Two court cases last week in Lima remind us of how awful human beings can be to one another when someone let's his libido do the thinking.
They also remind us we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the horrible crime of rape.
The first of those cases involves William Purdy. Judge Richard Warren sentenced him to six life sentences for raping a child or helping rape her when she was between the ages of 5 and 7 years old. He won’t be eligible for parole for 30 years.
The other case involved 14-year-old Maurice McGill, who raped and robbed a 90-year-old woman at her home when he was 13. Judge Glenn Derryberry sentenced him to juvenile prison until he’s 21, with another 15 years in adult prison hanging over his head if he gets into trouble in youth prison.
In each of these cases, The Lima News went to extraordinary efforts not to identify the victims, as it does with all rape cases. We won’t print victims’ names. We won’t identify how the people knew one another if it makes it too clear who the victim is. The rationale is protecting victims of sex crimes from the embarrassment of being publicly named.
That’s unfortunate in some cases, as it hurts readers from understanding exactly what kind of monsters these defendants are. In many rape cases in our area, the victim and the perpetrator knew each other well. In all too many cases, the criminal was in some position of authority or a relative in the victim’s life.
The newspaper also tries to avoid the salacious details, knowing the content isn’t appropriate for some readers. Unfortunately, it also means people don’t realize just how awful some of these demented creeps really are.
It’s difficult from where I sit. I’m still haunted by details I heard covering rape trials during my days as a reporter. It’s even more frustrating when people compare the sentences of crimes and wonder why, for instance, a rapist ends up with more time in prison than a murderer does.
Quite often, these sentences make perfect sense when you know the emotional and physical brutality these evil-doers caused.
Instead, we just toss it all into a vague four-letter word, “rape.”
I hope some day people see rape victims the way they see victims of other brutal, awful crimes. We show compassion toward and talk openly about people who’ve been burglarized, assaulted and even killed.
Once the weapon of choice is sex, we divert our eyes and try not to think about it. If we do discuss it, it’s in hushed, whispered tones, unless it’s the anger we express toward the defendant. The only time you hear the name and story of a rape victim is if they choose to tell you, and you dare not ask about those experiences.
I’m fortunate to have never been the victim of a rape, but too many people I care about have been raped. I wish they could, if they chose, speak about their experiences without being judged, the same way I can speak of the times someone burglarized my home 13 years ago.
Yet because of this double-standard, I can talk about the ways I felt violated, and they can’t. They’re trapped by the type of crime committed against them. I doubt any of us will ever completely understand what rape does to its victim until we can more openly discuss it. Instead, I merely watch those I know who’ve been through it and try to observe from how they’ve changed since their ordeals.
So much of the focus falls on the defendants during rape trials, about how awful they are and what cruel, bizarre punishments they deserve. Spite and revenge are powerful motivators when someone’s done something awful like this.
That’s not my first thought when I see rape cases in the newspaper. I pray for those victims, that they might be able to heal and live the somewhat normal life we all deserve. I pray for peace and healing.