Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rose Corrigan's "Up Against a Wall"

Rose Corrigan is associate professor of law and politics at Drexel University. In addition to holding degrees from Bryn Mawr College and Rutgers University—New Brunswick, she was a direct service provider in the fields of sexual and domestic violence for more than ten years.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Up Against a Wall: Rape Reform and the Failure of Success, and reported the following:
Page 99 is provides a fair snapshot of the book as a whole. The page comes in a chapter that describes how law enforcement officials and medical providers respond to victims’ reports of sexual assault. I conducted interviews with over 150 rape care advocates (individuals working at local organizations which provide supportive services to individuals in the wake of sexual assault and abuse) across six different US states. First, I wanted to understand how implementation of rape law is shaped by factors unique to each state (such as specific criminal laws and funding sources). Second, I wanted to see whether there were similarities in law enforcement and medical responses in communities that were legally, geographically, and politically different.

The central argument of the chapter is that victims who seek to report violence against them may be met with unsympathetic responses from legal and medical personnel—ranging from indifference to outright hostility—that force victims out of the rape reporting “pipeline.” Page 99 provides two quotations from advocates who explain the attitudes of prosecutors toward sexual assault cases. In one Washington city, prosecutors were unlikely to move forward with cases involving children, adolescents, people with mental health issues, and individuals engaged in prostitution. In very similar language, an advocate in rural Michigan reported that their local prosecutors were unlikely to lay charges if the victim’s behavior is deemed suspect for any reason:
“if there’s any question of credibility … it’s not going to be prosecuted. God forbid the person [was] drinking or a prostitute or whatever. Even if there is serious injuries it’s not going to be prosecuted. It’s very frustrating.”
Page 99 highlights a major theme of the book: that despite widespread perceptions of the success of rape reform efforts, in many communities of all types—rural and urban, liberal and conservative—the institutions responsible for investigating sexual assault and caring for victims do not take rape very seriously. This discussion lays the groundwork for subsequent chapters that explore how recent policy innovations (such as rape kits, emergency contraception for rape victims, and sex offender registration laws) intersect with these medical and law enforcement practices to produce unintended consequences that may undermine victims’ access to fair, equitable, and compassionate responses in the wake of sexual assault.
Learn more about Up Against a Wall at the New York University Press website, and visit Rose Corrigan's Sexual Assault & Public Policy Project website.

--Marshal Zeringue