Rape Victim Vindicated … But Does it Change Anything for Other Women?

Photo of Rapist Willis in Handcuffs

Rape is arguably the worst possible crime in existence.  While the physical damage generally heals, the emotional repercussions of a sexual assault are lifelong.  Perhaps the worst thing about surviving a rape is the intrinsic need to keep it secret.

It is very difficult to say the words, “I was raped.”  It is even harder, however, to must the courage to say the words and face a firestorm of people casting doubt.  Since sexual assault is often difficult if not impossible to prove (never mind define), there is a surprisingly high percentage of people (and some of them are regular Zelda Lily readers) that automatically assume a woman claiming rape is lying.

I was raped.  It happened in 1998, I was drunk, and it was unspeakable.  While the physical effects healed fairly quickly, I will never fully recover emotionally.  To this day, I am not able to …

… trust anybody (in large part because my former best friend played a role, albeit unintentionally, in what happened to me), and there are certain aspects of sex I once enjoyed that I lost forever thirteen years ago.

My situation, as horrible as it was, is not uncommon.  Date rape (which is probably the category my assault best falls under) is both rampant and largely unreported.  Most victims are able to patch up their damage psyches and move on with their lives.

What happened to Tina Anderson of Arizona fourteen years ago is something I cannot imagine.

In 1997, Anderson was sexually assaulted twice by Ernest Willis, a fellow member of the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire.  Willis admitted to having sex with Anderson, who was fifteen at the time and a babysitter for his children, but maintains it was consensual.

Riiiight, Mr. Willis, of course it was consensual … which makes it A-okay for a man in his late thirties to be screwing a high school student.

Anyway, Willis couldn’t argue that he’d never had sexual relations with Anderson at all because she became pregnant following the encounters.

Before sending Anderson to Colorado to give birth to a baby that was given up for adoption, Pastor Charles “Chuck” Phelps forced the girl to publicly apologize to Trinity Baptist Church’s entire congregation when her pregnancy became known.  To be completely fair, Willis had to give a public mea culpa as well … for being “unfaithful”.

And while Willis is a dangerous, disgusting human being, I think Pastor Chuck there should be wearing a villain hat as well, although ironically it is his counseling notes, obtained by subpoena, that “prove” Anderson’s claim of forcible sex.

From WMUR:

Referring to the notes, Phelps said Willis described himself as the “aggressor” during the encounters with Anderson.

“He said he was the aggressor,” Phelps said. “That was the word he used.”

The courtroom was packed for Phelps’ testimony by people who are no longer members of the church. They have expressed strong, negative feelings about Phelps and were warned by prosecutors not to make any outbursts when Phelps took the stand.

“I want to point out if there is any emotional reaction or any negative presentations of any kind, that probably gets us a mistrial,” said prosecutor Wayne Coull. “That means we have to do this all over again.”

Geez, I can’t imagine why people would have negative feelings toward a supposed man of God basically covering for a guy who’d admitted that he was a rapist and then not just blaming the victim, a girl not yet old enough to drive a car, but publicly humiliating her.

No wonder the population of people “no longer members of the church” was so large.

Anderson, now 29, made the decision to make her identity public in large part to give rape victims an affirmation that they are not to blame.

“I was thankful that I finally believed and I saw it kind of as a victory for rape victims everywhere,” Anderson said. “I think it’s really important for rape victims to understand that it’s not their fault. For 14 years I had been brainwashed to believe that this was my fault.”

And there’s no question that the jury gave absolution to Tina Anderson’s claims, which were basically pushed under a religious rug fourteen years ago.

The jury ruled that Willis forcibly raped Anderson, convicting him of two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of felonious sexual assault. He was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdict was read.

Willis will remain in the Merrimack County Jail as he awaits sentencing. He faces a maximum sentence of more than 50 years in prison.

I guess justice is better late than never, but it hurts my heart that Tina Anderson was treated like a whore when the sexual assault happened, that the leader of her church publicly displayed her as a sexually promiscuous sinner while her rapist was portrayed as a victim to her evident Jezebel-esque ways which had led to him being “unfaithful”, clearly a lesser crime in the eyes of Pastor Chuck the Fuck.

Although Tina Anderson was finally believed and a sexual predator is now behind bars, I don’t think this story is exactly going to encourage rape victims—past, present, and future—to come forward.  Instead, it supports the knee-jerk “blame the victim” mentality that many of us who have survived a rape instinctively felt, intrinsically feared.

And that’s a real tragedy.

You Might Also Like ...

13 thoughts on “Rape Victim Vindicated … But Does it Change Anything for Other Women?

  1. It is incredible that such an assault could have gone unrecognised and unpunished for such a long time. That poor girl – and so many more like her. Sadly, I don’t think things have changed much or will change rapidly all the while our sexual attitudes are so mixed up. You have prompted me to write a post.

  2. The problem with rape cases is that the evidence often consists of a single testimony from a single woman.
    Our legal systems have a (theoretical) presumption of innocence. That is, a man accused of rape is to be considered innocent until the rape has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
    That means that we don’t take a prosecution (let alone just a claim) as automatic evidence that the man is a rapist.
    Those of us who don’t automatically assume any guy against whom a claim is made is a rapist are not purposely trying to declare the accuser a liar – we’re just trying to stay within the legal standards which assume we give the benefit of the doubt to an accused until the trial happens.
    Rape is a terrible crime. The fact that often evidence is lacking or unclear makes it extremely difficult to deal with in legal cases. This sucks in a major way, But our legal system has made the decision that it is better for some bad people to walk free than to punish innocent people. You can argue with that, but don’t hate people working within the structure.
    While we don’t want to make it harder on a victim of rape, and it would be great if all people told the truth all the time, and a woman stating that she was raped could be simply taken as evidence that it happened… people do lie. And women lie. And some women make false claims of rape. some do it because they are unbalanced, some do it because they are confused and encouraged, and some do it because there is no consequence to them, and terrible consequences for the man they accuse, even if the claim is thrown right own with not a stitch of evidence.
    Women who were raped should be the most angered by those making false claims, since it is the false claimants who damage the real victims’ ability to be believed.
    The fact that rapes happen and the fact that false claims happen are separate issues, but both relate to each other and are important to deal with.

    • I think you’ve summed up the issue very well. With something as inflammatory as rape, it’s hard to remain impartial without seeming like a victim-blamer. I’m from North Carolina, originally, and when the Duke lacrosse rape scandal broke out, I remember being almost ostracized because I didn’t immediately condemn the entire UNC system for the “crime,” which turned out to be a lie.

      • I think one of the biggest issues is the lack of any deterrent to false reports. There are some cases which result in an acquittal because they can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt. There are other cases that are thrown out due to gross lack of evidence and apparent fraud. Or in this case, prosecutor gross incompetence or willful misconduct. And yet the crime for destroying three men’s reputations is a minor charge that usually isn’t even laid. There should be real punishment for a charge that is found to be evidentually a lie.
        And there’s no recourse for a man acquitted of rape. There’s huge media attention when a charge is laid. There is little to no media attention when the man is completely exonerated, and to much of the population, he’s a rapist forever regardless of what the court found.
        A terrible imbalance that basically encourages false claim.
        (Note that making it a serious crime to falsely report would not affect real victims. It would be laid only in the some cases where the claim is found to be abhorrently unfounded and with evidence of a lie. In the tragic cases where a rape did occur but there is nothing beyond he said/she said and they can’t convict, there would be no reason to assume the victim was frauding and go after her for it.)

  3. I don’t recall the legal aspects – I think psych-types aren’t allowed to violate confidentiality if a crime is disclosed unless it puts someone in clear danger going forward. Or something like that? Do religious counselling sessions have the same clause?
    The Pastor is sickening for blaming the girl publicly in church, but it is possible that he wasn’t legally supposed to report on the counselling afterwards. I’m not sure.
    I assume she is above the age of consent wherever this happened?
    Even when, before the public shaming of premarital sex, when it happened with a vastly older man, a church could reasonably expect the pastor to do some investigating.
    What happened to this girl is obviously very clearly wrong.

  4. “Rape is arguably the worst possible crime in existence.”

    Arguably the worst? Katie, then you may be the only one in the world who thinks rape is worse than murder. However, I will say rape is the SECOND worst possible crime in existence.

      • I still agree with you, Brian — I think murder is worse than rape. You survive rape, you can’t survive murder. Katie, I’m horrified with what happened to you, and to the poor girl. No woman should ever have to go through that.

  5. Pingback: Warren Jeffs, Clearly Not “The Prophet”, Underscores the Continued Need for Feminism – Zelda Lily, Feminism in a Bra

  6. Then there are women such as Lynn Segerblom, fiance of Bruce Cardozo, who falsely accuse men of rape in a court of law in order to get what they want – and the sad thing is that type of perjury goes unpunished.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>