CNN Reporter, Don Lemon is working to repair his reputation after comments he made to guest Joan Tarshis on November 18, 2014. Mr. Lemon interviewed Ms. Tarshis concerning her story that comedian Bill Cosby utilized a date rape drug to rape her when she was nineteen years old.
Mr. Lemon begins the interview by saying, “Can I ask you this, and please I don’t mean to be crude, okay?”
From there, Mr. Lemon proceeds to brand himself as a poster child for why laws must exist to protect women from violence, as well as the ignorance of man.
Mr. Lemon: You said this last night. He…you lied to him You said “I have an infection. And if you rape me or if you do – if you have intercourse with me, then you will probably get it and give it to your wife. And you said he made you perform oral sex. You…you know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you don’t want to do…”
Ms. Tarshis: Oh. I was kind of stoned at the time and quite honestly that didn’t even enter my mind. Now, I wish it would have, but…
Mr. Lemon: Meaning using the teeth, right? As a weapon. Biting.
Ms. Tarshis: I didn’t even think of it. Ouch.
Mr. Lemon: I had to ask.
Ms. Tarshis: No. It didn’t cross my mind.
The 1970s brought about changes in statutes governing rape. Laws were enacted that recognized rape could occur between husband and wife; between parties of the same sex; laws governing a woman’s prior sexual history and provocativeness in dress and attitude were revised; and, resistance requirements were updated.
The resistance requirement involved the degree of physical resistance women were obligated to exert; and, prove (in the form of broken bones and physical markings), in order to clearly show a “legitimate” rape had occurred.
In The Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Violence, the author write, “In determining whether a rape has occurred, the question is now whether a reasonable person should have known that the victim was not consenting to the sexual act.”
Use of a date rape drug nullifies consent. This fact should effectively answer the question Mr. Lemon posed to Ms. Tarshis. However, and in the interest of bringing women out of a period of society, whereby rules and laws governing violence against women were derived from belief systems which equated women as property, let us – in unison – repeat, rape is an act of violence.
The aim of the victim is not influenced by whether others will believe her or his story. The only pressing goal is how minimize the immediate threat of the violence of rape; and, how to extricate her or himself from that violence, in the hopes of decreasing the graduation of that physical violence.
One can no more tell a woman to fight back than they can tell a woman to be compliant. On the one hand, there are men such as Mr. Lemon who believe that women are empowered to physically resist rape; and, on the other hand we have men such as Mr. Clayton Williams, who so famously shared, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”
During the course of rape there are myriad factors which a victim must manage, including a victim’s natural and God-given right to read and react to the situation and attacker; the emotional state of the victim and the attacker; the physical strength of both the victim and the attacker; and, a victim’s ability to manage all of these components effectively (and, in a way that is approved by others) during the course of the violent act.
Response to violence – especially to rape – is not pre-formatted. Mr. Lemon’s suggestion has the potential to place women at greater physical risk.
A woman’s responsibility during a rape is to herself. And any response by a victim which allows them the opportunity to live and breathe another day, is a successful response.
CNN’s Newsroom, Don Lemon, November 18, 2014
Renzetti, Claire M. Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Violence. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2008. 421.