Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Rape culture means rapists never have to say they are sorry

[Trigger Warning: Sexual violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, suicide, depression]

Yesterday news broke that du Pont family heir Robert Richards IV will not be going to prison following a conviction of raping his three-year-old daughter. You read that right. A man who was convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting his daughter for at least two years, starting when she was three, will not be going to prison. Why? Because poor, poor rich, white Richards is too precious for prison.

From ThinkProgress:

Although Richards was originally charged with two counts of second-degree rape of a child — counts that carry a mandatory 10 year prison term — the prosecutor offered him a plea bargain just days before the trial. Richards admitted in open court that he abused his daughter, and he plead to a single count of fourth-degree rape, a much less serious crime with no mandatory minimum.

Though the maximum sentence for fourth-degree rape is 15 years in prison, the prosecution recommended that Richards only receive probation. And Judge Jan Jurden largely agreed. Though she sentenced Richards to an eight-year prison term, she immediately suspended the term in favor of probation. Richards, Jurden wrote in her sentencing order, “will not fare well” if he is sentenced to prison.

If you’re like me, you just threw up in your mouth a little. I’ll give you a second to recover.

So, once again, a judge has decided that someone who has not only admitted to raping a child, but has been convicted of it, won’t serve a day in prison. Remember the guy who admitted to raping a teenage girl hundreds of times, but the judge threw out his confession? Or the California judge who threw out a rape case because the victim was unmarried? Or the outrageous Alabama case?

And you wonder why survivors* of sexual assault see no point in reporting their crime?

For seven years I’ve been reporting about cases like these. Told you about the more than 400,000 unprocessed rape kits that collect dust in evidence lockers all over the nation. The rape survivors attempting or succeeding in killing themselves because they can’t take the bullying by peers, neighbors, or even the police any more. I’ve turned myself inside out to share my own story of surviving — even my rage — so that you can no longer say you do not know a survivor of sexual assault.

I don’t want to sound defeatist, but is it getting any better? Is the world better, or at least more outraged, for all these words I’ve poured out here? Are survivors of sexual violence seeing less injustice? Are they being treated with any more dignity?

From where I’m sitting, I just keep seeing shit like that campaign stunt by political candidates who are willing to sell out rape survivors just to raise some money. And when we see stories in which we can’t even get justice for a small child — I not only feel deeply triggered, but an intense sense of depression. Nobody cares. We are not just disposable, we are invisible. Our pain, our suffering is meaningless. Worse, it’s a punchline.

What’s been bothering me lately is this weird boundary between sexual assault and sexual abuse survivors. Why? There is no functional difference between the experience I had as a child at the hands of a family member and that of my friend who was attacked by her boyfriend at a college party. We were both sexually assaulted — the act of being forced to engage in sex acts against our will. The reason why my experience is treated differently than my friend’s is purely a function of rape culture. Our society gives a pass to children — well, usually — with an assumption of innocence. But adults? Well, if you were raped then you were somehow asking for it. But even with the so-called “good victim” reputation that sexual abuse survivors get (compared to the assumption of being a “bad” person as an adult survivor), it doesn’t mean that any of us get any closer to justice all that often.

Because rape culture means a rapist never has to say they are sorry. Just look at Robert Richards IV.

* People who have survived the brutality and trauma of sexual assault deserve the dignity of not being labeled victims.

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2 thoughts on “Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Rape culture means rapists never have to say they are sorry

  1. Pingback: The rape culture tipping point: Why the outrage about Brock Turner is a sign of hope | The Sin City Siren

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