In 1970 Jerry Plotkin and three others gang raped an acquaintance. Plotkin pleaded not guilty: He was a sexual libertine; he did what he wanted without limits. Through innuendo he implied that his victim was a libertine, too. Proof: she’d had sex without marriage.
The jury acquitted: A woman who’d had sex outside of wedlock could not be raped.
A rape victim condemned, her suffering dismissed.
Turning back 20 years earlier, an article from the 1952-53 Yale Law Journal explained why rape was illegal: “Women’s power to withhold or grant sexual access is an important bargaining weapon… it fosters, and is in turn bolstered by, a masculine pride in the exclusive possession of the sexual object… whose value is enhanced by sole ownership.”
The victim’s pain dismissed.
Discounting rape reaches far into history – at least when women are prey. In the Old Testament (Judges 19:22-29) we find depraved men pounding at the door of a Levite’s home, demanding a male guest be turned out to be raped. The Levite refuses, sending out his virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine, instead:
23 No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.
25: So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. 27 When her master got up in the morning … 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer.
No distress arises as the concubine’s “husband” turns her out to be raped or finds her dead. If anyone has been harmed it is him, his property defiled.
If you think we’re past these attitudes, think again.
A lack of compassion continues in the Middle East. Instead of nurturing a victim through her trauma, she faces an honor killing as punishment for the sin of being attacked.
In today’s India, female rape victims can be subjected to a “finger exam” to see if her hymen is intact, or whether her vagina is “narrow” or “roomy.” A focus on virginity leaves her suffering of no import.
In the U.S., things are better. But problems remain. Helena Lazaro was raped at knifepoint at a car wash. She has spent 13 years trying to get her case properly investigated. But her attacker remains loose while authorities fail to test her rape kit. Currently, 180,000 rape kits are left untested nationwide, creating more rape victims.
Meanwhile, too many women are blamed for a crime that is committed against them.
Rape victims undergo depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Many become sexually dysfunctional.
Rape is the crime women most fear outside of murder. But you wouldn’t know it by the way victims are ignored and condemned.
Susan Griffin. “Politics: 1971.” The Power of Consciousness. HarperCollins. 1979