First reactions first.
Anna: so basically, it’s not about the woman’s story about the actual alleged rape changing or lacking credibility … it’s that she no longer fits the profile of the perfect victim. ARGH. Hate this shit.
Anna: (one minute later) even if she’s an illegal immigrant or has been involved in other, totally unconnected criminal activities, that doesn’t mean she can’t be raped and doesn’t deserve to be protected or recompensed after it happens. ARGH.
Hanna: (as always, honing in on the political strategery) well, in larger terms: they manuevered the french woman they wanted into his job; his political career is finished. he no longer needs to go to jail at all. therefore why bother?
As I write this post at 3:50pm, The Guardian is making further claims about how tightly the worries about the accuser’s credibility are linked to the actual case. So this is obviously a still-unfolding story and none of us Harpies have time for trenchant analysis today. For now, I want to share a couple of trenchant blog posts that tackle the issue of accuser credibility in sexual assault cases, and the practical reality that our judicial system basically demands a perfect victim in order to consider the accusation of sexual assault worthy of full consideration.
One of my favorite posts came this morning from Dana Goldstein, and reads in its entirety:
Drug dealers can get raped.
Prostitutes can get raped.
Undocumented immigrants can get raped.
Women who enjoy sex can get raped.
(Of course, I have no idea what really happened in the DSK case. Just some thoughts to keep in mind.)
Jill @ Feministe nails it, as always:
Even though these aren’t the typical “she’s a slut” attacks (although I’m counting down the minutes until someone suggests she’s a prostitute who had sex with DSK for money), there’s still an unreasonable level of virtue that we demand from any woman who says she was raped. This woman, like a lot of folks, has lied to save her own ass under dire circumstances. She called someone in jail to discuss the pros and cons of going forward with the rape accusations — something that sounds questionable unless you consider that the incarcerated person may have been her closest confidante, and I would certainly have that exact same conversation with my best friend if I were thinking of getting embroiled in a criminal case. There’s still physical evidence of sex, and physical evidence of assault. But it doesn’t matter, since she owns five cell phones (DSK owns seven) and lied about an unrelated issue and has some shady friends. Nothing that has come out about her indicates that she wasn’t raped. It just indicates that she’s no longer our ideal victim, and that’s enough to prevent the case from going forward.
My issue actually isn’t with the prosecutor’s office (although it is a little bit) so much as the media response. Even progressive media outlets are making egregious logical leaps, suggesting that she’s probably lying because, well, she just probably is. The reason it’s nearly impossible for the prosecution to pursue these charges, even though there’s no evidence that she lied about anything related to the actual events surrounding the alleged crime, is because we live in a culture where rape victims need to be flawless in order to be believed. We live in a culture where it’s damn near impossible for any woman, when her life is held up to the light, to be considered innocent. We live in a culture where we think it’s even reasonable to question a rape victim’s “innocence” in the first place. We live in a culture where accusers of high-profile men undergo even more scrutiny than usual from a media hungry for a story and playing by an old rule book. And we live in a culture where the public destruction of every woman who makes a rape accusation is used as fodder in subsequent rape cases, establishing a cycle where we believe that women must be lying because the women before her were lying, so we feel justified in going out of our way to find any scrap of evidence that might indicate she has ever done anything ever in her life that we might find unsavory even if it has nothing to do with the case at hand, and then we use that to determine that she’s not credible, and then we use has as another example of how women lie about rape. And then powerful men are even more emboldened and feel more justified in treating women like garbage.
Read the whole thing at Feministe.
I basically have no more coherent thoughts at the moment other than ARGH ARGH RAPE CULTURE ARGH!!! I think this is a writ-in-neon-lights example of how a culture in which sexual assault is not taken seriously unless its victims are virginal white girls, how a culture that holds women who enjoy or have ever consented to sex in any context can never be raped, how a culture that has a “boys will be boys” attitude toward male perpetrators of sexual violence does come home in a practical sense within our criminal justice system, no matter what laws we have on the books. Because regardless of laws against rape that are race/class/nationality/etc. blind … some individuals will be given the support of those laws to gain protection and/or recompense, while others will not. Because as a culture we support inequal justice.