Ms. Magazine: Emotions Instead Of Arguments
By Crystal Smoot
April 13, 2012
At the beginning of April, Ms. Magazine ran a blog featuring a heartrending story of a woman who was a victim of rape. She also told the harrowing stories of several women in a support group to which she belongs. The blog is entitled “Future of Feminism: VAWA Goes Viral.”
But here is something that must be said, ever how reluctantly: the stories, though tragic, don’t really have that much to do with VAWA. First, there is this story of a woman who allegedly was the victim of a serial rapist:
She sat in court three times while a prosecutor pointed at blown-up images of her vagina and noted all her physical injuries. Three times she faced a defense attorney who tried to make her look like a slut who was asking for it. Her assailant was convicted twice on the strength of her testimony and the physical evidence. He claimed she (a married woman with young children) had sex with him willingly on the side of the road in a broken-down car. He appealed his convictions based on technicalities. That is his right as a citizen.
This third trial resulted in a ruling of “not guilty” by the jury. They claimed that although there was DNA evidence linking him to my friend, there wasn’t ‘enough’ DNA evidence. The jury was not allowed to hear about his previous run-ins with the law. He was freed from prison and is now out on parole. He has already broken his parole and is on the run.
This definitely sounds like a miscarriage of justice. But even with VAWA reauthorized, the third jury would have had the same DNA evidence to consider. As for the jury’s not hearing about his previous run-ins with the law, people who want to be tougher on crime might well call for making it harder to exclude this kind of information. Correct me if I am wrong, but I’m not seeing a VAWA connection here.
Then there is this:
I did not report my rape, and so my college refused to do anything. I chose, for my health and sanity, not to report my assault because after hearing the stories of the women in my support group, I was not confident in the fairness of the justice system. I did not want the commonwealth’s attorney to decide not to prosecute on my behalf because they were busy or they didn’t think they could win a conviction. I decided that I could not face that.
Okay, if you don’t report a rape, there is very little a college can do.
VAWA may encourage women to report rape, and to that extent, we applaud it. But it’s ridiculous to believe that only if VAWA is reauthorized, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, will women be encouraged to find the courage to report sexual crimes. We should all encourage women to report crimes and stand by them when they do. We don’t need the federal government to tell us to do this.
One more point: the blog reaffirms the stereotyped idea that only women and girls suffer from domestic abuse. No mention exists of the men who suffer abuse at the hands of women, though this phenomenon has been well documented.
As much sympathy as I have for a victim of rape, especially one whose rapist goes unpunished, what exactly do these scenarios have to do with VAWA?
Those who support a serious and critical look at VAWA should read this blog. It shows how emotion is used in the place of the thoughtful discussion of VAWA that is long overdue.