Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Outrage

At one point, the attorney, an incredulous Joseph G. Cavallo, blurted out to the jury, "Why isn’t she being charged with this crime?"

That quotation came from an article in Orange County Weekly about the trial of three young men convicted of gang raping a minor several years ago. They were sentenced to six years in prison last week. I've been following link after link of this story after it came to my attention just tonight. The article graphically details a truly sick, perverted rape that was videotaped. The video tape was lost, and the people who found it and turned it over to the police thought the victim was dead.

I was acquaintance raped when I was a teenager, and it has literally affected all of my life. I want to clarify that I don't feel stuck in victimhood. It's simply something that happened to me, but it took me a long time to get to that point. Coming to terms with rape meant thinking over many issues about sex, violence, being a woman, being a man, the mind-body connection, self-empowerment, self-abnegation, self definition, self worth, cultural values, justice, equality, and the list could go on. The decisions I made on these issues with rape being only one element of the picture are what has lasted.

I'd like to think that times have changed enough that people don't think that rape victims deserve what they get or that they wanted the rape to happen. I'd like to think that rape is not taken less seriously than other crimes because it's a crime that happens predominantly to women. Then I read stories like this, and I don't have that luxury.

The defendants in this case were sentenced to six years in prison. The defense was requesting probation and counseling. They could have received over 14 years. The jury foreman stated before the sentencing, “I’m not saying it should be a throw-away-the-key deal, but it should be a fair conclusion. Nobody drove the girl to the party. Nobody made her drink. But those guys violated her when she was out. She is a human being, and they treated her like she wasn’t. You really want to find a shower after you watch that video the first time. It’s disgusting.”

I added the italics.

Even one of the people who convicted these perverts still feels that the victim holds some of the blame.

I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in not putting oneself into situations that can hold risk greater than one wants to bear. BUT with attitudes like this still around, it seems that just being a woman is the risk. I do not support underage drinking at all, but it seems that girls aren't supposed to go to parties. They aren't supposed to talk to males on the telephone. Women of any age are still not supposed to dress in a way that could create too much sexual interest from a man. With all the different tastes and fetishes that people hold, one could dress as modestly as a nun and still arouse prurient interest. Again I could go on and on about all the simple, daily things that can be used to say a woman contributed to her being raped.

I am angry about this. I am in mourning. I pray that young woman can find the strength to not let this become the central defining element of her life. I applaud the courage she's had to withstand the years of this trial, the smear campaign lodged against her outside of the courtroom, the illegal publication of her medical records, the intentional public revelation of her identity as the victim of this crime in the school to which she transferred, the smears against her character.

I'm angry that people say that feminism is no longer needed, and that there is true equality between the sexes. I'm angry at every porn magazine, book and website that glamourizes sexual violence and victimization. I'm angry at everybody who willingly participates in the same thing. I'm angry at the people who just don't get that rape really is a crime. I'm angry at women I've known and those I don't know who have casually and falsely claimed rape as a way of getting attention, getting revenge on some guy or some other personal issue. They have minimized the seriousness with which rape needs to be treated.

As a Christian, I am called to forgive as I have been forgiven. Reaching for that is hard, very hard, right now. I find myself wishing that these three young men who will be going to prison are pretty, pretty boys. I feel the acid heat of hatred for all rapists everywhere. I know that I need to reach deeper to find the forgiveness I need to exercise. I know that extending forgiveness doesn't mean denying that justice needs to be served. I know that I can't really forgive, nor is it my place to forgive, something or someone that hasn't personally affected me. I can however come to peace with my feelings and strive to find the love for others in the primary commandment of my religion. This is one of those times when being a Christian is hard.



9 Comments:

Blogger Theresa Williams said...

It's worth being angry about. Lame Deer, a holy man, once said anger is a good thing, as important as food, and it can lead to love in the end.

March 15, 2006 3:02 PM  
Blogger Wenda said...

Cynthia, Thanks for sharing this story, your anger and your struggles with forgiveness. This matters to me.

March 15, 2006 10:02 PM  
Blogger V said...

Powerfully stated, & so very important.
Thanks,
V

March 16, 2006 6:03 AM  
Blogger Judith HeartSong said...

x always used to say that women who were raped probably asked for it in some way... he knew my history.

We can never be silent.

March 16, 2006 1:03 PM  
Blogger gigi said...

I am well-acquaited with the Haidl case as it is a local story - one of wealthy, privileged young men; the corruption of their parents and the inhuman abuse of a helpless young woman. It is worthy of every decent person's outrage. I'm sorry that yours comes with personal experience, and appreciate your courage in coming to terms so powerfully as a woman.

I feel no need or cause for forgiveness for this particular crime. 6 years was too short a sentence. Let 'em rot, the nasty little creeps. (Sometimes, being a heathen is easy... ;)

Excellent post, Cynthia. Well written and passionately argued.

March 16, 2006 6:29 PM  
Blogger Vicky said...

Cynthia: I, too, am well acquainted with this horrible example of entitlement and violence, since it occurred in Southern California. One of the saddest aspects is that it has taken several years to get to this point. The perpetrators were sixteen at the time, I believe. I could go on for hours about the sickness that led to this crime, but shan't hijack your blog. What I shall say is that I am so sorry that you had to go through your rape experience, and that you are to be congratulated for working through what is such a violation.

There is no easy answer, but we have to remain vigilant, and educate our children, both boys and girls. I have taught my sons to STOP immediately a woman says no, regardless of whether they think she may be teasing. Of course there is more to it, but it's a start.

Thank you for this thought-provoking entry, my dear.

Love, Vicky

March 16, 2006 11:55 PM  
Blogger Celeste said...

This makes me sick. Like you I hope they are pretty boys! I also hope they are not going to a white collar prison! They need to go where ALL the hard core cases go.
I find forgiveness hard for this also.

March 17, 2006 1:35 PM  
Blogger Virginia said...

I'm not sure what to say here. You have said already what needs to be said. This crime is one of many sicknesses within our society that is so out of balance and so out of touch. Thank you for sharing and speaking out.

Peace, Virginia

March 18, 2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger dreaminglily said...

Wonderful post. I completely understand what you said. Someone very dear to me was raped when she was a young teen, by a boy she barely knew. She's much older now and still has panic attacks in certain situations, still struggles with eating disorders fed by her rape, and still feels ugly, even though she's beautiful.

Rape never really goes away. I can't stand people that make it so simple, such an ordinary thing. Rapists have no rights in my opinion. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in this.

March 19, 2006 8:46 PM  

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