Ruling Travesty to Survivors

To the Editors:

Dismissing the charges against two defendants in the recent sexual assault case, Municipal Court Judge Martin Heberling stated that he doesn’t “think there are too many young men who would have interpreted [the victim’s] actions in any other way than these two young men did.” I’m shocked that someone representing the law that is supposed to protect us believes that there are circumstances where rape is actually okay. In response, I have some advice for Judge Heberling (and any “young men” who might agree with him):
* If you’re holding her down, pulling her hair, hitting or threatening her, she’s not willingly having sex with you.
* If she’s not willing, it’s rape. If you don’t know if she’s willing, you’d better ask - you cannot just assume she wants to have sex with you.
* Silence is NOT consent, especially if you’re threatening to hurt her. If she doesn’t willingly say yes, you do not have consent.
* If a girl is flirting with you, that does not necessarily mean that she wants to have sex with you. Ditto for if she says you’re attractive, is wearing “sexy” clothing or that she wants to “hook up” with you.
* It is perfectly normal for a girl and two guys to hang out in a room at night. It is NOT normal for the guys to prevent the girl from leaving, beat her, threaten her and rape her.
* You are responsible for your behavior. It is not the responsibility of the girl to assume that you “might” rape her and act accordingly.
* No one is EVER “asking for it.”
I always thought all of this was obvious, but Judge Heberling’s recent decision has made me rethink that belief. His decision has made me reevaluate many of the things I believed in, actually, and from these reevaluations come some thoughts for other women to ponder:
It’s not the man in the dark corner, it’s the one in your class. It’s not the man with the knife breaking into your home, it’s the one living downstairs in your dorm. That doesn’t mean it’s all men, because it’s NOT, but it does mean that, because of the actions of a few men, we are taking a risk by trusting any man. A necessary risk, certainly, but at least in this world, a risk nonetheless. Don’t count on the law to protect you, because it’s not on your side. You are not safe, and you never will be until we stop blaming the victim instead of the rapist.
I never thought I’d feel this way or say these things. I never thought I’d feel unsafe on my own campus. I’m sorry if you find this offensive; I find it sadly realistic. I’m not a manhater or a militant feminist. I’m just a woman who’s suddenly very, very scared of the world in which I live.

–Melissa Threadgill
College sophomore

November 9
November 16

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