Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sexist attitudes when it concerns rape need to be resolved

Today is...

Blog Against Sexism Day

Rape, Women, and Stereotypes
I belong in the school that says rape is never the victim's fault. I can totally understand a woman wanting to get an abortion if she has been raped. Carrying the baby to pregnancy is only another deep psychological scar in the midst of PTSD and these men seem to forget that the last thing a woman needs when she's raped is judgment and blame, excusing the rapists by placing some if not all the blame on the woman. However, I will have total respect for a pro-life woman who carries her child because she will be consistent at least. Nonetheless, I suspect that the majority of pro-life women never consider that rape will happen to them. We are trained to believe that rape only happens to sluts who are "asking for it." The attitude is similar in countries where honor killing is rampant. People who kill their sisters for being raped say that "a rapist would NEVER target any respectable woman, it's only the sluts and whores."

The Right in this country has framed the debate, especially in cases of rape by labeling women as promiscuous vixens who had it coming to them. In our culture, men often get the impression that women are loose, that they really don't mean it when they say no. We tend to see that perhaps this woman really WANTS to have sex with us if they accompany us to our hotel rooms at 3 am. This attitude goes back even to the days of the ancient Greeks where lyric poets viewed women as animals needed to be tamed (with that implication is that women are promiscuous and marriage "tames" them and other portrayals showing them as having insatiable sexual appetites such as the women in Lysistrata. One of the most famous poems was that of Semonides who compared women to animals and listed all their faults. The only kind of woman he spared was the bee who much like many on the right's ideals keeps house and does her job as a housekeeper. Our attitudes when it comes to women need to change as they are akin to attitudes of those in countries where honor killings are condoned. I cannot think of another crime where the victim is blamed. I cannot think of another crime where we make excuses for the perpetrator of the crime.

The fact is the last thing a rape victim needs is pointing the finger and casting blame. In fact the clergy needs to be called out on this. I'm sick and tired of hearing about rape victims forced to do penance for "putting themselves in the wrong situation" as if that excuses the rapist from any wrong-doing. The lawyer in the video rapist case said that he wasn't trying to impugn the reputation of the victim and said yeah, she didn't do anything wrong, it was an innocent mistake. However, he has already done his damage to the point where the victim was blamed for her own rape. If it was consentual, why did the rapists have to write degrading words like Slut on her while she was passed out? Why did they have to flee?

I would like to turn to another topic...
Alcohol and date rape
I hear the attitude that a raped woman who gets drunk is asking for sex. Why else would she get drunk? Last time, I checked, no one even a drunk woman wants to be raped. Then there are those who are peer pressured or coerced into drinking. But the man didn't ram the bottle down her throat, did he? Well studies show that peer pressure is harder to resist than you think. Take the studies that show a person who has marked a correct answer will change it if the proctor tells him that everyone else marked another answer. A date rapist will never use outright force in getting his date to drink (Yes it can happen to men too but for simplicity's sake) because that would be too obvious. Most likely, he will start off easy, get his date a drink and then two until she is too drunk to know what's happening. Studies show that an inebriated woman will not recognize cues of aggression while a guy will get more aggressive even if he thinks he is getting drunk and also that most date rapists plan on getting their victims drunk. If we were to assume that neither party is to blame because no consent has been given, then that will just further encourage date rapists to get their victims and themselves drunk, knowing that they would get away with it. These same studies show a double standard in our thinking as we tend to believe that men who are drunk are less responsible for rape than men who are sober while we believe at the same time that women who were drunk are more responsible for their rape than sober women.

Yes, false positives do happen and yes false identifications do occur which is not surprising in such a traumatic tragedy such as rape, but it is not the victim who should be blamed. It is the fault of a lazy system which seeks to convict anyone even if guilt is not established beyond a reasonable doubt. The system can be reformed by not asking leading questions that often change a victim's memory and a photo should only be shown AFTER the victim gives a description. In cases of the video rapist who was acquitted because the lawyer convinced the jury that the victim was drunk, one should assume that no consent means no consent. To those who say that then you can make the argument that BOTH raped each other, that is just ridiculous in the light of studies showing that the majority of date rapists get their victims drunk as a measure to fall back upon if they are hit with repercussions. Too often men are given the impression that if everyone's drunk, there's a grey area when it comes to sex and too often date rapists believe that alcohol is a justification of raping someone. Well Alcohol is NEVER an excuse to rape someone. Why don't you try telling a police officer that you crashed your car into another car, killing the occupants and because you're drunk, you shouldn't be responsible.

False positives
The problem is questioning, especially leading questioning can change memories (Leichtman & Ceci 1995). Also especially when a weapon is involved in a crime such as a rape, the victim has even more of a chance of getting the identification wrong as naturally the victim will be more focused on the weapon rather than trying to see the criminal's features (Steblay, 1992). Nonetheless, the more often a witness repeats and recollects information, whether it's accurate or not, the more confident they become. This often leads to false identifications which means the real criminal is still running loose, and that is what G.L. Wells in his article "What do we know about eyewitness identification?" in 1993 called a double-injustice.

Juries and judges are swayed by the confidence a victim has in her/his testimony and often this leads to tragic results, but I would not go as far to say that many of these are deliberate. I still think that our system needs to be reformed so that we don't lead victims into making false identifications for the convenience of the police department. Many of these falsely accused were victims of an overzealous police department which probably encouraged the victim's testimony along.

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