This case minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.

UPDATE: Post fixed so that comments are now enabled. Also, surprise surprise, Judge Deni was retained. And I’m moving this to the top.
_____________________________________

So said Judge Denni in the recent “rape-as-theft-of-services” case. Today, Philadelphia residents voted on whether or not to retain her. We’ll see what happens.

This case demonstrates a lot of things, but chief among them are the dehumanization of sex workers and the construction of the “real” rape victim. Deni’s argument is that prostitutes can’t be raped because they sell sex — which is kind of like saying that merchants can’t be robbed because they sell goods. Bound, Not Gagged has a lot of great posts on this case, and Ren has a powerful call to action.

As Ren points out in a later post, the rape survivor is a black single mother — something I hadn’t heard before, and I’ve been following this case. Now, as Ren says, all sex workers are pretty much treated like shit — but even among marginalized communities, there’s a hierarchy that gets imposed when people within those communities have to deal with law enforcement, the medical establishment, educational institutions, and other groups. There’s also, to turn a phrase coined by our Dear Leader, the soft bigotry of low expectations — that is, poor people and people of color and transgender people and queer people and disabled people and immigrants and religious minorities and other marginalized people simply expect less (if anything at all). Any hope for basic humanitarian aid — welfare, health care — is branded “entitlement;” as if the ability to feed yourself and your family or the right to have your body cared for or to see justice in the legal system is something that only a few deserve. It’s incredibly brave that the woman who survived rape in this case went to the police in the first place — Lord knows countless more sex workers (and other “fallen” women) have avoided the police and the courts precisely because they know not to trust them. BfP writes, in a different context:

my family, my friends, my loved ones, my community members, my people–we deserve kindness. we deserve tenderness and healing and relief and compassion. our cells, our hearts, our bones, our brains, our guts–they all deserve the peace of health and healing. they all deserve the calmness of certianty–certianty that the kindness we are receiving isn’t a trick.

It is deserved. But, as her post so thoroughly illustrates, it’s not reality. As the above-mentioned case illustrates, some people are branded less deserving than others. Some people are branded so inhuman that they’re simply cast out of the system so many of us assume we’re entitled to.

I hope Judge Deni sees some consequences. I hope this case is a lesson to law enforcement, and that it leads to better treatment of sex workers.

But like Ren, I’m not surprised by it. And I won’t be surprised if nothing comes of it.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Law, Race & Ethnicity, Racism, Sexual Assault and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to This case minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.

  1. tigtog says:

    As you say, I’m not surprised she was retained. She’s probably tough on drugs and burglars as well, which voters are persuaded to view as more important.

    Also, as most people think that rape victims who aren’t sex workers deserved it somehow, it’s not surprising that there’s no popular outrage against her comments as it would be if she’d said that a fruit merchant was “asking” for their sweet, juicy goods to be stolen.

    Perhaps we all need a therapeutic session of Thelma and Louise.

  2. RenegadeEvolution says:

    Jill-

    Thanks for blogging about this.

  3. Sojourner says:

    Is there a way to help this woman financially?

  4. norbizness says:

    It’s “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” which definitely applies here to certain people expecting justice.

    I have no idea what a retention vote entails, but the linked article in the update makes it sound impossible to lose one; one local activist said it was basically job security until the judge hit age 70 (mandatory retirement age).

    I’m sure somebody local has to have thought of this already, but here’s a link to the Pennsylvanian Judicial Conduct Board.

  5. Jill says:

    It’s “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” which definitely applies here to certain people expecting justice.

    Whoops! That’s what I get for posting after a bottle of wine. Fixed.

  6. Sally says:

    Before I read too much into Deni being retained, I’d want to know if judges in Philadelphia ever lose retention elections. Around here, it never happens, including in cases where judges are clearly incompetent. I’ve seen judges who were rated “not recommended” by every single bar association in the state win retention by huge majorities. The whole retention election thing is a farce.

    Did the campaign against her at least make some sort of dent in her support? Did she win by less than other judges?

  7. Liz says:

    I guess it doesn’t take much to be a judge in Philadelphia.

  8. Robin Steele says:

    Haven’t you heard? Women and little girls ENJOY being raped.

    Even when taken by force she understands that a man has chosen her and risked his life perhaps for her female charms. She is likely going to brag about “my rapist” for years and years, because it’s a story about how powerful and desirable she was as a female.

    Come see who says this and help me get this scumbag booted from Blogger (at least)

    Woman of Steele blog

  9. Mnemosyne says:

    The whole retention election thing is a farce.

    Pretty much, yeah. Plus this happened close to the election, so it was hard for people to get the word out, even though they were very motivated.

    But they’re not giving up — it looks like they’ll pursue getting her off the bench through other channels.

    What really burns me about this case is that not only did the judge essentially let them off, but because she did so, they went out and did the same thing again to another woman. Huh, I guess charging them with “theft of services” wasn’t much of a punishment, was it?

    I seem to recall that the prosecutors actually withdrew the case rather than letting the judge dismiss it so they could re-submit it to another judge — does anyone know if this has happened?

  10. Bunny says:

    Robin…

    Even when taken by force she understands that a man has chosen her and risked his life perhaps for her female charms. She is likely going to brag about “my rapist” for years and years, because it’s a story about how powerful and desirable she was as a female.

    I… that is seriously messed-up. Some one really said that? They weren’t Gorean, by any chance?

    And yeah… I hadn’t heard that the woman in the above case was a black single mother either but… seeing how her case was so mishandled I shouldn’t be surprised. Why are crimes treated as less serious depending on who they happen to?

  11. Robin Steele says:

    This sicko on Blogger named Bob Allen.

    He says JonBenet Ramsey was lucky because at least she “got laid”

    I’m trying to get this nutcase off blogger. I’d ignore him but he’s getting this little following of disenchanted teen boys buying his BS.

    Check it out at http://robinsteele.blogspot.com

    I’m suddenly overrun by these cretins.

  12. Pingback: Fuck. : The Curvature

  13. RenegadeEvolution says:

    Jill..

    If this id too hostile…..delete..

    We whores faxed, called, emailed, yelled….

    Where the hell were you?

  14. annalouise says:

    Now what can we do?

    I dont’ know nearly enough about the legal system to say but:

    Is it possible that with enough pressure the bar association can rescind her license to practice?

    Is it possible that attorneys can file enough motions enough times saying that she can’t possibly be unbiased so that there are no, or nearly no cases on which she can rule?

    Is it possible that people can stand outside the courthouse and picket every day she comes to work until she quits from the harrassment?

    Do any of these things have any possibility of working?

  15. annalouise says:

    ps. I sent another letter to the judicial conduct board asking them to whatever they can to keep Judge Deni from practicing law. But I don’t know enough about how they operate to know what they can do.

  16. RenegadeEvolution says:

    (that wasn’t meant towards Jill personally, the delete part was for her) but it just seems to me a whole lot of folk were totally silent on this case, and it boggles my mind…

  17. durga_is_my_homey says:

    I have to second something – is there a way to help the victim in this case, ANY way? I haven’t found much and I understand she may be remianing anonymous.

    Also, what can I as somebody from Michigan do to make this “judge”‘s life and job a living hell? I don’t mean violence or harrassment, just so that she doesn’t forget this and so that this isn’t the end of the steps being taken to get her fired?

  18. Mnemosyne says:

    (that wasn’t meant towards Jill personally, the delete part was for her) but it just seems to me a whole lot of folk were totally silent on this case, and it boggles my mind…


    Atrios
    gave it a boost. Not that he’s the be-all and end-all of blogging, but he’s pretty high up in the food chain.

  19. Jill says:

    (that wasn’t meant towards Jill personally, the delete part was for her) but it just seems to me a whole lot of folk were totally silent on this case, and it boggles my mind…

    Yup. I know a lot of us (myself included) contacted the Bar Association as per Zuzu’s suggestion in her older post. Here, we posted info on voting Deni out of office for all the Philly residents who were reading. But of course it was too little, coming from too small a source. I’m not sure, at this point, what we can do now that she’s been re-elected. But if I think of or hear of anything, I’ll post it.

  20. Sally says:

    In terms of helping the victim, it might make sense to contact Jill Porter at the Philadelphia Daily News. She’s written a bunch of columns about the case and has interviewed the victim, and she probably knows how to get in touch with the victim. I don’t know what kind of help would be helpful, but it might be worth asking.

    I don’t have any idea how to get rid of the judge. I’d be curious to hear what other people propose.

  21. Pingback: Soundbites « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

Comments are closed.