My education in rape

City investigation should dig deep, so that families — like mine — that have suffered can achieve justice

August 09, 2010|By Anthony W. McCarthy

A lot happened when I was 7 years old. I had my first kiss, with a girl named Pamela at the blackboard in Miss Jones' second-grade class. I learned how to pitch the perfect curve ball in Little League (we won the division championship that summer).

I also learned that a woman should not report being raped.

I grew up in a small, sleepy town in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I remember being shaken from my sleep by the sound of our front door frame cracking in the middle of the night. My mother had separated from my father after years of mental and physical abuse, and he was still determined to make our lives miserable.

I could hear them screaming at each other for what seemed like an eternity. It was the familiar sounds of scuffling that led my brother and me to jump from bed and run to help our mother, as we had done so many times before.

We entered the living room to see my father on top of my mother with his fist poised to strike her again.

I will never forget the look of horror on my mother's face as she ordered us back to our room. I will also remember the blank stare on my father's face — he was enraged, and our presence in the room mattered very little.

Yelling was replaced by silence. From our room, I strained to hear what was happening. I needed to know my mother was OK.

Silence.

Days later, my brother and I sat at the dinner table eating, when my grandmother — my father's mother — walked into the house with two police officers.

We listened very carefully to the conversation taking place in the next room. I heard my mother tell my grandmother and the officers that my father raped her that night he broke into the house. They laughed.

One of the police officers asked my mother to explain how a man could rape his own wife. My grandmother told her she would be responsible for sending the father of her children to jail. They pelted her with questions and challenges for over an hour. With exhaustion in her voice, my mother finally relented. She would not file the rape charge. My grandmother also insisted that she promise not to tell anyone, especially other members of the family.

After they left, my mother came to the kitchen and my brother and I wrapped our arms around her. I asked her, "Why did daddy do this to you?"

She replied, "Your father didn't do anything, Anthony. He didn't do anything."

Recently, it was revealed that the Baltimore Police Department has one of the worst records in the nation for filing reports from women who claim to be raped. In the last decade, our city has led the country in the percentage of rape cases classified by police investigators as "untrue" or "baseless."

We've also learned that 4 percent of emergency calls from women regarding being raped fail to generate a police report about the incident, with some women complaining that officers and detectives intimidate them into dropping their claims.

To their credit, city leaders including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard Young and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III acted swiftly and with appropriate indignation at the Baltimore Sun report that raised these important questions about the handling of sexual assault complaints by our police department.

But some have questioned why there should be a review of past complaints, arguing that a comprehensive new policy that addresses this issue is sufficient to ensure that law enforcement begins to do the right thing.

That's wrong. There could be thousands of women in our city who have been suffering in silence for decades because of an apparent culture in our police department that marginalized the sexuality and dignity of Baltimore women. Additionally, there could now be hundreds of rapists moving comfortably throughout our neighborhoods and among our families because of the decisions of insensitive investigators.

The police and a mayoral task force have begun the process of reviewing documents representing more than a year of previous complaints. I believe they can't stop there. We must commit the time and resources to review cases going back for several decades to get at the heart of this problem.

Such a comprehensive review would reopen some long-closed wounds. But it also may finally bring justice to women who have been wronged.

Anthony W. McCarthy is a media personality and political insider who hosts The Anthony McCarthy Show on WEAA 88.9 FM. His e-mail is mccarthyshow@gmail.com.

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