Alyssa Milano: Harvey Weinstein Isn’t Alone. Our Institutions Are Rapists

Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Erin O'Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

​Two of rapist Harvey Weinstein’s convictions have been overturned, and in New York he has been granted a new trial. And while it’s important to note that the rapist’s conviction in California stands, and that the rapist is old, weak, and sometime soon he will die alone and unloved in a prison cell in one state or another, this injustice is just another example of how all of our American institutions are built to demean and devalue women—to them, our bodies are commodities to be used, and that will be their downfall.

​Take, for example, Brock Turner (now going by Allen Turner and living in the Dayton, Ohio area). He spent only three months in a jail—not a prison—for three counts of felony sexual assault. (He had been initially indicted on five charges: two for rape, two for felony sexual assault, and one for attempted rape, although the two rape charges were later withdrawn.)

The judge in that case, Aaron Persky, said that he was concerned about the “severe impact” of a long prison sentence on then collegiate athlete Turner when he sentenced him. Of course, the “severe impact” to Allen (née Brock) Turner’s victim didn’t matter to Persky—a man’s freedom was threatened, after all, and what does a woman’s suffering and the safety of all other women matter in comparison to that? Rumors abound that Turner likes to hang out at bars in Dayton—the kind of place where people like his victim tend to spend time.

Harvey Weinstein’s New York Rape Conviction Overturned by New York Appeals Court

Courts are not the only place where women are failed by our institutions. Law enforcement continually works against us. In fact, almost none of the rapes and sexual assaults which happen in this country are prosecuted. According to RAINN, out of every 1,000 sexual assaults which happen in this country, only 25 rapists spend a day in prison.

Somehow worse, out of every 310 rapes or other sexual assaults reported by police, only 50 lead to an arrest. In many instances police become the enemy of the victim, so ingrained in the patriarchal demands of rape culture that many will lie about evidence and manipulate victims into convictions and jail time rather than just starting from the place that women are telling the truth. While I understand the argument, I am not one of the people who argues “all cops are bastards.” But all cops bear the responsibility for those on their forces who perpetuate this injustice under their own noses.

If somehow a victim hits the jackpot and gets an investigator and prosecutor who ultimately press charges, those good apples will face an uphill evidentiary battle. When victimized, women who report sexual assaults are subjected to an incredibly traumatic and invasive series of evidence collection procedures to produce a “rape kit.” These kits include DNA and other forensic evidence.

But, since the value of women is essentially nothing to those with power in this country, rape kits are rarely analyzed. In fact, End the Backlog estimates that there are “hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country.” It’s strange that police forces always seem to have enough money for bullets, tear gas, military-style weapons, handcuffs, and zip ties to break up every peaceful protest they come across, but never enough to ensure rape kits get tested.

​Great news though! Congress is on the job. Savannah, Georgia, Congressman Buddy Carter wants to end the backlog and get rape kits tested! Oh wait! Carter doesn’t actually care about women and rape victims at all—he’s just trying to push racist immigration policies by denying rape-kit testing funds to sanctuary cities. Women are a pawn in his hateful game—it’s the same game his entire party played in the House and the Senate by supporting the gun industry over women when it came time for the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. This life-saving law sat expired for years because it made it harder for domestic abusers to get guns. Why support women when you can support their rapists and abusers, right Buddy?

You’d think things might be better at the state level, but they are not. Take Idaho, for example. This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments about Idaho’s ironically named Defense of Life Act which requires a pregnant person to be actively and imminently dying before they can get an abortion. It doesn’t matter if NOT getting an abortion will leave them in a condition that could be life threatening, or infertile, or disabled—that fetus has more value in Idaho than its mother. In fact, you can legally shoot someone in Idaho if you have a “reasonable belief” that they are about to rob you. That Buffalo Wild Wings gift card in your wallet has more value in Idaho than a woman does. Idaho is not a unique case. In state after state, governments dominated by white men are dehumanizing and taking ownership over women’s bodies.

​Every branch of our government commodifies and devalues women.

Government teaches men to be rapists because it enables rapists. When a president, like Trump himself—whom a judge found liable for sexual abuse and defamation in E. Jean Carroll’s civil case—can describe sexual assaults and use “locker room talk” to try and minimize rape culture, when control of our very bodies are up for debate in the courts, when a member of Congress can stand accused by a colleague of paying a minor for sex, and instead of being expelled remains powerful enough to oust a sitting Speaker of the House, when preachers tell their congregations that women should “stand where he tells you to stand, wear what he tells you to wear, and do what he tells you to do,” when our schools are attacked for giving girls access to menstrual products—this teaches our boys, and our men, that women do not matter.

​We do matter. The rapists? They don’t matter. We know the rapist Weinstein’s name because famous women were among his victims. That does not make his crimes more or less important, or his victims more or less valuable. Every victim matters. Every rapist deserves the full weight of the criminal justice system cast upon them. The overturning of rapist Weinstein’s New York convictions is just another symptom of the sickness in our institutions—he is an oozing boil on our diseased political system.

The voters are starting to lance that boil—Brock Turner’s judge was recalled and kicked out of office. EVERY time abortion has been on the ballot since Roe v. Wade was overturned, it has won. There are thousands of rapists whose names we will never hear. But there are so many more victims, so many more women, whose government victimizes them every day. And while we may never hear most of their names, we are going to hear their votes.

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