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.
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.