“Because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.” It was in Italy where an 18 year old girl was taken out for her first driving lesson by her 45 year old driving instructor. He took her too an isolated road, threatened her life, and raped the young girl. Her attacker was arrested, prosecuted, convicted of the crime, and then sentenced to jail. The convicted rapist then appealed the case. The Italian Supreme Court heard his appeal, and as a result the case was overturned and dismissed. The rapist was set free on the defense that because the girl’s pants were so tight, she had to help him remove them, therefore by removing them she consented to having sex with him. No one was there but the victim and the attacker to say whether she helped remove her jeans or not, but even if she did, her life was threatened. That is scary enough. Perhaps she saw submitting as a way to keep alive. Whatever the case may be, because of this another rapist let off because another “excusable” defense. There are many other excusable defenses to rape. All of which are formulated by men. For instance, “you can’t thread a moving needle,” meaning if she moves then there’s no way she can be penetrated, and if she was penetrated, then she did not move. By not moving, she gave her consent. Another defense is that a woman cannot be raped by her husband. A husband raping their wife is like “pocketing your own pocket” or “stealing your own car,” as if a woman is signing over her body and right to deny sex when she gets marries, as if a woman signs herself over to be her husband’s sex slave readily. Forbid a woman is raped and gets pregnant, because according to Republican Todd Akins, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has a way to shut that whole thing down.” His statement is not supported by any scientific facts, by the way. If a woman gets pregnant, then there had to have been feelings of excitement or lust because according to him, those feelings are necessary to be present otherwise a woman can’t get pregnant. All that is supposed to translate to be: If she got pregnant, she enjoyed it or felt excitement, if she felt excitement, then she was not raped; it was enjoyable. These are the voices of men who desensitize rape with their own interpretations of the crime. A crime they cannot define because only a victim can defend whether they are raped or not. Why is it that men have the chance to appeal and be set free, as in the case in Italy.
To understand the issue in this, it is important to understand what rape is and what it is not. There are many myths that say rape only happens to “certain kinds of people,” in only particular places or times of day. There is a myth that woman are only raped by strangers. You’ve watched the Law and Order episode where the man grabs the woman from behind, throws her in an alley, and sexually assaults her at night while no one is out to hear her muffled cries. There are myths that all women secretly fantasize about being raped, and that rape is not that big of a rape or that a woman can stop a rape from happening if she really wanted to stop it. While I am on the victims’ defense, let’s not leave the myth that men cannot be raped, because men too can and are raped. All of those myths and beliefs are untrue. Rape can happen any time, any place, and to any person. The Law and Order rape scene is less likely to happen, because the attacker is more than often not a random stranger. The victim is less than likely in a “wrong place wrong time” scenario. The attacker is usually someone that the victim knows or is close to. The effects of rape are too big a deal to be blown off as “not a big crime.”
Rape is a violent crime. It is unwanted, nonconsensual forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, and oral penetration. Penetration may be done by a body part of a foreign object. If a woman does not consent or cannot consent, then she was raped. Cases that she could not consent would be in situations where she may be knocked out, or under some sort of influence such as alcohol. Consent is willing participation, based on choice, active not passive, based on equal power, and is given not assumed. Consent is not given when a person is under a drug or influence of substance, it is not giving in because of fear, or agreeing because of threats, nor purchased. Rape includes more than violation of the body, but violation of ones will. It is as much about power and control as it is about sex. The crime is very violent and degrading. It carries life altering and damaging effects. It is not a crime to be desensitized, by men especially. There is a term coined for men who do say insensitive things towards rape, who are called rape apologists.
Rape apologists argue that rape is infrequent, misreported, over-reported, or excusable in cases of married couples or in such cases where a woman was provocatively dressed. Rape is actually a very frequent and underreported crime. It is negative attitudes like these that lead to the underreporting of the crime. The 1990 case in Italy is only one case that a man tries to appeal his rape sentence. More recent, the March 2013 Steubenville rape, two teens were found guilty of raping a 16 years old drunk girl. One man is appealing with the defense that his brain is not fully developed. If that does not already sound ludicrous, it is the attitudes surrounding the case that are even more disappointing. One man says: “It wasn’t a brutal rape, and although these young men took advantage of her and fingered her, she put herself in that position especially drinking to the point of no memory. When it comes down to it, it’s on you.” In the same sentence that this man says that rape did occur, and that the young men did take advantage of her, he turns around and still blames the victim. Somehow it is still her fault. Making the victim the bad person and the attacker the victim is only discouraging to women and encouraging to men. Somehow there will always be some kind of defense for a man who rapes a woman, and somehow there will always be a reason why it is the victims fault that she was raped, whether that be because she did not fight hard enough to stop it, her skirt was too high, or she was too drunk to assertively say no. This self blame and humiliation is the reason why a lot of rape crimes or unreported. In regards to rape, one man says “Yes, I know that rape is bad but you have to admit that there a lot of worse things, like terminal disease, loss of a limb, or despair. I know it’s humiliating but when it’s over it’s over, not like cancer.” Another member of the Republican Party has once stated, “If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” In Britain, 70% of respondents feel that the media, the legal system, and society are very unsympathetic to victims of rape. For anyone who has been raped, the negative and insensitive comments stir up a lot of emotions, disbelief, and hopelessness, making it harder for women to come out and report that they have been raped. There have been cases where an attacker has admitted fully to committing the crime, but have gotten off with a “caution.” In 2007, more than 100 rapists were let free with a caution, and served no time because they admitted their guilt.
The effects of rape and the seriousness of the crime seem to not be understood greatly for it to be taken as such a small matter in society, our government, and our own justice system. After being raped, the victim may feel denial, anger, powerlessness, fear, guilt, and shock. These emotions can last a lifetime and can critically effect and impair the rest of their lives. Some victims suffer from PTSD, which is defined as an extreme reaction to a situation which is outside the normal range of most human experience and which would be distressing to almost anyone, such as war, a threat, or an assault. Women who are raped can suffer from extremely low esteem or self hatred. They will tend to suffer from a severe form of depression. Depression is no disorder to take lightly. They may suffer from flashbacks, bringing them right back to the horrifying moment. Anything can trigger a flashback. It can be a face, an area, or even a scent; anything that reminds them of the rape can trigger a flashback. Rape is a traumatizing experience that permanently changes their life. Every rape victim reacts different to their situation but it is a humiliating and degrading experience that is never easy to cope with. It is a terrible crime. Men should not be in place of defining what it is and what it is not, and when it is “okay” or “excusable” and when it is not. Either they are not well informed, or are just too insensitive to the matter. Either problem needs to be corrected because the attitudes cause desensitization of the crime, and let guilty men off who use their power to impair a victim’s life forever.
List of Rape Myths. Unversity of Minnesota. John Hamlin, 3 March 2005. 29 Macrh 2013
Rape trauma as barrier to pregnancy has no scientific basis. Chicago Tribune. Sharon Begley and Susan Heavey. 20 August 2012. 29 March 2013
Sexual Assault and Abuse. Sexual Trauma Services of the Midland. 29 March 2013