A DEFENDANT accused of forcing a prostitute at gunpoint to have sex with him and three other men got lucky, so to speak, last week.
A Philadelphia judge dropped all sex and assault charges at his preliminary hearing.
Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni instead held the defendant on the bizarre charge of armed robbery for - get this - "theft of services."
Deni told me she based her decision on the fact that the prostitute consented to have sex with the defendant.
"She consented and she didn't get paid . . . I thought it was a robbery."
The prostitute, a 20-year-old single mother, agreed to $150 for an hour of oral and vaginal sex on Sept. 20, according to assistant district attorney Rich DeSipio. The arrangements were made through her posting on Craigslist.
She met the defendant, Dominique Gindraw, 19, at what she thought was his house, but which turned out to be an abandoned property in North Philadelphia.
He asked if she'd have sex with his friend, too, and she agreed for another $100.
The friend showed up without money, the gun was pulled and more men arrived.
When a fifth man arrived and was invited to join, DeSipio said, he asked why the girl was crying - and declined. He helped her get dressed so she could leave.
It's true the prostitute negotiated sex with the defendant - but not unprotected gang sex at gunpoint.
"The Legislature has defined sex by force as rape," said DeSipio, accusing the judge of "rewriting her own laws."
DeSipio said Judge Deni's ruling was based, not on the law, but on moral contempt.
"Certainly if a jury wants to make that judgment, they're entitled to. But for a judge to make a judgment on a human being - I've never seen that before."
Deni did seem contemptuous of the victim:
"Did she tell you she had another client before she went to report it?" Deni asked me yesterday when we met at a coffee shop.
"I thought rape was a terrible trauma."
A case like this, she said - to my astonishment - "minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped."
The defendant was charged in an identical incident involving a 23-year-old woman four days later, DeSipio said.
Now, Bound Not Gagged has called for a blogswarm about this.
I'm feeling a bit brain-burnt at the moment, so I'm just going to post some highlights from the numerous others who've said everything I could've or would've said a lot better already. Well, one quick introductory note: it is nice to see that despite the differing stances on What This All Means Dear, at least wrt what should be done about prostitution, legally speaking, people on both/all sides of the ideological fence are united in the belief that: damn this was a fucked-up, sexist, awful decision, of COURSE it was rape, and Judge Deni needs to be removed.
In Contempt of Humanity, Judge Deni, and definitions
rape1 /reɪp/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[reyp] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.
1. the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse...
Judge Deni should have to look no further than the first line in the dictionary of the definition of rape. When physical force and/or duress became involved it became rape. When the victim was in a position where sex was forced upon her against her will, without her consent, that was rape. Consent is active not passive. Unless the victim said yes to having sex with all of the men, which she did not, the answer is no. No means no. Anything short of yes is no. Money means nothing if it is against a person’s will.
Sex Workers Against Rape
Sex workers can and are often raped. Sex workers are opposed to rape. We are as vulnerable to it as anyone, we feel as strongly opposed to it as anyone. Because money is exchanged for sex does not change the fact that we do not want to be forced into anything sexually that we do not consent to nor do we want any other woman to.
Supporting sex worker rights is essential to fighting rape. As long as there is a class of women considered “bad” and somehow deserving of rape, all women, sex workers and non sex workers suffer. NO ONE chooses to be raped. The need for society to respect a woman’s right to choose, to consent, or not to as it comes to sex, regardless of how she dresses, what time she is outside, where she is walking, who she is with, and what she does for work, is a social necessity that we all must stand together for. Ending social views that deem some women as bad and deserving of rape is essential.
Where are you?
Now, I’ll ask again, beloved partners in defense of women’s rights, supporters of sexual freedom, revolutionaries waiting for the reverberating call to action, are you listening?
Because I don’t think you are, and it pains me. Unlike Ren, I am still shocked by the deafening silence over this case. I know people are talking, but why isn’t anyone outside of the sex worker community screaming?!?!?!
We could really use allied forces right now. We don’t even have to engage in the ’sex work debate’. We can unite as sisters and brothers in arms against sexual violence.
Everyone, especially the revolutionaries whom so many of us call friends and lovers, should be alarmed by Judge Deni’s ruling. It sets a dangerous legal precedent and suggests that serial rapists can prey on sex workers with impunity.
A guest commenter says,
I’m not here as a supporter of many of the positions of websites like boundnotgagged or because I think all aspects of the sex industry should be legalized. I’m against legalizing measures that allow pimps and johns to consume and trade women. I’m writing on the blog because I agree that Judge Deni’s ruling is a violation of the rights of prostituted women and because we are all concerned with the welfare of women in the sex industry. But I’m mainly here in hopes that the people of PA will vote out Judge Deni. Her ruling that a raped prostituted woman should not be considered a rape victim but instead a victim of “theft of services” because her “services” were stolen when she was not paid after answering an add in the ever dangerous Craigslist and held at gunpoint while she was gang raped by the “client’s” friends makes Deni an unsuitable judge. Please vote her out of service! This is a horrid decision that she made and literally left me up at night in shock and in sadness for the brave victim who had the courage to press charges, despite the social stigma against her. She has been raped twice – once by her attackers and again in the legal system (as Chancellor Jane Leslie Dalton rightly stated).
Why not say what you really mean?
I mean, come on judge Deni, why not just say it. I mean, you said (this case) “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”
Why not just say it…that it minimizes cases of rape against real women. After all, that’s pretty much the impression you’ve given, the mode of thinking you have towards the victim of this crime, that she’s lesser some how. Not like you. So why not just say it.
Be honest. After all, you’re already an asshole.
From Matilda at the Deny Deni! Campaign in Philadelphia
As I’ve worked on the campaign to get Deni voted out of office on November 6th, the evidence of her contempt for sex workers has become more and more apparent. In the first place, one of her statements to Jill Porter, the reporter who originally broke the story, (which you can find here) was that the victim had taken another client before reporting the incident.
Not only is this in no way relevant—even if she had, people who experience trauma often go on with their plans before they begin to process what has happened to them and, more to the point, she still needed to make money to support herself and her child—but it actually turns out that was an outright lie on Deni’s part. Clearly she thought this would bolster her stance in other people’s eyes but it is nowhere in the court transcripts and participants who were there that day say that no such thing ever came up.
There have also been two different court records leaked of cases involving sex workers she has presided over in which she also dismissed rape charges. It has been repeatedly been stated to me that Deni has been a pretty good judge when some women have ended up in front of her. Apparently she is considered lenient and fair in these cases. What is also readily apparent, however, is that she has a deep-seated and irrational hatred of women who engage in sex work. She clearly feels that she is justified in punishing them for their choice of employment no matter what the reason they have come before her in court.
Despite all that other average Citizen Americanus stuff, I’m a sex worker, which makes me different, other, and yes, as Judge Deni proved so brilliantly with her decision to label the rape of a prostitute a mere theft of services, lesser and not deserving of the full protection of the law.
...And people wonder why people like me, who are pretty much Average Citizen Americanus in almost every other way would not ever consider going to the cops in this sort of a situation. It’s very true that on the job I could be beaten, raped, threatened with a gun, and if that happened, guess what? I would not go to the law. I’d like to think I could, that it would be worth it, but this case and every other one like it just shows me otherwise. There is no faith in the justice system here on this issue. If you sell sex, well, you’re just asking for it, right? That’s what they’re saying...
Hell, even when sex workers get murdered, it some how ends up being their own fault. Any attack or assault upon our persons we bring on ourselves, because we sell nudity, sex and sexuality for a living. We somehow, well, deserved it. What did we expect after all, doing something so unseemly? What did she expect?
I guess she really shouldn’t have worn a short skirt.
I guess none of us should.
And this is not going to change until people, people above and beyond us, people above and beyond we sex workers with Internet connections start making some noise.
This is an abhorrent way to treat rape and rape victims, this encourages the treatment of cis women who are sex workers as less than human, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if a trans woman sex worker were brought before this judge or one of a similar mindset. Hell, I wonder about the even more likely case of a trans prostitute’s murder brought before this woman. If this is her attitude, she shouldn’t be sitting on the bench. Thanks to Elizabeth McClung, I don’t have to worry about that last any more. It’s no surprise, though.
It may be tempting for those of us who are not prostitutes to sit this one out. After all, this isn’t about us, right?
If it is not rape to be forced to have sex, at gunpoint, after refusing, just because you’d previous agreed to have unforced sex for money, then who is next?
Maybe they’ll come for those who agree to have sex with a friend of the guy who rapes them? That’s not rape, it’s identity switching.
Or those who agreed to have sex in the past and then are forced to do so at a later point? That’s not rape, it’s time discrepancy.
Or those of us who are or have been strippers? We were willing to do sex-related stuff for money, so this isn’t rape it’s just forced inflation of services.
What if we at one point had sex with a boyfriend as a fun way to settle a bet? Then we ARE prostitutes and it’s back to theft of services.
What if we can be demonstrated to have sex with our husbands in exchange for material security? Then there’s no spousal rape...
This is outrageous! This judge is absolutely incompetent. Fortunately, the people of Philadelphia have the ability to do something about it. Tomorrow, Philadelphians going to the polls will have the chance to decide whether or not they want to give Teresa Carr Deni six more years to misapply and ignore the laws she is getting paid nearly $150,000 a year to uphold.
What this judge did hurts all women in that it makes it more difficult for any of us to get justice from the courts. When she has been victimized by the rapist, a woman is already forced to give all sorts of irrelevant information about her sex life anytime she makes an accusation of rape. Then, to have to go before a judge who claims that a woman being gang-raped at gunpoint is nothing more than a theft of services...Well, how many women do you think would be willing to put themselves through that? I'm not even a sex worker and I know I wouldn't.
Today sex positive,sex worker and WOC blogs are blogging for a woman.
She was trying to survive. For many women of color,trans women,LGBT women, this " good behavior" that is so derided is simply self preservation.
A black mother in a city that is dismantling welfare.
She is being told that a gang rape, an utter violation of her humanity.
Is equatable to " theft of goods"
The person who told her this was a woman.
...Because the judge is a woman , she a high ranking court official. She's a "woman in power"
and what did her power get us
but her looking another human being in the face and telling her she was "stolen goods"...
...That we are as women supposed to invest and believe in women and a movement that are more invested in unfettered power than actually engaging the problems we have with it.
It leaves me in a strange place.
Because in the end our action is focused on deposing and fighting the woman who " mattered'
Her power her "bad behavior" now becomes paramount.
What about the victim?
Why don't we talk about her motherhood or her blackness and her city taking away her options
Why is she suddenly amorphous woman?
To be discussed not as a specific survivor but emblematic of suddenly larger ills .
Why are the WOC and sex workers the ones who remember this may not be a time to be snide and stick it to somebody.
Why do all of these suddenly blend to me into one large drone of " we'll use you any way we want"
Why is she a one liner in a list or a step to something else...
Every once in awhile, BfP comes around and slaps some sense into my head. Black Amazon probably has a sense slapping stick with my name on it sitting in a corner of her room somewhere…and it’s needed, because often times while I do take on the issues surrounding sex work, and yep, even class (because face it, those are two I am more familiar with) often times I neglect race…which is often the biggest issue of them all.
Truth be told, in the Deni/Prostitute case in Philly…I had not read anywhere, in any of the news reports, that the survivor was black. I knew she was a single mother, I knew her age, I knew where she advertised, but rarely was her race mentioned.
This does not surprise me. Well, as I said already, nothing about this case surprises me.
I am familiar with the city of Philadelphia. It’s a strange place, and though called the City of Brotherly Love, it often times does not live up to the moniker. Philly is notorious for it’s lack of support systems for the economically disadvantaged; it’s bellow the surface racism and anti-gay sentiments. Face it, in a lot of ways, Philly has a bad rep, and it’s somewhat warranted.
And what we have here is a White Female Judge, who makes a whole lotta money, who has all sorts of advantages, Treating a Black Female who does not have that money, or those advantages like a subhuman piece of garbage. And it is so not an isolated incident. It is also bullshit. This whole thing reeks of the snotty upper-class white lady turning up her nose at the dirty, unseemly single black mother hooker. A woman who does, probably has to do, things that the Refined Judge herself has never had to consider doing, would never considering doing, because she has advantages in life this other woman did not. And yet, she sits in judgment over her, and passes down judgment that is far more reaching than in a legal capacity.
...I wonder, if, there were more PoC’s sitting on benches in the legal system if things would, here, there and everywhere, be a little different. Well yes, I think they would be. I wonder if people didn’t carry around this mental image of a hooker in their heads if things would be different. I wonder if this woman had been white if things would be different…
Yes, I think they would be. In her case, and in countless other similar ones.