I know this won't be a popular diary because it stands against someone that most of us really want to like. As much of a debate as there's been over Wikileaks, I think most people here at Daily Kos are proud of Wikileaks for standing up to government secrecy and helping derail policies involving corruption and human rights abuses by shining the light of day on them. And as a consequence, have been proud of its leadership for doing so, in particular, Julian Assange.
But I'm not here to talk about Wikileaks. I'm here to talk about rape.
I used to use a Linux filesystem called "ReiserFS". At the time, it was the best filesystem out there - fast, reliable, scaleable, etc. It existed because of the hard work of Hans Reiser, a talented programmer. I no longer use this filesystem because it's no longer readily available. Because Reiser brutally murdered his wife and buried her body in a shallow grave, and after denying it and hiding the evidence for a long time, admitted it in a plea bargain and led the police to her body.
Perhaps closer to home for most people here, John Edwards captured the hearts - and the vote - of a large portion of the Democratic electorate in the primaries, with his populist rhetoric and voting record. And we all know the story of course of what transpired - cheating on his sick wife, fathering a child with the girl, all of the lying, the hiding, the illegal payoffs, etc.
A person can do lots of good things and still do something horrible.
There's been lots of talk about what's going on between Julian Assange and the Swedish prosecutors, brought back into the light by his appeal for asylum in Ecuador. Normally when there are charges of rape, people on DailyKos side strongly with the victims - but not this time. The talk here generally ignores the victims and is based on the theory that the whole thing is a setup by the prosecutor to get him illegally extradited to the US, where he'll them face Bradley Manning-type conditions. I could go into everything that's wrong with this notion, but just to debunk some of the key arguments that keep coming up:
"There's no charges against him. If they really wanted him, they'd charge him.": Swedish law prohibits raising charges not on Swedish soil against a subject who hasn't been given the opportunity to defend himself against the charges to be filed.
"They should just accept his offer to chat via Skype.": Suspects cannot dictate the terms of their questioning, a "skype interview" isn't at all like an actual police questioning, and as above, he can't be charged remotely.
"The real reason they're not charging him is because they know the charges are baseless.": Not only does Sweden believe the charges are not baseless, but the British court reviewing his extradition request found that there would be just cause to try him even in the UK.
"He's just being charged with a minor crime, and the only penalty is a fine.": No form of rape is a "minor crime", and while there are different categories of rape in Sweden and he's being charged with the least severe of them, he's still facing a sentence of up to four years.
"He's just being charged for having sex without a condom and the girls waited days before filing charges and didn't decide right away that it was rape.": This one is the real subject of this diary.
Here's the actual claims against Assange:
The allegations centre on a 10-day period after Assange flew into Stockholm on Wednesday 11 August. One of the women, named in court as Miss A, told police that she had arranged Assange's trip to Sweden, and let him stay in her flat because she was due to be away. She returned early, on Friday 13 August, after which the pair went for a meal and then returned to her flat.The accusations are not "sex without a condom". They're four counts, ranging from violating the terms of consent (only consenting to sex with a condom), molestation, pinning down a subject in a sexual manner and trying to force sex, and having sex with a sleeping subject (again without a condom which the subject had made clear in their last encounter was a condition of consent - not that a sleeping individual can consent anyway).
Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she "tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again". Miss A told police that she didn't want to go any further "but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far", and so she allowed him to undress her.
According to the statement, Miss A then realised he was trying to have unprotected sex with her. She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs. The statement records Miss A describing how Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom, but she told the police that at some stage Assange had "done something" with the condom that resulted in it becoming ripped, and ejaculated without withdrawing.
When he was later interviewed by police in Stockholm, Assange agreed that he had had sex with Miss A but said he did not tear the condom, and that he was not aware that it had been torn. He told police that he had continued to sleep in Miss A's bed for the following week and she had never mentioned a torn condom.
On the following morning, Saturday 14 August, Assange spoke at a seminar organised by Miss A. A second woman, Miss W, had contacted Miss A to ask if she could attend. Both women joined Assange, the co-ordinator of the Swedish WikiLeaks group, whom we will call "Harold", and a few others for lunch.
Assange left the lunch with Miss W. She told the police she and Assange had visited the place where she worked and had then gone to a cinema where they had moved to the back row. He had kissed her and put his hands inside her clothing, she said.
That evening, Miss A held a party at her flat. One of her friends, "Monica", later told police that during the party Miss A had told her about the ripped condom and unprotected sex. Another friend told police that during the evening Miss A told her she had had "the worst sex ever" with Assange: "Not only had it been the world's worst screw, it had also been violent."
Assange's supporters point out that, despite her complaints against him, Miss A held a party for him on that evening and continued to allow him to stay in her flat.
On Sunday 15 August, Monica told police, Miss A told her that she thought Assange had torn the condom on purpose. According to Monica, Miss A said Assange was still staying in her flat but they were not having sex because he had "exceeded the limits of what she felt she could accept" and she did not feel safe.
The following day, Miss W phoned Assange and arranged to meet him late in the evening, according to her statement. The pair went back to her flat in Enkoping, near Stockholm. Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when "he agreed unwillingly to use a condom".
Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no. "According to her statement, she said: 'You better not have HIV' and he answered: 'Of course not,' " but "she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before."
The police record of the interview with Assange in Stockhom deals only with the complaint made by Miss A. However, Assange and his lawyers have repeatedly stressed that he denies any kind of wrongdoing in relation to Miss W.
In submissions to the Swedish courts, they have argued that Miss W took the initiative in contacting Assange, that on her own account she willingly engaged in sexual activity in a cinema and voluntarily took him to her flat where, she agrees, they had consensual sex. They say that she never indicated to Assange that she did not want to have sex with him. They also say that in a text message to a friend, she never suggested she had been raped and claimed only to have been "half asleep".
Police spoke to Miss W's ex-boyfriend, who told them that in two and a half years they had never had sex without a condom because it was "unthinkable" for her. Miss W told police she went to a chemist to buy a morning-after pill and also went to hospital to be tested for STDs. Police statements record her contacting Assange to ask him to get a test and his refusing on the grounds that he did not have the time.
On Wednesday 18 August, according to police records, Miss A told Harold and a friend that Assange would not leave her flat and was sleeping in her bed, although she was not having sex with him and he spent most of the night sitting with his computer. Harold told police he had asked Assange why he was refusing to leave the flat and that Assange had said he was very surprised, because Miss A had not asked him to leave. Miss A says she spent Wednesday night on a mattress and then moved to a friend's flat so she did not have to be near him. She told police that Assange had continued to make sexual advances to her every day after they slept together and on Wednesday 18 August had approached her, naked from the waist down, and rubbed himself against her.
When presented with the accusations, Assange immediately began insisting that the girls were some sort of "honeypot" and "dirty tricks" by the CIA.
The most troubling part of the story for me, however, is the main argument of his defense, and of many of his defenders on the internet: that the girls waited "days" before levying charges and only did so after talking with each other. The standard argument goes something like, "You can't consider it to not be rape and then only change your mind after learning that he's sleeping with another girl! Why, every guy would be a rapist."
Here's the problem with rape. Very rarely is it a "guy jumps out of the bushes at you with a knife" sort of situation. The situation is almost always complicated, foggy in one way or another. And this makes it very difficult for victims not only to admit to others that it was rape, but even admit it to themselves. You don't want to see yourself as a victim. You don't want to empower them as a victimizer. When I told my story, another person told me how she actually started dating her rapist, just to make it not seem so much like rape.
It took me about three months before I could call what happened to me "rape". Not "a bad night", not "an unwanted sexual experience", not "rape or something along those lines", not "I had some friends tell me I should call it rape" - just simply, rape.
I won't go into detail, having already done so here. I didn't fight or scream - just kept telling him no over and over while trying to protect my body and trying to leave when I thought I might have the chance, but never fought, never wanting to escalate an already bad situation. I consented to other types of sexual activity in a bid to try to get him to stop trying to get inside of me and stop fingering me (he went back on his word, however). I didn't immediately run as soon as he stopped. Etc.
Its these line-blurring things that make it very hard for you to go to the authorities. It's these that make it hard for you to use that word: rape. And there's always someone who's had it worse than you, and you don't want to diminish what happened to them by using the word for yourself. I've known girls who've been raped at knifepoint. That wasn't what happened to me, so I was very uncomfortable using the word for myself.
It seems like something that you can say, "It's in the past, it's over with" to. Something you can just forget about, brush off and keep going with life. It's only when confronted with evidence that it's actually affecting your life that you have to face it - freaking out when you're supposed to go out on a date or when you get a phone call with someone you don't recognize, hearing the guy's voice when others call your name with a similar accent, etc.
To act like the fact that these women didn't immediately scream rape to everyone who could hear them means that they weren't really raped is, as a consequence, extremely hurtful to me. And I'm sure it's extremely hurtful to others as well.
I just wanted to add a personal element to this case. Thank you for taking the time to read.