Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Some women matter

But not this one. After all, she's just a whore.

This story highlights some of the more horrifying rape myths that still circulate in this society.

The basic myth that some girls matter. Other girls don't. You can't rape a ho. Or if you do, it's really no big deal.

Police Officer Scott Antoniak (pictured above) was working a prostitution sting when he groped Michelle Wright. After that he picked up another prostitute and gave her three options: Point out crack houses, perform oral sex on him or go to jail. She initially refused to point out crack homes or perform oral sex, but as he drove closer to the jail, she gave in. But she was smart.

"When she was done, she spat his semen onto an identification card. The next day, Omaha police tested the semen - and it matched Antoniak's DNA. Omaha police fired him six weeks later."

Hmmm, first question...? SIX WEEKS? REALLY?

"Antoniak denied assaulting the victim or groping Wright."

Of course he did.

The irony only gets stronger...

"Wright, a recovering crack addict, has been handcuffed and carted to jail every time she has been arrested for prostitution, a misdemeanor. Yet, as she sat outside a courtroom she couldn't comprehend why a judge declined to slap any handcuffs - or jail time - on a former Omaha police officer convicted of sexually assaulting a prostitute in his cruiser."

You heard right, sexual assaulting a woman and groping another while working on the city's dime is really no big deal. Antoniak lost his job but his first-degree sexual assault garnered him no jail time, even though he was eligible for 50 years. Instead he received 5-years probation.

According to Antoniak's lawyer, Mike Fabian, the sentence was completely appropriate due to the cop's "spotless record before this incident and letters of support from 35 friends and family members." You see, the prostitute has a less than spotless record and apparently no caring family, so she's just screwed. According to a psychologist, Antoniak is a low risk to re-offend or be violent. Because forcing a woman to perform sex on you while wearing a gun and abusing a severe position of power is clearly not violent in the first place.

The judge's wrist slap is perhaps most offensive of all:

"For about 21/2 hours, you abused your authority. As a result of that, you lost your job. You shamed yourself. You embarrassed your family. And you disrespected your wife."

What about the OTHER woman he disrespected? What about the damage you did to this woman and the shame you caused her? Yeah, why bother mentioning her? It was just a regular Tuesday for her, right? Except she didn't get paid.

"The judge also ordered Antoniak to read the victim's statement of how the incident affected her. He then ordered Antoniak to write a letter of apology to the woman, to Wright and to Omaha police."

Good idea in theory. The cop had other plans.

"Antoniak apologized to the judge, to his family and to the department for the 'shame and embarrassment and pain I've caused everyone.' He didn't apologize to the assault victim."

But then why would he apologize? He clearly viewed this woman as less than human. Someone he could degrade, disrespect and terrorize without any second thought. And this sentence completely validates that.

This story reminds me in many ways of the media reaction to the Duke case. There's no way you can rape a stripper, or a whore... or if you take it any further... you can't rape a woman with a questionable reputation... or really any woman, since we all know that women are hussies who are responsible for all violence committed against them.

But you could take the Duke connection a step further and witness AGAIN how the sports culture can validate and even condone these attitudes.

"Mike Denney came to Antoniak's defense. The University of Nebraska at Omaha wrestling coach attended the sentencing, then threw his arm around Antoniak's father as they left the courtroom, teary-eyed.

Denney said character was never a question with Antoniak, a two-time All-American wrestler.

'I've been coaching for 38 years,' Denney said, 'and have been around hundreds of people. All I can say is he's a great young man.'

A GREAT YOUNG MAN? That's the label you give to someone who sexually assaults women?

But once again, she was a ho, so it doesn't matter.

Ugh, I could just puke.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Military cover-ups

This story is sad on so many levels.

But I think it's really worth mentioning that Jessica Lynch was sexually assaulted-- a common tactic used in war to devalue a people. The American public at large is now becoming aware that officials in government have been floating lies about these specific cases of Tillman and Lynch. Trying to make heroic stories and Hollywood-like plots out of the true, horrific situations of war.

People are shot by friendly fire, people see their friends shot and killed in front of them, women are constantly sexually assaulted in war as a tactic of fear and degradation.

If our government will use its own military heroes to try and rally cultural support of the war, what else will they stoop to?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Something about this tragedy has really gotten to me. I was tearing up watching the news last night. It's just such a pointless waste-- so many talented, amazing lives lost and for no reason.

Details are still emerging but one theory that has been circulated in several stories--- that the tragedy ignited with an initial act of domestic violence. A man gunning down his ex-girlfriend. Which is so ho-hum normal that campus and police figured there was no need to shut down classes for the day. In fact, you can bet if this tragedy had ended there, most of America would not even hear about it because the truth of domestic violence ending in murder is so common in this country. Mere weeks ago an ex-girlfriend was tracked down, strangled, cut into pieces and barbequed. Yet, that story was a flash in the pan.

Another fabulous blog, Dakota Women, calls attention to this history of shootings and their implications in light of violence against women.

The media is skipping over this detail in most of their coverage. Yes, the story is still fresh & to be fair families are still being notified. However, I can only pray that this discussion will come up in the days ahead. Our country has consistently turned a blind eye to the serious and very real epidemic that is domestic violence.
It hurts men, women and children and we need to stop the silence.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thankfully someone did it better

Gotta love Feministing

Fine, I'll talk about it -- Duke lacrosse

I am such a weenie. I keep checking other blogs to see who will post on Duke Lacrosse first so I don't have to... maybe everyone else is planning on ignoring it. Probably not a bad call. Writing about this is sort of like bending over and offering the trolls a place to kick.

But you know, watching the press conference last night I just couldn't help rolling my eyes. And yes, I realize I'm horribly biased because yeah, my entire job is about believing victims. And I tend to think that there are few women who would put themselves through the shit storm of a rape accusation, forensic exam, trial, scrutiny etc.

I don't pretend to know for sure ANYTHING about this Duke case. I was not this woman's advocate and I know very little specifics. I know from reading one article that one of the key discrepancies was that the woman could no longer testify to being penetrated by a penis. Not really surprising considering many women experience blackouts or suffer rape trauma that can disorient memories of the attack. Also alcohol is a factor in over half of all reported acquaintance rapes. Alcohol, as we know can royally screw with memory.

I watched the three players and I tried not to judge. If they are innocent, I pity them. However, when one of the players talked about all the injustice the media showed them my response was, Ummm, wha?

I recall most pundits siding with the players. Rush Limbaugh called the woman a “ho” and countless others referred to her as simply “the stripper.” And if you google Duke Lacrosse, more articles come up promoting the player’s innocence. One article even claims the woman just wanted money. If you search You Tube there are plenty of videos dedicated to the innocence of the players and the bad, bad villains who dared to support a woman who claimed she was raped. One You Tuber called the woman a “nappy headed ho” – my how pop-culture aware the trolls are getting.

If you search "duke lacrosse" on networking sites like facebook there are hundreds of "duke is innocent" groups. The few groups that are dedicated to guilt are clearly not built on discussion but on anger and most posts are angry supporters of Duke players who call the woman a "lying whore" who had semen from "at least five other guys in her" -- a common myth floating around.

Yes, it’s true that these men are innocent until proven guilty (even though, based on the stats, I assumed their guilt) and they surely did have some vocal opponents, I think they are mistaking media scrutiny with simple media coverage.

Perhaps these men were judged before their day in court (I know I did) but most of the reaction was understandable. The team was suspended as they should have been for throwing a party with hired strippers and booze. The coach should have been held responsible for the bad judgment and irresponsible behavior of his team. Furthermore the woman was judged and is still being judged. Common misunderstanding seems to be that these charges were dropped because this woman was a liar. These charges were dropped because there was insufficient evidence to proceed. As in no DNA – which can be explained, especially in light of the fact that the woman was not sure if she was penetrated with a penis or something else.

All I know is that something about three privileged white boys whining on about injustice when they had plenty of media support is severely annoying. How about all the women (and for that matter) men who are sexually assaulted everyday and they have no support from the legal system? Or they can’t prove their claims or they are too ashamed to even come forward in the first place? What about the culture where women can no longer except support for charging high-profile athletes with rape (duke lacrosse, Kobe Bryant cases). Rather they’re called “hos” and accused of digging for money or fame.

Certainly false accusations can happen but I don’t believe it’s common (and stats support me). With the lacrosse players officially declared innocent (they spelled it and everything) this whole outcome is going to have some disturbing fallout to an already “victim un-friendly” culture.

Watch and see