Content Warning: R*pe, Sexual Assault
The Minnesota Supreme Court, through a unanimous decision, ruled that a man cannot be found guilty of rape solely because the woman had voluntarily gotten drunk before the assault. This third-degree criminal sexual conduct indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of policy that allows rape culture to persist in America.
The rape laws that currently exist too often allow predators to evade criminal conviction due to minute technicalities.
The Minnesota law, as it's written, states that the law only applies if the drugs or alcohol were administered against the victim’s will. This loophole — and many like it — continue to make it extremely challenging for sexual assault survivors to press charges against their rapists.
The lack of accountability for rape cases is incredibly dangerous. Of the estimated rape incidents, just 31% of cases are reported to the authorities. It’s no wonder why this is the case, for only 5.7% of rapists are arrested and a gruesome 0.7% are convicted of felony rape.
Rape cases go unreported, because the amount of trauma that a survivor is burdened with isn’t worth the extremely slim margins of a rapist getting charged. Pulling more statistics, many studies find that between 33% and 45% of survivors experience PTSD, and, further, 82% experience fear and anxiety.
States immediately need to start updating and refining laws to protect survivors — not trivialize their experiences. As it stands, public reaction to rape accusations reinforces rape culture — especially accusations made against powerful politicians and celebrities.
When Dr. Ford accused current Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, too many people painted her accusation as a smear campaign against an otherwise highly-regarded judge. Now, he’s proven himself as below average, ruling against women’s reproductive rights and rights for undocumented individuals. Regardless of his performance on the bench, Kavanaugh should not be in the position he holds.
Kavanaugh sympathizers gaslighted Dr. Ford’s (under-oath) testimony, in which she shared her experience of being held down against her will at a high school party by Kavanaugh. Those sympathizers echoed excuses along the lines of, “it was so long ago, he’s learned since then,” or claims that she had a vendetta against him because it wasn’t until now that she made the accusation.
Perhaps the most recognized instance of gaslighting came from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), when she — in a characteristic move of bipartisanship — believed that Dr. Ford was assaulted, however the assault was by someone other than Kavanaugh.
When this is one of the most widely recognized instances of a rape trial in recent history, we present the message to survivors that it doesn’t matter how credible you are or how hard you try — the legal system will not believe you and will not hold people accountable.
It is fundamentally dangerous how little accountability rapists face in this country. Until we make laws that support survivors, rapists will continue to get away with their crimes and the institutions meant to preserve “justice” will stand on the wrong side of that scale.
Riley Sumner is an Editor of the Opinion Desk. He is a Junior studying Computer Science & Journalism with an emphasis in reporting. Do you think rape culture is a problem in America? Do you think our culture gaslights rape survivors? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org