The ultimate crime against a woman, rape, wasn’t always viewed as a crime at all. From an acceptable tactic in war to the bedrooms of marital bliss, rape has always been about control. Control over women, in an effort to control men and prove ones virility.
Raping the women of ones adversary was once considered a conquerors right, “…[to] destroy all remaining illusions of power and property for men of the defeated side.” Unfortunately, by its reputation alone, rape is the easiest accusation to make, and the hardest to prove. The truth is much darker, as studies estimate one in six women will be forcibly raped in her lifetime, less than 40% will be reported to law enforcement.
The burden of proof is a steep climb for any victim. Prior to 1974, many states, including New York, required a corroborating witness for all cases of rape before the law would consider a claim, after all no woman can be a reliable witness to her own assault.
If she had such evidence, her claim would then be subjected to several objective criteria. First up is the ‘consent’ factor. Did you fight them off to the ‘utmost’ of your ability? Did you scream for help? Did you verbally refuse?
Compliance for any reason, including fear, was viewed as consent. If you weren’t struggling with maximum of might, screaming your head off the entire time for them to stop, you consented. Without these, how was a man to know you didn’t want it?
It was and is a wide belief that women lie about lack of consent for several beneficial reasons; because they desire forceful intercourse, they are seeking vengeance, as a means of blackmail or they simply imagined the rape happened. Women cannot be trusted.
In 1974, thirty minutes after Inez Garcia of Monterey California, was raped, the two men responsible threatened her, promising worse if she didn’t leave town. She didn’t wait, she went after them with a rifle. Killing the man that forcibly held her down, her bullet missed the man who raped her. The judge refused to allow evidence of the rape to be presented at trial and she was convicted of murder in October of 1974. During a retrial in 1977, her attorney argued self-defense and was allowed to present Garcia’s account of the rape. She was finally acquitted.
In the same year, Joan Little was charged with murdering her jailer after he raped her. Pleading self-defense against sexual assault, she was charged with first degree murder, although the victim was found naked from the waist down inside her jail cell, with semen on his leg. She stabbed him in the temple and chest with an ice pick, he had brought into the cell. Her acquittal in 1975 was the first of its kind in cases of rape.
While the #metoo movement may have turned on a light, millions of women still suffer alone in the dark, every day. At the hands of men, women continue to be blamed for the actions of their oppressors. Until women are equal citizens under the law, they will continue to be treated as a footnote in our collective history.
 Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. Simon and Schuster, 1975