make an impartial ruling on this case.
Of course Judge Brown will not make such a disclosure because he didn't demand a similar sexual disclosure from Day which might have shown that the Plaintiff's claims were highly credible and which might have revealed other sex crimes. A potential pattern of consensual sex is supposedly proof that rape is impossible, but a potential pattern of sexual violence is meaningless.
That communicates that this judge views sexual violence as irrelevant to rape cases.
These 2 cases are far from being isolated incidents. There is another case in Cleveland where the prosecutors don't seem to understand the evidence.
Prosecutors say they believe the girl was telling the truth, but say surveillance video of the incident, does not prove a rape occurred. The girl and her mother, who have seen the tape, believe it does. "Take it to court 'cause there's a lot of parts showing what he did when he picked me up and threw me in the closet," the girl said, describing what the video shows.
"She was trying to go back through the double doors, he had cut her path off, he lifted her up by the back of her jacket and walked her to this room," said the girl's mother.
The actual incident was not recorded, but prosecutors say there are two instances on the tape where the girl appears to be moved through the hallway by force. "And there's perhaps ten instances that kind of counter-balance that or counteract that, that make it look as though she is moving voluntarily," Naso adds.
The problem with the view that anything can counter-balance force is that force creates an atmosphere where there is no ability for the girl to make a free decision. Once a boy corners a girl and uses force on her to get her to move "voluntarily" then her testimony that she was forced has been proven.
If the prosecutors don't get this or if they do believe this but communicate a belief that force is meaningless to proving rape that encourages rapists
This blatant abandon of reason is also why having survivors going online to talk about their rapes and the flaws in the legal system -- both criminal and civil -- which support the sexually violent is so important.
Many of those who want the criminal and civil justice systems to continue to be illogical and hostile to rape victims are active online and if those voices aren't countered many people will accept dangerous beliefs either because the topic is unpleasant or because the hostility toward rape victims serves their selfish desires.