This slogan struck a chord with me when I saw it on picket signs in images of SlutWalk, inspiring me to do something about what happened to me Halloween of 2014. I went to the cops and reported the rape, but I could already tell before even finishing giving my report to the police that nothing would be done and I wouldn’t get justice through the U.S. “justice system.” The male detective’s questions were much more focused on my drinking habits, how drunk I was that night, how much I’d been drinking in the days leading up to it, etc., rather than the rape itself. I could tell that he was trying to judge whether or not I had a drinking problem, which it was pretty clear that I did. His opinion of me as an alcoholic definitely seemed to determine the questions he asked. I actually think he asked more questions about my drinking than the event itself, and he was not even remotely sensitive to what I had just been through. He treated me like I was the criminal, like I was the one who had done something wrong. The female detective who spoke with me afterward to get more of the details wasn’t much better, though she seemed to be more trained in dealing with victims of sex crimes. (She asked questions like, “What color were the sheets on the bed?” and “What was the furniture in the room? What did it look like/what color was it?” presumably to judge how intoxicated I was, how fuzzy my memory was, etc.)
The police, judges, courts and government that just pretend this is a non-issue, systematically allowing perpetrators of sexual violence to go free or receive light sentences while distracting victims and protestors from the real issues at hand – these are the entities we as victims of sexual violence should be focused on to demand justice, since they seem to think our rapists have done nothing wrong.
I was shocked and outraged at how I was treated by the male detective. He clearly had no training whatsoever in dealing with these sorts of sensitive matters, or at least he just didn’t care. Let me give some background info: I’m a white girl with long dreadlocks, a septum ring and tattoos. I live in a small backwoods town in Georgia where racism and discrimination is still very much alive and well. The second the detective laid cold, calculating eyes on me, I could sense him sizing me up and forming his judgements and prejudices. You would think maybe the fact that racism is rampant among the police force in this town might actually be an advantage to me in this case since my rapist was black, (*not to say that’s right), but it didn’t. The guy was a clean cut nerdy type who was in the military. It was my word against his, and the detective made it pretty clear from the beginning that he didn’t think a crime had been committed. He never came out and explicitly stated it, but it was obvious from his questions, his condescending attitude, and the insensitive way he treated me that he thought I was just a sloppy alcoholic who drank too much, had sex with a friend, regretted it the next day and was now trying to clear my name and conscious by accusing him of rape.
That’s why these types of cases have been referred to as “gray rape” – a term I have since learned is denounced in much of the online feminist community for implying that there are varying degrees of rape, some of which are not as “bad” – cases of rape accusations where consent is vague and hard to determine. Generally, “gray rape” refers to a sex act where consent was granted at some point but retracted later. (A common example given is where vaginal sex is consented to but oral or anal sex is not). In my case, I was drugged and had been drinking for days, so I was too intoxicated to give consent.
It’s been over a year since this happened to me, and as far as I know the man who raped me never went to jail, was never convicted of anything, probably was never even questioned by the police. This is the second time in my life I have reported a rape or sexual assault, and the assailant was never jailed or punished in any way. The same thing has happened to my 16-year-old sister multiple times just in the past couple years, and since my mother never talks much about her childhood but obviously was traumatized in some way, I have a feeling she’s probably been through it too. The pathetically small percentage of rapists, child molesters and abusers who are behind bars is infuriating and simply unacceptable. But what can be done about it? What can I do to ensure that my 10-year-old sister doesn’t have to go through the same thing?
“BLAME THE SYSTEM, NOT THE VICTIM.” A little lightbulb popped up over my head when I saw this: If my rapist gets away scot-free, where do I seek justice? Who do I blame? THE SYSTEM! The detective who handled my case so insensitively, who had already decided before I even opened my mouth that he didn’t like me and wasn’t going to help, who decided that it was MY fault I was taken advantage of while unconscious because I had a drinking problem. The police department employing the detective for obviously not training their detectives to be sensitive in handling cases of sexual assault and rape. The entire U.S. justice system for systematically allowing rapists to roam free while the victims are treated like criminals for reporting their rapists.
Who knows if it will do any good, but I am working on reporting the detective who took my report. I also intend on contacting the police department and finding out what kind of sensitivity training they put their employees through for dealing with victims of sex crimes, because they seriously need to step it up. I hope to inspire other victims to start thinking like this as well – looking to the SYSTEM to answer for these crimes, since they refuse to carry out justice for the victims.