Taking a Stand Against Rape

I find this upcoming week’s reading fascinating and much different from what we have read in the past. Before, we have discussed constitutional interpretation in the terms of the opinions of Supreme Court Justices or lawyers, both from Scalia, Brennan, and Balkin who discussed it in the general sense, as well as in famous cases such as Roe v. Wade. In Susan Estrich’s “Rape,” she challenges how rape cases are handled. While she has a legal background, what makes this reading stand out from others is she is an actual victim of rape. Therefore, she provides an appealing and credible case by tapping into the readers’ emotions and ethics without even having to mention the Constitution. I firmly believe that rape is a serious issue, and commend Estrich for taking a stand.

Although in my last post I declared that Brennan was far less superior than Balkin, this was because I was comparing the two writers. In this case, I think many of the ideas Brennan presents in “Contemporary Ratification” align with the ideas Estrich presents in “Rape.” For example, I believe Estrich would agree with Brennan’s belief that the Constitution should “foster and protect the freedom, the dignity, and the right of all persons” in the terms of a woman’s “bodily integrity” (Brennan 30; Estrich 171).

Before I move on, I want to acknowledge that rape can and does happen to males, but for the sake of this post, both for ease and to align with Estrich’s writing structure, I will also be using the female terms.

According to Merriam-Webster, there are two definitions of the word dignity:

  1. a way of appearing or behaving that suggests seriousness and self-control
  2. the quality of being worthy of honor or respect

I believe Estrich and Brennan would both argue that rape cases are not handled or treated with dignity. More specifically, human dignity should never be taken away from someone, yet can easily be taken away from the victim if her case is not approached properly. In addition, I would argue that without human dignity and self-respect, what do we have to live for? Rape is a personal violation of the victim, so her body and feelings should be treated with dignity.

I believe that rape is a very serious and touchy issue that should not be applied to every victim in the same way. When I was reading “Rape” the concept of “force” made me pretty upset because in all the cases Estrich references, it was not simply what methods the man used to get the female victim to comply, but focused more focused on the victim’s response. We can’t expect everyone to react in the same way. Just because one victim fights while another cries does not mean one reacted in a “better” way. Furthermore, I kept relating it to a murder case. Does the court look at whether the victim of murder fought back? Probably not.

The video below shows the robbery of a laptop is treated by the police like a rape report. While it is done in a humorous and exaggerated way, it is more of a mockery to get across the point that rape cases are not treated the same as other cases, such as robbery.

In this video, you see many of the concepts Estrich talked about such as whether he was “asking for it,” that he felt “violated,” and that the “system is set up against the victim.” You also see more modern factors such as if he had anything to drink before it happened.

While Estrich’s “Rape” was published in 1986, I think this quote exemplifies one of Estrich’s main points that still holds true today. Rape still remains a huge issue today. How can we begin to solve it? I believe it all starts with taking the blame off the victim and moving it towards the rapist. Empowering women to speak up and seek justice is a huge step in the right direction, not only for her, but also for society. The more people who stand up like Estrich, the more people will realize it is a problem. Statistics are statistics until you or someone you know is a victim of rape. We cannot afford to continue to allow daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and girlfriends be subjected to such degrading and cruel acts.

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7 Responses to Taking a Stand Against Rape

  1. fallenstar66 says:

    Great post! You hit on one of the most frustrating aspects that I find in rape culture today, which is this idea of blaming the victim. Instead of teaching people “don’t rape” society teaches women “how not to be raped” and this allows those that are raped to be scrutinized against because people assume the victim did something to allow herself to be attacked. And like you had mentioned, everyone responds differently to attacks and someone should not be scrutinized against for reacting differently in these situations. In addition, another aspect that I find frustrating is how narrowly courts define rape, meaning those that are raped by a spouse or significant other are given even less dignity and in many cases, these victims are not even listened to or believed. When I had told someone close to me about what my ex-boyfriend had done, she simply looked at me and said “that’s not rape”. I felt humiliated and was not able to speak about the abuse again for many years. So, when I see the courts or society look down on women like me who have been victimized, I can’t help but get angry and demand change, not just for me, but for everyone out there that has been victimized. The way the courts handle these cases makes it harder for women to seek justice or even to receive help for what has been done. Like you said, more people need to stand up for equal justice in the courts and show society that we are blameless.

  2. mbstanton says:

    This certainly is an extremely sensitive subject for conversation especially for a public discussion board, but it is definitely one that is an issue if only for what the court interpretation shows. While I was living in Flagstaff, a certain related news story was the focus of people all over the Southwest. A young woman went out dressed in what she felt was appropriate club wear for a warm spring evening. She arrived at the club, had a few drinks, and towards the middle of her night an off duty police officer walked up to the bar and started conversation. After a few minutes, the officer’s drunken flirtation became intimidating and the woman began to get uncomfortable. She stood up to leave and got groped. Upset by this advance, she dismissed herself and tried to leave the club. The officer pursued, following her outside, and attempting to rape her in a nearby alley. Fortunately, bystanders came to her aid, removing the intoxicated officer. Upon pressing charges and taking the officer to trail, the judge proceeded to scold the young woman for ‘dressing the way she did.’ As much as I like to give police officers the benefit of the doubt, this case sent out a bad message to audiences everywhere. It is wrong for women to feel that they are deserving of the crimes that harmed them. Further, justices need to be mindful of their rulings on such sensitive matters. Thank you for your post.

  3. wdaghist says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. I think the fist step we should do to eliminate and stop rape culture is that we have to make sure that the legal system does not blame women for rape. A great example of that is when Judge Jeanine Howard, a Texas judge, gave the defendant a 45-day sentence and five years of probation after implying that the victim was PROMISCUOUS rather than sentencing him to 20 years in prison after he admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl in her high school. Another example is when the Australian jury let a rapist go free because they claimed that the victim was wearing a skinny jeans. I totally think that judges, juries, and lawyers have to bring rapists to justice and do not blame women for that.

  4. abdelrafat says:

    Dakota, great post! I agree with you and Estrich that it should not matter if the victim, in a rape case, fought back. Estrich mentions that if a victim fights back they may be putting themselves at a greater risk, I believe this to be true. If an aggressor is holding a gun or knife against a victim and has instructed them to not move or scream and the victim does so, she may actually surprise the aggressor with her actions. The rapist will be caught off guard and may ending up hurting the victim more severely than the actual rape. In a case of armed robbery the officers never recommend to fight the thief, under any circumstance, in order to prevent putting yourself in harms way. How is rape different? Why should a woman fight the rapist? Do Judges believe that she will win the fight? The assumption that a woman should or would fight her rapist as the act is being committed is ludicrous. No one prepares to be raped, no one knows how they should act. So, no one should be expected to act in any certain manner.

  5. smbockrath says:

    Dakota this was a very thought-provoking post! The way you bring in past readings into the conversation with Estrich’s piece was very well done, particularly when you discuss Brennan’s argument that the Constitution should protect the dignity and bodily integrity of women’s bodies. Your argument here is excellent, particularly when you bring up — as Estrich also did — that different crimes are not treated the same way as rape is, particularly concerning how all too often victims are the ones who are put on trial, and not the accused. I also appreciated how you point out that her interpretation of the law is just as valid as that of a Supreme Court Justice. Because especially as a woman who has undergone this trauma and seen how victims are treated, whose voice is more valuable than hers when discussing rape and the criminal justice system? I would argue very few.

    The one part of this piece that I would like to draw attention to as problematic is your final sentence, wherein you state that women should not be subjected to rape due to their status as mothers, wives, daughters, etc. From a feminist standpoint I have to disagree here. It happens too often that women have to be qualified as maternal, delicate, or in need of protection in order for society to recognize that they should not be subjected to such heinous acts as rape. But this is wrong, and takes away the power that a woman has as an individual. Before women are anything, daughters, sisters, mothers, etc., they are people, and all people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect — especially under the laws of the United States.

  6. imdebock says:

    Taking a Stand against Rape
    I was really in sympathy with women when I read Estrich’s literature especially she been a victim of rape. There are three points that I disagreed with the law.
    • The corroboration requirement in which people feel that women agrees with men and later pretend that their affairs was not consensus. It does not mean some women had done it therefore it should apply to all rape cases.
    • Mens Rea in which men’s attitude toward consent may be a mistake of fact that the man thinks the woman was consenting. It should be that when a woman says no, she means no. I feel the guilt or intent of that man was premeditated.
    • Men’s aggressiveness in which the use of force is applied has to be modified. Every man is aggressive especially when it comes to the matter of sex. Some men aggressiveness makes them to rape their own wives. The women passivity in which these women are raped without the women pushing back or complaining should be taken off that table because not every woman can voice that shameful behavior applied to them. This is a terrible situation women are placed especially when the victim in rape cases has more burdens to prove through her actions her non-consent (Estrich, 178). This should not be accepted in our modern society. With reference to you comparing murder to rape, I feel one does not need physical contact with the victim before killing. Murder comes in so many ways, someone can ambush to kill, use sniper, grenade, and bomb; whereas in rape the man needs the physical body of the woman therefore the man has to be aggressive to physically get hold of the woman. Whatever the case is, I am not in supportive of the rape law, the language has to be modified.

  7. azucenagonzalez598 says:

    Thank you for your post! It was an interesting read. I particularly thank you for addressing that there are indeed male victims of rape and for clarifying why you would be doing so. I ponder on the reasons how Estrich talks about sexism in law (Estrich 166) and it seems to me that a perpetuation of sexism of occurs when female victims are emphasized. I would argue that if it is hard for a female to convince the police, court, etc. that she has indeed been raped for “real”, it must be harder for a male to do the same because of various reasons, e.g. gender roles and victim stereotypes. Nonetheless, I agree that victim blaming is not appropriate and displaces some responsibility away from the accused to the victim.

    Empowering woman is a great way of practicing agency, however, I believe another way to decrease the occurrence of rape is by addressing the perpetrators as well. In solely focusing on the victim, it is possible to do the same which is trying to be prevented. This could be by informing every one of respecting each other’s space and what that looks like. This will most likely require going over being considerate of others, etc. This is a multi-faceted problem that has to be addressed in a multi-faceted manner.

    No means no.

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