The Meme That Keeps on Giving: Victim-Blaming

*Trigger Warning*
 
Because being raped isn’t traumatic enough, let’s throw in some blame shame. Via Hartford Courant.

The woman allowed Fricker to go through her wallet and told him to take it, but Fricker demanded she take off her clothes. He then sexually assaulted her for several minutes while he pointed the gun at the children and threatened to sexually assault one of them. The attack stopped when another car pulled up and the woman screamed. Fricker fled and was arrested three days later in White Plains, N.Y.
In the civil suit, the woman claims Fricker had been in the hotel and garage behaving suspiciously days before the attack and on the afternoon of the attack, but the hotel failed to notice him, apprehend him or force him to leave, the Stamford Advocate reported. The suit also claims that during the attack security personnel did not see Fricker or stop him.
The hotel claims in their special defense that the hotel had not been notified about Fricker and that his acts were unforeseen and beyond their control, the newspaper reported

Thanks to Jaclyn for the heads up.

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19 Comments

  1. ArtByMoretti
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I hate how they have to convince people it was “brutal”. Isn’t the word “rape” enough??? =(

  2. alixana
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Wait, I’m not sure you’re excerpting the correct part of that article. Because what you did excerpt doesn’t sound like victim blaming, it just sounds like the hotel is saying it’s not responsible for not noticing and removing the rapist. I’m not sure I think the hotel SOULD be responsible for those things.
    The part of the article you should have quoted says,
    STAMFORD – A hotel being sued by a woman who was raped at gunpoint in its garage is claiming in court documents that the woman was careless, negligent and failed to exercise the proper care for her safety and the safety of her children, the Stamford Advocate reported.
    THAT is troubling and disgusting and victim blaming, not the fact that they didn’t notice and remove the guy from the premises.

  3. norbizness
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Being a lowlife attorney, I tend to exempt from scorn arguments made in legal pleadings submitted by defense counsel. Of course, they probably just doubled the amount of money they will eventually shell out to settle the case now that the plaintiff’s attorney drew the media’s attention to the matter.

  4. RG
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering the same thing. Aren’t all rapes brutal?

  5. hfs
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    IANAL, but the claims that the woman was careless and negligent for her safety might be part of the defense’s legal strategy.
    In which case, you shouldn’t really fault the hotel, but rather the laws regarding civil procedure. In a legal defense, it’s my understanding that you use everything you think might conceivably work, since to first order there’s no penalty for not succeeding with some parts of your defense, as long as something in it does work. Which is why suing someone can be so damaging for the plaintiff: the defense can bring up all sorts of nasty things about you, and it’s all fair game as far as the law is concerned.

  6. arianakelly
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    MomsRising has a petition to Marriott. Hope everyone will sign in!
    http://bit.ly/1OSIOx
    This is enough to make me want to vomit. I cannot imagine any company adding to the trauma this woman felt after being raped in front of her children. It is one thing to mount a legal defense, another to question her behavior under these circumstances.

  7. arianakelly
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I pasted the wrong link! Here’s the petition link from MomsRising:
    http://bit.ly/16Pj4h

  8. arianakelly
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I pasted the wrong link! Here’s the petition link from MomsRising:
    http://bit.ly/16Pj4h

  9. alixana
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Oh, certainly. IAAL, and it’s one of the reasons I have no interest in working in most areas. I worked in a criminal defense firm one summer and although defense statements like that are seen as a purely legal, non-judgmental, statement, it left me unable to sleep some nights. Even in non-criminal areas, such as employment discrimination, being on the defense’s side is just something I’m not good at doing because it requires compartmentalizing I can’t stand. A lawyer has to zealously advocate for his or her client, and while legal ethics classes in law school will explore what that requires and what is over the line, I’m sure that very few attorneys will willingly step away from a defense like that.
    Regardless of whether it’s considered neutral in a legal setting, as a woman I just can’t stand for it.

  10. Honeybee
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I’m confused – was this woman raped or sexually assaulted?
    Both are horrible of course, and it doesn’t change anything either way, but the article only mentions sexual assault yet most posters have used the word rape. I just want to clarify the circumstances.

  11. Zippa
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    In court I can see the need to distinguish (maybe) but I’m not sure that I need the distinction in everyday life.
    Also, the clip uses both.

  12. Kate
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    They’re not always mutually exclusive terms.

  13. TheWhiteRaven
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    In the definition that I know of, taken from working on my college’s sexual assault policy, is that rape is a kind of sexual assault. “Sexual assault” is a blanket term for all acts of violence that have a sexual nature. “Rape” only happens when a man forces his penis into another person’s genitals or anus. So, the clip is absolutely correct in using the terms interchangeably. The terms would not be interchangeable if a person had forced oral sex on somebody else even if a penis was involved.

  14. Lilith Luffles
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    No, not all rapes are brutal. This a misconception that leads to more victim blaming, and the idea that someone’s rape wasn’t actually rape since it wasn’t that brutal.
    My rape wasn’t ‘brutal’, and I’m certain it left me less traumatized than many other rape victims, but it was still rape, and it is still hard to think about sometimes, even though it happened 4 years ago.

  15. Father of Two Daughters
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m a plaintiff’s attorney and see a lot of this. On a straightforward, simple slip and fall, the defense attorney filed 18 defenses.
    Normally they have a stack of pat defenses and plead them regardless of whether they have merit. 6-7 is the norm. 18 is a word processor going crazy.
    I frequently have car wreck cases, where my client is stopped at a red light and waiting for the light to turn green. She is plowed into from behind. The defense files defense saying that my client is either fully at fault or partially at fault for the collision. Yes, they are saying that a stationary car is responsible for causing a collision with a car that slammed into it from behind.
    In this case, they are not blaming her for being raped. She is suing a third party (the hotel) for being negligent for having inadequate security.
    She can very easily sue the rapist and he would not have this defense. While she could easily get a large judgement against the rapist, he does not have money.
    She’s bringing a suit against the hotel. For failing to protect her from the actions of a someone else (the rapist). She is saying that the hotel should have had better security precautions to prevent an incident like this.
    Whether the hotel is liable depends on the crime statistics, prior incidents, available measures, surrounding neighborhood and factual questions of that type.
    As a plaintiff’s attorney, it would not bother me that they plead that she should/could have taken more precautions or done more to prevent/avoid the incident. It’s *possible* that facts would turn up that would show that was the case. I’m not saying likely, but possible. However, if they have not pled the matter, they can’t bring it up and they’ve lost that defense forever.
    The flip side of bringing the issue up to not lose a remote issue is that the defense is now in their pleadings and is a matter of public record.
    Should the woman have a decent case on the inadequate security issue, her lawyers will be able to bring up how the hotel not only did not accept their responsibility, they put the blame on her and show that to a jury and piss a jury off.
    While they get to preserve the issue, it’s also a double edged sword where they can get called to task for it and really made to look like jerks (I pulled my language in favor of much harsher words I would use in person).
    Also, if they pushed the issue hard in discovery, her attorney can document that and then also add another cause of action for infliction of emotional distress. Plus depending on the actions, if they are *way* over the top limit them.
    I do hope she wins though. These cases are much tougher than they look. At first glance, you see ‘Well, shit. It happened in their own darn parking garage. How can they not be responsible???’
    The response is ‘It could have been a passerby, or random person. That just happened to use their parking garage instead of any other parking garage in town. If they were determined, they were going to do it. It’s the madman rapist that’s responsible and not the hotel. The location was immaterial. Nothing can stop a determined lunatic. He’s the problem. Blame him and not the hotel’.
    Last fall, I went to a special workshop and had a premises case myself. There was another case with a family suing an apartment complex which had very lax security and was murdered by a serial killer.
    Between the cases, we did 8 focus groups in 2-3 days. It was interesting to see, because there were people with very strong opinions, it home very hard and they took it very seriously. BUT, these are issues that most people don’t deal with on a regular basis. To assess *some*, but not too much responsibility and to apportion a number 80/20, 70/30…. is very tough and not in the way most people deal with things.
    Probably more in the weeds than most people want to know, but that’s a trial lawyer’s opinion.

  16. Father of Two Daughters
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    One of the things that we noticed the most on whether they blamed the serial killer (in the case we reviewed) or the apartment complex was that most of these things happen by a chain of events.
    If you break any link in the chain, then the final event doesn’t happen.
    Most people put a *tremendous* amount of value on the very last link in the chain. Far more than is warranted. Even though, if the second event doesn’t happen, then the chain is broken and it never gets to the final event. That’s just the way our brains are wired.
    So our key was to find a way to define the events so that the apartment complex, in this case the hotel/Marriott’s action the last chain in event in the chain.
    On these type of cases where you are not holding the person who actually committed the action responsible and there is a tremendous damage, the results can be all over the board, depending on how the facts are presented and even the order that the facts are presented. Moreso than most cases.

  17. smiley
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the very clear exposition of the arguments.
    My question is this (a cynical one I admit): is she suing Marriott because it is a rich company?
    It seems to me that people and their lawyers seek out the richest link in the chain and then sue them. They will always find some kind of legal argument. It might be a legal argument, but it seldom seems moral.

  18. Kate
    Posted August 14, 2009 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    It depends on what state the crime was committed in, whether it will be a “rape” charge or a “sexual assault” charge. It varies widely in the legal sense.
    But yes, rape is one of many types of sexual assault.

  19. kungfulola
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    To me, the worse issue is the apparent abuse of discovery on the part of the defense. According to other articles on this case, they subpoena’d people in the plaintiff’s circle who didn’t even know about the attack in the first place. She is being protected in the media as “Jane Doe”, and yet now she’s been “outed” to her own casual acquaintances. This is not to say that she should be ashamed of being a victim of sexual assault, but it’s such a personal issue, I can understand wanting to have some privacy about it.
    I can’t imagine how what her Pilates instructor would have to say, would be relevant. It sounds like an intimidation tactic to me.

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