One of my former students, who’s now graduated and out in the world, wrote a letter to the campus paper that just made me so proud of her. A rape case that I wrote about last spring was first tried in the local media, and now the defendant’s lawyers are pulling the same shenanigans in the courtroom. Here’s how my former student analyzed it:
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex with someone once, twice or 1,000 times – a sexual past does not make a sexual future mandatory. The current rape trial that has been reported in The Post (“Rape trial commences for former OU student” in the Tuesday issue; “Rape trial defense prompts questions” in the Wednesday issue; and”Victim details relationship with accused rapist” in the Thursday issue) highlights the misconception that if someone consents to sex once, it is etched in stone that consent is guaranteed at all times in the future, regardless of the circumstances.
I am not criticizing this case specifically, nor am I claiming to know the specific details of the case. Rather, I think this case follows the format of many sexual assault cases in perpetuating an attitude and obstacle that sexual assault survivors often face – that women can’t say both “yes” and “no” to sex with the same person. …
Lawyers often use someone’s sexual history against her, and it’s appalling. Constantly in court – and in society – people candidly tell women that, basically, they asked to get raped because on a completely different occasion they consented to sex. This notion is disgusting, and it is shameful to see women – who publicly take criticism in rape cases and get stereotyped as “promiscuous” or “asking for it” – get torn down, after already dealing with emotional and physical trauma and still having the strength to face their attacker (and possibly friend, boyfriend or husband) in court.
I don’t want other survivors of sexual assault and rape to read articles like this, see the tactics that go on in the courtroom and refrain from taking legal action because the decisions they made before they were aware their friend, boyfriend or husband was capable of sexual violence are going to be used against them after the fact.
I can’t claim credit for forming her political consciousness as a student; she came to me as a senior, already clued in and extremely smart. Nonetheless, I feel really proud of her! I also know she’s not my only former student who’s doing wonderful things; she’s just left a public record of it. (For instance, a week ago I heard from another former student who’s working for Senator Sherrod Brown. She says he’s as cool as he seems.)
I only wish there were no cause for anyone to have written such a letter in the first place. The accuser in this case has lots of physical evidence and corroborating statements on her side. The defendant claims “rough sex.” I obviously haven’t been privy to all of the testimony, but I hope the jury will understand that when someone says “yes” it’s not a free pass in perpetuity.