Monday, March 30, 2009

Puzzlement Over Not Reporting

During the Q&A portion of our WAM! presentation, Pulling the Plug on Rape Culture One Word at a Time: Using Accuracy to Undermine Dangerous Attitudes and Injustice, someone in the audience asked about reporting and my response was that I didn't consider reporting a possibility because it was 1974. It was clear that the person asking the question didn't understand why that mattered and why I was sure I'd be laughed at if I reported.

The answer was that rape on a date was considered impossible by most cops and even if they did believe it was possible, they would know that without serious non-sexual trauma the only charges that might have stuck would have been statutory rape charges. But even those types of charges were rare unless an underage girl became pregnant. Being laughed out would have been the best case outcome back then. I could have been viewed as a vindictive girl crying rape which would have left me more vulnerable than I already was.

As a follow up we were asked if we would report today if raped by a boyfriend and I said yes if I were raped in Rochester, MN because I know that the investigators are respectful and competent. I didn't have time to explain that in certain locations I would not report because doing so would never result in a competent investigation and could result in my being charged with filing a false police report.

Too many law enforcement agencies still fall into the trap of dismissing most rapes as bad decisions rather than as serious crimes. Too many college administrators who oversee internal processes are so incompetent and arrogent that they continue to treat rape victims as the real offenders or people who can be threatened with expulsion if the administrator later believes the report to be a false one.

There was also a question about why if prevention is the key and most rapists are men why there wasn't a man on our panel. I didn't get a chance to respond, but I believe that the decision to add a man to this particular panel would have been a mistake. This was the Women, Action & the Media conference. Prevention isn't dependant on getting men to take the initiative. It can be done even men don't take an active role.

Ashley gave wonderful tips for how this can be done related to organizations and systems such as governments. Be specific. Ask for something concrete not something vague. Be persistant.

Related to reporting this could be a request to have those who deal with sex crime investigations in your area or school be specifically trained so that they are competent in investigations and competent in their dealings with rape victims. This could also be a demand for stronger anti-harassment policies so that victims won't be powerless when they are tormented or threatened.

If every law enforcement agency and every organization responded promptly and competently to reports of rape and sexual harassment that would prevent many of those types of offenses from happening again. This would be true even if these changes were made under duress from women who refused to accept no as the final answer.

Each time an investigator or official figuratively pats a rape victim on the head and urges her (or him) directly or indirectly to get lost that person is an enemy of prevention.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:09 AM   1 comments links to this post


At March 31, 2009 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was also a question about why if prevention is the key and most rapists are men why there wasn't a man on our panel.

According to this logic, simply having a man on the panel would not be enough, it would have to be a rapist. I understand that the responsibility for preventing/stopping rape lies with rapists, but we don't get policy advice on rape prevention from rapists because of the obvious conflict of interest.



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