Rape: The Paradigmatic Hate Crime

By Carney, Kathryn M. | St. John's Law Review, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Rape: The Paradigmatic Hate Crime


Carney, Kathryn M., St. John's Law Review


INTRODUCTION

On Wednesday, October 7, 1998, twenty-two year old Matthew Shepard was found unconscious and tied to a fence in the Wyoming countryside, his body severely beaten and burned. Shepard, who was gay, had met two men at the Fireside Lounge, a Wyoming bar, earlier in the evening. Both men told Shepard they were also gay, and persuaded him to leave the bar with them. When Shepard entered a pick-up truck with the two men, he was "pistol-whipped.. until his skull collapsed."' Five days later, Shepard died without waking from the resulting coma.2

In June 1998, in Jasper, Texas, James Byrd, Jr., a forty-nine year-old African-American father of three, was brutally murdered. Three white men, passing by in a truck picked up Mr. Byrd, who was, ironically, walking down Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The three men severely beat Mr. Byrd with a wrench, chained him by his ankles to their truck, and dragged him for nearly three miles, leaving bloodstains in their wake. Law enforcement officials found dismembered parts of his body spread along the country road, and his mangled torso in an African-American cemetery.3

On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine marched into an engineering class at the University of Montreal. After separating the class by gender and screaming, "I want the women," he opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. He left the classroom, passed through the corridors and into the cafeteria, killing a total of fourteen women during his rampage. He reasoned, "[F]eminists [have] ruined my life."4

In August 1997, twenty-one year old Patrick Langbelle, went on a weeklong rampage and spray-painted swastikas and derogatory racial slogans on the outside walls of several buildings including Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, Illinois. He also used an indelible marker to write anti-Semitic slogans on park benches. Most troubling was his recruiting of seventeen juveniles into his neo-Nazi group, and his urging that they engage in similar acts of vandalism.5

These accounts illustrate what are considered to be prototypical hate crimes6-crimes committed against individuals

because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or ethnicity.7 In recent years, legislatures have turned their attention to hate crimes and have enacted legislation aimed at eradicating such victimization.8 Virtually every state has, to some extent, enacted legislation banning hate crimes.9 The rationale for such laws is that hate crimes exact a greater toll on their victims, as the victim is targeted on the basis of an immutable characteristic. The victim, therefore, is unable to prevent the attack, resulting in an increased sense of vulnerability' not only for the victim, but also for other members of that community, or possessors of the same immutable trait.

Hate crime statutes vary in which types of bias-motivated crimes they penalize. Some states penalize only institutional vandalism committed with a bias motive.ll Other states take a more inclusive view of hate crimes, and include, in addition to institutional vandalism, any bias-motivated violence based upon the victim's race or ethnicity.12 Some states go further and consider crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation as crimes of hate.13 Although many states have included gender as

a protected class in their hate crime statutes,14 prosecutions of gender-motivated crimes as hate crimes are rare.15 When gender-motivated crimes are prosecuted as hate crimes, they generally include claims of sexual harassment and battery, but rarely charges of rape.26

Yet rape is the paradigmatic hate crime. It is a crime that violates and defiles millions of women17 because of their gender, 'and still fails to be recognized as a hate crime. Like other hate crime victims, the rape victim is selected because she possesses an immutable characteristic-her gender.18 Like other hate crimes, rape inflicts grave psychological consequences upon the

victim and results in an increased sense of communal fear. …

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