Because my rape culture piece is widely linked, I get a lot of emails from men (always men, and affirming their maleness to me is always very important to them) who take issue with my contention that the rape culture even exists. No preponderance of evidence will ever convince them otherwise, but here is a simple truth: The true and terrible story like the one I am about to share would only exist as a fiction if the rape culture were not a real thing in the world.
A teenage girl with developmental disabilities, who I am going to call Jane, was harassed, assaulted, and raped by a male classmate at her school in Missouri. She reported the abuse to school authorities, who not only refused to believe her and failed as mandatory reporters to comply with the Missouri's Child Abuse Reporting Law and report her complaints to the Division of Family Services, but bullied her into recanting and then, "without seeking her mother's permission, school officials forced the girl to write a letter of apology to the boy and personally deliver it to him."
After being forced to apologize to her rapist, Jane was expelled for the remainder of the school year. And, despite having failed to report her complaints to authorities, school officials did refer Jane "to juvenile authorities for filing a false report."
The story does not end there.
In 2009-10, the girl was allowed back in school, and the boy continued to harass and assault her, the suit says. She did not tell school officials because she was afraid she would be accused of lying and kicked out of school.In response, the defendants (the Republic School District, Superintendent Vern Minor, middle school Principal Patricia Mithelavage, counselor Joni Ragain, and school resource officer Robert Duncan) have argued that Jane "failed and neglected to use reasonable means to protect herself."
In February 2010, the boy allegedly forcibly raped the girl again, this time in the back of the school library. While school officials allegedly expressed skepticism of the girl, her mother took her to the Child Advocacy Center and an exam showed a sexual assault had occurred. DNA in semen found on the girl matched the DNA of the boy she accused, the suit says.
The boy was taken into custody in Juvenile Court and pleaded guilty to charges, the suit says. The specific charges are not stated in the suit.
"School Officials acted recklessly in conscious disregard of and with deliberate indifference to the risk of [Jane's] safety by failing to conduct an investigation into her allegations of rape and sexual assault, by suspending her from school, and by failing to provide her with any protection from her rapist," the suit says.
This story plucks strings of my memory that play a song of empathetic sorrow. It is a distant memory, to which I am at once intimately connected and dreamily dissociated, as if it were something that happened to me once upon a time when I was another person.
It makes this post difficult to write, in a way most posts are not.
I cannot speak for other survivors—not Jane, and not anyone else. I can speak only for myself, and, for me, to be raped was to be hurt, terribly hurt. To be disbelieved and abandoned by the people entrusted with my safety, sent away to be raped again, and again, was to be destroyed. The latter was harder to recover from than the former.
Rape, argue my disbelieving correspondents, happens in a world full of people. You'll never stop all rape from happening, they tell me. Maybe not. Maybe that classmate would have raped Jane even if we didn't live in a rape culture.
But he wouldn't have been allowed to rape her again.
[This story was sent to me by lots and lots of Shakers. Thanks to each and every one of you.]