They had been introduced at the bar by the high school friend she had met there for drinks. As it neared midnight she told her friend that she was ready to go and to stay if she liked when he asked if she could give him a ride home “I don’t live very far.” They both walked out to the parking lot “I’m just giving you a ride home you know, as a friend” she told him peeking at him sideways as they drove away. They arrived shortly after in a neighborhood she had never been to before, he asked her to come up to his place, yet she said no, “even if I wanted to I’m still married.” A sly smile slid onto his face as he reached over and took the keys from the ignition and opened his door. He strode around to her door, opened it, and inquired “now will you come up?” Well now, what choice did a girl have?
Take a minute to gauge your reaction to this paragraph, what tone did it have while you were reading it? Does this sound like the prelude to a romantic night or the opening restatement, in front of a court, of events that led up to a rape? This was the premise of Rusk v. Maryland a situation that occurred where, within the right context, the actions that led up to a rape could have been construed as prelude to an intimate, consensual, sexual encounter.
This seems to be the core problem with many things of this nature, preexisting opinions about people’s backgrounds and lifestyles changes the way we view evidence. As it said in the case, we have no way of knowing the whether his voice held a jovial tone or a threatening one. We cannot say that she didn’t ‘give up the proper fight’ because she had a child at home and was afraid she would never see her baby again. Our personal opinions about the assailant and the victim in a rape case color our judgment much more than in a case involving a burglary or home invasion. In all instances a person’s rights were violated, things were taken that are hard or impossible to replace, and yet we still delve into a rape victim’s background much more than in a robbery victim.
Take the current case of the Craigslist Rapist, 44 year-old Charles Oliver responded to ads placed on the site for sex by women that the court deemed escorts and prostitutes. When these women would meet the defendant at his home he would become violent and threatened to kill some of them if they went to police.
The woman featured in Rusk was an example of a perfect victim, a young mother who was out drinking responsibly with a friend after their high school reunion, and was trying to work things out with her estranged husband. There was no way she was ‘asking for it’ when she got raped. The women in this case though are not easily defended victims. By placing for sex on Craigslist they paint themselves a whore, a far cry away from a Madonna the prosecutors wish they had. The problem with a scenario like this one is that there are very little protections for people that offer up their bodies but experts claim that this case has the potential to challenge the public’s view of rape. The fact that money changed hand shouldn’t be a factor, instead the courts need to take into account that one person said no and the other didn’t stop. Categorizing these women as sex workers though automatically puts the opinion in the minds of the judge and jury that their story may not be as credible as it is because of who they are and what they do. It is unfair to say what a rape victim should or should not have done, what they situation they should or should not have put themselves in, instead of judging the victim we need to focus on the defendant and the crime.
Remember the story at the beginning at the beginning of the blog and realize that we as a society need to be mindful of our prejudices especially when it comes to lifestyles that we may deem deviant. Just because we don’t choose to live our life that way doesn’t mean that we should judge someone who does, treating them like less of a person. At one time or another we have all done something that someone else might consider deviant.