When the Justice System Fails Women

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that everyone has experienced one of those 4AM phone calls. The thing is, it’s usually either desperately important, or your friend being a drunk asshole. This one opened up with crying, so I figured it was the latter.
“Chelsea, you have to come get me. I’ve just been raped.”
Not “I think I’ve been raped,” not “I might have just been sexually assaulted,” not “get me out of here, I’m about to have regretful sex,” but, “I’ve been raped.” Needless to say, that was the fastest I had ever driven. What would usually take about 20 minutes or so, I made in about 10 minutes. This is not just a story of rape though; this is a story of rape culture, and what it is doing to women (and men!) across not only our country, but the entire world (India immediately comes to mind).
Look around your classroom, the statistics would say that about 20% of the female students in your class have, or will be, sexually assaulted at some point in their college career. Why are college women the most prone to sexual assault than any other age group? Because they have been internalized to feel that they aren’t the victims and that they had it coming. How many times have you heard an off-cuff remark about how “she drank too much,” “her skirt was so short, she was TOTALLY asking for it,” or “she shouldn’t have been walking at X place at Y hour by herself”? This is what we call victim or slut shaming. I am not here to attest that male rape victims/female assailants (Aileen Wuornos, anyone?) do not exist, but they account for about 2% of rapes. So why are we telling women what NOT to do in order to prevent their rape? Why are we not simply telling men NOT to rape? Why is it fair that a male my age should be able to walk around Pine Hills by himself at night, and if I do the same, I am just “begging” to be assaulted? Have women lost so much autonomy over their own goddamn bodies that this is acceptable?
As aforementioned dismal statistics have shown, women have to face an onslaught of victim shaming, but what about the judicial system? Can they get their justice? Survey says no.
The experience my friend had with the Albany Police Department (APD) was more than abysmal – it was downright atrocious. I first called the University Police Department (UPD) when rescuing her from downtown, and they in turn called Five Quad, UAlbany’s student-run volunteer ambulance service. I have to give outstanding props to all the people on the scene, from the veteran officer, to the kids who were simply volunteers on Five Quad. Their demeanor, understanding, and professionalism were never matched by APD in any way, shape or form. Unfortunately, because the incident happened off campus, it had to be filed with APD. After giving her statement to UPD, Five Quad brought her to Albany Med for her rape kit.
The next day, APD came to campus to interview her, and promised to call her within a week, after they went to the scene of the crime and got an additional interview and statement. A week went by. Then two. Then three. She tried calling the station only to be told her case hadn’t been given to anyone, or the sergeant was on vacation, etc. It wasn’t until a family friend called in a favor that she was called two days later – more than 3 weeks after the assault.
She asked if she could have me come with her to the station for moral support, and the detectives gave her a cold “no.” She told me she was stuffed into a small room, with a closed door, and two older men who berated her with questions like, “Are you sure this isn’t just sex you regretted?” (a small fraction of rapes are false claims), “What were you wearing?” (we’ve already been over “slut-shaming”) and, “You’re positive you said no?” (she enjoyed getting her rape kit and daily therapist visits for the fun of it!).
In a college town, these are the people we have dealing with the most sexually assaulted demographic. My friend shared with me a story the therapist told her: A man went into a sorority house and about 4 or 5 of the girls he found, he bound and gagged and proceeded to rape over and over. One of the girls had been hiding, and was able to escape the house and run for help. When the police asked him why he targeted these girls he said, “Rarely do college females report their rapes.” He knew whom to seek. He knew whom he could easily victimize.
In the end, my friend did not get justice. She waited over 9 months for a DNA test results, only to have hairs and DNA that matched her perpetrator, but none that matched the fluids in her underwear, which apparently is not enough to go to trial. According to the District Attorney, the system was made to protect him more, as he is the accused, and she is the accuser. Innocent until proven guilty, and now we have a certified rapist walking the streets of Albany. Most rapists will not face trial and will not get jail time. Most aren’t even reported. This is something we need to be rallying women against.
Does anyone even know how to react when a friend claims to be raped? If you ever get called in the night, these are the steps you can take to get them as much help as they need. If it happens off campus, but you live on campus, bring your friend to campus and call UPD immediately. Don’t let them change their clothes, brush their teeth, shower, and if at all possible, drink anything. This will lead to the most accurate rape kit. If both of you live off campus, and it happened off campus, bring them to wherever they feel most comfortable and call the police department. You might even want to call UPD as you are a student, but they cannot take judicial steps. Urge them to go to the psychology services on campus. Mind you, you cannot force any of this on your friend. They will do what they think is right, but rape is a crime of power. They may feel victimized and sometimes they’re going to need steps in the right direction.
Rape is happening all across college campuses, and why the injustice and victim-shaming only increases in lieu of the information and means of protection aren’t, is a huge problem in my eyes. As one of my favorite slogans from “Take Back the Night” says, “My Little Black Dress Does Not Mean Yes.”
Original Post by: H0melessdad
Collaboration by Jordan Doyle, Myllicent Felder and Caitlin Looney

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