• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • February 15, 2013 in Columnists

    Nevermind what happened by the train tracks, the legal system raped you

    Somewhere out there is a young woman who was unfortunate enough to have a few drinks and go for a walk by the train tracks in Davis, California one night last summer with Thaddeus Jay Sonne. First she’s bar-hopping with friends, having a few drinks (or, more likely, a few too many), next thing you know, she’s pinned to the ground, kicking and crying, pleading “No, no, stop!” while Sonne continues to do with her as he will.

    The police arrive, arrest Sonne, but in her drunken and highly confused state — “Was I realy just raped by someone I know?” — she’s unable, or unwilling, to state unequivocally if she was raped. She was uncertain about pressing charges. I’m guessing the girl knew that if she pressed charges, she’d have to relive and retell what happened to her, while an attorney shamed and belittled her, and painted her as nothing but a drunken whore. Surely, she decided the ordeal of facing it all over again seemed worse than just moving on. She decided to let the justice system proceed without her and see where the chips fell.

    Well, they all fell on Sonne’s side. Without her testimony, Sonne was acquitted of the rape charge, after an astounding claim from his attorney that he was too drunk to understand what “no” means, and released on the spot — even though he admitted that he heard her saying “no,” and explained that he thought the sex was consensual because sometimes “no” is just a dare. And besides, added his attorney, he was too drunk to know what “no” means anyway.

    Despite the meme that “No means no,” Sonne got a big thumbs up from the jury, and is free to go forth and take tipsy girls for walks all he wants, and take them up on their dares.

    But where does that leave that young woman found kicking and crying that night by the train tracks? What’s going through her mind, knowing that in the eyes of the law, Sonne is innocent?

     If he’s not in the wrong, then… I ???

    And therein, the seed of lifelong shame and self-doubt are planted. The the only way to avoid a lifetime of self-torture is to turn and face the dragon now.

    My dear girl, whoever you are, beyond whatever happened to you that night, you truly are a victim. You’ve been raped by the legal system. It shoved erroneous, poisonous ideas and perceptions into your brain against your will, and there they’ll fester and grow, and subconsciously alter your self-esteem and life choices.

    You’ll start second-guessing yourself, because clearly you don’t know what’s what. You’ll question your own judgment and perception, because on some level, you know what happened to you that night, and yet the legal system said it didn’t. You might even start wondering if they’re right. Maybe you didn’t really know what was going on, even though you were there. Maybe there was something you did, or didn’t do, that caused it to happen.

    This is how the abuse cycle starts. Men who batter women tell them: “You made me hit you. Why did you do/say/not do/not say to make me do this to you again?” And then the women cry and apologize for their transgressions, and dab ice on their bruises as the man “forgives” them, and they stay in the relationship to try and figure out what it is they’re doing wrong to make their men treat them so brutally. It all starts when they believe that “What you say happened didn’t happen.” It starts when they believe the man, and in your case, the legal system, more than they believe themselves. If you choose to believe what the legal system told you, you’re putting yourself at risk for abusive relationships in the future.

    So, is your brain twisting into a pretzel? Wondering if down is up and up is down, second-guessing your ability to choose friends or make wise choices, and replaying the tape over and over to figure out where you made the exact mistake that night while out barhopping? Are you feeling dirty and “less than”? Full of shame and self-loathing? Wondering who you can trust and who you can’t, because clearly your judgment is faulty? I mean, the legal system said as much, right?

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    These thoughts have no basis in reality. There’s nothing wrong or bad or shameful about you. You’re running the tapes of self-loathing because the legal system didn’t validate you. Whenever those tapes start playing in your head, you must hit “stop” and replace them with this mantra: The legal system failed me. You did not cause what happened to you. Sadly, you’ve been taught a cruel life lesson at a tender age: Life is not always fair. And it doesn’t play nice. And if you’re going to climb into the sandbox, you must learn to play rough.

    You were wronged, twice. Dig down and find your anger about that. Anger is empowering. Channel it into protecting yourself, because this is another of life’s cruel lessons: The only one who will always be there to protect you is YOU. Never again allow yourself to get so intoxicated that you aren’t in control of yourself or able to make good decisions. Never go anywhere alone with a man until you know him well. Above all, you must learn to fight like your life depends on it, because it does. Should you ever find yourself in an assault situation again, channel your inner lioness, not your inner gazelle. Bite, claw and gouge to maim. Punch, strike, elbow to draw blood. Kick to break bones. Let there be no confusion about your desire: I. Will. Hurt. You. Inflict as much injury as possible to escape.

    Yes, leave a mark. Leave many. They’ll make great evidence when you press charges.





    • This case makes me crazy.

      • Maya North

      • February 16, 2013 at 12:29 am
      • Reply

      I love you. I just do. And why the hell don’t we teach self-defense in schools??? I teach women I know at least how to get away (the thumb is the weakest part of the body–a hand gripped around your wrist is totally ineffective if you know how to break the hold). But yes, we’re taught to be nice. No. Just kill the mofo…

    • Makes me crazy too. Thanks for putting it out there.

    • This might be a case better handled by someone like me, as a family member or dear friend. I could willingly give this guy a lesson on the meaning of “No.”

    • That was so fantastic, Debra. You nailed it! My very own black belt is a result of the desire to protect myself because I was attacked in my own home at the age of 15. I wasn’t raped, but could have been and could have been killed. Every woman should know, at the very least, that the eyes can be poked out___ or in, and throats can be broken. The hard part about defending oneself is that people become literally frozen in fear. That’s why practicing readiness can be helpful.

      • I think another hard part is that women are pressured from an early age NOT to fight… it sticks with us subconsciously all our lives… be nice, play nice, don’t fight, be a lady. These things aren’t always helpful to us.

    Leave a Comment