From Matilda at the Deny Deni! Campaign in Philadelphia

By now everyone has heard of the horrific case of Judge Teresa Carr Deni dismissing all rape charges against a young woman who was held at gunpoint and violently sexually assaulted by four men. I’m sure everyone also knows that Deni’s reasoning was based on the fact that the 20-year-old single mom who was assaulted had initially arranged for a paid sexual encounter with one of the men.

I am appalled that anyone would view this as anything other than rape and to classify the incident as consensual is a deliberate attempt to dehumanize people who engage in sex work. I don’t see Deni’s take on the situation to be much different from the argument that women who wear tight, short skirts are begging for it. Rape is about power, not sex, and I’m horrified that anyone would argue otherwise. There is that old feminist slogan, “If I hit you over the head with a frying pan, you don’t call that cooking.” That keeps springing to my mind here. 

As I’ve worked on the campaign to get Deni voted out of office on November 6th, the evidence of her contempt for sex workers has become more and more apparent. In the first place, one of her statements to Jill Porter, the reporter who originally broke the story, (which you can find here) was that the victim had taken another client before reporting the incident.

Not only is this in no way relevant—even if she had, people who experience trauma often go on with their plans before they begin to process what has happened to them and, more to the point, she still needed to make money to support herself and her child—but it actually turns out that was an outright lie on Deni’s part. Clearly she thought this would bolster her stance in other people’s eyes but it is nowhere in the court transcripts and participants who were there that day say that no such thing ever came up. 

There have also been two different court records leaked of cases involving sex workers she has presided over in which she also dismissed rape charges. It has been repeatedly been stated to me that Deni has been a pretty good judge when some women have ended up in front of her. Apparently she is considered lenient and fair in these cases. What is also readily apparent, however, is that she has a deep-seated and irrational hatred of women who engage in sex work. She clearly feels that she is justified in punishing them for their choice of employment no matter what the reason they have come before her in court.

Furthermore, she dared speak on behalf of rape survivors by stating that this case minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.” I know of no rape survivors who feel anything other than complete empathy for the woman assaulted in this case, it’s absolutely disgusting that Deni would attribute such a view to other women who had experienced such a monstrous thing. 

Additionally, she also completely flouted Pennsylvania law regarding rape and consent. The law clearly states that consent can be withdrawn. Even the Philadelphia Bar Association, a very staid and apolitical organization, was offended. You can read Chancellor Jane Dalton’s statement here.

There is absolutely no excuse for this behavior. No other information about her actions make this okay. There is absolutely no justification for having her act as the guardian over a court of law. On November 6th, those of us who vote in Philadelphia have the opportunity to oust Deni by voting against her retention in the court system. We hope to be successful. If we are not—as one city official said to me a couple of days ago, “You basically have to kill your mother not to win a retention vote”—be prepared, the fight is not over and we have a lot more work to do.

9 Responses

  1. Good luck to the voters in Philly, this woman does not belong on the bench

  2. here’s a suggestion… can we send a bunch of faxes to the judge about how upset we are… what about to the Bar Association. I have heard that some activists were not treated well when they called to express their opinions. Its harder to ignore faxes.

  3. I hope to hear the news tomorrow night or Wednesday morning that Judge Deni is off the bench. Best of wishes on getting this monster ousted.

  4. I do not know how to post here but i atleast want to post it somewhere. Here is my statement. If anyone knows how to actually post it, please do so. ;)

    I’m not here as a supporter of many of the positions of websites like boundnotgagged or because I think all aspects of the sex industry should be legalized. I’m against legalizing measures that allow pimps and johns to consume and trade women. I’m writing on the blog because I agree that Judge Cari’s ruling is a violation of the rights of prostituted women and because we are all concerned with the welfare of women in the sex industry. But I’m mainly here in hopes that the people of PA will vote out Judge Deni. Her ruling that a raped prostituted woman should not be considered a rape victim but instead a victim of “theft of services” because her “services” were stolen when she was not paid after answering an add in the ever dangerous Craigslist and held at gunpoint while she was gang raped by the “client’s” friends makes Deni an unsuitable judge. Please vote her out of service! This is a horrid decision that she made and literally left me up at night in shock and in sadness for the brave victim who had the courage to press charges, despite the social stigma against her. She has been raped twice – once by her attackers and again in the legal system (as Chancellor Jane Leslie Dalton rightly stated).
    One statement that was especially of concern was when Judge Deni said to a newspaper that the case “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped”. She claims the woman consented! What does that say about the legal systems attitudes towards prostituted women? This case makes violence against prostituted women more likely because it will make these women less likely to speak up when they are assaulted. It also sends a message that men can get away with raping women in the horrid sex industry, making them more likely to commit such crimes. It also sends a message that somehow the rape of prostituted women is different than other women who are raped. This is disturbing because women in the sex industry are more likely to be raped than any other group of women.

    And women – don’t think this case doesn’t concern you – it concerns all women. 1970’s musician Holly Near sang a song called, “Fight back” and these lyrics come to mind:

    “In the day I live in terror. In the night, I live in fright, for as long as I can remember a LADY don’t go out alone at night. I don’t accept the verdict. And so we got to fight back, in large numbers, fight back, we can’t take it no more. Together we make a safe world.”

    Every time a woman is afraid to wear her short skirt at night for fear of being harassed for dressing like a “whore” who wants to be fucked, she is afraid of being that prostituted women in PA who was raped twice by her attackers and the justice system. Feminist Robin Morgan says it well, “Knowing our place is the message of rape”. People of PA, please resist a women’s place in the world and vote this horrid woman out of office. Not just for the injustice she has shown in this ruling and her disregard of the rights of all prostituted women, but for the progression and security of every woman!

  5. oh and hologirl is Gretchen by the way. don’t know why they put that.

  6. PJ- You’re correct that the Bar Association was initially rude to some sex workers who called. However, they got so much pressure that they issued a statement condemning Deni’s ruling. The Chancellor, Jane Dalton, has apparently taken a lot of heat and criticism for releasing her critique of the situation.

    Sending faxes to the judge is an interesting idea. Do you mean the new judge who will be hearing the re-filed rape charges?

  7. I can assure you that sending any kind of fax or letter directly to Deni will mean absolutely nothing to her. She is convinced that she is the one being victimized here. She has actually accused me of being duped by the DA from the case–a man I have never met or spoken with.

    You can, however, write to her boss. I will happily pass on info about how to do that. From what I hear he is very displeased about all this.

    As to the PBA being rude, I’m not necessarily surprised. We are talking about lawyers–a socially conservative profession in a socially conservative city. (Though don’t they seem to make up the majority of clients?) They did, however, do what we wanted in a very expedient and passionate matter.

    I think it’s very reasonable to take them to task for being rude to certain people upon finding out that they were sex workers, I just think that it shouldn’t be confused with this case. While I support anyone calling them on their behavior for the former, I do think it would be appropriate for people to thank them for the latter.

    The rape charges are being re-filed by the DA in charge of municipal court, Charles Ehrlich. He should really be commended for doing that. The actual lawyer is Rich DeSipio, who handles primarily rape cases and often works with sex workers. By all accounts he is a great guy. The judge will NOT be Deni, regardless of whether she wins or loses tomorrow.

  8. [...] From Matilda at the Deny Deni! Campaign in Philadelphia [...]

  9. Any updates on this?

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