''The Rape'' of Mr. Smith
"The Rape" of Mr. Smith
The law discriminates against rape victims in a manner which would not be
tolerated by victims of any other crime. In the following example, a
holdup victim is asked questions similar in form to those usually asked a
"Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of 16th & Locust?"
"Did you struggle with the robber?"
"He was armed."
"Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than
"Did you scream? Cry out?"
"No. I was afraid."
"I see. Have you ever been held up before?"
"Have you ever given money away?"
"Yes, of course --"
"And did you do so willingly?"
"What are you getting at?"
"Well, let's put it like this, Mr. Smith. You've given away money in the
past -- in fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can
we be sure that you weren't _contriving_ to have your money taken away
from you by force?"
"Listen, if I wanted --"
"Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?"
"About 11 p.m."
"You were out on the streets at 11 p.m.? Doing what?"
"Just walking? You know that it's dangerous being out on the street that
late at night. Weren't you aware that you could have been held up?"
"I hadn't thought about it."
"What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?"
"Let's see. A suit. Yes, a suit."
"An _expensive_ suit?"
"Well -- yes."
"In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at
night in a suit that practically _advertised_ the fact that you might be
a good target for some easy money, isn't that so? I mean, if we didn't
know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think you were _asking_ for this to
happen, mightn't we?"
"Look, can't we talk about the past history of the guy who _did_ this to
"I'm afraid not, Mr. Smith. I don't think you would want to violate his
rights, now, would you?"
Naturally, the line of questioning, the innuendo, is ludicrous -- as well
as inadmissible as any sort of cross-examination -- unless we are talking
about parallel questions in a rape case. The time of night, the victim's
previous history of "giving away" that which was taken by force, the
clothing -- all of these are held against the victim. Society's posture on
rape, and the manifestation of that posture in the courts, help account for
the fact that so few rapes are reported.