Thursday, September 29, 2011

who needs stones when you have the American court system?

I can't tell you how many times I have received emails or seen Facebook posts from people pleading for others to sign a petition to save the life of a Middle Eastern woman from being stoned to death because she was raped and is now considered an adulteress. People look on these types of situations with horror and say, "well, thank God I'm an American and things like this just don't happen here," or, "we would never stand for such injustice in America!"

Really? Are you sure about that?

I'm sure some of you have heard of the case of Jamie Leigh Jones vs. KBR. If not, I'll give you the gist. She was a contractor for them in Iraq. She alleges that while there, she was drugged, raped and then locked in a storage container for 24 hours without food and water. She sought medical treatment after the incident and doctors confirm that she was, indeed, beaten. A rape kit was administered but "mysteriously" lost and when it was finally recovered two years later, crucial pieces of the kit were, again, "mysteriously" missing. Jones' alleged attacker was not sentenced and furthermore she lost her case against KBR, seeking $145 million in damages. KBR, being the classy company they clearly are, countersued Jones to reimburse the court costs they incurred while going through trial. She has now been ordered to pay KBR $145,000.

Well, bravo, American court system.

I also read an article today talking about a case in Missouri where a school aged, special needs girl was raped in school. Her rapist plead guilty in the court system, but the school she attended expelled the girl for "indecent public affection" and made her write an apology to her accused. The girl and her parents are now suing the school. Why does this girl deserve to be punished when she's already been raped? The rapist plead guilty and that's not good enough for this school? They won't admit that a boy did something wrong and instead insist on shaming and punishing the victim of this horrible crime? What the hell is wrong with these people?

It seems interesting to me that generally when a woman goes into a court room with pictures of bruising, etc and alleges that she was beaten by her husband/boyfriend/whoever, she is typically believed. However, as soon as a sexual element to the crime is introduced, the woman is no longer considered credible. A woman practically has to have a video tape of the crime taking place to a get a conviction of rape, and yet the only thing a man needs is his word to be considered innocent. I will admit that, yes, false accusations of rape do occur. The difference is, when no rape happens... there is no evidence. When a woman is badly beaten and has samples of the accused's DNA all over her body, is clearly in distress and comes forward with an accusation... why do we feel such a strong need to doubt her? Rape defense attorneys make it common practice to slander the accuser's name at trial, basically saying, "hey, everybody knows she's a slut, she's slept with everyone, she wouldn't say no. Ever." The argument is always that "she was asking for it," or, "it was consensual." Yes, because I know so many women who have a fantasy of being drugged, beaten to a pulp and locked up without food or water. Give me a break.

The fact of the matter is this: rape is common. Very common, alarmingly common. For some reason a lot of people still have this picture in their minds of rape being when a strange man jumps out of the bushes and attacks a woman, but the fact of the matter is, most rapists are people with which the victim is acquainted. Additionally, it has been posited (with years of research in support) that this type of rapist (date/acquaintance rapists) are pathological--they serially rape women/victims. They know what to look for, they know what type of women are vulnerable. Women with a psychological disorder, mental handicap or a shall we say "colorful" sexual history are the least likely to be believed.

If you walked up to someone on the street and asked them what they thought of rape, the majority of people would say it is one the most heinous crimes a person could commit and yet, in our court and justice system, we rarely prosecute or convict anyone accused of rape or sexual assault. I understand because it is considered such a horrible crime, that people want to be sure that they are convicting a guilty person, but the level of hesitation in our system is insulting to the credibility of women everywhere. It is estimated that only about 5% of rapists see a day of jail time for their crimes. Many victims never come forward and the few who do are often discouraged from pressing charges because law officers know how difficult a conviction is to come by.

Is this really the best we can do? Are we really so much better than those countries we love to look down upon? The punishment is different, the sentiment is the same--if you are raped, we are not on your side and you will face punishment, shaming and blaming. As a Christian woman, this sentiment is rage-inducing. This is not God's heart. This is not God's desire. God's heart is broken for the victimized and abused, He seeks to comfort and protect them, not punish them. I take some comfort in the fact that vengeance belongs to the Lord, but when we fail to punish in the earthly realm, we allow dangerous people to walk free and harm others. This is simply unacceptable.