To my fellow women and our allies—
I am writing to inform you of a mock trial fictional case to be used in a national competition that involves sexist stereotyping of female rape victims.
On February 20, the Texas Young Lawyers Association and American College of Trial Lawyers posted a fact scenario for their national championship tournament, in which a popular football player is accused of raping Krista Chicona, a promiscuous massage therapist who is thought to enjoy sadomasochist sex [http://www.tyla.org/advocacy_ntc.html].
Somewhere in America, a woman is raped approximately every two minutes, but less than one half of rapes are reported to law enforcement officials (National Crime Victimization Survey). One reason that women do not report rape is because harmful stereotypes include the notions that she “asked” to be raped, secretly enjoyed the experience, or lied about it. Rape victims who feel that these stereotypes will be applied to them may be unwilling to report the rape.
The rape victim portrayed in the fact pattern reinforces those harmful stereotypes. Krista Chicona, the victim, is described as a promiscuous woman who was asking for the rape. She works as a massage therapist, brags about sexual conquests with celebrities, drives a flashy red corvette with a “DMN8RX” license plate (dominatrix), carries a leather riding crop (whip) around with her, flirts with athletes by licking her lips and batting her eyelashes, and passes out business cards that have a picture of a whip alongside the message “Massage and Adult Fantasy.” This image of a rape victim reinforces the myth that only promiscuous women are raped.
Moreover, the sole issue in the trial is consent. So, law students who acting as defense attorneys are forced to sully the rape victim’s character, honesty, and motives if they hope to advance in the competition.
Women who file rape charges are rarely lying, but public perception is considerably different. Here, the rape victim waited three days to go to the hospital to report the crime. And the fact pattern is rich with suggestions that she is dishonest. She misled the rapist into thinking she had been licensed as a massage therapist, she took a day off work when she wasn’t actually sick, and her cash drawer came up $10.00 short once, causing her boss to conclude she stole the money.
This case only adds to society's distrust of women who were raped and contributes to a culture that suppresses the truth about unwanted sexual intercourse. It also puts competitors who are rape victims or who are close to a rape victim in an impossible position by compelling them to participate in a destructive cross-examination that accuses the female victim of promiscuity and dishonesty if they hope to represent their law schools well at the national competition.
Unlike other crime victims, survivors of sexual violence experience shame and self-blaming. Rape is associated with a host of short- and long-term problems, including physical injury and illness, psychological symptoms, economic costs, and suicide. Rape is a terribly isolating experience, and the survivors in our community need our support.
So, let the coordinators of the mock trial competition know that this case is unacceptable. Tell them it furthers a culture that oppresses women and disadvantages those female competitors who have been raped. Tell them it is shameful to make law students who have worked hard to qualify for the national competition to compete under such an offensive fact pattern.
Please contact the following coordinators to express your disappointment:
* Denny Sheppard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
* Cori Harbour (email@example.com)
* Christopher Jensen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
* Rob Canas, Jr. (email@example.com)
* Lisa Sanders Richardson (Lisa.Richardson@oag.state.tx.us)
Please consider requesting the following remedies: 1) a public apology, 2) a re-written fact pattern, and 3) implementation of a policy that will ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Rape is a terribly isolating experience, and the survivors in our community need our support. Please let your voices be heard so that victims of rape may also be heard.
Thank you for your support.