Recently, several high-profile rape cases have underscored our antiquated views and laws regarding one person taking advantage of another person's body. You would think violence against women would be obvious and easy to prosecute, but it's not.
I'm talking about rape.
In India, where women overwhelmingly are the victims in the majority of violent crimes, two young rape victims recently died after their ordeal. Actually, they were raped several times: once by aggressors, then by certain elements of their culture, and finally by their own law enforcement and legal systems. Their deaths, it turns out, may galvanize an entire population into re-evaluating its attitude toward women and rewriting laws pertaining to rape.
In the US, two current cases illustrate the need for a simple, single, legal definition of rape.
In California, a rape conviction was overturned because the victim was not married. What, you say? An archaic state law ties certain rapes to the business-side of marriage by protecting a husband's valuable possessions, including his access to his wife. Got it? In this case, the sleeping victim was not married, but says she was tricked into believing she was having sex with her boyfriend when the man was, in fact, a stranger. The absence of a reasonable law forced the judge’s hand in this one, and he had to let the guy go. Words fail.
In a small town in Ohio, two high school football players allegedly repeatedly raped an unconscious 16-year-old girl shortly before the start of school. The boys claim the sex was consensual. “Friends” caught the act on video, then posted it with related gossip to other friends through social network sites. Townspeople quickly took sides and outside “advocates” got involved. Chaos and anger ensued. Add to this ugly mix, evidence was lost on such ephemeral media, and some of what remains is inconclusive as proof of rape, or not.
As long as there is violence against women in the US and elsewhere, we need laws that make it easy to determine a crime has been committed and easy to prosecute someone who has abused a woman’s body and soul, whether the attacker succeeded in causing that woman's death or not.
If you steal from the pockets of an unconscious person, isn't that a crime, no matter what the person was dreaming? If you threaten to strangle or hold a knife to someone's throat, isn't that attempted murder? Is there ever a question that a crime has been committed when someone stabs, beats or shoots another person? Do we blame stabbing victims for their deaths? Do we doubt that someone's life has been threatened if they are kidnapped?
A rape is just another form of murder or attempted murder, pure and simple. The crime and its victims should be treated with the same care and seriousness. There is no such thing as he-said/she-said in a murder case, and it should never be considered in the investigation or prosecution of a rape.
For more on these cases, see: