Last year, Echidne wrote about three De Anza college students, members of the women’s soccer team, who rescued a girl who was apparently being gang-raped by several members of the school’s baseball team:
Lauren Chief Elk and April Grolle are 20-year old De Anza College students and teammates on the school’s soccer squad. They were leaving a party at a house when they realized something wrong was going on in a back room where the doors were closed and the lights were off.
“We heard and saw a girl tapping on this door in the kitchen saying ‘There is a girl in there with eight guys,” explains Chief Elk. They say they tried to get into the room, but were confronted by a baseball player. “[He said] ‘Mind your own business; she wants to be in here’ and slams the door,” says Grolle. What they saw through a crack in the door horrified them. “When I looked in, I saw about ten pairs of legs surrounding a girl, lying on the mattress on the floor and a guy on top of her with his pants down and his hips thrusting on top of her,” recall Chief Elk. “And when I saw that I knew immediately something wasn’t right. It just didn’t look right.” “I saw that this young girl did not want to be in there, and that’s when we just went ‘We’re getting this girl out of there,’” says Grolle. April and Lauren — along with a third soccer player named Lauren Breayans — broke down the door and were shocked with what they found. “This poor girl was not moving. She had vomit dribbling down her face. We had to scoop vomit out of her mouth [and] lift her up. Her pants were completely off her body,” says Chief Elk. “She had her one shoe one, her jeans were wrapped around one of her ankles and her underwear was left around her ankles. To the left of the bed there was some condom thrown on the ground.” “When they lifted her head up, her eyes moved and she said ‘I’m sorry,’” says Grolle. “One of the guys who was in the room said ‘This is her fault. She got drunk and she did this to herself.’”
Right. She got drunk and raped herself. And, as it turns out, the vomit in her mouth was not her own. I guess she got drunk and insisted that someone else vomit in her mouth too.
For their pains, the three women who pulled her out of that horror were ignored by the district attorney’s office, which decided at the time not to prosecute the case, and threatened for speaking out.
“People I didn’t even know were coming up to me and saying, ‘Stop your lying. Shut your f — mouth,’ ” Chief Elk said in an interview last week. “We’d be walking around, and people would actually come up and get in our face.”
It reached the point where they felt threatened. Cmdr. John Hirokawa of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department confirms that deputies were called to the campus on a complaint of harassment.
“I can say that we went out there at least once in regards to a possible complaint,” Hirokawa said. “People were warned.”
Outrage over the district attorney’s failure to prosecute the alleged rapists led the California Attorney General’s office to review the decision, and on Friday — almost a year later — it released a statement that there was insufficient evidence to file charges. I guess there wasn’t, given that the local grand jury never heard testimony from the three women who witnessed the assault.
Now comes Debra Saunders, sage of the San Francisco Chronicle, to opine on the AG’s decision. To her credit, she doesn’t try to pretend this wasn’t rape. She doesn’t imply that a girl who was unconscious, with someone else’s vomit in her mouth, had somehow consented to be violated. She acknowledges the heroism of the three women who intervened. She even soft-soaps the victim-blaming that always seems to surface in cases like this:
Lauren Breayans, Lauren Chief Elk and April Grolle – three soccer players who say they saw the girl being sexually assaulted and brought her to the hospital – issued a statement voicing their disappointment “in the entire criminal justice system. The message seems to be, if you get an underage girl drunk enough, you can get away with rape.”
…Sadly, in a way the soccer players may not have meant, they are right. Teenagers do need to be very wary about what others can do to them when they drink…
But then she truly goes off the deep end. She questions the victim’s decision to file a civil suit. She quotes an attorney who represents the son of the owners of the house where the rape took place as saying, “The issue isn’t whether it’s acceptable conduct, the issue is whether it’s a crime,” and then follows with this stunner:
And if it is a crime, is it the same as premeditated rape? It may well be that civil courts are better suited to redress what happened at that March 2007 party.
According to Grolle and another source, the vomit on Jane Doe was not hers. Is it in society’s interest to prosecute kids who are months older than Jane Doe for doing things in an alcohol-fueled atmosphere that they never would have done sober or alone? I think there’s reasonable doubt.
Oh, dear God. If it’s a crime? From where I stand, rape is always a crime. What difference does it make whether or not it’s premeditated? And yet she thinks the perpetrators should get a pass because they were drunk too.
Here’s a question for you, Debra. If a drunk teenager chooses to get into a car with a bunch of other drunk teenagers, takes the wheel, and unpremeditatedly rams the car into your teenager, do you think we should give the driver a pass because s/he would never have done such a thing if s/he had been sober or alone? Give me a break.
As Tom Hilton says over at If I Ran the Zoo,
Now the defense attorney knows very well the issue isn’t “whether it’s a crime”; he knows it is a crime, no whethers about it, and to spin it otherwise is completely despicable. It’s also, in a despicable sort of way, part of his job. Not an excuse, but a mitigating factor.
But there’s no such mitigation for Debra Saunders. How fucking stupid do you have to be to buy into that despicable spin?
Debra Saunders stupid, I guess.
Cross-posted at Shakesville.
Edited: It was Tom Hilton, not Aimai, who posted this at IIRTZ, and the attorney Saunders quoted re: “whether it’s a crime” was a defense attorney, not the DA.