A serial rapist in Chattanooga, TN, has claimed his fifth victim while out on probation. Willie James Bradley, a registered sex offender, had been charged with rape five times prior, but in each case, pled guilty to assault charges in exchange for lighter sentences.
Bradley was first charged with aggravated rape in 1999, but he pled guilty to a battery charge and served six years in jail. This would be the longest sentence he would receive over the course of the next 17 years. In Tennessee, aggravated rape carries a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 60 years. If Bradley had properly been charged with his crime in 1999 and served the minimum sentence, at least four other women would not have been brutally raped.
To put this in another context: If prejudice against women was not enforced by law, there would be fewer rapes. If victims were believed in court instead of being called a “conniving little whore,” the lives of other women could be spared.
Women rarely file false rape charges; according to the FBI, unfounded rape charges account for just 2% of all accusations, and unfounded is not synonymous with falsity. Often, the social backlash against seeking justice for rape is a strong enough deterrent from reporting the crime. We live in a society where a man’s word is treated with more authority than a woman’s, even when there is video footage of the violence done to her. All this denial, in spite of the fact that 51% of those released for sexual violence will be rearrested for another crime within three years.
We would expect a person on trial for their crimes to deny the charges; yet in cases of rape, society’s ingrained distrust of women rears its ugly head: What was she wearing? Was she drinking? How much did she struggle? The desire to free men from as much responsibility for their behavior as possible is rooted in our inability to perceive women as human, as well as a refusal to empathize with her suffering. She will have her character attacked, be told that she wanted it, and made to live through her ordeal all over again.
Yet the statistics show what the justice system has repeatedly ignored: Perpetrators of rape are typically repeat criminals; giving them light sentences is assisting their crimes. Bradley’s case is a crystal-clear illustration of how our justice system prefers to empathize with men at the cost of women’s humanity, and how the justice system acts as an accomplice to violence against women.
Top image via Flickr/slgckgc
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