Savannah Dietrich: Victim With A Voice

For everyone who’s heard about Savannah Dietrich’s court case, let’s please show some respect for the victims of this situation, OK? Those poor boys, who sexually assaulted an unconscious Savannah at a party, posted the pictures online making a public mockery of her, and then had to suffer the traumatic experience of having their names posted on twitter for all to see. They were just doing what any other 17 year old potential-rapist would have done. For all we know, this entire fiasco may have hindered these boys’ rapist potential for life! gvy78 (sorry, had to wipe that single tear off my keyboard.) It must have been really rough on them when Savannah exposed their identities. How dare she?!

In all fairness, the boys have a right to confidentiality while the court case is technically still in progress. This protective measure is a pretty standard one in the U.S. legal system, and from an ethics standpoint makes a lot of sense. I can’t help understanding Dietrich’s actions, however, and since she’s willing to suffer the consequences, I respect her for it all the more so. She felt her assailants were given a slap on the wrist, and aside from it being offensive and infuriating to her after what happened, bringing the case into the public eye also gives us a chance to – yet again, seriously, progress plz k thx – evaluate how we approach rape in this country.

Because a slap on the wrist has been proven, repeatedly, to impress on sexual assailants that the legal system is tepid and lenient on them. Fun facts about rapists and sexual assailants in general: they tend to exhibit predatory tendencies like stalking, obsessing, violently asserting their power –your basic run-of-the-mill penile shenanigans. With each slap on the wrist, these tendencies are encouraged, and with each court case that leads only to lukewarm verdicts of “really now, that wasn’t very nice,” assailants will not only be roaming the Serengeti for prey once more, but armed with a better understanding of how to exploit the legal system. Aside from common logic and a basic understanding of rape as a vehicle of power and control, all of this is better explained by experts in The Invisible War, a documentary on rape and sexual assault in the military (this is an unpaid plug because seriously, y’all need to see this doc).

More than this, Dietrich should not have spent months of her life in shame and humiliation. Frankly, what the hell is wrong with us as a society that when two guys assault an unconscious girl and post it all over the internet, the girl is the one who has to feel shame? Note: anyone who comments below about how she shouldn’t have been so drunk can save themselves a public stint as a complete idiot and just move along. There is no reason – NONE, EVER – that entitles any one person to take advantage of another sexually or otherwise.

But I digress. The unempathetic, objectifying, lewd and just plain revolting act of sexually assaulting anyone, let alone an unconscious person, should be cause for shame; being a victim shouldn’t. And by blaming the victim and making her (or him, depending on the case) feel embarrassed and excluded from any kind of social life, we give even more power to sexual predators. And since rape and its various cousins (sexual assault, harassment, objectification) are already steeped in a need to feel power over another person, maybe our approach is, I don’t know, massively faulty and full of enabler toxins.

I wish I could say that since the assault happened at a party, the boys were probably drunk too, and who doesn’t do stupid sh*t when they’re full of youthful inebriation? But the photos posted were never taken down. No one woke up the next day and thought, over a breakfast of aspirin and coffee, “hey, that was a d*ck move, I’m going to take those pictures down and maybe apologize to Savannah for having acted like such a douche.” Not the next day, not three months later.

Seeing as the standard response to sexual assault is embarrassment on the victim’s part, followed by a public affirmation of said embarrassment, it was a bold move of Dietrich to take control of her situation. It may be a violation of the court’s order, but interim executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Gregg Leslie, said Dietrich should “not be legally barred from talking about what happened to her. That’s a wide-ranging restraint on speech.” Dietrich could have technically gotten the court to lift the gag order, but she already felt the legal system was failing her, and that “…protect[ing] rapist[s] [was] more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville.” Perhaps instinctively, Dietrich understood a key aspect of sexual assault that the legal system continues to overlook: the basic psychology of rapists.

We can talk about legal issues and implications for ages but for me, this boils down to how those laws affect the actual people they’re supposed to protect. If a legal system is unable to provide a rape victim not only with justice, but a feeling of safety, then what exactly is it doing? Dietrich took matters into her own hands because the court made her feel as helpless as her assailants did, and the fact that she took ownership of her situation and turned the shame and ridicule onto the boys who deserved it in the first place is inspiring, to say the least.

Featured Image via a1social

  • Freya H Dub

    This is so frustrating. Why are those boys being protected?? Such BS, if you ask me. Nobody protected her….Interesting article.

    • Julia Gazdag

      The gag order is pretty basic protection and I agree with it, just on an ethical basis. To me it’s the same as protecting the accused as innocent until proven guilty, for example. As long as the accused has a right to privacy, only the court can exact justice on them. What’s terrible about this is that the court, by being so lenient, is, in a way, protecting the boys while failing to protect past and potential future victims.

  • Duane Hansen Fernandez

    Fabulous article Julia. “If a legal system is unable to provide a rape victim not only with justice, but a feeling of safety, then what exactly is it doing?” – well said.

  • Beata Weidinger

    I love your articles, greetings from your homeland, Hungary :)

    • Julia Gazdag

      Köszi! Aranyos vagy :)

    • Beata Weidinger

      Én köszönöm a cikkeid :) A témához kapcsolódva, eléggé elszomorító a helyzet, és sajnos itthon is aktuális.

    • Julia Gazdag

      Hát igen. Ami Magyaroszágon megy most az pedig teljesen elkeserítő.

  • Natasja Asdal

    I would have done the exact same thing in that position. She is such a strong individual and I’m gad someone does something instead of relying on a failing legal system.

  • Tyler Standifird

    “predatory tendencies like stalking, obsessing, violently asserting their power –your basic run-of-the-mill penile shenanigans.”

    Please do not generalize about all men while discussing a rape investigation.

    • Julia Gazdag

      Sorry about the sarcasm? I wouldn’t say this article is a generalization about all men by any means, but clearly about specifically and only sexual predators. Guess you missed “And by blaming the victim and making her (or him, depending on the case)” where the effect on both genders is acknowledged, that’s generalizing too, right? (<— that’s sarcasm again, just in case that arrow is neccesary)

    • Julia Gazdag

      (Just to be fully clear with my intentions in that line, I’m poking fun at the leniency of the US legal system on rape and rape-related crimes in general, not implying that all men engage in sexually violent acts.)

    • Tyler Standifird

      “Your basic run-of-the-mill penile shenanigans.”
      Forming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental.
      run-of-the-mill (rnv–ml)
      adj. Not special or outstanding; average.
      Of, relating to, or affecting the penis.
      The quoted statement by definition states that it is the fundamental function of those with a penis to be obsessive, predatory, violent stalkers who impress their power upon others. Am I to take away from your article that it is all right for all men to be jokingly painted as rapists while the public is in an uproar over Daniel Tosh making rape jokes at a comedy show? The unmentioned victim in all of these sex wars lately is the man who always treats everyone with the same amount of respect in any situation but is always lumped together with the few bad apples who spoil the bunch. As a friend and family member of people who have been raped and/or molested, it is extremely insulting to be included as one whose nature it is to hurt those I love.

      • Scott Bryson

        I’ve done some work with the family and started a fundraiser/journalist piece and really like your satirical style. I have generated some controversy among her fans, but it is divided, and hope to strengthen their effort:

    • Julia Gazdag

      I’ve made my intention with that sentence abundantly clear, and the context which it is in is quite straightforward. I had no intention of implying that all men are rapists, nor do I take this subject lightly by any means. Please do not jump to assumptive conclusions about my stance on anything I haven’t written about, for example the Daniel Tosh incident. As a friend/family member of rape victims (which is an experience I share), perhaps you realize that the marginalization of women and the leniency of rape persecution puts women at a social disadvantage that cases such as this are bringing to light and are therefore important to discuss.

      Attempting to educate me on language and writing is something I find condescending and indicative that you did not give my replies the courtesy I give yours. I would also like to mention that you have taken my statement not only to mean something other than what it clearly expresses (again, see above reply), but very personally. As I have never met you and do not know you, I believe it’s quite apparent that this article is not about you, or any other man who has not engaged in sexual assault.

    • Tyler Standifird

      You claim to have given my reply courtesy I have not given you, but you point out what you believe to be my inability to grasp sarcasm and then end your comment with another sarcastic joke. The part of my comment you claim was discourteous was not me trying to educate you about linguistics but me explaining that I do understand what you said and that it does offend me. It would be unfair to assume your stance on the Tosh incident, but it’s just a relevant illustration of my frustration and I did not mean for it to be taken as part of my argument. Your supposed intention does not make any cogent sense, however. The statement with which I have trouble is your premise for lenient government, not part of the argument or the conclusion. To zoom out and include the full, unabridged sentence:
      “Fun facts about rapists and sexual assailants in general: they tend to exhibit predatory tendencies like stalking, obsessing, violently asserting their power –your basic run-of-the-mill penile shenanigans. ”
      Rapists and sexual assailants are presented as one body of people. You then describe this body and end the statement with an addendum including all men as being rapists and sexual assailants. Acknowledging later into the article to acknowledge that men can also be raped does not take anything at all away from your previous statement. It adds to the pool of victims. It does not detract from the pool of assailants. These qualities you list are not listed as being caused by the lenient government, merely exacerbated by them. Your entire point in that paragraph stands on the shoulders of the assumption that “rapists and sexual assailants” already have these qualities. I do not have any problem with this. If anything, it should be more broad because there is a whole world of sexual assault outside of someone who is being taken advantage of at a party. The only part I take offense to is the part that these qualities and behaviors are “basic run-of-the-mill penile shenanigans.”

    • Julia Gazdag

      Sorry you have such trouble reading my writing. If you would like to further critique it, you can email me at my work address, and I would be happy to hear even more of your instructions on how to write. <—- also sarcasm

    • Tyler Standifird

      My intention was never to critique or instruct you on how to write, as stated above. I believe you wrote what you wrote knowing full-well what it all meant and simply didn’t anticipate sensitivity coming from the other side of the fence. My points have only come forward to illustrate that I have not gotten lost in your words and that I take rightful offense to them. The fact that you have ceased arguing with me and have ignored what I’ve said can only mean that you have no remorse for what you’ve said. I was hoping you could simply take down the end of that sentence and we could be done with it, but the argument was rather fun. Have a good one.

    • Julia Gazdag

      I have said nothing offensive and have expressed to you regret at your misinterpretation. I have no intention of altering this article as a result of our conversation, and as you are the only one who has expressed such a misunderstanding, will assume that most others understand my meaning clearly. And now, I will respectfully exit this dialogue before it begins to run circles around itself.

    • Tyler Standifird

      Claiming my interpretation was a misinterpretation and simply saying, “No,” to my points does not a counterargument make. Anyone who would take the time to objectively read the article and this thread of comments would see that the fault lies within that line and I have illustrated this exhaustively. I hope you take what I have said into consideration when attempting to include snide remarks in your articles in the future.

  • Barbara Schudel

    Great article, and I so glad she spoke out. She not letting those animals get the best of her.
    I am in total agreement it is a slap on the wrist.

  • Susan Ward

    I wish I could say that I would have exhibited her courage had it me me , but I am not sure I would have been able to. I think I would have felt as abused and victimized by the system as well as the rapists.

  • Kim Meyer

    Let’s pay her fine: Contribute here or Sign the Petition -

  • Michelle DeHart

    A very well written piece. However, I notice that as many people cover this case, it is still only Savannah’s name and picture circulating. Thus, you reinforce the very situation she is trying to call attention to.

    • Julia Gazdag

      Michelle, she released her photo and full name with the express purpose of making this case a public one. She’s taken ownership of her exposure in order to motivate a larger conversation about sexual assault and its consequences, and circulating her name and story is helping this cause.

  • Erika Griffin

    This article, times a million. One of he major things wrong with trying to bring rape to justice is that in many cases, the rapist knows that something (be it personal shame or the bullshit red tape of an incredibly broken and self-serving legal system) will let them off with just a “slap on the wrist”. I hope this girl’s bravery gives other victims the push they need to do what she did. Don’t sit in silence: turn it around and put the shame where it belongs. With the offender. These things will happen a hell of a lot less (especially in social settings as was the case here) if the offenders fear they might be exposed all over the internet as the filthy creeps they are. Your courage could very likely prevent it from happening again.

  • Joe H Hinojosa

    We can all start out that there were bad decisions made that started the whole tragedy, but I think it boils down to one simple thing, the victim is being victimized, this time by a judicial system that seems to give more rights to the perpetrators than to the victims. If she ends up getting a harsher sentence than the rapists, I think that sends a powerful message to everyone,

    I hope for her sake that the courts, and in this case, the judge, reconsiders his actions. He should not punish her further than she already has been punished, by being subjected to embarrassment and ridicule.

  • Gaby Gelpi

    Hi Julia, great article like you always do, i´m from Uruguay. South America.

    • Julia Gazdag

      Thank you!

  • Jena Evans-Turnbull

    Well said!

  • Karis Isolde Funk

    I really truly wish more rape-victims stood up for themselves like Savannah is doing. It is NEVER ok for someone to take advantage of you, regardless of what you’re wearing, how you look, how enibriated you are, etc… No matter what, NO ALWAYS MEANS NO!
    It’s sad that the justice systems haven’t figured this one out yet, and that victim blaming is still so prominent (it’s the same in Canada). It makes victims be afraid to come out and stand up for themselves because they are brainwashed into thinking it is their fault.

    I strongly urge you to check out “SlutWalk” on Facebook. This is a group that sets up rallies/protests in various cities that are against victim blaming.
    The group started when a cop told a group of female students not to dress “slutty” if they don’t want to be raped. (Funny, all the women I know who we’re sexually abused, assaulted, harassed were wearing appropriate clothing, and/or even winter gear!)
    If they do SlutWalk in your city and you agree that it is always the fault of the attacker, I urge you to join the walk to protect all victims rape!

  • Ehryn Stephenson

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  • Tatiana Daugherty

    Victim-blaming is abhorrent, but especially so in a rape scenario. It doesn’t matter what a woman wears…our appearance should in no way be seen as an invitation of sorts to sexually assault us. Any man – or woman – who says that is an idiot. Even if we were totally covered up, some men would still find it attractive. It’s a moot point.
    Great article, Julia.

  • Ehryn Stephenson

    Great post. What I don’t get is why she’s in trouble for posting names. Surely if the perpetrators posted pictures online (in the public domain) they have already identified themselves to the masses. What should it matter if she names names? SHE was the victim. One of the most damaging things about rape is the loss of control. All the more power to her for doing what she needed to to take back the power. Rapists SHOULD be humiliated. It is a shameful act and any rapists should be publicly shamed.

  • Sandy Marsh

    It’s incredibly important that victims of sexual crime realize who is to be ashamed. There is a healing process that is only and truly bearable in the hands of Christ. After all, he did not come to condemn us but to save us.

  • Kimberly Mackenzie

    Great article! I’m glad you included that it doesn’t matter how much alcohol someone has consumed. I know there are girls out there that blame themselves because they were drunk, but they need to know that it’s not they’re fault and being taken advantage of is never okay in any situation. In North Carolina there is a law that at a certain blood alcohol level it is automatically rape, much the same as a certain age will mean statutory rape. Savannah is very brave!

  • Angela Abeyta

    All I can say is: you go, girl!

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