Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sexual Assault Trials

I was speaking with someone recently about how cops keep getting acquitted on rape charges despite pretty solid evidence. Whether juries are prone to acquittal for everyone, or if being a police officer grants them more leniency. I would think that civilians would be harsher towards police, since they're supposed to upstanding citizens - since they are responsible for arresting criminals, it seems even more egregious a crime when it is the cop who is the perp.

Yet we know that Franklin Mata and Kenneth Moreno were deemed innocent, and now another NYPD officer (although this one was off-duty) Michael Pena was also not convicted of rape (Although he was convicted on other charges, including predatory sexual assault). In Pena's case, his defense was not that he was innocent (plenty of witnesses saw him assaulting this woman and using his gun as leverage), but that no penetration occurred, and thus, no rape. Despite his DNA being on her underwear, despite her statement of pain, despite marks on her vagina, despite witness testimony. Apparently this is not enough.

So why the acquittal? Why are so many rapists (MOS or not) found not guilty on these horrible charges even in the face of overwhelming evidence? My friend's belief is that cops get off easy because juries don't see them as repeat offenders. They're not the stranger in the bushes that are attacking any woman they see. In which case, we really need more education on sexual assault in schools. Because when a vast majority of rapes are NOT the sociopath in the dark alley, we really need to start convicting the first time offenders, cops or not.

My friend also suggests that rape is so difficult to prove because the act itself is legal, it's just the force that is not, and coercion is hard to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. Also troublesome is that NY law requires male to female penis to vagina penetration, or vice versa (as a side note, this desperately needs updating). So although sex might be proven, is the force? Hence the Moreno/Mata acquittal. And when the force is proven, is the actual penetration clear? Is it clear that it wasn't another object that was used? (In which case it only counts as sodomy). So without the man's DNA inside the woman, actual rape is almost impossible to prove.

Can we remedy this?

Should we remedy this? The justice system (rightly) revolves around the theory that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Where there is doubt, there should be acquittal.

So is there anyway that we can get better justice for the victims of this horrible crime? Can we make it any easier, without negatively affecting the very foundation on which this country was built?

Honestly, I don't know. The first step is obviously changing NYS law to reflect federal law (“The 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.”) I believe I still would have voted both those cops guilty. Fortunately, because of the other charges, Pena is still facing a possible life sentence.

These victims need justice. Cops or civilians need to do their time for a crime that causes severe lifelong psychological damage to its victims.

Let's figure out a way to deliver.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Male Privilege

For those men who think sexism is dead. For those who think feminism should've ended with the Suffrage Movement. For those who just don't see the big deal.

If you can walk down the street at night and not feel compelled to cross to the opposite sidewalk when you see a member of the opposite sex walking towards you, or someone walking behind you...that is male privilege.

If you can walk down the street without fear of harassment, without people hitting on you, and cursing you out when you ignore them...that is male privilege.

If you can pick someone up at a bar, and return to their place without fear of being raped, or without being verbally or physically coerced into sexual acts you don't want...that is male privilege.

If you can speak your mind without someone calling you a derogatory term, crazy, or if you can speak your mind and be taken seriously...that is male privilege.

If you can feel comfortable exercising your sexuality, in any way, in any manner, with however many people you want, without being publicly shamed...that is male privilege.

If you are not expected to wear clothes that are uncomfortable, and cause damage to your back and joints...that is male privilege.

If the advertisements you see don't depict your gender in hyper sexualized, photoshopped, unrealistic ways...that is male privilege.

If your intelligence is not called into question based on the color of your hair...that is male privilege.

To say that feminism is dead, or that there is no further equality to be had, or that feminists are looking for the upperhand, or just reasons to hate men, is false. Women are not treated equally, for all the reasons listed above, and more. Men continue to have the upper hand in virtually every aspect of life, and until women can feel comfortable in our own culture, the feminist movement will be alive and kicking.

I want to go out and not wear makeup or heels. I want to be able to walk around at night and not be fearful of that random male, regardless of age or race or attire. I want to walk around without be harassed by men on the street. I want to feel comfortable going to a guy's house, without fear of being raped, and called a liar when I try to press charges. I want my actions in the bedroom to be private, but, should they become public, I want the person who released private information to be shamed, not me. I want to see ads that show women of all sizes with their clothes on in stances that are appropriate for the item they are advertising. I want to call people out on their bullshit without being called crazy, or accused of just "PMSing." And I want to be blonde without people assuming I'm a ditz because of it.

I want to be as free as a man. And until that happens, I will keep fighting.

And there will be resistance, because no one likes to see a woman step out of place.

“Equality is not a concept. It's not something we should be striving for. It's a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who's confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”
― Joss Whedon (Producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Open up any newspaper or turn on any news station and you're guaranteed to see something about Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17 year old child who was shot and killed by a cop-wannabe neighborhood patrolman the night of February 26. The country is rightly outraged that the man responsible - the man who pulled the trigger of the gun that released the bullet that killed a defenseless boy - was not immediately arrested.

Trayvon should have been safe walking to and from a store to pick up skittles and a soda, regardless of dress or time of day. Everyone is so well aware of this right to safety that no one has questioned his decisions.

Yes, he was alone. Yes, it was night. Yes, he was wearing a hoodie. But only one man has tried to claim that the boy even partially deserves the blame for his own death because of his choices.

And the public is, again, rightly outraged. How can you tell someone that they shouldn't wear hoodies at night, lest the be deemed suspicious? Who cares what he was wearing? A young man is dead because a crazed man decided he couldn't control himself in the face of such an obvious threat to the neighborhood as a man in a hooded sweatshirt.

If you read the comments on the article I linked to, you'll see that everyone is appalled that someone would even suggest his clothing had anything to do with his murder.

STANCHAZ says "Mr. Rivera: you should be ashamed of your inane, insensitive comments, and your attempts to create "excuses" for the inexcusable actions of[...]Zimmerman."

ANTLIVE says "so what if the kid wore a hoodie, now sweaters are illegal? ill tell you what, your mustache makes you look like a 70's porno actor, so should someone shoot you? appearance doesn't make the person, its the people who judge with the quickness."

SUZANMONTANA: "Sounds like Geraldo has been crushing his skittles and snorting them. Thats the craziest thing....Trayvon did nothing wrong."

No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. No matter their clothing choice. No matter the time of day or night at which they were out. No matter the gender or race.

Victim blaming solves nothing. Prevents nothing. Rest in Peace Trayvon.

The only thing responsible for his death is George Zimmerman.