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