Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let me remind you... rape is rape.

In a Massachusetts courtroom, a legal battle is brewing that could have enormous consequences for victims. As a result of a plea deal that put a man on probation for 16 years for raping a then-14 year old girl, the convicted rapist can now seek visitation rights for the child conceived during the rape. Even just on the face of it, many people have a gut reaction that this is not right.

There is a deeper aspect of this case, however, that hearkens back to the furor created by the “legitimate rape” comments by MO Senatorial Candidate Todd Aiken. While Rep. Aiken clarified his “legitimate” rape comment on Mike Huckabee’s radio show by explaining that he meant “forcible” rape. That type of parsing of language, fiddling with definitions, only leads to the undermining of the experience of all rape victims.

In the Massachusetts case, there is an undercurrent of the legitimacy question- asking what really counts as rape. According to a story from a Boston Fox affiliate, the convicted rapist’s lawyer would not comment on the visitation request, but did say that the relationship between the victim and perpetrator was “consensual,” although “inappropriate.” No. It was not consensual; it was rape. Statutory rape is rape. The perpetrator pled guilty to four counts of raping a 14-year old girl when he was 20 years old.

To call the Massachusetts situation consensual is to de-legitimate the experience of the victim, who according to reports, still suffers from anxiety and depression. To call it “inappropriate,” is to severely understate the trauma of victimization. To accidentally call forcible rape “legitimate rape” is to undermine the experiences of all victims whose rape experience doesn’t exactly mirror a narrow definition. Please call it what it is. Rape. Is. Rape.

Comments by: Jessica Meyers, Director of Advocacy Services