Police Commissioner John F. Timoney has announced an unprecedented
program for his sex-crimes unit. Ominously, the President of the
Pennsylvania chapter of N.O.W., Barbara DiTullio hopes it will become
a model for police departments nationwide. Under this program, various
feminist organizations will assist the police in deciding which
sexual assault complaints should be taken seriously and how they
should be classified. In short, a special interest group will influence
– and in some cases perhaps determine – who is pursued
and prosecuted on criminal charges.
much assistance will the feminist committee render? Timoney claims,
"this women's group [will] be the final say on our classification."
And the classification of a complaint can decide how vigorously
the police pursue the matter. Accordingly, Timoney says, "We're
going to go over those cases [sexual assault] with the women's groups"
and ask them "'Do you think we've done everything we possibly
can?'" Carol E. Tracy, director of the Women's Law Project
(WLP) and a member of the committee, declared that advocates for
women would now review police handling of sexual assault complaints
"from start to finish." (The Philadelphia Inquirer,
the Philadelphia police department needs to account to someone.
In the last two years, The Philadelphia Inquirer has exposed
a massive scandal: between 1984 and 1997, the sex-crimes unit disposed
of about thirty percent of rape complaints by intentionally mislabeling
them. Thousands of potentially valid complaints were coded 2701,
u2018investigation of person,' a non-criminal category that ended inquiry.
This reduced both police workload and Philadelphia's official crime
rate. Former commanders of the sex-crimes unit have justified their
actions by saying that the public was not willing to accept the
fact that a significant percentage of rape complaints are false.
is claims such as this one that will undoubtedly come under fire
by the feminist review committee.
Ideology of Rape
the last three decades, rape has occasioned intense ideological
debate not only within the legal system but within feminism itself.
The four groups that will constitute the core of the unprecedented
committee – the WLP, Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), the
Penn Women's Center and the Pennsylvania chapter of N.O.W. –
represent one side of the debate. Namely, that rape is part of patriarchy
(white male culture) and that men have created a culture or mass
psychology of rape by which all women are oppressed. Men as a class
oppress women as a class, largely through the threat of rape. Thus,
rape is not an act of sex but of power. As WOAR states on its web
site, "Sexual Assault….is not about sex. It is about power
this perspective with one that was popular in the 1970s. In his
Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender" A. Nicholas
Groth wrote, "One of the most basic observations one can make
regarding men who rape is that not all such offenders are alike."
For some, it is about sex. Others rape in a blur of drugs, drink
or peer pressure. The Kinsey study classified rapists into seven
categories: assaultive, amoral, drunken, explosive, double-standard,
mental defective and psychotic. But it is not longer politically
correct to suggest that there may be as many motives for rape as
there are for murder or other violent crimes. Radical feminists
ascribe one motive to rape: the desire to subjugate women. And sexual
assault is merely the most blatant expression of a "rape culture"
that is organized around such subjugation.
feminists disagree with this analysis. In her book Sexual
Personae Camille Paglia offered a different ideological
interpretation. Instead of viewing our culture as the cause of rape,
Paglia argued that it is the main protection women have against
attack. Thus, women can walk down a street unmolested not in spite
of Western society, but because of its civilizing impact on men.
"Generation after generation, men must be educated, refined,
and ethically persuaded away from their tendency toward anarchy
and brutishness. Society is not the enemy, as feminism ignorantly
claims. Society is woman's protection against rape."
feminism's belief that we live in a rape culture has led to an ever
expanding definition of what constitutes rape. Here, the pivotal
difference between individualist and radical feminists lies in the
concepts of coercion and consent. For individualists, the concepts
rest on the principle of self-ownership; that is, every woman's
inalienable right to control her own body. If a woman says "yes"
– or if her actions clearly imply "yes" – then
consent is present. If a woman says "no" – or if
her actions clearly imply "no" – then coercion is
is little clarity to what radical feminists deem to be consent and
coercion in sex. Consider a typical definition of sexual violence
presented by Liz Kelly in her book Surviving
Sexual Violence: "Sexual violence includes any physical,
visual, verbal or sexual act that is experienced by the woman or
girl, at the time or later, as a threat, invasion or assault that
has the effect of hurting her or degrading her and/or taken away
her ability to control intimate contact."[Emphasis added] This
type of language has become a common guideline for identifying sexual
violence. One of many problems with this definition is its subjectivity.
The woman need not have felt threatened or coerced at the time of
the sex act for that act to be sexual violence. In the light of
regrets, the women might conclude later that she had been coerced.
Moreover, it relies entirely upon the women's experience, not the
man's or the totality of the experience.
are merely two points about rape – definition and motivation
have been debated within the feminist movement. Now, in Philadelphia,
the radical feminist side has won an impressive victory. They are
able to back up their ideological slant with police muscle.
was rocked to its roots by revelations of how the police department
had ignored thousands of rape complaints, including two that would
have caused the arrest of a particularly vicious serial rapist.
Moreover, newspapers ran a series of heart wrenching stories from
victimized women who had been further abused by insensitive policemen.
Timoney was desperate. He needed to restore a glimmer of confidence
in his department. "You can see it [hostility] in letters to
the editor," he explained. "I see it in public meetings.
It's a huge crisis of confidence, so we need to address that."
the wave of social rage, three women's groups-WOAR, the WLP and
N.O.W. – demanded a hearing on the subject before the Public
Safety Committee. The result: on December 13th, a City
Council committee called for drastic reform within the sex-crime
unit to ensure that investigators were "free of victim-blaming
biases." Next, Timoney announced that the three groups-along
with Penn Women's Center-would u2018assist' the police in evaluating
sexual-assault complaints. Among other activities, Timoney intends
to have the feminist committee review cases that his department
considers "unfounded" and ask if there are other steps
that should be taken before abandoning the investigation. If necessary,
he will become involved in the review himself. "It's very unusual
that you get a police commissioner to review a case," Timoney
admitted, "but I'm willing to do that to regain public confidence
in what we're doing here."
on police policy are hard pressed to come up with a precedent for
special interest groups being invited to influence police procedures.
They draw analogies to black militant groups being asked to evaluate
racially motivated crimes. William Geller, a deputy director of
the Police Executive Research Forum, admitted that he knew of no
other department in the United States that gave "an outsider
a voice in the process of coding…" Gerald Arenberg of the
National Association of Chiefs commented, "I'm not sure that
private organizations should be involved in this work. You need
experts to decide whether or not there is a case."
Carol Tracy insists, "I don't think we're biased."
the Feminist Committee have a Bias?
its inception, Women Organized Against Rape has openly advocated
a radical feminist view of sexual assault. Its statement, "Why
There is WOAR," reads, "Rape, the threat of rape, and
the fear of rape are forms of physical and mental violence that
have been used continuously throughout recorded history to control
women…" Indeed, WOAR originated through sit-in protests that
sought, in part, "to confront the culture of violence against
women that underlies the crime of rape." WOAR's definition
of sexual assault is so broad that it does not even require physical
organization's website states, "There are many forms of
Sexual Assault – it is not only rape. Think of it like a long,
thin line: on one end there is Sexual Assault that involves no touch
and on the other end, there is Sexual Assault that involves a lot
of touch, like rape."[Emphasis added.]
Women's Law Project, like the WOAR, was a staunch supporter of the
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)by which a u2018victim' of "gender-motivated
violence" can take the u2018accused' to civil as well as criminal
court to seek compensatory and punitive damages. Thus, the woman
can financially punish the accused even if he has been found u2018not
guilty' by the more exacting standards of a criminal proceeding.
Pennsylvania chapter of N.O.W. has worked for years to have Pennsylvania's
Hate Crimes statutes expanded to include sexual orientation and
the word u2018gender.' Its web site states, "As we know, women
are not free from hate crimes….Some people wonder would every
rape then become a hate crime? Well we know that rape is a hate
Women's Center houses the Pennsylvania chapter of N.O.W. According
to its website, the Center was formed in 1973 "after a series
of rapes on and around campus" "mobilized students, faculty
and staff to organize a u2018sit-in.' The Center is clear that it performs
"an explicitly [sic] advocacy function as it relates to issues
affecting women, racial minorities, sexual minorities and other
disenfranchised groups." As part of this advocacy, it "responds
to public acts of sexism/racism/homophobia/heterosexism…"
Delilah Rumberg, director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against
Rape in Harrisburg stated, "It looks real positive for victims."
It looks real negative for anyone falsely accused.
McElroy is author of The