Sunday, May 6, 2012

Meet Jane Doe: An "Infamous" Rape Victim Reclaims Her Dignity

[Massive Trigger Warning for this entire post] I first "met" Jane Doe about 8 years ago. I was lying on the couch with my boyfriend at the time, watching TV. One of those hour-long primetime crime specials was on. I love these shows normally- murder mysteries fascinate me. But this one was different. This was not about a murder, it was about a rape.

Or was it? That was left up to the viewer to decide.

My knee-jerk reaction was to change the channel. It hits too close to home, and I hadn't told my boyfriend what happened to me. But then, it occurs to me that to change the channel would provoke questions-and may even be seen as a form of admission. I also wanted to gauge his reaction-to see if it was safe to finally tell him the truth.

 As the program went on I could sense him getting restless. He started shaking his head and muttering under his breath. Angry, I presumed. Men get angry when they hear about rape. It was, I thought, a good sign. And then he said, out loud, the two words that rocked me to my core:  

Stupid Bitch.

"What did you say?" I asked, incredulous.

That bitch, he said, is stupid as hell. And then he continued- She knew what she was in for when she went to that house What kind of hoe goes to a house with a bunch of dudes? Listen to that, she fucked them the night before! She got fucked up and let them run a train on her, and now she wants to cry rape.

I don't remember too well what happened next- other than it ended in me throwing the remote in a straight shot at his head and running out of the room in tears.

This is the "stupid bitch" he was referring to: Photobucket

 Over the years, she has been called by many other names. As the victim in one of the most high-profile and controversial rape cases in U.S. history, there is hardly a slur that hasn't been used against her. In a case that still, for reasons that seem inexplicable, inspires controversy and debate she is even subjected to hearing them in her own classroom, as R. Scott Moxley explains in his cover story for the O.C. Weekly"Meet Jane Doe":
Though long over, the case remains polarizing, especially in classrooms such as the one with Doe in attendance. Those who side with the defendants are often the angriest. They opine that the victim enticed the men by wearing provocative clothes and flirting. Some people go so far as to claim the girl's mere presence with partying men was a "green light" for a gangbang. Those are infuriating stances to Doe, who kept her mouth shut during the debate. Neither the professor nor the other students knew that if she spoke, she would do so with compelling authority. "I was unconscious, and there's a video to prove it," she tells me, unable to mask her incredulity.
That simple statement of fact- she was unconscious, and there is video to prove it-should have made this an open shut case. Instead, thanks to the pernicious influence of money, power, and politics the Haidl gang rape trial-as it came to be known-stretched on for 3 agonizing years. The trial of Jane Doe, played out in the court of public opinion, has been raging on for 10 years with seemingly no end in sight. To see how this played out, look no further than the comments that litter every news outlet that covers this story:
I just watched a show talking about the whole thing, and I definatley feel like the girl was just being a whore.
"Jane Doe" was asking for everything that happened to her on the 5th.
I feel bad for these boys. this little slut ruined their lives, just to save her own.
When is this girl going to learn shes out of control. i wish i could see her, so i could spit on her. 3 years those boys spent in prison. they didn't deserve ONE day
"jane doe" was a whore! she was easy and slept with all the guys she could..
that girl was a slut and was a willing participant. Those kids he should have never served a day in jail. ANY boy at their age with a slut like that would do the same thing...what were the parents thinking when rising this girl?? I hope that woman who voted guilty in the first trial which resulted in a hung jury will have something terrible happen to her. Dumb bitch..
It would have been great fun for everyone had there not been a camera involved. If the tape had not been discovered, she probably would have been back for some more action. Maybe is she wins the $26 million dollar lawsuit, she can setup her own studio, then we can all see her in action online now that she is of age.
Oh, but those are just the illiterate neanderthals who litter mainstream news outlets. Surely the reaction at a progressive site would be different, right? Or not.
I wish I felt sorry for “Jane Doe”. But I can’t. I honestly do not believe that she was raped. I find the boys’ behavior depraved, but not criminal. Apparently, she wasn’t “raped” until the cops informed her parents. Sounds like a bad case of buyer’s remorse to me. It must be easier to convince yourself that you’re a victim than to admit that you’re a drunk who has low self-esteem and poor decision making abilities. All this does is undermine the credibility of real rape victims. This idiot would’ve been served to face her shortcomings, check into rehab, and get serious therapy to deal with her issues. Instead, she does meth and gets and undisclosed sum of money in settlement of her CIVIL SUIT against the defendants’ parents, etc. etc. No wonder she won’t show her face in public. For the record, I am a woman and a mother, and a social worker.
Its pretty obvious that all those accusing the three now young men of being rapists are confused about whether or not a crime occured or just a lapse in both “Jane Doe” and the boys’ judgement. What young girl would admit to such a decision when being confronted by her parents. No way I would EVER want my parents to discover me in such an act. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that I have done things considered immoral. Its something we all do. Maybe had everyone not treated her as if making a concious decision like that made her a “whore” or terrible person, she would have had the strength to be truthful. We all make mistakes sometimes- you don’t have to agree with certain choices but at least respect that they are person choices and there is always room for morals and people to change. Unfortunately now we have three young men forever wrongly demised and a young female in such a state of denial, she may never learn the value of her own independence and allowance to make her own decisions. She must continue indefinately to keep up appearances–no room for mistakes.
Even those who come out to defend "Jane Doe" often do so grudgingly, and not before acknowledging that her behavior makes her less than sympathetic.
Yes the boys shouldn't have abused her with all of those items, but unfortunately if you are that slutty you become a joke.
But online comments, even on a liberal site, are always a crapshoot. Perhaps the professionals involved in the case would show a little more tact? Or not.
PhotobucketIn just his opening statement, a pacing, finger-pointing Cavallo told the jury that the girl—next to the tape itself, the prosecution's star witness--is "a nut," "a pathological liar," "a cheater," an "out-of-control girl," "the aggressor," a wanna-be "porn star," "a troubled young lady," "a tease--that's what she is!" "a mess," a "master manipulator," a "little opportunist," "a compulsive liar," "a cheat--that's what she is" and a "callous" drug addict and alcoholic who trimmed her pubic hair, bragged about liking group sex and once drank a beer in a car. "Why was her vagina and anus completely shaved?" Cavallo asked jurors. "How many teenagers have a shaved vagina and anus? I don't know, but I can think of a reason. Sex! She's a sexual person!" During preliminary hearings, Cavallo called Doe a "slut"; on this day, he stayed away from the word. However, he told the jury several times that everyone, including the girl's parents, "knows what she is." Talk outside the courtroom was less coy. In the hallway just outside, a defense consultant openly and repeatedly called Jane Doe "a fucking whore."
OK, but those are defense attorneys, trying to keep their clients out of jail. Surely the media covered this story properly, right?
""I hate this case because . . . the victim's promiscuous behavior plays into the overall context...The message has to be: To girls who think it's cool or necessary to engage in promiscuous sex, think of Jane Doe." -Dana Parsons, syndicated columnist for the L.A. Times
(Just, wait, there’s more) And then there was the high ranking Sherrif's official who came out and publicly expressed his sympathy-No, not for the 16 year old victim, but for the father of one of the alleged rapists, Don Haidl. Don Haidl, you see, was a Sherriff too- despite having no formal training he was given a gun and a badge, apparently as a reward for his generous campaign contributions to Mike Carona, the lead Sherrif and Coroner for Orange County. In return for the mufti-millionaires friendship and generous donations to his campaign, Haidl had what he called a "get out of jail free card"- and he decided to use it on his 17 year old rapist son. Carona used his power and influence to try and coerce the lead prosecutor into trying the 3 young men as juvenilles- but more on that in a minute. Then there is the elite defense team hired with Haidl's millions. The team included O.J. Simpson jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, and an elite team of private investigators who distributed fliers all over Jane Doe's neighborhood, revealing her identity and purporting to be from her family. They went through her garbage and illegally released her medical records to members of the press. They contacted her high school classmates, disclosing her identity as a sexual assault victim. They were so successful in publicly identifying and smearing her that they inspired a vigilante. One night, after the first trial resulted in a hung jury, an unidentified man viciously attacked the girl he identified as Jane Doe, ambushing her outside her home and beating her in the head and face with a rock. Only problem-he got the wrong girl- a neighbor who looked like the picture on the flyer. When she screamed out "I'm not [Jane Doe's name]" the assault abruptly ended. And then there was the full time publicist, who undoubtedly played a role in the breathtaking editorial support the Haidl gang recieved from two local daily newspapers that covered the case. As O.C. Weekly reporter R. Scott Moxley describes in his scathing article "Justice Takes a Pool Cue":
The Register's Steven Greenhut, who never bothered to visit the courtroom, opined on May 9 that it's less of a crime if a girl is sexually assaulted by someone she knows. He chastised prosecutors for not granting the defendants leniency. "There's real questions here about justice," said Greenhut. Dana Parsons of the Times showed up for less than 10 percent of the trial and, as best I can determine, never bothered to read the case file or interview anyone on the prosecution's side. In discussions with his colleagues, he ridiculed the Weekly's exclusive description of the content of Haidl's tape, but he's never seen the video. He must have been content to rely upon his regular, private briefings with Haidl publicist Tori Richards and Barnett. In a trial-eve, May 2 column that shamelessly regurgitated defense-supplied lies about Doe—she liked to use "a pool cue on herself" and "agreed to have sex on videotape"—Parsons called on the jury to ignore the state's rape-by-intoxication law. Why? "Given what they knew about the girl," wrote Parsons. "Did it even occur to the boys that they were committing a crime? I doubt they did." When he drew that conclusion, not one piece of evidence had yet been presented in court.
And that leads us to the producers of 48 Hours Hard Evidence on CBS-where the case first reached the national spotlight. This is the program I was watching that night-the one that inspired my boyfriend to go on his tirade and put me in the uncomfortable position of defending a victim of a crime I knew all too well while at the same time wondering, based on what I was seeing, if she had even been a victim in the first place. The entire transcript can be read here, but here is a snippet of how it was described:
Lagattuta: Then, in a decision that would change everything, one of the boys reached for greg's camera and began filming -- all of it. Teenage sex with the same girl, only this time, the boys were all together.

Haidl: She had the drink, and then she just started taking off her .. just pretty much saying, "oh, yeah.

Lagattuta: And you took that to mean she wants to have sex with all three of you?

Haidl: That’s exactly what she meant by it.

Lagattuta: "So let's go ahead"?

Haidl: Yeah.

Lagattuta: In the garage was a pool table, like this one. The girl was sprawled on top of it, and the sex was far from ordinary.

Lagattuta: What did you guys do?

Haidl: Kinky sexual acts. There was different objects.

Lagattuta: What made you guys think of doing that?

Haidl: Curious guys, I guess -- curious drunk kids.

Lagattuta: From his point of view, Greg and his friends and the girl herself all knew what they were getting into. (talking to Haidl) And she was okay with that?

Haidl: Yes.

Lagattuta: And you're sure of that?

Haidl: Yes.

Lagattuta: Greg Haidl says the girl consented to the whole thing. (speaking to Haidl): You do know if a woman says, "no," you're supposed to stop? (Note to Lagattuta-you may want to point out that if a woman is unconscious you aren't supposed to start in the first place)

Haidl: Definitely.

Lagattuta:Did she ever say, "no"?

Haidl: Not one time.
In the hour long special, the rapists are given a virtual tongue bath by Mike Lagattuta, who appears as a concerned father or coach talking, at times a bit sternly, to his boys. Much time is spent interviewing their parents and friends, who glowingly describe them as “good kids” with “strong moral compass”. Scenes of the young men skateboarding and dressing up for graduation are punctuated by close ups showing soft-focus photographs of the 3 in their little league uniforms and school portraits. The boys and their parents lament the sex-saturated culture that corrupted their young minds. As Greg Haidl explains it, the depraved sexual culture teaches him “That it's all right to do these types of things. It’s all right to participate in sex. It's okay to have sex and even kinky sex.” But the majority of the program is dedicated to a character assassination of the girl at the center of the case-then known as Jane Doe. Doe makes a brief cameo, her identity obscured in shadow. The aired segments of her interview last for a grand total of 5 minutes- during which time she is mostly peppered with questions about her "slutty" behavior. The combative tone of Mike Lagutta's interrogation stands in stark contrast to the velvet glove treatment given to the men who raped her. The story stops at the end of the first trial, which results in a mistrial after a hung jury. The young men and their families are seen rejoicing at the non-verdict, and the jurors are interviewed. The jurors-all but one of them men (many of whom were hired as defense consultants at the second trial) -reveal that they were more than willing to let all 3 of the Haidl gang off the hook. Among their reasons for voting for acquittal- Jane Doe had a pillow under her head. ("It's very hard for me to think that somebody who was gang-raping someone would think of making them comfortable, to put a pillow under their head."), and when they saw the defendants they thought of their own sons. Indeed, the lone holdout was the one female juror, who voted guilty on all counts. And then, in closing, Lagattuta makes sure to mention that Jane Doe was recently arrested for Methamphetamine possession and is planning on suing for damages. Two completely unrelated facts that are nonetheless woven together, leaving the distinct impression that Jane Doe is suing for money that she can use to buy drugs with. What the 48 hours special, along with most of the mainstream coverage of this story, completely gloss over is the crime itself.

The Crime

The irony in all of this is that despite the frenzied attempts of the media and the defense team to portray this as a complex case, despite all of the ongoing debate and controversy it continues to inspire, the Haidl gang rape is perhaps the most open and shut Sexual Assault case you could ever find, for one compelling reason-all of it was captured on video. And the video, in a stunning move, was made available not just to the jurors but to the media during the first trial. R. Scott Moxley was one of the reporters who had to sit through it, and describes it in all of it's depraved detail here , starting around page 2. [TRIGGER WARNING-what is described is the stuff of nightmares] I normally would not link to such a graphic description of a rape, but because this tape was publicly available it is necessary to show how terribly this case was bungled by the media. Here is a basic rundown of what happened (again, be warned that this is graphic and disturbing stuff)
•When the tape was first discovered, this was treated as a potential homicide/necrophilia case, because Jane Doe was assumed to be a corpse. Her eyes are closed the entire time and in the words of the prosecutor she is as limp as a rag doll. •She remains unconscious as she is raped-orally, vaginally, and anally by all 3 of the defendants. They laugh and dance to a misogynistic rap track as they abuse her lifeless body. •At one point they drop her and she hits her head on the side of the couch, hard enough to momentarily stir her from unconsciousness. •She is thrown onto a pool table and has a Snapple bottle, a can of apple juice and a lit cigarette inserted into her vagina before she is raped vaginally and anally with a pool cue. •While she is being raped with the pool cue, one of the boys (Greg Haidl) is seen feeling her abdomen to see how far they are able to penatrate her body. He also slaps her genitals, stomach and breasts. She remains non-responsive throughout. •While being raped with the pool cue, she urinates-causing the boys to laugh and shriek in feigned horror and disgust. •When they are done, they clumsily dress her body (they are unable to get her bra back on) and she wakes up covered in urine, vomit, and seminal fluid in her parked car, with no memory of what happened to her.
Date rape. A cuddly euphamism used to describe an atrocious crime. Date rape is perhaps the most common type of sexual assault, and the least prosecuted. Most victims wake up sore, disheveled, aware that something has transpired but with no knowledge of what happened to them. If they seek medical attention, the traces of the drugs (GHB is the most common) used to knock them out have often disappeared from their bloodstream. Without the ability to testify as to what happened, it usually goes unpunished. Wonder why? Look no further than the viscous treatment of Jane Doe -the perfect illustration of Rape Culture:
Rape culture is a term or concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence. Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape.
Victims like Jane Doe learn very quickly what rape culture is all about. If you stray outside of the accepted gender norms, it really doesn't matter what happens to you because you probably deserved it. I learned it personally, around the same time as she did. Amazingly enough, it was exactly one moth prior, to the day, that it happened to her. Like Jane Doe, I was a teenager. Like Jane Doe, I was troubled-arguably more troubled than she was, in fact. I ran away from home frequently. I used and sold drugs. I lied to my parents constantly and by the time that summer rolled around I was so out of control that they placed me in a group home for troubled youths. I was on an approved outing when I met him- a man in his late 40's. He looked normal. He had a nice car, and a nice smile. When he offered me a ride, I got in willingly. And like Jane Doe, I was more than happy to smoke his pot-not knowing that, like Jane Doe, it had been laced with another substance. The substance-PCP-did not knock me unconscious, but it did effectively paralyze me. And like Jane Doe, after I went forward I saw my reputation destroyed. I was called a slut also, and accused of prostitution. The defense team also hired a team of private investigators who trailed me, and contacted my friends and classmates to dig up dirt. Like Jane Doe, his attorneys pressured my family to take a plea bargain to avoid the pain and humiliation of going to trial. Ultimately we succumbed to the pressure- a plea bargain was reached, and received less than a year in prison and had to register as a sex offender. But Jane Doe stood firm under the pressure. After the first trial resulted in a hung jury, she refused to bow under the public pressure to drop the charges. After a second excruciating trial, in which the witness list included, among others, a porn star who testified that Doe could have easily been faking unconsciousness in order to create "necrophilia themed porn", and in a stunning act of Orwellian doublethink, the defense team simultaneously argued that Jane Doe had feigned unconsciousness and in fact raped the boys, but could not be considered a victim because she was unconscious the entire time. The second jury, thankfully, was not so easily duped. They convicted the Haidl gang on all counts, and they each received a 7 year sentence. Jane Doe also successfully sued the defense team for violating California's rape shield law, and her case resulted in reforms to the law that protects other victims from having their identity revealed or their sexual histories brought into court. PhotobucketFrom left-Kyle Nachreiner, Keith Spann, Greig Haidl It didn't end there though-Mike Cardona, the sheriff coroner who tried to influence the prosecution, found himself under federal investigation.

The sherrif, a self-proclaimed "Conservative Christian" who was deemed "America's Sherrif" by Larry King and was appointed by none other than George W. Bush to sit on the Senior Advisory Committee on Homeland Security, was convicted of witness tampering and is now enjoying the view from the inside of a federal prison cell. The star witness against him? None other than Don Haidl. By turning states witness, Haidl was able to avoid prosecution and is now enjoying life traveling between his mansions in Las Vegas and Newport Beach, along with his son who was paroled in 2010. As for the gang of 3, they served their pitifully short sentences and were last heard whinging about the unfairness of being labeled sex offenders. In a joint motion filed by the defense, they argue among other things, that they were not given the opportunity to sufficiently attack Doe’s character in open court. And par for the course, the editorial boards have rushed to their defense once again. In an article published on April 10th, 2010, Kyle Nachreiner is described as a “clean-cut, courteous man, a looker capable of approaching a woman and easily securing a date.” In the article, Nachreiner laments his RSO status-at one point stating, apparently without a hint of irony- "Psychologically, it's devastating. It's the worst form of degradation there is." Their appeal was denied. And then there is Jane Doe. After battling severe depression , Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and ultimately an addiction to Meth, she pulled her life back together. She now volunteers as a licensed victims rights advocate, works in a doctors office, and lives on her own with a shelter dog she adopted named Daisy. She still has difficulty trusting people, and has avoided dating. She admits that she thinks about what happened to her every day, and will probably remain in counseling for the rest of her life. But this past Friday, she did something monumental-Jane Doe decided to step out of the shadows in a very public way- She was the featured speaker at the Victims Rights rally, and it is there where she revealed her name for the first time:

Jane Doe is a woman named Alisa-A name meaning "Of Noble Kind", which seems very fitting. As she says in her interview with Moxley:
"In 2002, my world collapsed, and I lost everything I knew," she says. "But now I've turned a horrible situation into a positive. I've taken my life back." "I want to send hope and to inspire other sexual assault victims. I want women to know that they can go to the depths of hell and still make it out."
In that, it is safe to say, she succeeded. Alisa is now the 120'th person to be put on our survivor wall where she stands shoulder to shoulder with Oscar Winners, Nobel Laureates, as well as ordinary people like me, and my fellow Kossack Roxine. Meet Alisa-my new hero. Photobucket

**UPDATE** I just received an email response from R. Scott Moxley-the reporter who I cite throughout this diary:
Hi Rebecca: Just finished reading your post. Wow! Excellent, powerful writing! I'll give Alisa the link and your email. Spoke with her for several hours last night. She's doing great and, as you can appreciate, is touched beyond belief in the outpourings of support. Regards, Scott

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