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
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!