Title

Tracing the backlash to women’s independence through sexual assault cases in Yakima County

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Campus where you would like to present

Ellensburg

Event Website

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source

Start Date

15-5-2019

End Date

15-5-2019

Abstract

In the courtroom victims of sexual assault are less likely to be believed than the perpetrator, a theory is that this is done to bolster masculinity while also undermining femininity. Yakima County’s oldest preserved police investigations of sexual assault cases took place in 1905; and although only one of the four cases ended with a conviction, the victims were given opportunities to speak in court. This changed in the 1940s when sexual assault cases seldom made it to trial, and victims rarely got to record their account of the attack. Maureen Honey claims that the hindering of a victim’s voice in the 1940s had to do with the rise in female independence as part of the war effort. Honey also claims that men in small communities would often try to dissuade women from their work by any means necessary including sexual assault. Because sexual crimes are notoriously difficult to define, they are categorically difficult to prosecute. With this in mind, men could exploit the fluid definition and get away with attacks that left little evidence on a body, while still causing great psychological trauma to the victims. In this paper I draw on Yakima court records to explore prosecutors’ changing approaches to sexual crimes from 1905 to the 1940s.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Roxanne Easley

Department/Program

History

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May 15th, 2:00 PM May 15th, 3:20 PM

Tracing the backlash to women’s independence through sexual assault cases in Yakima County

Ellensburg

In the courtroom victims of sexual assault are less likely to be believed than the perpetrator, a theory is that this is done to bolster masculinity while also undermining femininity. Yakima County’s oldest preserved police investigations of sexual assault cases took place in 1905; and although only one of the four cases ended with a conviction, the victims were given opportunities to speak in court. This changed in the 1940s when sexual assault cases seldom made it to trial, and victims rarely got to record their account of the attack. Maureen Honey claims that the hindering of a victim’s voice in the 1940s had to do with the rise in female independence as part of the war effort. Honey also claims that men in small communities would often try to dissuade women from their work by any means necessary including sexual assault. Because sexual crimes are notoriously difficult to define, they are categorically difficult to prosecute. With this in mind, men could exploit the fluid definition and get away with attacks that left little evidence on a body, while still causing great psychological trauma to the victims. In this paper I draw on Yakima court records to explore prosecutors’ changing approaches to sexual crimes from 1905 to the 1940s.

https://digitalcommons.cwu.edu/source/2019/Oralpres/41