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Rape in Chicago

Rape in Chicago: Race, Myth, and the Courts

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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    Rape in Chicago
    Book Description:

    Spanning a period of four tumultuous decades from the mid-1930s through the mid-1970s, this study reassesses the ways in which Chicagoans negotiated the extraordinary challenges of rape, as either victims or accused perpetrators. Drawing on extensive trial testimony, government reports, and media coverage, Dawn Rae Flood examines how individual men and women, particularly African Americans, understood and challenged rape myths and claimed their right to be protected as American citizens--protected by the State against violence, and protected from the State's prejudicial investigations and interrogations. _x000B__x000B_During the crises of the Great Depression and World War II, already-taboo problems such as sexual violence were further downplayed in favor of dealing with national issues. For cases that did go forward to conviction, trial narratives focused on protecting the female victim, protection that even extended to African American women. Amid the social reform of the 1960s and 1970s, prosecutors added more corroborative evidence to victims' claims, thereby assuming less faith in their testimonies and allowing defense attorneys and judges to interrogate women's sexual histories. The 1970s intensified the corroborative elements of rape trials, even as a vocal feminist movement sought to improve the treatment of rape victims both inside and outside courtrooms. Flood shows how defense strategies, evolving in concert with changes in the broader cultural and legal environment, challenged assumptions about black criminality while continuing to deploy racist and sexist stereotypes against the victims. _x000B__x000B_Thoughtfully combining legal studies, medical history, and personal accounts, Flood pays special attention to how medical evidence was considered in rape cases and how victim-patients were treated by hospital personnel. She also analyzes medical testimony in modern rape trials, tracing the evolution of contemporary "rape kit" procedures as shaped by legal requirements, trial strategies, feminist reform efforts, and women's experiences.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09441-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: “An Accusation Easily to Be Made”
    (pp. 1-20)

    Rape. The word itself grips the public imagination with a sense of horror, fear, and perhaps even morbid fascination. Familiar responses include sympathy and support for the victims, outrage at the perpetrators, and an understandable concern for personal safety. But sometimes other thoughts sneak in as well: what was she doing walking by herself at night? Why did she get so drunk at that party? If she had avoided those things, then thoughts likely shift onto a different terrain: he’s so creepy he must have done it, just look at the way he ogles and insults women every day. And...

  5. 1. Rape Victims and the Modern Justice System
    (pp. 21-47)

    On the evening of November 21, 1936, thirty-eight year old Anna Brasy, a white woman who sang soprano in her church choir, finished practice and went home. She lived with her mother and brother in a Lincoln Square apartment on Chicago’s north side. She went to bed, but later woke up when she heard her bedroom door open. She turned and saw a man standing over her. He was holding a knife and told her not to scream or he would kill her. After forcing her to remove her pajamas, he raped her. He brutally beat her, tied her hands...

  6. 2. The Power of Racial Rape Myths after World War II
    (pp. 48-73)

    Southern trees bear a strange fruit,

    Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

    Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,

    Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

    Pastoral scene of the gallant South,

    The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

    Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,

    And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

    Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,

    For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

    For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,

    Here is a strange and bitter crop.¹

    In 1939, jazz singer Billie Holiday first performedStrange...

  7. 3. Black Victims and Postwar Trial Strategies
    (pp. 74-100)

    In February 1959, Bernice Briggs appeared in court to testify against rape defendant Lawrence White, whom she accused of sexually attacking her the previous year. When she began recounting the circumstances that led up to the assault, Briggs quickly identified the defendant as the man who grabbed her while she was waiting for a taxi early one morning. He hit her head with an empty bottle, and, she testified, forced her to perform oral sex on him despite her pleas that she did not “know nothing about that kind of monkey business like that.”¹ According to Briggs, her assailant pushed...

  8. 4. Order in the Court
    (pp. 101-129)

    During the 1960s the United States Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, handed down a series of opinions that altered the structure of criminal trials across the country. Following legal trends of the postwar era, the high court standardized how authorities treated criminal suspects. Although the U.S. Constitution had insured many rights of the accused for over a century, these protections were applied inconsistently.¹ The Fourteenth Amendment began to change the application of federal protections to defendants tried in local courts, but prior to the 1960s, the Supreme Court had resisted applying rights defined in federal...

  9. 5. Second-Wave Feminists (Re)Discover Rape
    (pp. 130-156)

    On a summer day in 1975, real estate agent Lori Grisco met James Dvornik, her former neighbor, about a potential sale. They had been friendly before Dvornik got divorced and moved from the neighborhood, so she agreed to discuss the details of her company’s listings over a late lunch. While at the restaurant, Dvornik excused himself to make a phone call. After several minutes, he returned and asked if she would mind taking him to the VIP Lounge where they could meet his girlfriend, who would bring a down payment there after she went to the bank. Thinking he had...

  10. Conclusion: Ripped from the Headlines
    (pp. 157-170)

    During the spring of 1989, a horrifying story appeared in the New York City media before capturing the nation’s attention with its appalling yet arguably familiar tone. For weeks, newspapers reported on the vicious beating and rape of a white woman, a twenty-eight-year-old investment banker at Salomon Brothers who was a graduate of Wellesley College and Yale University. Press headlines referred to the alleged attackers, a group of African American and Latino youths, as a “wolf pack” and coined a new term to describe their criminal violence: “wilding.”¹ There had been several reports about a group of teenagers engaged in...

  11. Appendix: Case File Data
    (pp. 171-176)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 177-212)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-228)
  14. Index
    (pp. 229-236)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-242)