“A Complete Travesty of Justice”

by Cara on May 11, 2008

in assholes, courts, education and schools, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, slut-shaming, violence against women and girls

A grand jury has found that there is not enough evidence to move forward in the De Anza rape case (trigger warning for this link and the rest of the post).

I am so angry that I can hardly see straight.

Allow me to jog your memory. This would be the case of gang rape where nine men allegedly attacked an unconscious teenage girl while she was covered in her own vomit. This would be the case where three very brave other girls forced their way inside the room, rescued the victim and took her to a hospital.

What we have here is one of the most clear-cut kind of rape cases in existance: the victim was unconscious, had to be taken to the hospital, and there were three eye witnesses to the crime. Normally, you hear “it’s her word against his, no one knows what happened in there.” You’ll hear the lack of impartial witnesses as an excuse for acquittal or even lack of an arrest. Here, there were eye witnesses. Three of them. And are we on our way to a conviction? No. These nine men will walk free to happily live the rest of their worthless rapist lives.

In short, rape apologism shifts. When it’s a “date rape” people will say “how do we know she didn’t consent? It’s not like she’s covered in bruises.” When she’s covered in bruises, the victim in question will simply “like it rough.” When the woman is unconscious and therefore can’t just “like it rough,” she will be accused of misidentifying her attacker, or people will argue “well, she didn’t say no.” When she does say no, it’s “why didn’t she fight? He didn’t have a weapon.” When she did fight back or he did have a weapon, it’s “well there’s no DNA evidence.” When there’s DNA evidence, it’s “well he probably did it, but it’s not like there were any witnesses . . .” When there are witnesses, three of them in fact, who are willing and eager to testify?

When there are witnesses, they just won’t be allowed up on the fucking stand (emphasis mine).

Santa Clara County prosecutors never sought the grand jury testimony of three young women who rescued a 17-year-old girl allegedly being sexually assaulted at a house party hosted by members of the De Anza College baseball team, two of the women said Monday.

“We think our statements should have been heard,” said Lauren Chief Elk in her first public comments since state prosecutors announced Friday they backed an earlier decision by Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr not to pursue charges in the case.

“We were never asked to be in front of a grand jury,” April Grolle said. “I don’t really understand the decision.”

Both women, now 21, expressed their frustration at a lack of prosecution that Chief Elk called “a complete travesty of justice.”

Carr spokesman Nick Muyo declined to comment on why the women were not asked to testify before the grand jury, saying that Santa Clara County prosecutors would not comment on the case beyond a statement released Friday that did not address the grand jury process or other issues.

Grand juries are panels that prosecutors can convene in secret to seek an indictment when a crime is suspected.

Carr and prosecutors at state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office have both said there was insufficient evidence to prove the alleged victim, identified only as Jane Doe, was sexually assaulted at the alcohol-soaked party in March 2007.

Yeah, insufficient evidence. I imagine there would be, if you don’t present any real evidence at all.

There is a hell of a lot to say about this case. I can remind you how hard the victim and her supporters had to fight to even get her case examined. I can remind you of the disgusting, inhuman and inexcusable comments made about the victim. We can talk about the irresponsibility of the prosecutors and the politics they’re playing. We can talk about how fucking stupid they were to grant three accused men immunity, apparently without guaranteeing and insisting that they would testify against their co-rapists. We can talk about how they were probably fucking stupid enough to grant immunity to the one man who all of the three witnesses could identify, seeing as how his ass isn’t being charged either.

We can talk about that. I hope and think that others will. But I want to talk about this:

Lately, I’ve been hearing a hell of a lot about “real rape,” About how using the word “rape” to describe a silly little thing like your boyfriend raping you is trivializing real rape. About how committing rape without a struggle is “wrong,” but you know, promoting those cases over the really brutal ones just hurts us. It makes anti-rape activists look “hysterical,” in fact. “Hey,” these folks say, “we want to stop rape, too! But let’s just focus on the really, really bad ones of my personal choosing so that I don’t have to face the fact that I know a lot of women who have been raped/I have been raped/I might be a rapist.”

There will always be an excuse. If there is one thing to take away from this horrifying miscarriage of justice — and maybe I’m grasping at straws, because I feel like there needs to be something — it is this. No matter what the case, there will always be one that is “worse.” There will always be some way to inspire doubt. There will always be “insufficient evidence.” The woman will have always “wanted it.” Always. I promise you.

And this is why we can’t let these assholes sway us. It’s easy, when feeling like the entire world is against you and your cause to become paranoid and start wondering if maybe they have a point. Maybe spending time on less heinous crimes is a waste. Maybe your own rape wasn’t really all that bad. Maybe you ought to let this one go.

But it’s not so. And the De Anza case is the reason why.

Rape apologism shifts. It’s not static, and this bears repeating. Its a means of protecting an entire culture, an entire legal system and an entire power structure. Of course the excuses and defenses for it will change as needed. It’s a survival strategy. And those using it are fighting for the survival of their right to rape, or for their continued belief in the world as they know and understand it.

There were nine men in that room. We don’t know how many of them actually committed rape — and how many of them didn’t get their “chance” — but standing there and watching a woman be raped, not doing anything to stop it, probably getting off on it, makes you the equivalent of a fucking rapist in my book. Three women saw it. Three women did the right thing. Three women who did not know the victim, had never met her, had nothing to gain and their own safety to lose by intervening. They were brave enough to see and not ignore, brave enough to act and brave enough to speak.

They were brave, and our society is fucking cowardly. The rapists go free and will be declared victims of an over-zealous legal system, the victim will be branded a liar, and more and more men horrible enough to entertain the idea will realize just how goddamn easy it is to get away with rape.

And there will be millions of excuses about how this is okay.

By letting the “less bad” rapes go, by accepting the excuses, we’re not just selling out the women who are actually representative of most rape victims. We’re not just selling out victims of date rape, intimate partner rape and acquaintance rape. We’re not just selling out the women who didn’t fight back. We’re also selling out the woman here, who will have to live her life knowing that the nine men responsible for her rape while she was passed out, ill and helpless, have been vindicated by our judicial system. Because this ploy that ignoring the more common rapes will help victims of the more heinous ones, it’s all a lie. And it has worked. The way that law enforcement, district attorneys offices, judges, juries and members of the community ignore some rapes lends credibility to the idea that the crime isn’t really so bad. By “letting go” of some rapes our society has effectively managed to let go of all of them. Once the arguments are given merit, you can keep on applying them to just about anything.

Including the victims who these apologists claim they’re trying to help. Including cases with impartial witnesses. Someone tell me: if three witnesses can’t get a rape conviction, what the fuck can? And when will the excuses stop?

Story via SAFER

UPDATE: This column will enrage you (particularly the end), but it’s important because it provides a couple of additional key facts.  On the extremely terrifying and disturbing side, the vomit that the victim was covered in is very strongly alleged to not be her own.  On the positive side, the victim is filing a civil suit.  Thanks Nick.

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{ 29 comments }

1 SunlessNick May 11, 2008 at 6:58 pm

while she was covered in her own vomit.

It’s worse than that; she was covered in other people’s vomit. She other people’s vomit in her mouth. She was too incapacitated to retch someone else’s vomit out of her mouth. I haven’t the slightest doubt those three women saved her life.

No matter what the case, there will always be one that is “worse.” There will always be some way to inspire doubt. There will always be “insufficient evidence.” The woman will have always “wanted it.”

There will always be some reason why what happened is an aberration, why the rapist isn’t really “like that” and shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush as “real rapists.”

Like the last few paragraphs of this article:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2008/05/06/ED0F10H5QA.DTL.

Hell with that. You rape someone, and that IS what you’re like.

When there are witnesses, they just won’t be allowed up on the fucking stand.

And I don’t want to think it’s deliberate, but I can’t help it. The rapists were either on the baseball team, or in that stratum – either way, they are men our society is set up to lionise – and I can’t help but believe a choice was made not to risk finding evidence against them.

Because the good name of such men is just too fucking precious to risk.

2 Cara May 11, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Thank you for that link, Nick — it’s enraging but also important, so I added it to the post.

I don’t want to think that this has anything to do with the rapists’ positions on the baseball team either. But I’m almost entirely convinced that it does.

3 Dolores Shade May 11, 2008 at 8:24 pm

I’m lucky: I’ve never been raped. I’m also ashamed: In the past I’ve minimized “certain kinds” of rape, rationalizing just like any other rape apologist. I actually said aloud (in front of people I now wish had talked some sense into me) that misogyny is an overused term. I want to go back in time and shake the woman who thought those things, who said those things. I’m so glad there are sites like yours, Cara, that talk sense into people like me, who grab us by the shoulders, look us in the eye and “You’re wrong. And this is why.”

Some rape apologists are beyond hope. But as ashamed as I am of what I’ve said and done in the past, my perception of reality *has* changed. I wasn’t a hopeless case.

Thank you.

4 SunlessNick May 11, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Thank you for that link, Nick

Thankyou, but it’s Kathy the guest blogger at Shakesville that deserves the credit on finding it (which I ought to have mentioned in my first comment).

Lately, I’ve been hearing a hell of a lot about “real rape,”

“Real rape” in these arguments is a platonic ideal, with abtracted perpetrators, victims, and circumstances that are never going to fit any actual combination of perpetrators, victims, and circumstances. And as is the way with platonic ideals, any deviation of an actual rape from from the abstract is deemed to make it less rather than more real.

5 Lyndsay May 11, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Wow. That I just don’t get. The prosecutors didn’t let the witnesses speak? You mean the people who are supposed to try to get the rapists convicted? I mean what did they learn in law school?

“Rape apologism shifts. It’s not static, and this bears repeating. Its a means of protecting an entire culture, an entire legal system and an entire power structure. Of course the excuses and defenses for it will change as needed.”

I just wrote an essay about this, well, specifically about the recent miscommunication myth. In one study 50% of women labeled an experience meeting the legal definition of rape as a miscommunication and thought they probably could’ve refused better. What will it take for people to realize men aren’t stupid? Certain men are rapists but men have been found to communicate refusal and acceptance of sex in much the same way women do. Gah. Must get truth out there. But if cases like this don’t wake people up, what can? I see why the conviction rate is so low if men like this aren’t convicted. :S

6 Cara May 11, 2008 at 10:01 pm

Exceedingly nice of you to give credit, Nick, but “finding” a link is always rather subjective. I like Shakesville a lot but honestly don’t have the time to read through its high volume of posts, so I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. So thanks still. :)

Dolores, thanks for sharing. It’s always great to hear stories like that. It’s also hard to admit your past mistakes, but I think it’s important to remember that intelligent people can in fact be saved from their own ignorance. When I was a teenager (and it bears noting, before I started having sex), I thought that women who had an unintended pregnancy should give birth even if she didn’t want to, not because I believed that a fetus was a unique and special life that needed to be saved, but because it was about “responsibility.” And I already thought of myself as a feminist! When dealing with people who aren’t absolute nutcases about the issue, I try to remember that I too was once a total ass.

Lyndsay, I’ve seen the same/similar studies. The ones involving men are a lot worse though. I’m too lazy to dig it up now (it’s linked to somewhere on this blog), but one study I’ve seen showed that around 84% of men who committed acts that fit the legal definition of rape did not think that “rape” was the right word to describe what they did. What’s particularly scary, of course, is that I know how pathetic the legal definition of rape can be, so once you factor in the rapes that are rapes but the law just doesn’t recognize, the numbers are bound to get even more terrifying.

7 Lyndsay May 12, 2008 at 4:51 am

Something else occurred to me. How people don’t only try to excuse rape with an unconscious girl but when doing this, they are also excusing the man for not helping the girl. What if she had alcohol poisoning? If a girl passed out in front of people, would they excuse the people for not helping? If she died would these people be excused? Somehow I think they’d be less likely to blame the victim then? But if men do this instead of nothing, there is no justice? There is something wrong when a girl is unconscious from alcohol.
No one should drink that much for health reasons but when alcohol is treated like sex (don’t talk about it, don’t do it till you’re moved out and I won’t see it) I can’t exactly blame people for not knowing their limit.

8 RedMountain May 12, 2008 at 8:55 am

My understanding is that the grand jury in this case was not asked to make a decision on an indictment. It was used only to compel testimony. The DA didn’t want the GJ to indict because she did not want to prosecute the case. Granting immunity to three of the 9 men involved was a major ‘mistake’.

9 Emma May 12, 2008 at 9:59 am

I can’t believe the last article you linked to the comment:

“Is it in society’s interest to prosecute kids who are months older than Jane Doe for doing things in an alcohol-fueled atmosphere that they never would have done sober or alone? I think there’s reasonable doubt.”

Makes my blood boil.

10 Kristen May 12, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I absolutely cannot believe this. I CANNOT believe this. Who is this DA, because I will right now give $500 to whoever is running against this person in the next election. Unfucking acceptable.

My husband’s response to this was (at least to me) most enlightening. He said (to paraphrase) that men who rape, regardless of whether its violent or whatever, think of women as public toilets. Use them if they’re available. There may be a limit to the effort they’re willing to expend to make the “object” available…but they all think the same damn thing.

I hope the civil suit destroys their lives.

11 Cara May 12, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Kristen,

The DA is Dolores Carr. She buried the case originally, but a huge outcry from the victim and her supporters (friends, the witnesses, anti-rape organizations) got the sheriff to reopen the case. She also refused any explanations for why she dropped the case to begin with. She’s clearly very, very resentful of having to do her fucking job when it involves things that may be even remotely politically unpopular. I don’t know if she’s up for reelection, but I sure fucking hope that she is.

12 Kristen May 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Cara,

She was a judge?!? OMG. Well, the most recent election was held in 2006, so she’s probably in office for at least a few more years. I wonder if there is an impeachment process…

13 Cara May 12, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Was she a judge at one point? I didn’t see that.

14 Kristen May 12, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Cara,

link

::Vomit::

“Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney (1985-2000)

* Supervising Deputy, Sexual Assault Unit”

15 Cara May 12, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Supervising Deputy, Sexual Assault Unit????? *tries to breathe*

16 Kristen May 12, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Cara,

Seriously…those poor victims. God knows what cases she actually *prosecuted* if THIS case isn’t good enough.

Ah yes, I forgot…it’s only rape if its a stranger, he used his penis to penetrate you, you were in a safe neighborhood, you were not attending anything so slutty as a party, you were a virgin, you were wearing not-too-tight jeans and a baggy shirt, you are not too pretty or too ugly, you have not ever had a drink, you fought until you were seriously injured, you immediately report it, and you are willing to put yourself through the secondary torture of a trial.

17 Cara May 12, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Ooops, Kristen, you did really well but forgot one thing. Let me correct it for you:

Ah yes, I forgot…it’s only rape if its a stranger, he used his penis to penetrate you, you were in a safe neighborhood, you were not attending anything so slutty as a party, you were a virgin, you were wearing not-too-tight jeans and a baggy shirt, you are not too pretty or too ugly, you have not ever had a drink, you fought until you were seriously injured, you immediately report it, and you are willing to put yourself through the secondary torture of a trial.*

*Maybe

18 sabrina May 12, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Ah yes, I forgot…it’s only rape if its a stranger, he used his penis to penetrate you, you were in a safe neighborhood, you were not attending anything so slutty as a party, you were a virgin, you were wearing not-too-tight jeans and a baggy shirt, you are not too pretty or too ugly, you have not ever had a drink, you fought until you were seriously injured, you immediately report it, and you are willing to put yourself through the secondary torture of a trial.*

*Maybe

*** I’d like to add, only if your rapist is not an upper middle class white athlete who is your hick town’s only chance at winning state.

***I’d also like to add that your case will be more acceptable if they can pin it on an undocumented worker. Then even Republican men will go on T.V. and rail about rape in our culture, and make the solution that it will be better if we can deport 20 million people and spend millions building a wall.

19 Cara May 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm

I’d like to add, only if your rapist is not an upper middle class white athlete who is your hick town’s only chance at winning state.

Of course, the victim also has to be white and middle class, in addition to meeting all of the other criteria. When it comes to “real rape” status, women of color and all poor women who meet the other criteria need not apply.

20 SunlessNick May 12, 2008 at 6:20 pm

The DA didn’t want the GJ to indict because she did not want to prosecute the case.

It’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. To not even listen to the witnesses. Sorry; to not even listen to the witnesses who interrupted the crime and rescued the victim, while apparently listening to witnesses who were watching and enjoying the crime.

And yet somehow, there are still people who claim the law is skewed against men.

21 whatsername May 13, 2008 at 1:59 am

I sent a rather scathing email to the writer of that fucking column.

Reasonable doubt?!?!

This is coming from the same state’s attorney who convicted my husband (when he was a kid (18), with absolutely no priors or anything even close) of “illegal sex with a minor” for consensual intercourse so that he has to register here for the rest of his life.

Oh but we can be all gung fucking ho about that, but not an assault witnessed by MULTIPLE PEOPLE.

I fucking hate this state.

22 Rachel May 13, 2008 at 9:54 am

I’m sorry – did anyone else see the part in that linked column where it said:
Hammer contends that Carr should have pressed charges against a man whom all three women say tried to keep them from rescuing Doe…

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I mean, really, I shouldn’t be surprised. But Sweet Jesus, I am horrified.

23 Cara May 13, 2008 at 10:47 am

Rachel — is the anger over the fact that they didn’t press charges against this guy, or the fact that he tried to prevent them from entering the room (or both)? Just wondering.

24 Rachel May 13, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Cara, that’d be a big fat YES. There’s no distinction in my mind – that someone would try to prevent intervention, and then that the someones “in charge” in a greater sense of the phrase would choose to look the other way? You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

Really.

25 Sara May 15, 2008 at 10:09 am

This is coming from the same state’s attorney who convicted my husband (when he was a kid (18), with absolutely no priors or anything even close) of “illegal sex with a minor” for consensual intercourse so that he has to register here for the rest of his life.

I’m sorry but I cant let this stand. This is bullshit. On one hand you decry the De Anza case, yet in the same breath you defend statutory rape as “consensual intercourse”

Thats bullshit. An 18 year old having sex with someone under age is fucking RAPE.

26 mary May 15, 2008 at 11:59 am

you are so, so right about the shifts in rape apology.

27 SunlessNick May 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm

that someone would try to prevent intervention

What he apparently said at the time was that she (the victim) wanted to be in there. Crap – if that were the case, he’d have no reason to keep the three women out – the only reason to do that was complicity.

28 Scotty May 16, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I’m stuck for words on this one, Cara. The excuse list you displayed is compelling and after following this one for a while, I felt sure the young lady in question would surely see justice; how can justice be served when eye witness testimony isn’t even allowed? It boggles the mind.

29 StrongLady December 6, 2008 at 1:14 pm

The DA uses “insufficient evidence” as an excuse to not pursue any case which is not an easy win. A jury and a courtroom is not really given the chance to decide upon the evidence because it does not make it there. There can be a lot of evidence but when the DA feels that jury prejudice against the victim because she was drinking or dressed sexy will make it more challenging, they don’t even try.

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