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November 4, 2007

Rape is NOT an Occupational Hazard

Our myspace friend Jill Brenneman brought this to our attention and we think it's really important that this story circulate as far and wide as possible.

Here's the deal:

Rape is NOT an Occupational Hazard!

Sex Workers Join Women's Groups and Sexual Assault Survivors' Groups to Urge PA Voters to Vote 'No' on the Retention of Judge Teresa Carr Deni

Judge Teresa Carr Deni spawned outrage from all directions after ruling on October 4th that a sex worker that was raped at gunpoint by multiple men was NOT sexually assaulted, rather she was just robbed. Deni commented in an Oct. 12th interview that this case "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."

Grassroots activists around the country, including nationwide sex worker-led organizations such as the Desiree Alliance and regional advocacy groups from coast to coast responded with anger and disgust for Deni's disregard of the basic human rights of the rape victim in this case. "Deni's decision in this case sends a message that sex workers can be targeted for violence with impunity. Rape of sex workers is common, alarmingly under-reported, and rarely taken seriously by authorities," Kitten Infinite of Sex Workers' Outreach Project said. "Violence against sex workers is perpetuated by the state through discriminatory laws and judicial rulings such as this."

Sex workers in the US and abroad are organizing and becoming more vocal about the violence and discrimination that they face. "Because prostitution is criminalized, our human rights and our boundaries are clearly not respected," Mariko Passion, a board member from the Desiree Alliance commented, she continues, "…forcing or manipulating sexual intercourse by fraud, fear or coercion is rape." On Oct 30th, after considerable pressure from sex workers and feminists around the country, the PA Bar Association issued a statement condemning Deni's action, stating that, "The victim has been brutalized twice in this case: first by the assailants, and now by the court."

The Desiree Alliance applauds Association Chancellor Jane Dalton's review of the matter and we find some satisfaction in the fact that the District Attorney's office has re-filed rape charges against the perpetrator of this despicable crime. However, we still call on voters to vote 'No' on retaining Deni in the election on November 6th. The Desiree Alliance will hold a virtual press conference and rally on Monday, November 5th at 5pm Eastern for sex workers and allies to comment publicly about this case and how to prevent further discrimination against sex workers.

“This case minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who were really raped.”

Just off the top of my head, let me try my hand at a real list of things that minimize true rape cases and/or demean women who have really been raped or sexually assaulted. Which oh by the way, by extension, demeans all women.

~The culture of “blame the victim” that we live in:

“what did she expect wearing an outfit like that?”

“come on, everybody knows she’s a slut, why should we believe she was raped?”

“she’s probably just out for money/revenge”

“they were friends/dating/married, he couldn’t have raped her”

“she didn’t come forward right away, so she must be lying”

“she had it coming”

Who hasn’t heard at least one of these things said about someone? It’s amazing that any women come forward to report their rapes, knowing what they’ll have to go through, and that there’s a chance that at the end of it all, they’ll end up putting everything in the hands of someone like Judge Deni.

~Women who lie about being raped and make false rape accusations…but more importantly, the people who believe that there are many many women out there doing this, when in reality it’s a very very small percentage. Lying about being raped is a horrible and damaging thing to do, but the myth that women “cry rape” all the time is just as damaging.

~Refusing to call a rape a rape. Unfortunately, Judge Deni doesn't have a lock on judges making stupid decisions and using ridiculous rationalizations in a rape case, not by a long shot. A few months ago, we heard the story of a Nebraska judge who barred anyone from using the word "rape"...during a rape trial.

'Last fall, Cheuvront granted a motion by defense attorneys barring the use of the words rape, sexual assault, victim, assailant, and sexual assault kit from the trial of Pamir Safi—accused of raping Tory Bowen in October 2004.' The first trial resulted in a hung jury last year, and in the retrial the words will once again be banned. The only word left to use by both the defense and the prosecution to describe what happened? Sex.

Rape is not sex. Rape is violence, power, control. Crime. Not sex. Rape is rape. There is no way around this, and the courtroom is the last place on earth where anyone should be pretending that there is. As the victim in the Nebraska case said herself:

"I refuse to call it sex, or any other word that I'm supposed to say, encouraged to say on the stand, because to me that's committing perjury. What happened to me was rape, it was not sex."

~The idea that rape is only a women's issue, and that women are totally responsible for taking steps to prevent it. Men can (and should) stop rape, and women shouldn't be made to feel like they have to be on anti-rape patrol every minute of their lives or they will be partially to blame if they are raped.

~The false notion that sex workers are never 'off the clock'. Strippers don't want to show off their bodies to anyone and everyone 24/7, and prostitutes are not required to have sex on demand. How sad is it that we still have to spell this out? And not only to some random sexist moron on the street, but to a judge with the power to decide a rapist's fate.

So what can we do? Well, the good news is that pressure from outraged people all over the world caused the Philadephia Bar Association to investigate and issue a statement.

Judge Deni's belief that because the victim had originally intended to have sex for money and decided not to because she didn't get paid posits that a woman cannot change her mind about having sex, or withdraw her consent to do so, regardless of the circumstances. We cannot imagine any circumstances more violent or coercive than being forced to have sex with four men at gunpoint. Judge Deni's subsequent remarks, as reported, unfortunately point out that her decision in this case was based on a pre-existing bias as to when sex can be consented to, and as to when that consent can be withdrawn, and reflects, in my opinion, a clear disregard of the legal definition of rape and the rule of law in this case.

The timing of all of this is good because with election day coming up on Tuesday, the voters have the power to remove Judge Deni from her post. The Desiree Alliance is holding a virtual rally tomorrow at 5PM EST on their blog to raise awareness and get more dialogue going on this case and related issues.

Who: Desiree Alliance and Affiliates

What: “Rape is NOT an Occupational Hazard!” Virtual rally

Why: Judge Teresa Carr Deni should not be retained as a Municipal Court Judge in Philadelphia

When: Monday, November 5, 2007 5 pm EST/2 pm PST

Where: www.BoundNotGagged.com

Join the virtual rally tomorrow, or just do what you can to spread the word. And if you happen to live in Philadelphia, show up on Tuesday to vote her out!


May said...

Would you mind if I re-post part of this on my blog?


Go for it. Let's spread this story all over the damn place today ;)

May said...

Awesomeness. Thank you

Jill Brenneman said...

Thank you!

Jill Brenneman said...

Y'all rock! Thank you for your support!

Anonymous said...

The part of this story you don’t know is that this was a manipulation of the press by political operatives, who purposely fabricated a twisted version of the facts right before an election, to smear Judge Deni’s reputation for political reasons that have nothing to do with the case they used to launch the campaign against her.

Once they got one paper to print their twisted version of the facts, the other papers piled on, repeating the false facts from the first story.

What you think happened is not what happened, and her political opponents knew they had her over a barrel, because the rules of judicial conduct prevent her from arguing the facts of a pending case in the press.

The operatives accomplished their goal, which was to create a public outrage to fan the flames of a public drum beat to remove Judge Deni from office.

Some people will not find it easy to accept that they were played.

Others who know how politics are played in Philly will acknowledge that what I am saying has a certain familiar ring of truth to it.

I have known Judge Deni for better than 30 years. I am telling you that what you read in the papers, and the firestorm that was created out of it, was a calculated political manipulation that had nothing to do with the truth.


If that is indeed the case, then we're sorry for further continuing the spread of false information.

However, it's sort of hard to believe that - despite being unable to argue specific facts of a pending case - the (several) quotes out there attributed to her discussing the case are all false. If they are in fact false, I'd love to hear her response to that at least.

What about the quotes attributed to Chancellor Dalton or Assistant district attorney DeSipio?

She was reelected yesterday regardless.

Jezebel said...

Yeah, it's tough to say that this was a manipulation and a twisting of the facts by the press unless you're also saying that the direct quotes from Judge Deni about the case were totally fabricated. And I guess the Philadelphia Bar Association was a victim of the twisted media reports too? Maybe you could explain in more detail why you believe this to be true, but otherwise I find it tough to believe that the whole thing is just a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation.

Anonymous said...

As for the letter from the bar association, it wasn't from the bar association.

First, the Chancellor of the Bar Association printed her personal opinion, fine, but what she also did was she put it out on the letterhead of the Bar Association, making it seem like it was the official position of the Bar Association, when it wasn't.

Then, she had it published the week before the election when she knew the rules of judicial conduct prohibited Judge Deni from responding to it, so that was a bit lousy too.

As for newspapers and quotes, it's tempting to believe them, but the truth of the matter is that many reporters want to tell a certain story in a certain way, and they pick and choose what to use and how to use it to get the slant on the story they want.

I am a former elected municipal official (NJ), and zow-eee, stuff I was quoted as saying was frequently not at all what I said, and was at times the exact opposite of what I said. I think sometimes, they just get it wrong, and I think other times, some reporters just want to get a pat on the head friom their editors for writing a sensational story that will help sell papers.

The first reporter in this particular story was "tipped off" to call someone in the prosecutiors office, which is an open secret in Philadelphia, that's what you do if you're a prosecutor and trying to slam a judge, you have someone call in a "tip" to the newspaper for you, so you won't be accused of initiating contact with the press. (Prosecutors aren't allowed to do that, so they have a friend call in a "tip.")

Then you wait by your phone for the call to come, and tell a horribly one-sided story to put the screws to somebody.

I'm aware that it sounds like I'm making this up, but trust me, my imagination isn't nearly as creative as what I see go on in local politics.

I just hope, when all is said and done, with regard to the prosecution of the bad guy, that justice comes out of this, for all of us, but especially for the victim.


Well, we share your hope that the victim will eventually get justice. We also hope you understand why many people are finding your claims difficult to believe.

Was Judge Deni misquoted in the press when she made statements like "I thought it was a robbery" and 'did you know she saw another client before reporting her attack' and 'this case demeans women who were really raped'? If she really did say those things, and the basic facts of the case that were reported in the press are true, how can you expect people to be okay with that? You say that reporters pick and choose what they want to slant a story, which is often true, but it's also true that they use what you give them.

Also, if she did make some of those statements to the press about the case, why can't she now speak out about whatever 'truth' is supposedly being twisted here?

If this really was a scheme to get rid of Judge Deni, it doesn't seem particularly well thought out. Why choose an issue like the rape of a sex worker? Not exactly 'mainstream', unfortunately. And what about the timing? Some activists protesting Judge Deni said that they didn't feel they had enough time to get the word out about what happened before the election. And why try this at all if retention votes are supposedly usually such a slam dunk? I'm sure we don't know as much about local politics as you do, but hopefully you can see how we might find this all just a bit confusing.

And regarding the statement from the Chancellor of the Bar Association, it was posted on the Bar Association's website under News Releases, which doesn't seem to indicate that it was just a statement of her personal opinion that was not recognized or supported by the association itself. Unless the Chancellor has a dictatorial death grip on the Association and her word is "law", which we suppose is possible.

We'd love to be able to say that we were wrong about this case and that somehow Judge Deni was actually trying to do the right thing. But unless some actual evidence comes out to support that or she is able to speak out and defend herself, we just can't do that.