Rape is for Nice Girls

So there's this judge. Her name—her name—is Teresa Carr Deni, and she's a municipal judge in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. And recently, a defendant in her courtroom was accused of raping a prostitute at gunpoint—and inviting three of his friends to rape her, too. It might even have been more, except that when a fifth man arrived and was offered a turn, he asked why the girl was crying and declined to rape her while she wept and his friend pointed a gun at her, instead deciding to help her get dressed and leave.

The thing is, Judge Deni dropped all sex and assault charges at alleged gun-wielding gang-rapist Dominique Gindraw's preliminary hearing. She decided he should be held on armed robbery for "theft of services." Not only can prostitutes not be raped, according to Judge Deni, but calling what happened to the 20-year-old victim rape "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."

Deni told me she based her decision on the fact that the prostitute consented to have sex with the defendant.

"She consented and she didn't get paid . . . I thought it was a robbery."
The "consent" to which Judge Deni is referring is the prearrangement of the meeting for a paid sexual encounter. According to Judge Deni's calculation, when Gindraw showed up with a gun and forced the woman to submit to him (and three friends) without paying her, he was merely guilty of reneging on the deal. By this logic, a man should be allowed to hold a weapon to a prostitute's head—or a knife at her throat, or bind her, or chain her to a fucking radiator, or have a rabid dog hold her at bay—but as long as he pays her afterward, there's no crime.

"The Legislature has defined sex by force as rape," said [assistant district attorney Rich DeSipio], accusing the judge of "rewriting her own laws."

DeSipio said Judge Deni's ruling was based, not on the law, but on moral contempt. "Certainly if a jury wants to make that judgment, they're entitled to. But for a judge to make a judgment on a human being - I've never seen that before."

Deni did seem contemptuous of the victim:

"Did she tell you she had another client before she went to report it?" Deni asked me yesterday when we met at a coffee shop.

"I thought rape was a terrible trauma."

A case like this, she said - to my astonishment - "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."

The defendant was charged in an identical incident involving a 23-year-old woman four days later, DeSipio said.

Neither woman knew the other and both told identical stories. The other men involved in the attack couldn't be identified.

…DeSipio said he'll file to reinstate the charges in both cases right away - before a different judge, of course.
Well, at least he has some fucking sense (although I find his casually-issued caveat that juries are "certainly entitled" to decide cases on moral contempt rather alarming; while juries absolutely do, I'm a little surprised to hear an ADA all but endorse it).

As for Judge Deni's insinuation that the accuser didn't "behave" like a rape victim because she "had another client before she went to report it," there's no such thing as a "typical" response to rape. Immediately following a rape, some women go into shock. Some are lucid. Some are angry. Some are ashamed. Some are practical. Some are irrational. Some want to report it. Some don't. Most have a combination of emotions, but there is no standard response, no single indicator to "prove" a rape has happened. (Or disprove it.) Responses to rape are as varied as its victims.

And if you're a 20-year-old single mother who's turning tricks to put food on the table, being gang-raped at gunpoint doesn't magically mean there's money in your pocket afterwards.

Though it's just as likely, if not more so, that the delay had more to do with shock than pragmatism.

I also suspect if the victim had been a male neurosurgeon who did another surgery and saved a life before he reported a sexual assault to the police, we would be hearing about Judge Deni praising his heroic stoicism.

Anyway, I'd like to assure Judge Deni, as one of the women who was "really raped" that she's so worried about demeaning, that I don't feel demeaned by the rape of a woman of any profession or personal circumstance being called what it is. I do, however, have a serious fucking problem with the idea that someone who holds a gun to a woman's head, rapes her, and lets his friends rape her while he holds her hostage with a deadly weapon isn't a rapist.

This judge needs to be removed from the bench immediately. Absolutely despicable.

[Thanks to Zuzu for the heads-up; tip of the hat to Jesse at Group News Blog.]

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus