Savannah Dietrich: Victim With A VoiceJulia Gazdag

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

  • Kim Meyer
  • Patricia O’Hara

    SHe is a brave individual & strong. All the best to standing up for her rights :)

  • Native NYker
  • Lizzie Starling

    So well written, you hit every nail on the head. The courage that Savannah has showed is unbelievable.

  • Alise Versella

    more power to her for speaking up on her own behalf!

  • John Treebeard

    I agree with most of this article (ethics of situation being murky as seems to create ridiculous result), but I disagree with notion that it’s vital to ignore the girl’s alcohol consumption.

    Her alcohol consumption led to her being unconscious during the attacks and unable to defend herself. You can believe that she should never have been assaulted and that the boys involved should be severely punished, while simultaneously believing she somewhat recklessly put herself in a dangerous situation. More rapes/sexual assaults would be averted by educating women to avoid situations where they find themselves defenseless than will be accomplished by publicly naming or increasing the sentence of the defendants/criminals, though perhaps both should occur.

    • Courtney George-Holloway

      I don’t think her consumption makes any difference….it’s not like she wore a sign that said “come on disgusting rapists…I’ll be unconscious in 20 minutes, come take advantage of me.” we can’t pass judgement bc she was doing what we all have done in our youth. How many embarrassing moments or conversations could we all have avoided if we chose not to drink? Hers is definitely a worst-case-scenario. Sure, staying sober would have avoided all of this, but she didn’t choose this along with her first drink.

  • Cassie Burningham
  • Jodi Styner

    Am I crazy, or is a gag order usually implemented to protect the victim? In many cases, by naming the assailant you can indirectly be naming the victim (especially in family or spousal situations). I thought the names of the accused would technically be public record and their names would be visibly printed on court dockets, etc., but they just can’t be mentioned by name in the media if the case is sexual in nature — to protect the victim. If that isn’t the case, it makes me sick.

    • Brenda Daverin

      You’re not wrong, but since the perps were underage, it was also meant to protect them legally. Their juvenile records aren’t supposed to affect them after they reach adulthood. But that’s where I’m with Savannah. There are ethical reasons, but penalizing the victim for doing what she did is just sad.

  • Courtney George-Holloway

    I don’t know which part of reading this article made me angier…the fact that she didn’t want these boys to be able to attack another woman and is getting in trouble (yes….I used the tem “boys” because real men wouldn’t dare hurt a woman) OR reading the comments where the gentleman thought you were calling him a rapist. You are entitled to an opinion…but don’t be over-sensitive….

    I don’t see anything wrong with her wanting to get the word out that women should steer clear of such disgusting individuals. Maybe there were better ways to do it, but…she got her point across didn’t she?

  • Brian Corsi

    While I understand that minors, even guilty ones, have protection under the law, it makes me cringe to know these two little expletive deleted’s will carry on like it never happened. I promise, they will go on to commit more crimes against women, and just as likely go unpunished. As a father of a soon-to-be teenage girl, I want to hurt them in ways I couldn’t even express. Predators are the true terrorists of our society.
    As for Ms. Dietrich’s upcoming hearing, I can envision only one fair outcome. She may well be found guilty (as she technically – though not reasonably- is) and she should be fined in appropriate proportion to her crime. As their were two names named, she should now pay the fine of two dollars. That sum seems best, as it rightfully accounts for the worth of those two little bastards.
    I only hope they carry the shame and the shadow of being sex criminals for the rest of their days, and I sincerely hope Ms. Dietrich finds peace and happiness.

  • Leraine Tass

    The whole slap on a wrist thing is really annoying. My uncle used to be a judge, he normally did standard cases etc. He told me a story of the one truly bad case that they gave him. He listened and decided that the assailant was guilty and he gave him a LOAD of time in jail and big fines, like it should be.After the man’s time in jail, he went to go see my uncle and thanked him because he had learned his lesson. Now, after all that, Instead of being put on more severe cases ,like that one, they never gave him a case like that again. Sometimes I wonder if most of these cases are just rigged because the government doesn’t want to spend money on people going to prison for so long.
    P.S Great Article!

  • Ryan Holmes

    I’m sure she did this as some small measure of taking power back into her hands, and fucking hell, she deserves it.

  • Karen Taylor

    I’ve been in Savannah’s shoes myself. Even though I was one of seven victims, the rapist actually received time off for ‘good behavior’ and served less than one year per victim! I wouldn’t have been as brave as Savannah. I now keep a loaded gun next to my bed, I’m a prisoner of my memories and nightmares. The “Justice System” – HAH! There is no “justice” for the victims!

    • Julia Gazdag

      Karen, my heart really goes out to you. It really is a huge problem that I don’t think our legal system understands, that rape victims have to deal with the fallout the rest of their lives. The legal system tries to balance between justice matching each crime and serving citizens, but seems to fall in favor of citizens more often. I hope you can find comfort and safety again soon.

  • Libby Marr

    Why is Judge Deana ‘Dee’ McDonald protecting the reputations of these perpetrators of a sexual assault? So what that their pathetic penises are underage? They took a guilty plea bargin! They admitted their crime! And what of the free speech rights of Savannah Dietrich? Is this the direction where the country is heading where we will now coddle rapists and gag and punish the victim? Where is the outrage from our female elected officials? Why is NOW silent?

    The good people of Kentucky elected McDonald in 2010, partially thanks to an endorsement from the Louisville Courier-Journal. In 2014 they will all be given an opportunity at the ballot box to undo the travesty of justice their misguided votes has caused.

    But anyone want to bet that the fine people down there in Kentucky will STILL re-elect McDonald in 2014 – even if/AFTER Savannah Dietrich is sentenced for contempt of court, sentenced and, if sent to jail, has to undergo another sexual assault when she is forced to strip naked and undergo a humiliating body-cavity search?

    If Savannah Dietrich is punished in any way, shape or form for discussing publicly the trauma she went through, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution might as well be declared officially dead. Judge McDonald would have signed the death certificate.

    Any judge who punishes Savannah Dietrich in any way whatsoever for talking about her trauma and naming the [obscenities deleted] who sexually assaulted her is no better than the Imams in the Middle East who sentence women to death by stoning for having sex.

  • Katy Johnson

    I am so frustrated with how lenient we are about sexual assault in this country. Even in the school system. My sister was assaulted at her middle school (luckily he didn’t get too far before being caught). The only thing the school system did was suspend him for a month and make him switch schools. When she went to high school, he was at the same school, and the principal refused to switch her out of the class that they shared because he didn’t believe it was a good enough reason. My parents then had a very angry talk with the principal and forced him to swap her class. We very quickly switched her to another high school after that. I found it appalling that because both my sister and her attacker were minors that he had absolutely NO legal punishment. None.
    Unfortunately, she was then raped her freshmen year by a different individual. Because the system had let her down before, she refused to name him and charge him. And this time the police could have got him because they had his DNA and he was an adult. But she refuses to. I hope that through reading stories like this that she will find the courage to charge him and punish him for the abhorrent crime that he committed. It is never okay to harm another human being. Never.

    • Julia Gazdag

      That’s really terrible. Institutions tend to react not with safety in mind, but their own reputation. They don’t want to acknowledge something so terrible, because it will add to their statistic. Which, of course, in turn, will end up increasing the statistic they never wanted in the first place. And of course, no person is a statistic, nor should be made to feel like one! So much sympathy to your sister.

  • Clau Piña

    Great article. Why are the victims the ones that have to be afraid of pointing out the rapist?
    In Mexico is rare that someone reports this because of the process and corruption. About a month ago a girl in the state I live in did it. The perpetrator found out and killed her.
    He’s free.
    This has to end.

  • Shanna Hamilton

    I’d never heard of this before. After reading this, and researching the case… I’ve been brought to tears. I am just overwhelmed and so angry, and confused. How is it that for three months, all their friends who saw these photos on Facebook just sat idly by? This girl has a strength I could never even fathom.

  • David Smith

    Response to Tyler: you seem to miss the point and Julia is bending over backwards to be polite so let me explain in terms that even you can understand. You ARE an ignorant Dick head. And the stand that you have taken makes one wonder why! Have you done the same things? Your pretense at being literate do not cover the obvious fact that you are a socially ignorant boar.

    • Julia Gazdag

      I appreciate your support David, but would just like to remind you that HelloGiggles aims to keep comments positive, constructive, and free of foul language. As much as I regret Tyler’s misunderstanding, he has the right to express his sentiments. As do you, of course! Again, thank you for your supportive comment :)

    • Britt Bulens

      I agree that he seemed to have missed Julia’s point, but he certainly did not come across as defending what those boys did. It’s inappropriate to ask if he has done the same thing. I don’t think anything he said would raise that question. Let’s leave out the name calling and focus on how great of an article this is. Savannah is so brave!

  • Richard Starr

    The act of gagging her is, to me, a second assault on her person.
    The fact that she is named while those who assaulted her go nameless is just insane. This is not the case where there is a question of their guilt. They have confessed and there is photographic evidence of their assault.

    I do understand that the courts might want to protect these boys from being beat to death by those who might feel the gene pool would be better off if they were not allowed to exist, but I would shed only a crocodile tear if such a thing would occur.

    Perhaps I over react given that all involved were intoxicated.
    Since I do not know the extent of their crimes I can not be certain.

  • Angela Abeyta

    All I can say is: you go, girl!

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