St. Louis Post Dispatch fails victims again and again.

I was searching for a way to respond to the latest victim blaming screed to come out of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  However, I will let a woman – Taylor Hirth – who has experienced first hand the devastation of rape, the institutionalized rape culture in law enforcement and indeed the press.

Last year, the Post Dispatch outed Brittany Burke as a victim of sexual assault.  They dragged her through the mud — how much she had to drink — the party atmosphere — and on and on.

The Post-Dispatch has to be held to account for its fundamental misunderstanding (or complete unwillingness to understand) of what rape culture is.  Now, with this new editorial the Post Dispatch succeeds in blaming an alleged assault victim and incoming assemblywoman, chastises ladies for not reporting immediately, and encourages the General Assembly leaders to seat the man she is accusing of rape despite an ongoing investigation.  The link is here and it is maddening.

Dear Post Dispatch,

As a victim both of sexual violence and as the second female intern that came forward in support of a woman who made allegations of sexual harassment against Paul LeVota last year, I am thoroughly disgusted, yet again, with how the Post Dispatch has handled another instance of sexual violence against women.

As your editorial board wrote, “Walker’s situation also serves as a reminder to victims that it is critical to alert authorities as quickly as possible when they believe they have been sexually assaulted. The victim’s often immediate and understandable response to rape is to bottle up her emotions and doubt herself about what happened. [….] Delaying reporting diminishes the ability to prosecute because important evidence is rapidly degraded, and it could leave the attacker free to victimize others.”

Thank you.

If you don’t report immediately, because your first concern is for your safety and your mental health, you are now responsible if your attacker victimizes somebody else? Not only that, but once again the onus of justice is placed squarely on the victim’s shoulders.

Here’s the thing, Post Dispatch. Back in February, I was gang raped by strangers while my 2 year old daughter shared my bed and witnessed the attack. I reported the assault immediately, and had a rape kit done. Despite that, the officers failed to follow up in a timely manner, left my apartment unsecured for hours, and failed to even take a statement from me until 24 hours had passed. Their failure to follow-up in any way that even hints at best practices for their field allowed my attackers to essentially go free.

Why?

Because they didn’t seem to believe me.  Because apparently I wasn’t hysterical enough in the presence of my toddler for them to believe it was a “real rape.”

You tell us to not rush to judgement. And yet as women, our lives depend on making judgments every day. We make judgments about who we can trust in times of need, about who it is safe to be around and who it is safe to leave our children with. And if somebody is accused of rape, I’m well within reasonable logic to make a judgement that I don’t want to be alone with that person, proven guilty or otherwise.

By withholding judgment against the accused, you are effectively passing the scrutiny to the victim.

We’ve had Daisy Coleman and Paige Parkhurst. We’ve had Sasha Menu Courey, and Brittany Burke, and Lacy Hembree, and myself. And now we have Cora. So tell me, Post Dispatch. What does it take to get justice in Missouri? How perfectly does the victim have to respond when she is assaulted, before somebody takes this seriously?

Sincerely,

Taylor Hirth  – Kansas City, Missouri

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