Last week in class we studied how the law views the prosecution of rape cases in America. Keeping in mind that rape can happen to both men and women, the majority of rape cases our class discussed and those described in the assigned literature involved men raping women. Therefore, I will focus mainly on the female aspect of this subject.
One of our assigned readings involved a chapter written by author Sally Engle Merrie entitled “Rights Talk and the Experience of Law: Implementing Women’s Human Rights to Protection from Violence” (pgs. 201-212) from the book The Social Organization of Law by Austin Sarat. While Merrie discusses the various ideas involving who the law deems as “good” victims (i.e. one who sees the prosecution’s case through the legal process , does not fight back against her abuser, etc.) versus “bad” victims (i.e. women who have issues with drugs, alcohol, engages in fights with her abuser, etc.), her main argument is that in order for society to change how rape is viewed, women have to change the views they have of themselves and, as she states, “adopt a new consciousness” (pg. 201). Basically, we as women have to remember that we are human beings with rights. We have to know deep within ourselves and with every ounce of our whole being that we have the right to live freely and no one has the right to abuse, demean, degrade, or violate us in any form. It is up to us to be heard just as it is up to us to make others hear our voices. If a person is raped, the abuser should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law regardless of gender, race, or relationship. If not, society is damned and we all become victims.
I am sure we can all agree on the fact that rape in and of itself is a horrific form of human terrorism designed to demean and degrade its intended target. But, what is even worse is when the very system of justice in which we are all taught to believe in fails to provide its victims with some manner of justice. Additionally, it does not help and actually serves as an abomination to our legal foundation when someone is falsely accused of rape. Time and time again, and especially within the last 10 years, various accusers have literally knocked down the structural pillars of our justice system by recanting testimony and using the system to exact some form of revenge thereby ruining countless lives in the process.
Such actions on behalf of those who implore the justice system to extend itself in helping them and then proceed to abuse it, in reality make it much worse for genuine victims who need prosecutors to give their all. For true victims of rape, we as a society owe it to them as well as ourselves to afford each and every case brought forth the opportunity to see that justice is done on a fair and equitable basis. But more importantly, women and victims owe it to themselves to learn their rights and realize that peace of mind and soul is one of the most important forms of strength, self-reliance, and security.