By: Tonya B. Lewis
Rape has been a problem for centuries. No other crime tears at the fabric, conscience and collective spirit of a community or family than rape. Case in point, the story of the Biblical king David is mired by the rape of his daughter, Tamar, by her half-brother, which ultimately destroyed David’s family. Just the very word is an affront to most people’s senses. Over time, the word has been anesthetized by referring to it as sexual assault, sexual abuse and molestation.
During college, I volunteered with a sexual assault awareness group, and we performed monologues about rape to an audience of college freshmen. I loved those gut-wrenching performances because I thought that, just maybe, we were preventing rape and providing resources and hope to rape survivors.
At one particular performance, I shared my “story.” It was a monologue I had rehearsed. It wasn’t my story, but it was someone’s story (and that made it real to me). During that session, a young woman began crying, got up and left. I quickly finished the monologue, and the group facilitator and I sought out the woman. She tearfully explained how she had been raped a few month’s prior by her boss. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, she told us that she wasn’t sure she had been raped until she heard my monologue. She had said, “No,” but because she didn’t fight, yell or scream, she thought it wasn’t technically rape. In her mind, her soft, defiant, “No, please stop,” justified her being raped. As I listened to her story, I felt a mixture of anger and sadness. She was worried about how she would be viewed if the details of her attack became known. She blamed herself for that glass of alcohol she drank that night. She wondered if she had invited or caused her own attack. She feared if she went to trial how she would be portrayed. She questioned if she should report the rape and “ruin” her attacker’s life.
The rape is horrific. The aftermath is traumatic.
Most have heard comments about rape victims such as “She asked for it,” “Look at how she was dressed,” and “She shouldn’t have gotten drunk.” That’s tantamount to re-victimizing a rape survivor all over again. In her article, “Monsters, playboys, virgins and whores: Rape myths in the new media’s coverage of sexual violence,” Shannon O’Hara analyzes the case of an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, Texas who was allegedly raped by as many as 28 men ranging in age from 14 to 27-years-old. O’Hara mentions a New York Times article that stated that the victim “dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s” almost implying that the 11-year-old victim was at fault.
My flashback to the young lady who was raped in college and the 11-year-old girl was brought on by the case of another young rape victim, Cherice Moralez. Cherice was 14-years-old when she was raped by her then 49-year old teacher, Stacey Rambold. In 2010, Cherice committed suicide while the court case was pending.
This week, Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison and excused all but 31 days of the sentence and gave him credit for one day served. In essence, Rambold will serve 30 additional days in prison for the rape of a 14-year-old girl. What defies further understanding is Baugh’s explanation of the ruling. He asserts that Cherice, was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold. Not only is Baugh’s ruling a miscarriage of justice, it enforces one of the myths of rape that the victim is solely at fault. His ruling also sends a dangerous message to rape victims and assailants that rape is a crime that will virtually go unpunished. (more…)