Friday, October 12, 2007

Forcible penetration isn't injurious... now you know.

Given Eastern Michigan University's previous track record, I almost feel like I shouldn't complain, but the DPS release that they sent out this morning just strikes me as being a bit poorly worded.

Eastern Michigan University
Department of Public Safety

Informational Release October 12, 2007

Criminal Sexual Assault - Report number 07-1599

On October 11, 2007, a 20-year old resident of Ferndale, Mich., who is
not an EMU student, reported that she was on the EMU campus on Sept. 19,
2007 at approximately 9:30 p.m. The victim reports that at this time,
she voluntarily got in a car parked in the Ann St. Parking Lot with a
person she had just met. The victim reports that while in the vehicle,
the person committed criminal sexual conduct with forcible penetration
on the victim. The victim reports that she and the suspect got out of
the vehicle, when the suspect spoke with a second person, whom she did
not know, who grabbed her arm and walked her back to the vehicle. The
victim reports getting back in the vehicle and the second suspect
committed criminal sexual conduct with forcible penetration while in the

No weapons were used during the assaults and no injuries were reported
by the victim.

First of all, we've got the rather conspicuous avoidance of the word "rape". I'm not really sure why, because "criminal sexual conduct with forcible penetration" is wordier and more awkwardly phrased. And the explanations that some people have used in other cases don't really seem to apply here, since, a. this isn't a trial, and b. they're using "criminal sexual conduct" which is just as much against the law as rape is. It'd be like saying "forcibly coerced her into going to a place she didn't want to go, against her will, and without telling other people where she was" in place of "kidnapped her". I'm just not clear on the benefit.

The other problem is with the last line I quoted up there. I understand what the line means, but it just seems... I don't know... wrong to say "no injuries were reported" after you've said that the victim reported that someone "committed criminal sexual conduct with forcible penetration" against her. I'm not sure how that could be worded in a way that doesn't leave me feeling sort of off, though. I understand that what they're trying to say is that her attacker didn't break her arms or cut her or beat her up, but... I don't know, it just seems like there's a disconnect between "forcible penetration" and "no injuries were reported."

And, as the friend who passed this along pointed out, it sucks, and is indicative of the larger problems we're facing, that this could happen and that the victim would wait a month to report it. I know that this isn't a new thought, but a system where rape victims feel so helpless that they'll wait a month to report it (if they report at all) is seriously broken.


Jaclyn said...

God. That whole thing made me want to vomit.

Cara said...

I definitely feel nauseous, too.

This is something I've been noticing A LOT, lately -- the idea of a rape victim "not sustaining any injuries." As if being raped isn't injuring. And I'm not even talking about on an emotional level, because to state the absolute obvious, rape is generally going to be physically painful. Since rapists aren't considerate enough to, you know, not rape women, they're probably not going to be considerate enough to use lubricant and since women aren't generally in a state of arousal when raped (I say generally for cases where a woman consents to some sexual activity and not others, so her body may be in a physical state of arousal), that is going to physically hurt. A whole fucking lot. Not to mention other injuries if a woman is anally or orally raped, or the pain from being held down, which often occurs even if the victim doesn't resist. Rape hurts.

And even if a victim manages to not be injured on a physical level, she has still been assaulted. Can you imagine an article reading "an assault took place outside of a bar, last night. The victim was beaten by two individuals with fists. No injuries were reported." Um, no. Because even if the victim didn't have to go to the hospital, everyone would be well aware of the fact that beating someone is injuring them. But somehow we don't recognize the same with rape, er, sorry, criminal sexual conduct with forcible penetration.

How about, maybe, "The victim reports that no additional assault took place, and no other injuries were sustained?"

brandann said...

wow...that sounds like the good ol' EMU campus blotter...i remember being terrified everytime i had to walk from alexander music hall to ann even have to go through this skeezy little alley...

anyhow...beside the point.
the language here is troubling, to say the least...i know that in michigan there is no degree of sexual they don't have any difference b/t indecent exposure and child perhaps that explains "criminal sexual conduct". but i don't undersand why people can't just say (or in this case type) "rape". if you ask me, and i realize noone did, that just puts more taboo on the word, almost like the way kids will talk around telling you that someone said a "cuss word" w/o actually having to say it...

finally, holy injuries? are they f-ing serious? i would say more about that, but i think cara hit the nail on the head already...

Jayne Deaux said...

And the wording of the whole thing made it clear that judgment was being passed on the victim.

EG said...

The university paper where I got my doctorate used the same formulation when reporting a rape: "The victim was not injured." When taken to task for it by many of us, the editors claimed that they were merely using the language that the police spokesperson had used. However, as we pointed out, the sentence was not in quotation marks.

It seems to be a standard sexist formulation, that rape isn't really an injury. It's sort of like a corollary to the idea that it's only a real rape if the woman is beaten up.

Doug S. said...

Technically, using a strict definition of "injury" could very well exclude rape from the category of "injuries". It's even possible to torture someone without inflicting physical injuries. If I were to give someone extremely painful electric shocks that do no lasting physical damage, I would certainly be inflicting serious harm, but I would not be inflicting injuries in the strictest sense.

Other definitions of injury do include other forms of harm or damage, so if one person says "X was not injured" and another person says "X was injured" they can both be completely correct.

The English language can be a horrible thing.