Archive for March, 2012

On the credibility of rape victims

Rape victims are not always ten-year-old little girls who couldn’t possibly have done anything at all to provoke the lust of a grown man (although this week’s headlines have those, too). Those who rape little girls are obviously demented. Rape victims are also grown women.

Sometimes these adult women have consensual sex with men (aghast!) and as such they are often blamed for being raped since they happen to enjoy sex. After all, if a woman enjoys consensual sex, she must also enjoy being forced to have savage intercourse against her will, right?

This means that in sexual assault cases, a woman who has sex has a credibility issue. This is absolutely ludicrous, yet that is life for women in today’s patriarchal society. Women obviously want to be brutally raped, have all sense of security ripped from them and live with emotional turmoil for the rest of their lives.

Then there are women who, on top of having and enjoying consensual sex, may have additional credibility problems. Maybe she has lied or done something immoral in the past (who hasn’t?), or perhaps she had some drinks the night she was raped (being tipsy must mean she wanted to be raped) or maybe she wore a slinky, eye-catching dress (whatever was she thinking?).

In other words, if a rape victim didn’t have a credibility problem from the start simply because she was a woman and enjoyed sex before being raped, she would definitely have one if she is less than perfect in the eyes of law enforcement and judicial systems run by men.

A reader of this column recently sent me a March 5 article entitled, “Alan Dershowitz Convicts DSK,” from Newsweek’s Daily Beast on the credibility issue with the rape victim involving French elitist and former International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK). DSK was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper who was a Guinean immigrant when she went to his room to clean it.

DSK got off scot-free because the prosecutor felt the victim had credibility issues.

What made this article so very interesting is that it describes Alan Dershowitz, America’s famous defence lawyer (think high-profile defendants such as televangelist Jim Bakker, football star OJ Simpson, boxer Mike Tyson and publishing heiress Patty Hearst), as he assumes the role of prosecutor in a mock sexual assault trial against DSK that never happened in real life. This was done for his legal ethics class at Harvard University.

Dershowitz was convinced he could secure a guilty conviction, even with the victim’s credibility problems. However, being the extraordinary defence attorney that he is, Dershowitz did not hold this opinion from the start. He was convinced by Sofitel lawyer Lanny Davis who told him, “Many rape victims have credibility issues. But what does it say to future rape victims if a case with this much physical evidence and credible outcry witnesses gets dropped because the victim lied about how she got in the country and other personal issues?”

This mock trial was Dershowitz’s way of addressing the issue of credibility with rape victims. Here is a portion of the Daily Beast article as it describes the mock trial:

First, Dershowitz would tell the jury they had every right to doubt the accuser. Second, Dershowitz would seek to get entered into evidence a picture of Strauss-Kahn’s naked body, possibly from the police forensic exam after his arrest. If that failed, Dershowitz would have to help jurors picture in their imagination a naked 62-year-old DSK – overweight and slightly hunched, his chest sunken and his skin sagging from the natural progression of age. With the ground rules established, Dershowitz took centre stage.

The classroom was silent, with students hanging on every word.

“What we are asking you to do is to look at all the facts in the case and decide based on all the facts whether she is, in fact, telling the truth about this one instance, mainly that she was sexually assaulted in that hotel room,” Dershowitz bellowed in his usual impassioned courtroom voice. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have seen the photograph of Dominique Strauss-Kahn naked. Now I just want you to imagine for a second him walking out of the shower, stark naked, and this young woman who you see before you, an attractive young woman, looks at him.”

Finally, there are a few giggles from the jurors’ box. Then another hush.

“Now the theory of the defence is that she looked at him and could not resist her lustful temptations to have seven minutes of oral sex with this man. She simply couldn’t control herself,” he continued, a touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“She didn’t do it for pay because if she did, you would have heard in the media or this courtroom the theory that this was a financial transaction. She didn’t do it because she was forced to, if you believe the defence. She did it because she wanted to. And why would she want to? The only reason she would want to, according to the defence, is that she was so lustfully driven by this beautiful 62-year-old, white-haired, overweight man’s presence that she couldn’t resist his chops.”

Dershowitz continues, “Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you believe that story you should acquit. But if you don’t believe that – if you say to yourself that there is no plausible basis for that account – then you have to seriously consider the prosecution’s account: mainly that she was forced to submit to his sexual advances. And you can do so whether or not you believe she is a woman who is generally credible in the other aspects of her life, whether or not this is a woman who has previously lied about other important matters in her life.”

The brilliance of Dershowitz in this mock trial has set the stage for successful future convictions of rapists regardless of the credibility of the victim. It should also be noted that the evidence against the rapist in this trial was substantial and he has been accused of this type of thing before. There is no doubt in my mind that DSK should be in jail for a very long time.

Seriously, why on earth would any young, attractive woman in her right mind willingly choose to have sex with an old, wrinkled, overweight dirt-bag? She wouldn’t.

March 24, 2012 at 1:55 am Leave a comment

When women harm women

“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” So said Madeleine Albright, and I agree wholeheartedly. A friend sent this quote to me recently at the suggestion of another friend. These are both women who value their sisters and care deeply about the plight of women.

On the other hand, I have seen some horrid behavior from women toward other women. To say such behavior is disconcerting is an understatement. I have even had many men bring this type of conduct to my attention – some thinking it funny or ironic and others finding it worrisome.

If there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women, what kind of karmic reckoning awaits those women who willfully harm other women?

It is bad enough that women are forced to live under the constant weight of male dominance, which is comprised of physical, mental and verbal abuse as well as an overarching financial jurisdiction, incessant sexual harassment, rape and an encompassing control over the lives of women (just to name a few).

Yet to have women resort to the very same behavior – whether in deference or acceptance of the same patriarchal rule that oppresses them or because of some inner maliciousness – is the epitome of immorality. There are very few things I find as revolting as a woman who intentionally harms another woman.

For one woman to harm another woman, there is a depth of female empathy that must be completely disavowed. In other words, to some degree or another, a woman always knows the suffering of other women and must mock that suffering (and thus her own suffering as well) in order to inflict intentional harm on her sister.

The victimization of women by someone of their own gender too often exhibits the same contempt and brutality seen by men towards women. For example, here is a statement made by a woman about other women that could have easily come from a man, “Sluts should be called, Humpty Dumpty. First they get humped & then they get dumped. Lolzzz.”

There is no identification with other women in this statement. There is no sympathy for the other women. In this statement, one woman used the word “slut” to denigrate other women. This is just so sad that it hurts my heart.

The word “slut” is a term men use against women to control their sexual habits by making them feel guilty for performing a biologically natural function. Yet we all know that it is socially acceptable for men to have sex with as many women as they want and not subsequently receive any such denigrating label.

Therefore, when this particular woman used that term against her own gender, she openly curtsied to the patriarchal system that has oppressed her, her mother and her mother’s mothers for hundreds of generations. And that same system, left unchallenged, will oppress this woman’s daughter and her daughter’s daughters for generations to come. It is masochistic and self-flagellating for women to treat other women the way some men treat women.

Allow me to expound on this notion of feminine masochism for a bit. Here is how Webster defines the word masochism – “1 a : a tendency to direct aggressive or destructive impulses against one’s own ego in order to reduce the anxiety attendant on anticipated inevitable punishment or to gain positive gratification through identification with a loved one who was formerly a source of pain b : a tendency to assume a role of submissiveness and apparently to enjoy humiliation as the outcome of feelings of worthlessness c : a tendency to gain or to increase sexual gratification through the acceptance of physical abuse or humiliation d : a tendency to take pleasure in physical or mental suffering inflicted on one by oneself or by another or in the practice of extreme self-denial or self-punishment : a taste for suffering.

The definition for self-flagellation is very simple: “extreme criticism of oneself.” There is no doubt about it; women who harm women are inflicting that harm upon themselves. Every time a woman’s actions against another woman conform to the patriarchal system of oppression against women, she is giving that system even more control over her own life.

Likewise, every time a woman beds a man who is in a relationship with another woman, great harm is done to the Sisterhood on so many levels and both women in the situation are yet again crushed under the system that says that it is acceptable for the man to behave as such, yet one woman in this situation will be labelled a slut and it will be said the other must not be doing everything right to please her man or he would not be looking outside of the relationship.

My feelings on this matter are not about sexual morality as I believe single women should be able to have as much safe sex as they desire. My objection is about both women in a “sweet woman” situation being lowered to such desperate positions – one to that of a sex object and the other to that of a fool. Why would one woman ever want to put another woman in a position to look like a fool? Haven’t we been played for fools for far too long already?

For that matter, why would any woman want to be reduced to the position of a sex object? If you are a woman and you find it flattering to be considered as nothing more than a sex object, then you have succumbed to the expectations of the oppressive patriarchal system.

Women are far, far more than just a vessel for sex and to limit yourself to this lowly position robs you and the world of all of the feminine potential you have inside.

Wake up, sisters! Wake up and realize that if we are ever to see the full potential of the world’s females, we must stop treating other women the way men treat them. We must see each other with the knowledge that other women around us carry within them the same feminine power as we do – a power can change the world for the better – and we must do whatever it takes to nurture and cultivate that power.

March 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

I would’ve been burned at the stake

To call a woman a “strong woman” means different things to different people. To some it is a compliment about a woman who has the ability to weather the storms of life and love. To others, a strong woman is someone who walks with too much confidence and needs to be “put in her place.”

In this month, Women’s History Month, it is right and proper that we address long-lived misconceptions about strong women. The very reason there is need for a month dedicated to Women’s History on an international scale is because written human history has always just that – His Story. It is very seldom Her Story.

Without much history on the spectacular feats of women (when they were “allowed” to be spectacular), women are incessantly reduced to minor, supporting roles in historical context. Therefore, a strong woman is out of place in the light of recorded texts and a female with a confident stride must be arrogant.

Yet the strong woman is a misunderstood soul. I know this quite well because I am a strong woman. In my 30s I was being told that I walk with too much confidence, so I tried to slouch my shoulders, bow my head and walk more gently to conform to the meek and mild societal perception of how a woman should act.

That experiment ended quickly when I realized I am not, in fact, a woman who walks around gently with bowed head and slouched shoulders. It is not arrogance that feeds my confident stride; it is simply my personality. I know who I am and I am comfortable in my own skin, so why should I pretend to be something else?

Some think strong women are overbearing, but just because a woman is strong it does not mean she walks all over everyone around her. On the contrary, a strong woman needs little or no affirmation from others to know she is where she belongs.

The fear others have of strong women comes from the fact that women are expected to be weak. When women are meek and mild there is nothing to fear. Meek and mild translates to submissive and obedient. Social protocol has long insisted that as long as a woman submits and obeys, she is a good woman. Which means that if she is a strong woman with a confident stride and brain, that she uses on a regular basis, she is not a good woman.

Why on earth would a woman who is intelligent and capable feel the need to submit and obey anyone else in vital decisions concerning her own life? Would an intelligent and capable man ever willingly choose to do such a thing? Never. So why should a woman be expected to spend her life in droll acquiescence to please the egos of men she could run circles around intellectually and morally?

I would much rather be thought of as arrogant than to pretend to be ignorant. Yet still, as has already been mentioned, thinking of a strong woman as being arrogant is a misconception. I know many strong women who have weathered life with grace and dignity and there is not one of them who is arrogant in the least. In fact, the strong women I know are very caring women, most of whom spend large amounts of time helping others and contributing to their communities.

There is absolutely nothing to fear from strong women. In fact, strong women have much to teach the world. Guyana is full of strong women and I am humbled every time I meet one of them. Each one teaches me another lesson about life and I am always a better person for having spent even a small amount of time with them.

It is not quite clear to me what it is about strong women that strikes fear in the hearts of others.  However, they inspire me. They do not scare me.

Throughout history, some of the strongest and bravest women have been killed for their “arrogant” ways. In the 15th century, Joan of Arc led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured and burned at the stake when she was just 19 years old.

Countless women were killed during the Inquisition because they were accused of witchcraft, interrogated (tortured) and burned at the stake. In her book, Loving to Survive, Dee Graham said, “The most reliable estimates suggest that in the course of three hundred years they executed about nine million people branded as witches. Who are ‘they’ that executed the witches and who were the witches? Williams and Williams (1978) note that the ‘accusers were mostly men, [and the] accused mostly women.’” (p.4)

The truth is that many of the women killed during the “Burning Times” were women who chose to use their brains and spoke their minds. In other words, they were not submissive and obedient; they were strong women. It chills my soul to think of the millions of strong women who were murdered. So much life and potential burned like mere trash for simply using the brain God gave them.

I would have been one of those women who were tortured and burned alive. Would you have been?

March 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm 1 comment


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