Women rally for equal treatment by the law
Lisa Gier King
Police, prosecutors, school administrators, and other authorities aren't punishing men for crimes against women, said Campus National Organization for Women members at a rally here on October 9. Woman after woman came up and testified how the harassment or crime against them was not punished and frequently they, the victims, ended up getting punished for reporting.
Women reported harassment ranging from getting their crotches or breasts grabbed in middle school, to crimes such as rape. Most often, women said, when they reported these incidents to the authorities, their rights were not taken seriously and the men didn't face any negative consequences. And in each case, from small to large, speakers pointed out, men learn that they can get away with treating women as second-class citizens.
The rally was called by Campus NOW after Rod Smith, the State Attorney, refused to prosecute the men who videotaped themselves sexually assaulting Lisa Gier King in February. The Delta Chi fraternity brothers who she says raped her, Mike Yahraus, and the others who were present, Anthony Marzullo and Leo Yuqque have faced no charges against them for the assault.
Campus NOW members have picketed Smith's office for several months, and women kept coming up to them with their own stories of how their rights to equal protection before the law were ignored.
"We heard about battery, stalking, sexual harassment at jobs and in classrooms," Campus NOW president Candi Churchill said. "We started to understand that it wasn't just Lisa whose rape was covered up, it wasn't just Lisa who was blamed for her attack, but the majority of women's reports are ignored and many women are punished for coming forward."
Lisa Gier King spoke of her experiences with the University Police Department and later the State Attorney's office. King not only has not seen justice in her case, only hours after she reported that she was raped, she was arrested for filing a false report. On the videotape, the Delta Chi members even say it's rape, but University Police Department arrested King and took her to jail.
What follows are portions of King's speech at the October 9th rally:
"My name is Lisa Gier King
"On the night of February 26th of this year I was raped at the Delta Chi Fraternity house on the University of Florida campus. I was there that night because I was hired by fraternity member Mike Yarhaus to perform as an exotic dancer. After the party, I was raped. What happened to me that night was bad enough but the events that followed almost ruined my life.
"By this I mean that although the rape itself was devastating, I knew that because I am a strong person, I could survive it. However, within hours of reporting my rape, my mother was informed that I would be arrested by the University Police Department. That changed my status from victim to criminal and made my name part of the public record. This began a series of events that nearly cost me my life. Had it not been for the support of my family,Candi Churchill and the other members of NOW I probably would not be here today.
"This is the story of what happened to me and how I was treated by law enforcement after reporting my rape.
"I was informed by lead detective Alice Hendon, that the rapist had been questioned and released, and that he would not be charged. After viewing only minutes of a 4-hour video, Alice Hendon decided it clearly showed willing and consensual sexual intercourse and I would be arrested for filing a false police report.
"No photos were taken of the rapist or his obvious injuries. No other men present in the room that night were questioned. Not even Anthony Marzullo, the one shown on the video calling it rape and saying how it was rape 30 in the morning. None of the men were asked to take a drug test even though I reported rampant and excessive cocaine use, and men are heard on the video snorting cocaine.
"Alice Hendon called my mother down to the police station later in the day while I was in the hospital recovering from my injuries. She made it obvious that she took the rapist's word from the beginning.
"He said I slept with many fraternity members that night, so that's exactly what Alice Hendon repeated to my mother. He said I was high on cocaine, so I was drug tested at the hospital, even though he was not. Why is that? He said I took drugs, therefore I was forced to take a drug test. I reported his drug use, and it was ignored. Of course, no cocaine was found in my system.
"Alice Hendon also screamed and berated my mother: "Do you know what your daughter does for a living Mrs. Gier? Do you know that she dances nude in front of men for money? Do you know there's nothing on that videotape to substantiate anything that she said? She apparently made the whole thing up, Mrs. Gier. Would you like to see it? Would you like to see the video?" she said.
"At that point other investigators came outside and screamed and yelled at my mother.about how I wasted their time. They took their job seriously.
"Then the media assault began on me. The Independent Alligator fought for their rights to publicly view the video and Judge Chester Chance agreed. He said there was nothing on the tape that would have deemed me a victim, and released the tape to the public. Not just public in that you could go to the couthouse and view it, but public in that anyone who requested the video could go to the State Attorneys office, get their own private copy, and view it in their home. There were so many requests at the State Attorney's office that they complained they could not keep up with the demand. And requests came from all over the world, as far as Germany, South Africa, and Switzerland.
"For the first couple of months we hoped Rod Smith would do the right thing and correct the gross mistakes made by the University Police Department. After 5 months of failed negotiations, it was clear this would never happen. Rod Smith's only goal was for him to reach a politically easy way out.
"He wanted me to go on the record and state publicly that my actions that night that made it impossible to prosecute this as a sexual battery. If I didn't, he would charge me with prostitution.
"The other dancer shown on the video that night, who wasn't licensed either, and was never charged. In fact, she was used to testify against me.
"He threatened to release private medical records of mine if I did not comply with his demand, and suggested that I might find the next day's Gainesville Sun reporting that I have presciption medication.
"I was NEVER questioned by the State Attorney's office, nor was I ever asked to view the videotape with them. However, the four accused rapists in the room with me that night were questioned in the same room at the same time, so as to give them the opportunity to corroborate their stories as they went along.
"I reported a rape, the Delta Chi members called it rape themselves, yet Rod Smith claims it's impossible to prosecute this crime Why? Because then Rod Smith would have to admit that the University Police Department had made a terrible mistake by not fully investigating my claim, by not collecting evidence that day, and then by arresting me. Because then the University would get bad publicity. Heaven knows what's important is to continue to show low percentages of reported crimes on campus.
"So, I took the fall because they thought I was an easy target. If they said that no rape had occurred ,then UPD. wouldn't be held responsible for turning a blind eye to under-age drinking, shoplifting [also shown on the video], and not investigating the woman-in-distress call, not to mention my sexual assault.
"The University Police Department's lack of training and education on how to handle serious crimes was evident not only in my case but many others. Even today I read in the paper of how they botched yet another serious crime investigation by losing track of 911 call.
"Law enforcement and the judicial system failed me and failed to do what was right and just. Instead they just did what was easy. They thought I was an easy target because I was a dancer. They thought I would go home with my head hung low in shame. I am here to tell you that I am not ashamed. I was raped. The shame associated with this lies squarely on the shoulders of the man who did this to me, the law enforcement agencies who ignored my claims. They decided to blame me for the assault, and the judicial system looked the other way because it was the easy thing to do.
"I was treated differently because number one, I'm a woman, and number two I was a dancer. If nothing else comes out of this, I hope and pray that at least this will never happen to another woman again. I hope that law enforcement takes a long look at how they handled my case and admits privately (if not publicly) that it was a mistake and that it was handled poorly. I hope that the attention that was brought to this case by Campus NOW will help ensure that this will never happen to another woman again. Together, we are strong. Keep fighting!"
To contact the University of Florida/Santa Fe Community College Campus National Organization for Women, call 352 377-9935, write P.O. Box 2235, Gainesville, FL 32602 or email ufsfccNOW@juno.com .
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