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'She Asked for It'

Gillian Greensite
Robert Scheer

The Less the Merrier: Gillian Greensite, coordinator of UCSC's rape-prevention education program, has worked with 700 rape victims in the past 18 years.

When rape happens to anyone other than a 'good girl,' our culture has a difficult time understanding that it's still rape

By Kelly Luker

BACK IN 1985, my friend Kimberly woke up at 3am with a gun pointed at her head by a masked stranger. He then raped and brutalized her for the next three hours. My other friend, Lauren, was hitching her way across the Big Island in the '70s when the Moke that offered her a ride pulled out a gun and raped her. And me, I was also hitchhiking, in the late '60s, when a ride through Berkeley left me on the corner, raped--not the destination I was planning.

What's remarkable is how unremarkable Lauren's and my stories are. Between us, we have a hard time calling to mind the names of women we know who have not been raped. But when we talk about it--and we rarely do--we still call Kimberly's experience the "bad" rape, the "real" rape--as opposed to what happened to us, which these days would fall under the umbrella term "acquaintance rape."

Though the definition is still murky as well as controversial, acquaintance rape--sometimes called date rape--encompasses everything from a friendly stranger offering a ride and demanding much, much more, to a first date that reels out of control.

However, even those who disagree on the definition recognize three underlying themes: Only one party agreed to sex, it is overwhelmingly the most common form of sexual assault, and it is also one of the least understood of all sex crimes--by society, by rapists and by those who are raped.

Although crime rates in general are dropping, acquaintance rape still has a potent presence in Santa Cruz, accounting for an estimated 90 to 95 percent of all reported rapes. Counselors at Women's Crisis Support say they got calls on nine rapes in the first 11 days of November. The Santa Cruz Police Department has worked with a half-dozen college students who report being raped--nearly all by someone they knew--since late summer.

Few crimes force us to examine our beliefs about morality and sexuality the way rape does--acquaintance rape in particular. Certainly no other crime has us wondering--however secretly--about the victim's complicity. We do not question if a homeowner led a burglar on, or if a pedestrian somehow provoked a mugger or if the murder victim "had it coming." But the prism of society casts a different light on women who have been raped when they may have known their attacker, and even necked with him, and may have drunk alcohol.

A recent local case revealed an even deeper problem with prosecuting rape cases.

Jodi Chancellor, who works for a Monterey escort service, came to Santa Cruz to visit a "client" in the Beach Flats area. According to her report, the man then raped her at knifepoint.

In hysterics, Chancellor phoned the boss of the outcall dating service she worked for, who insisted she get to the hospital. The Sexual Assault Response Team was called in, which included a detective and a nurse examiner. No one doubts she was raped, including the district attorney and the investigating detective. But Jodi didn't get her say in court because charges were never filed against the assailant--even though he had prior arrests as well as a restraining order against him by a former girlfriend because of violence.

This is not the typical case of acquaintance rape, simply because prostitution is a less common lifestyle choice than student, homemaker, cashier or computer engineer. But that justice was denied speaks somehow of who was raped, rather than the crime of rape itself. In some ways, attitudes about sexual assault have changed light-years. Then again, some things haven't changed much at all.

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Where to go to take advantage of resources and services.

Alcohol often is a 'weapon' in acquaintance rape, say police experts.

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By the Numbers

PLUG THE WORD "RAPE" into one of the Internet's search engines, and it will chug its way through "adults only" Web sites like "XXXRape!" or "Awesome Rape Page!" offering evidence that the act of forced sex feeds a secluded fantasy life for men and, many would argue, women too. Yet the Web also yields up vast repositories of medical, sociological and statistical information about sexual assault. There are definitions and sub-classifications of this most intimate form of violence--date rape, acquaintance rape, stranger rape, male-on-male rape--as well as resources and the requisite online support groups for victims.

The most commonly quoted stats are from the National Victim Center, which estimates that about 700,000 women in this country are raped a year. With rates four times higher than Germany's and 13 times greater than England's, one might conclude that rape is the quintessential American pastime, like football or county fairs. Most importantly--for this is the fuel that feeds the secrecy--chances are at least four out of five--locals peg it closer to nine out of 10--that she'll know the attacker.

Kimberly's experience is the anomaly, it turns out, though it is the awful experience women arrange their lives around preventing. Don't go down that street, don't go out alone at night, lock all the doors and always, always watch your back. But rape is much more likely to follow on the heels of foolish choices and bad decisions--accepting rides from helpful strangers, getting too drunk at a party or sometimes just trusting the wrong guy. It is these situations that breed not only self-contempt but silence: The University of Chicago estimates that only 1.7 percent of the victims of acquaintance rape ever report it.

Prosecution Complex

PATTY BAZAR LEANS forward in her cluttered office in the District Attorney's department of the County Building, talking passionately about her work on behalf of victims sexual assault. Until a recent transfer, Bazar was assigned to the D.A.'s Sexual Assault Unit, created in July 1996. Stacks of files containing graphic evidence of forcible sodomy, brutal beatings and a whole menu of violence disguised as sex sit oddly juxtaposed with pictures of Bazar's sweet-faced children looking down from the walls.

Bazar is forthcoming about the special problems posed by prosecuting acquaintance rape in general, Jodi's case in particular. A warm and open woman, Bazar strikes me as one I would have felt safe talking to about my experience, had she been there almost 30 years ago, had I even considered reporting it. And there's good reason. Bazar was also sexually assaulted, it turns out, the victim of a fellow offering the young freshman a ride to tour the campus. That she was also assaulted in Berkeley provides a black-humor bonding moment between us.

Like so many, she told no one, least of all the police. "I remember thinking I was going to die," she muses, giving voice to the common link among most rape victims. But she figures those moments of terror and its aftermath have given her a special empathy for sex-crimes victims and have perhaps guided her to what she calls this "neglected" corner of prosecution.

"Years ago [sex-crimes prosecution] was not an assignment that anyone wanted," Bazar says. She will be the first to admit that prosecuting rape--particularly acquaintance rape--is much harder than murder.

"To put it bluntly--in homicide, the victim is dead," Bazar says. "But with sexual assault, the victim is an open, bleeding wound. And rape, by its nature, has limited witnesses." And Bazar must figure out how it's going to play for the jury, a pool made up of people who, she notes, "have such different opinions of what's right and wrong in the sexual arena."

Bazar handled Jodi Chancellor's case and says she believes that the outcall worker was raped. "If not, she'd have to get the Academy Award [for acting]," says the district attorney. After 18 years as a prosecuting attorney, Bazar says she has a pretty good idea of who's making up a story and who isn't--and Jodi fell into the latter category. The problem was that Jodi steadfastly denied that the "escort service" she provided included sex, even though she was arrested only a month before for soliciting an undercover cop. In the prosecutors' eyes, the young woman shaped up to be a lousy witness and a less-than-sympathetic victim.

"This doesn't have to do with whether you're a victim," Bazar says. "My decision [to not prosecute] is based on what 12 people are likely to believe." She pauses for a moment. "It's unfortunate, because it's a trauma."

And the trauma isn't over. Chancellor's now-former employer says that the alleged rapist has called back numerous times leaving abusive messages. And yes, she says, the assailant defended his actions toward Jodi by saying "she asked for it."

Patty Bazar
Robert Scheer

Book 'Em: Patty Bazar of the county's Sexual Assault Unit wishes lawmakers would give her the tools to prosecute various degrees of rape.

Regretted Sex

RAPE, LIKE ALCOHOLISM or incest, has found its way out of the closet and is now taking its turn in the media spotlight, spilling over into talk shows, numerous Lifetime movies and periodic confessionals from celebrities. The topic has become popular enough to spawn its own backlash, with authors like Katie Roiphe, who wrote The Morning After: Sex Fear, and Feminism on Campus, churning the politically correct waters.

In that controversial 1994 book, Roiphe questions the excesses of some factions of the feminist movement that wield the definition of rape, in Roiphe's opinion, far too broadly. When coeds get too drunk and sleep with guys that they normally wouldn't, the event should more rightly be termed "regretted sex," not rape, Roiphe says. To do otherwise not only trivializes the brutality of experiences like Kimberly's, it feeds a generation of young women into the maw of victimhood. And victimhood, Roiphe correctly posits, is the antithesis of feminism's true goals.

Gillian Greensite, the coordinator of UCSC's rape-prevention education program, agrees with some of Roiphe's basic tenets. Since founding the program 18 years ago, Greensite has talked with more than 700 women who have been sexually assaulted.

"I've been very outspoken and clear on what we should call rape and not call rape," Greensite says. "Some feel that anytime a woman is drinking and sex happens, then it's rape. That's a problem because it minimizes the seriousness of rape."

The cases that are reported to various local agencies may be an ironic reflection of downtown's nascent economic boom and the slow evolution of the UC campus itself.

"UC has changed into a party school," says Jack McPhillips, a Santa Cruz Police detective assigned to the sex-crimes detail, noting that reports of rape increase when students start drifting back into town by late summer.

"Downtown Santa Cruz is doing so much better and everybody's going out at night," McPhillips says. Trouble erupts, he notes, when youth, naiveté and booze--common elements in college life--collide.

But do the increased numbers reflect a higher incidence or more awareness that leads to more reporting? Both, the detective figures. About 85 percent of those reports end up with charges filed, and McPhillips says he's lost only one of those. He's also worked on the other 15 percent, like Jodi's case.

Agreeing with Bazar, McPhillips says that the problem was not that Chancellor was a sex worker but that she wouldn't admit to being a sex worker.

"I've done cases with prostitutes before, and it's no problem getting a prosecution," McPhillips says. However, he admits that although his office handled three reports of sex workers being raped this year, including Chancellor, none of them resulted in charges being filed.

That acquaintance rape--particularly of sex workers--is still a hard sell may arise not only from our timeless desire to blame women for the temptation of men--think Adam and Eve--but from inherent problems in the legal system itself. As Bazar explains, rape statutes were written in 1890.

"There need to be degrees of rape [recognized by the legal system]," says Bazar. Such a move would give juries the latitude to convict when such a choice wouldn't demand automatic prison time. She knows that she is treading controversial ground, that critics say such a move would trivialize the seriousness of rape. On the contrary, she insists, it would allow more victims to be heard in the justice system.

"One of the reasons it's difficult to prosecute is we're limited by an 'all or nothing' game. And it's helpful for victims that they're heard, that there's punishment."

Andrea's Fault

PERHAPS BAZAR IS RIGHT. There's the guy who relies on his fists, a gun or a knife to get a woman's "consent" and, at the other end of the spectrum, radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin who apply the word rape to just about every act or thought of sex in a patriarchal society. But somewhere in the middle are presumably millions of women who, well, ... life just didn't go like they planned. For some, like Kimberly, the event had tragic consequences. She took years to recover, ending up twice in a psychiatric hospital when that night wouldn't go away.

Lauren and I, on the other hand, never gave much thought to being rape victims--or, in recovery-speak, rape survivors. As Director of Development Jill Ginghofer says of her younger days, long before she ever worked at Women's Crisis Support, "everybody I know was raped." It has become some sort of post-'5 0s rite of passage, like a quincenéra or bat mitzvah, only without the party and well-wishers. While Lauren doesn't go so far as to say we asked for it, she says the unspeakable in these politically correct times.

"Look, we were dumb bunnies, running around out there without a lick of sense," Lauren laughs, somewhat ruefully. "What did we expect?"

Certainly less than what Jodi Chancellor expected, which was justice. As Lauren's statement reflects, it did not even occur to my friend, or Patty Bazar or me that the legal system would even have a passing interest in a crime that we had, we were convinced, brought on ourselves.

But Jodi knew better. Unfortunately, her rapist is walking around free while Jodi lives in that little prison that the memories of a knife to your throat and the rape that follows will surely build around your soul.

As Bazar says, "All violence traumatizes, but sexual violence traumatizes in its own special way."

In these enlightened times, it would appear that the myth still endures. Although some women may no longer believe they asked for it, the rest of society still has a little catching up to do.

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From the Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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