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Letters: Column on sexual violence out of touch with reality

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center therapist Isabelle Burtan of Chicago takes part in a 2013 silent protest outside the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan to bring awareness to sexual assault crimes. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

Mary Mitchell’s Sept. 12, 2015 column “Rape case sends mixed messages on prostitution” is out of touch with the realities of sexual violence and an affront to the victim whose assault she minimizes — indeed, to survivors of sexual violence everywhere.

Rape Victim Advocates serves over 1,600 victims/survivors of sexual violence annually, and has provided comprehensive rape crisis services in Chicago for over 40 years. To a person, each of the survivors we serve has been told by someone at some point that the assault was their fault. Blaming someone for being assaulted because they answered an ad in Backpage is the same as blaming someone because they were drinking, or wore a short skirt, or were flirting. It’s the same because it fails to hold the perpetrator of the violence responsible.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Whether we’re talking about a college student at a frat party, a sex worker with a gun pulled on her, a homeless youth, a suburban woman at home, what defines an act as sexual violence is lack of consent, not the identity and behavior of the victim. Suggesting otherwise only serves to dehumanize those who are already marginalized by our society and serves no one but rapists themselves, giving them an easy pass to target the most vulnerable for assault without fear of consequence. The real mixed message here is the one being conveyed by Mitchell: that not all sexual violence is real. It is an irresponsible view. And when printed by the Chicago Sun Times, it becomes a dangerous one.

Sharmili Majmudar, executive director, Rape Victim Advocates

No ‘perfect victim’

I was surprised and disheartened to read Mary Mitchell’s column on the rape case of a sex worker and a john “making a mockery of rape victims.” Sexual violence is sexual activity without consent, which is why people can be raped by their long-term sexual partners or, yes, johns.

Mary Mitchell says it’s “hard to see this unidentified prostitute as a victim” — though the woman was forced to have sex at gunpoint. It is rare that a rape matches up with the “perfect victim” idea — and too often our society immediately looks toward the victim’s actions, words, clothing or even past sexual history for the reason the crime was committed.

All sexual assault survivors, including this woman, deserve support and justice — not blame and shame.

Caitlin Rogers, Logan Square

Talk to the victims

I respect Mary Mitchell very much and have always learned from her words, either written or spoken. But her attitude of seeing a rape victim as less a person because she is a prostituted person has no place in our collective standards. Perhaps she will rethink her position. And interview the organizations that provide a haven and resources for such victims and talk to the victims themselves. Thank you.

Julie Sass, Elk Grove Village

Who determines victim’s ‘worthiness’

  • Forcing a person into sexual activity without consent is rape — regardless of whether they are in prostitution.
  • Rape survivors, in or out of prostitution, deserve justice and community support, not being blamed.
  • Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez should be applauded for treating a rape case with the seriousness it deserves.
  • Comparing one rape victim to another to determine their ‘worthiness’ of our sympathy is victim-blaming and reeks of rape culture.
  • Rape of a prostituted person is not “theft of services,” it is rape. Period.
  • Most rapes are acquaintance rapes and don’t match up to the “perfect victim” analogy.

Brandi Campbell, Aurora

Shameful episode

When Nanci Koschman accepted the settlement from the Cook County state’s attorney, it left me wondering if that was the last we would hear of one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the Chicago Police Department. A department in which I dedicated 33 years of my life to serving and protecting a city I love.

When you think of public servants, you think of courage, integrity and the oath of office that we all once proudly and steadfastly promised to uphold. None of this was evident in this whole sordid affair when it came to justice for David Koschman and his grieving mom. Two investigations, made up statements, stalled investigations, special grand jury findings of malfeasance with no justice because of the statue of limitations.

One thing is for sure, there is no statute of limitations on the ugly stain this whole affair has left on a department that has a motto of “We Serve And Protect.” I have one question for all those who crumpled and sold their integrity and failed to step up when courage was in order: How do you sleep at night knowing what you did? I am ashamed to have once called you my brothers and sisters.

Bob Angone, South Loop

Give us system that works

One person, one vote: that’s how I was taught our democracy is supposed to work. These days, however, money speaks louder than votes. A Politico investigation found that in the current presidential election, the 67 biggest donors have given more than the 508,000 small donors combined. As a result, the president will be more accountable to those big donors than those who could only vote or make small donations.

Illinoisans, including myself, are fed up and want a system that works for all of us. Small donor empowerment programs can level the playing field by giving matching funds to grassroots candidates who opt to only take small donations.

Imagine that – a system that encourages candidates to fund their campaigns by appealing to a broad swath of their everyday constituents instead of relying on a few big donors.

The Government by the People Act and the Fair Elections Now Act would create this system for the U.S. House and Senate, respectively. Many Representatives have already cosponsored the legislation – U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski should join them. At a time when cynicism is as high as ever, let’s prove we still have a functioning democracy.

Naomi Pitkin, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, Logan Square

Remember the humanities

I am all for emphasizing STEM, science, technology, engineering and math in our nation’s schools. I just hope we don’t forget the humanities.

We do need scientists, technicians, engineers, and mathematicians. However, in a world rife with religious hate and other forms of injurious and often deadly discrimination we all need to learn to understand each other and to accept our differences. Only this will allow us to survive this unique experience called humanity.

Karen Wagner, Rolling Meadows