What a glorious morning in the Blue Ridge. I’ve been sitting out on the deck with Ms Bean watching golden leaves drift by and listening to the rustle of oak trees in the wind. Soon I will have to bring the plants in from the porch, but for now, this is my season. Warm, sunny days and cool nights, Fall in Virginia is at its most elegant. Only the recurring theme of rape brings my autumn rhapsody to an end, and sends me upstairs to write.
Maybe it’s because we were sailing the Danube when a Stanford swimmer was on trial for raping an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been too politically plugged in to think about anything else, but today’s news caught my attention. Brock Turner, the rapist/swimmer, has been released from jail and is registering himself as a sex offender in Ohio. There are a few things about this case I find abhorrent.
First, in the state of California, if you rape an unconscious girl, they assume she has given her consent because she can’t say, “No.” Should I say that again? There are a few states that have crafted laws like this, what shall we call it, the “I Can’t Say No” clause? So, this gentleman was charged with a “sexual assault,” not “rape.” Still, this is how the FBI describes rape – “…penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Nothing about the ability to talk, in fact we know some women are so terrified they cannot utter a word. In this case, the woman was “lucky” two men saw her being raped, and chased down the predator. Because if that had not happened, this would have just been another post-party night on campus. The unnamed young victim read a lengthy letter to Turner at sentencing, this is a small part:
According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up.
Three months in jail, a slap on the wrist. Boys will be boys will be sex offenders for life.
Let’s leap across the country to New Hampshire, to another white, privileged incidence of rape that has shocked suburbia. This week the victim of last year’s St Paul’s prep rape case went public. A very brave Chessy Prout, who is only 17 now, was a 15 year old Freshman at the prestigious school when she became a victim of something called the “Senior Salute,” where upperclassmen try to hook up with the new students. Owen Labrie, a 20 year old who looks like a student at Hogwarts, was sentenced to one year in prison after he was found on a train violating his bail. Poor boy, he was only trying to visit his girlfriend at Harvard. http://www.today.com/news/chessy-prout-st-paul-s-school-assault-survivor-sheds-anonymity-t102326
And skipping back a century, if you’ve been following any of Downton’s marathon episodes over Labor Day weekend, you may have been reminded of the lady’s maid, Anna, who was raped downstairs during a concert upstairs. It happened in the second episode of Season Four, and I happened to watch a bit while Bob was working. How could I forget the intrigue of the rapist’s untimely death, the aftermath of arrests at the castle? Who did push the rapist off a train platform to a very Anna Karenina end? Was it Anna, or her husband Mr Bates?
Rape happened in the Bible, and lest you think we’ve figured it out, it wasn’t until 1998 when the state of Mississippi struck down its law that a rape could only be proved if a woman was “pure.” And let’s all thank “King Edward I of England (who) was a forward-thinking chap. He enacted the landmark Statutes of Westminster at the end of the 13th century. They redefined rape as a public wrong, not just a private property battle. The legislation also cut out the virgin distinction and made consent irrelevant for girls under 12…” http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/08/men-defining-rape-history
If you haven’t sat down to talk with your high school and college Freshmen, boys and girls, about these things, you had better plan some time over Parent’s Weekend. Tell them if a girl falls down, pick her up. This was the view from my kitchen last night. Apricot night skies and buttercream mornings.