Skip to main content

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Discussion of rape and rape culture. No graphic details.

I have a new essay on CNN about a very disturbing case out of Georgia.

Last September, William Jeffrey Dumas was convicted of three counts of rape. According to the charges, he had raped a woman three times over a night and the following morning, and the jury agreed with the prosecution that he was guilty. But just last week, a judge overturned the jury's conviction and ordered a new trial.

The Georgia appeals court judge, Christopher McFadden, argued that the verdict went "strongly against the weight of the evidence" because, in his judgment, the woman in question -- I'll join other writers in calling her Jane -- didn't act like a victim and the man didn't act like a rapist.

In the essay, I argue that this isn't a story about Down syndrome, but a story about rape, rape culture, and the failing of our justice system. This is a perfect case for an intersectional analysis.
The outrage is not only because this judge didn't understand Down syndrome, but that judges frequently impose their perceptions on cases of sexual assault, reducing sentences even for convicted rapists on the grounds that the victim didn't act "correctly." Jane's troubling case reveals the intersections between rape culture and the way we strip agency from people with disabilities.
Here are some of the other examples of people who mostly do not have disabilities that I cite.

1 .Montana judge (well covered on DailyKos): "She was older than her chronological age."

2. California judge: "She didn't put up a fight."

3. Arizona judge: ""If you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you."

4. Alabama judge: "although she was forcibly raped twice, she continued to come back and have a social relationship."

The list could go on and on. This is what rape culture looks like, among other things - the myth that there is only one way to respond to rape.

I end my essay with these thoughts:

As the next trial unfolds, do not focus on Jane because she is a woman with Down syndrome. Focus on Jane because she is a woman who says that she was raped. Focus on Jane because she's joined the ranks of other women, women of all races, classes, sexual orientations, and levels of ability who have said that they were raped and then had their testimony disregarded by a judge on the basis of not acting enough like a victim.
There is no one correct way to respond to being violated, but there are so many ways that our justice system can make it worse.
Thanks for reading, sharing the story, and joining whatever efforts you can to fight against rape culture and the abuse of people with disabilities.

--------------------------------------------------
I am a freelance columnist, blogger, long-time Kossack, and History Professor. You can read my blog at How Did We Get Into This Mess?

To read more, you could 'like' my public Facebook page.

Or you could follow me on Twitter:

Originally posted to Lollardfish on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 07:51 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kos Georgia.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site