Far too often, survivors of rape end up being wrongfully blamed for their rapists’ actions, as if they had somehow suggested to their rapists that they wanted to be raped. This happens constantly, when in reality it should go without saying that a rape survivor is never responsible for their rape.
However, it seems that even law enforcement sometimes fails to grasp this concept, blaming the victims for their perpetrators’ actions. In a recent court case against NYPD cops, officers attempted to argue that the young girl accusing them of rape shouldn’t be viewed as credible because of her “provocative selfies” on social media.
Sadly, this is one of countless examples of women being blamed for their rapists’ crimes, suggesting that their appearance somehow implied that they were “asking for it.” It’s difficult to envision anyone actually using this argument, let alone the people we’re supposed to trust to stop rapes from occurring in the first place.
NYPD Cops Accused Of Rape Are “Smearing” Their Victim
An 18-year-old girl recently came forward to report two policemen who allegedly raped her. The young girl claims that she was handcuffed and forced into a police van by two policemen, who then drove her to a parking lot where they forced her to perform oral sex on them both. One of the policemen then raped her. The young girl maintains that all of this was not consensual and that she remained in handcuffs the entire time.
Policemen took the young girl during a traffic stop, where they found prescription drugs in her car. “You’ll spend three hours in the precinct. This is what you’re going to do for us, and we’ll let you go,” the cops allegedly told her, as explained by her lawyer, Michael David.
“There was zero consent,” David clarified. “The cops were over 6 feet tall. She’s very petite, like 5-2 and maybe 100 pounds. There’s nothing she could do.”
DNA from both officers was also found on the teenager. As a law enforcement source stated, “DNA samples taken from both suspects came back as a match when compared to the rape kits.” Although the two NYPD detectives accused of the rape, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, admitted to having sex with the victim, they claimed it was consensual.
The woman who accused the cops of raping her chose to go public with her allegations, taking to her social media to publicize her experience and increase awareness. The two officers have since been suspended until further notice.
The New York Post reported that, according to a legal document sent to the newspaper, the officers are attempting to discredit her accusations by “shaming” her for her social media posts. The document states that “this behaviour is unprecedented for a depressed victim of a vicious rape,” which was in reference to a “provocative selfie” and “bragging about being followed by paparazzi.” Apparently, the cops believe that because of her social media activity, her claims should be rendered “dubious.”
The letter continued: “She has posted Instagram videos of herself using drugs and rapping about the case while joking about the millions that will be ‘in her bank account.’ “
It’s important to note that, despite the language used in this letter, there is no “normal” behaviour or reaction experienced by rape survivors. This should not be an argument used by anyone, especially law enforcement. Rape affects each and every person differently, and although depression may be a common part of a rape survivor’s healing, that does not mean it needs to be a part of every survivor’s journey.
There is no guidebook to determine how best to handle being sexually assaulted or raped, or any other trauma, for that matter. We all grieve differently, we all love differently, we all communicate differently, and it would be ignorant to assume that we’d all react to being raped in the same manner. We are all souls living out our human experience, and no one experience is the same, and thus no one reaction is the same.
This reminded me of one story that was shared amidst all of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, discussing one woman’s reason why she felt uncomfortable posting #MeToo on social media (a social media hashtag users were posting to show their support for victims). It wasn’t that she hadn’t experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or rape in the past, but rather, hadn’t necessarily faced the reality of those situations herself.
Since her experiences weren’t extremely violent, and because she hadn’t felt “traumatized,” she felt that they were somehow unworthy of being called “sexual harassment” or “rape.” You can read more in our CE article here.
In reality, many of us who have been subjected to sexual harassment or assault tend to minimize our experiences because they’re not full of violence, or because our reactions don’t fit society’s stereotypes about rape victims. If we don’t feel “damaged” or if we don’t really feel anything, for that matter, we start to question whether or not what we went through was actually sexual assault, rape, etc.
Rape is not defined by the aftermath of your experience, nor is it classified by how “traumatic” the experience was or how it ended up shaping your life. Rape does not look the same in all cases, and so it’s completely understandable that our reactions wouldn’t parallel one another’s, either. These stereotypes surrounding the “expected behaviour” of rape survivors does not help their healing, but rather further perpetuates rape culture.
Although it’s unclear whether or not the sex was consensual, what has been made abundantly clear is that these cops are perpetuating the false notion that a woman’s appearance can somehow justify rape. Claiming her appearance on social media somehow discredits her word highlights precisely the issue with the way in which we handle rape as a society.
We should be creating a safe and open space for survivors of sexual violence to come forward and share their experiences with us, not telling them they’re somehow to blame for their perpetrators’ actions. What we wear, what we post on social media, or what we “appear to want” do not justify rape, because rape can never be justified.
Even if this case involved consensual sex, these cops are still misusing their positions of authority and wasting taxpayers’ dollars, and they violated policy. No matter what, they took advantage of their authority inappropriately, which occurs far too often.
I’d like to end this article by quoting a recently published piece in The Atlantic written by Brit Marling, in which she discusses the economics of consent. Sometimes, rape survivors feel that they cannot share their experiences with the public, or that they cannot say “no” in the first place, for financial reasons or because of the hierarchy that exists within society.
Cops, politicians, big shot executives, and other higher-ups and government officials use their power of authority to commit sexually violent acts against men, women, and children all the time, and then they get off scot-free. Why? Because within the constraints of our current economic system, money and power far too often trump ethics.
As Marling says, “It’s not these bad men. Or that dirty industry. It’s this inhumane economic system of which we are all a part.”