Some Perennial Issues

Waking Up To Horror

LAST WEEKEND a young woman stopped into a New Bedford but to buy some cigarettes. She stayed longer than she'd expected Police say that as the 21-years-old woman headed for the door to leave, she was assaulted by four men, who stripped her from the by four men, who stripped her from the waist down, forced her to commit oral sex, and raped her repeatedly. After more than two hours the woman managed to break free and run out of the bar for help.

That rape, and especially gang rape, is a crime of terrifying seriousness need hardly be repeated. But the particularly beings and peculiar nature of this rape merits special attention. This rape has an audience. In fact, there were at least a dozen men in Big Dan's Tavern that night who watched and cheered as the victim suffered. Not one man, not even the bartender, moved to stop the rapists. No one, to what must have been a gruesome spectacle is more than reprehensible--it is mind-boggling.

The New Bedford rape has become the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for area feminists, who marched on New Bedford City Hall in protest Monday night. Their march came less than two weeks after feminists at several Boston area campuses, Harvard included staged "Take Back the Night" marches protesting rape and other violence against women. These matches were staged in support of a march at Brandeis University. Where there have been more then half a dozen rapes in the past year. The barroom rape in New Bedford is bringing a lot of media attention to the problem, but the frightening incidence of rape in this area should have been getting attention for a long time.

But it hasn't been. Rape is a crime with a long history and it appears a promising future. Like most problems that won't go away it lacks glamour. It is dismissed as a women problem and it is ignored until a particularly brutal incident like this New Bedford rape brings it with a crash into our headlines and consciousness.

The task then is to keep it there and to make at an issue that judges and juries and policeman cannot forget. For steps must be taken now by lawmakers and law enforce alike to reform and improve the handling of rape cases--specifically the applications of victim responsibility which often away juries--it victims are to be encouraged to testify and if the ratio of rape convictions to rapes is ever to improve.

Action is needed now for now for seen the uproar will die down it always has in the past. And meanwhile attendance wil keep dropping at women's marches posters wil keep featuring degrading "teasers" to titillate ticket buyers and men will continue to rape women quietly perhaps in dark alleys--not with a cheering barroom audience but with a silent and much larger one. --March 17, 1983