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14 July 2013 @ 01:07 am
Victim-Blaming and the Presumption of Innocence  
A caveat: I am a strong believer in the necessity of the presumption of innocence. However, I have recently witnessed first-hand how in some cases, the presumption of innocence spurs a criminalization of the victim. This needs to stop.

As some of you know, I just got off jury duty for a several-weeks-long domestic violence case. The defendant was a white, middle-aged professional male. The victim was a Chinese woman who was married to another man, but had carried on a long term relationship with the defendant. She was not a 'good' victim. She was problematic, as pretty much every woman who isn't a nun would be (and I'm thinking nuns might not get a pass, either).

The defense's argument basically boiled down to: 1. Bitches be crazy. 2. Asian bitches be doubly crazy. 3. Women just have sex with men for their money, and 4. Women make false accusations of abuse and rape all the time.

I had to sit there for three days and watch defense tear this woman apart, cast her every life choice in the worst possible light, and basically do their best to prove that she was the 'sort' of woman who deserved what she got... and the sort of woman who would self-inflict strangulation wounds and make it all up to destroy a man's life, anyways.

It was horrific. It made me reconsider whether I would want to come forward as a victim and put myself through that hell if I was ever raped or assaulted (I would, but I recognize how it would in some ways be worse than any original assault or rape, to be dissected like that). This is how women and PoC victims are often treated. If the defendant is presumed innocent, well then, the victim must be the criminal.

The case I served on went on for much longer than the judge expected, and because of pre-existing travel plans, I was dismissed on the first day of deliberations. I had to sit through that whole trial, and I couldn't even stay to render my opinion.

The rest of the jury and my alternate acquitted the defendant on all major counts, and were hung on three reduced counts (8/4 split), despite what I felt was overwhelming forensic and expert witness evidence indicating his guilt. THAT is the power of sexist and racist narratives, and that is the horrible consequences of victim-blaming.

Watching the Trayvon Martin trial with my own experiences fresh in my mind, watching the line the defense attorney was spinning... I had little doubt the jury was going to acquit Zimmerman. The same recourse to prejudicial stereotypes made it seem eerily similar to the trial I'd just sat through.

Racism and sexism are alive and well in the United States. If you think differently, get your head out of the fucking ground.
Current Mood: infuriatedinfuriated
wshaffer: totally_sanewshaffer on July 14th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, that sounds absolutely ghastly.

And despite the fact that in my recent post on the Zimmerman case, I focused on the difficulty of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt, it's very clear that a ton of racism (and sexism, for that matter, if you look at the way witness Rachel Jeantel was treated) at play in that case.