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Because It Is In The News These Days

1 October 2009

I feel that rapists should be killed.

I’m not a proponent of the death penalty, in general, because too many mistakes are still being made: overzealous prosecutors, under-qualified public defenders, cover-ups, recanting witnesses, etc.

I also think that the definitions of “sexual offender” are too broad in the current legal system: a 17-year-old who gets drunk and walks around at a party without his pants on is, in the eyes of the law, a sexual predator who, for the rest of his life, is required to register with local law enforcement. That’s ridiculous.

Murder can be an unanticipated result: an argument gone too far, a rush of anger, actions taken without thinking them through. I’m not saying there should be no punishment involved, but I do believe that, given treatment, these people can be rehabilitated and returned to society (as long as their time in prison isn’t one long physical and mental abusive period, which only results in worse delinquents being returned to society — the incarceration system in the US is terribly broken and needs to be fixed, I agree).

On the other hand, I don’t believe that rapists can be rehabilitated. Such an act of aggression and violence is never done “by accident” (even date rape; but I agree that there should be a gradation of definitions; see the third paragraph).

Rape is also pretty unequivocally provable (sperm does not lie; see the second paragraph).

Murder is bad, but we condone some forms of murder (war, anyone?). Rape is never condoned. If one rapes, one should die. Period.

I wonder if my strong sentiments on this are because I am a woman. Perhaps. I would like to hear your thoughts. Anyone?

Also, as I said last night on Facebook: There is no such thing as “unlawful sex with a 13-year-old”. The correct term is “rape”. (And the fact that all media outlets I read/listen to chose the former term rather than the latter term in discussing the Polanski case saddens me and reinforces my feeling of being an outsider in our male-centered society).

11 Comments leave one →
  1. cowgirl permalink
    1 October 2009 10:12 am

    actually– i believe some men think just as strongly (if not more so) as you do on rape. You should hear what Mr. Cowgirl has to say about the Polanski case… the fact that this man KNEW the girl was a minor when everything happened is a fact that he can not and will not get past (me either). Regardless of the fact that the girl (now a woman) has somewhat come to his defense (we watched the HBO documentary) does not change the fact that an adult has an obligation to protect a child. This wasn’t about a 16 or 17 year old who TOLD someone they were 18 or 19, this was a man who had FULL KNOWLEDGE of the fact that she was a minor.

    I’ll end now before i get all worked up!

  2. 1 October 2009 2:05 pm

    I am ardently against the death penalty. I think rapists should get life imprisonment.

  3. 1 October 2009 2:26 pm

    Just a warning that YMMV, and sorry in advance about the long comment. I don’t expect any of this to change your mind, but I need to put my point of view.

    See, I don’t ever agree with the death penalty, under any circumstances. Because it dehumanises whoever has to carry it out. Even if it’s a ‘five men have blanks, one has a bullet’ type scenario. I think that trumps any argument for the death penalty, ever. I’m glad I live in the UK. (I’m a member of Amnesty International, just for full disclosure!)

    But, if this specific set of cases, of rape. Where is that line, between ‘date rape’ style miscommunication (she thinks it’s clear that she never wanted sex, he thinks it’s clear she did – I have been on the receiving end of that, and two years later challenged the guy, and he was horrified – and reconsidered a LOT of his sexual behaviour and, I hope, realised he needed to change his future behaviour) and ‘I’m doing this to prove my power over you? How do you prove it? When the rape conviction rate is so low anyway, especially. And I guarantee that less women would come forward if they thought there was a chance their rapist would die. ‘But I love him.’ ‘But he loves me and it was my fault.’ ‘But he’s my father/uncle/brother/grandad.’ If there’s a chance of the death penalty, would you report the crime? I wouldn’t – no matter how much I thought they deserved to be punished.

    How do you deal with the fact that there are so many more black men on Death Row than white? I presume that this would remain the case if rape was the only crime punishable by death, and I think that makes the death penalty even more problematic.

    [Oh and I would also argue that if it’s an argument gone too far, then taking the life of another is manslaughter, not murder, which is still punished in the UK but takes the circumstances into consideration. (I would disagree about anger, too; that just makes excuses for people who haven’t learned to control their emotions.) ]

    I would also say that sperm may not lie, but that labs can make mistakes. They will never tell you that ‘this sperm sample comes from this man’; they will tell you that the probability is one in so many thousand. Useful for elimination, but I’ve never been happy that the odds are long enough. Also – have you seen this? Apparently given the right equipment you can manufacture saliva or blood samples with someone else’s DNA. Sperm isn’t too big a leap from there.

    I do believe in long prison sentences, a lot of work with the perpetrators, and very close monitoring.

    I agree with the part about Polanski. It makes me sick how many people are defending him. If he’d gone back in the first place chances are he would have been free by now.

    I’ll be interested to see what the other comments are.

  4. Peaceable Imperatrix permalink*
    2 October 2009 8:32 am

    Thanks to all three of you. Cowgirl, for joining in my anger, Katharine and Beth for calling me out on it. I *am* against the death penalty, but I have this visceral knee-jerk reaction when it comes to rape. (I have never been a victim of this aggression.) I am angry when I need to tell my girls they cannot walk alone. I am angry when I need to tell my girls that if they find themselves in a rape situation, they need to stop fighting and reacting, and just let it happen, because most aggressors get even more aroused by the fear shown by victims. I am angry when all around me in this culture, songs and movies glorify the subjugation of women. Damn it, we are over 50% of the population, and we have to deal with subtle sexism in the work place and on the street every fracking day. I can’t think of a faster way to get men to feel a bit of the fear that we have to absorb than to make sure they know that if they rape, they die. Because although one survives rape, the rape changes your life forever. The Polanski victim went from a happy, forward-looking 13-year-old to an angry, drop-out teen. She got pregnant and married at 19, divorced at 19.5, and had some terribly tough times before finding her way. No one can give her those years back.

    Yes, I agree that date rape wouldn’t fall under my death rule (in my fantasy world), but damn it, how hard is it to teach our boys that no means NO — before or during? (Castration! I shout in my fantasy world.)

    As to life in prison, why should my tax dollars go to keep some rapist asshole alive? If Polanski goes to prison, then because of his advanced age, he’ll probably be needing lots of pills and potions to keep himself “healthy”. But now I’m working myself back towards death to rapists.

    Our society forgives men way too easily: politicians cheating on their partners, movie makers raping and sodomizing little girls, I am just sick and tired of it.

  5. 2 October 2009 8:43 am

    I do agree that our society forgives men way too easily. You can get away with a lot more if you have a penis, especially if it’s white.

  6. 2 October 2009 5:20 pm

    Thanks for the response. I do agree with a lot of your points; I just don’t come to the same conclusion as you.

    I realise this could go on forever, but:

    – someone jumping out to rape a girl/woman on the street is incredibly rare. it’s much more likely to be a friend/partner/family member. the fewer people who walk around at night, the more likely that the few that do this will get away with it – because there is noone honest around to stop them.

    – some attackers will be more aroused by someone who freezes and lets it happen and, i would assume, could potentially get more violent because of it. it’s not something that you can control. which i agree makes it all the more terrifying.

    – i don’t agree that because we women feel the fear* that men should, too. i believe that we should work towards everyone being free of it. fact: in the UK at least, the group at most risk of becoming a victim of random violence is young men. yet parents tell their teenage daughters to beware, to modulate their behaviour. they don’t warn their sons. what we should be doing is telling the perpetrators of rape and violence that they should beware. not all men. but with this as with everything, it’s the people who would never do it who will be scared. not the people who should be scared.

    * incidentally, though, i don’t. i dealt with the situation as mentioned in my previous comment (which incidentally i’ve never really mentioned on the interweb as my parents know where my website is), and i have never feared anything similar happening again, and it does not affect my day to day life – or at least, very rarely. i may be very naive, but my chances of being a victim are small, and i refuse to let that small chance make my choices for me.

    -rape does not always destroy everyone’s life. i read something once about how a woman had been raped but it had not been the defining incident of her life. she said it makes things worse for women, that they are told that if you are raped it will destroy you, you’ll either be a victim or a survivor forever. that MAY be true – but it doesn’t have to be. the support should always, always be there for those who need it – but that won’t be every woman.

    (of course, that would make it even MORE unlikely to get a conviction. makes you sick doesn’t it?)

    -castration would only work if rape was about sex. it’s nearly always about power. castrate them (physically or chemically) and they will use something else. i’m sorry for being so blunt, but i’d rather they used part of their body than a broken bottle.

    and finally, unit for unit, it costs less to keep a prisoner in prison for life than it does to execute them. and put that together with the dehumanising effect to the executioner, the judge, the jury – i’m sticking with no death penalty, ever.

    but i like that we can disagree but still agree about how horrible a crime it is and it not being taken seriously enough.

  7. 5 October 2009 1:24 pm

    (Sorry I am late to this–I was out of town and mostly away from the Internet for several days.)

    When I lived in Switzerland, I rode the bus from the village where I lived to the city with my university (about 12km away). The bus came infrequently, so when I missed it one day I asked my host mother for a ride into town. “Why don’t you just hitchhike?” she said. It was commonly done there, but I could never bring myself to do it. She just couldn’t understand why I refused, and when I explained to her about all the “never hitchhike” and “never walk alone at night” and similar warnings I’d heard all my life, for the first time I realized how terribly unfair it is to have to live with that fear just because I am female.

    Rape is truly awful (though survivable–and I point this out not to be callous toward anyone who’s experienced this, but because a huge portion of rape’s harm is the post-event societal stigma that its victims must endure, sometimes to the point where polls have indicated that many people would prefer [themselves, their spouses, their children] being murdered to being raped). The prospect of it affecting me, my family, my friends, anyone is just terrifying to me. That said, I can’t bring myself to support the death penalty for this crime (or for any crime, for that matter).

  8. 8 October 2009 5:04 am

    I’m late to this as well…I’ve been mulling your post over for a while now, and my thoughts are still all over the place. Rape is indeed a terrible crime, but I’m not overly fond of the death penalty, or for that matter, the criminal justice system as a whole…but it makes sense to me to remove rapists from society via incarceration.

    Castration does not seem entirely inappropriate considering the nature of the crime. Is it too “barbaric”? Probably. Would castration actually lead to a reduction in the prevalence of rapes? I’m not so sure.

    I’m not sure incarceration does much to curb future criminal behavior…but at the very least it keeps rapists out of society for a period of time. Is that the best we can do as a society? I don’t know.

    “Violence against women is primarily partner violence: 76 percent of the women who were raped and/or physically assaulted since age 18 were assaulted by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, or date….” — Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey

    How do we, as a society, reduce domestic violence? Violence against women? I don’t know.

  9. 12 October 2009 7:28 pm

    I have discusses this point at great length in my Men’s Studies class (much to the horror of my young classmates). For the life of me, I cannot understand how the same tool (pardon the pun) that is used for such emotional intimacy and pleasure, can also be used to commit an act of violence!
    Both is such polar opposites!

    • 12 October 2009 7:30 pm

      Please excuse the typos–I know it is difficult! I am tired, and my poor old brain is far too stimulated…

  10. Peaceable Imperatrix permalink*
    13 October 2009 12:27 pm

    Wil, I think you’re right — the whole (punishment) system needs to be changed. (Just like the whole health care system needs to be changed.) As to the barbarism of castration, I would argue that it is no more barbaric than the act of rape.

    MizMell, don’t worried about the typos 😉 So, what do the young men think in your class?

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