I am a survivor of sexual assaults--yes, the plural is appropriate in my case. None of them resulted in a prosecution of anyone. How can I possibly explain with words how this has affected who I am. If I could remove just one experience from all that I've gone through in this life, it wouldn't be having cancer or lupus. It would be being a victim of sexual assault.
The cancer and lupus? I can deal with the stigma associated with being a person with disabilities. However, as much as I am against putting a hierarchy on oppressions, being known as someone who has been raped is just worse for me. So why am I talking about it here? Well, I think this is one of those times where I simply can not sit back in my comfort zone.
On September 20, in Philadelphia, PA, Dominique Gindraw and three of his friends raped a woman at gunpoint. Even though there was ample proof that it occurred, the judge who presided over the preliminary hearing decided to drop all of the sexual assault charges against Gindraw. Why? Because the victim had previously agreed to have sex with the defendant in exchange for money.
So, what did Judge Deni order the defendant be charged with instead? Armed robbery. She decided that what had occurred was not rape but actually "theft of services". Never mind the fact that she never consented to have sex with all of these men. Never mind the fact that they forced her to have sex with them at gunpoint. According to Deni, "She consented and she didn't get paid . . . I thought it was a robbery." When asked about this case, Teresa Carr Deni says she slept well that night after issuing her ruling. Well, I bet we're all glad to hear that, right?
This is outrageous! This judge is absolutely incompetent. Fortunately, the people of Philadelphia have the ability to do something about it. Tomorrow, Philadelphians going to the polls will have the chance to decide whether or not they want to give Teresa Carr Deni six more years to misapply and ignore the laws she is getting paid nearly $150,000 a year to uphold.
What this judge did hurts all women in that it makes it more difficult for any of us to get justice from the courts. When she has been victimized by the rapist, a woman is already forced to give all sorts of irrelevant information about her sex life anytime she makes an accusation of rape. Then, to have to go before a judge who claims that a woman being gang-raped at gunpoint is nothing more than a theft of services...Well, how many women do you think would be willing to put themselves through that? I'm not even a sex worker and I know I wouldn't.
The humiliation and mental anguish associated with being raped is excruciating even when you're the only one who knows it occurred. How can we get the rapists off the streets if we allow judges to send the message that it's okay to rape a woman as long as you think she would have willingly had sex with you under different conditions?
When it's your innocent little sister or your single mom out on a date and the guy rapes her at gunpoint, do you think you'll be okay with that argument?
See more here and here.
By the way, did I mention the fact that Dominique Gindraw went on to rape another woman at gunpoint four days later?