THE LATEST THINKING
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Why #MeToo Has Failed American Inmates
#MeToo has done a lot of good for us. It's opened our eyes to the true scope of sexual assault in the United States. But #MeToo still has failed where too many of us fail — showing compassion for the horrors faced by those in the American prison system.
This morning I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a video that I believe is of the utmost importance. It's a disturbing look into one man's fairly typical experience in the American prison system.
But it also highlights an important failure on the part of #MeToo. Although the movement has torched the curtain that used to keep the general public ignorant of the scope and degree of sexual assault and sexual violence in the United States, the movement has failed to address an area where sexual assault and sexual violence are prevalent, and unfortunately, mocked — the American prison system.
Prison rape is a joke to us, but for many who have survived, it's a horrifying experience that leaves them disturbed, broken and in the same web of self-loathing and emotional damage far too many people have unfortunately found themselves. But for some reason, the violation of a person within prison walls is treated differently than when a woman is found bleeding in an alley with her panties at her ankles.
For inmates, there is no compassion, counseling or comfort. There is no Olivia Benson to investigate what happened to them. They are left alone to suffer the indignities and pain that comes with being a "prison wife," or just someone who pissed off the wrong guy before taking a shower.
About one in 25 inmates experience this.
It's not like we're ignorant of it. Prison rape is a punchline, a source of low-hanging chuckles all of us are guilty of engaging in at some point or another. Bill Maher once said of Michael Cohen, "He's the one who famously said 'I'd take a bullet for Donald Trump.' Well, now that he's looking a prison time, we'll see if he's willing to take a dick."
The phrase "don't drop the soap" has become a part of our national vernacular. Prison rape is a source of comedy in TV shows, such as in "Family Guy," "Orange is the New Black" and even "Spongebob Squarepants." Comedians like Jeff Dunham and Chris Rock have joked about it.
To Americans, it's the only rape that's funny.
Prison rape is a punchline because Americans, generally, have a twisted view of what is moral, especially when it comes to criminals. While we would detest the rape of a woman on a subway, we long for Jared Fogle to get what he is believed by many to deserve. Many of us believe justice to be retribution, so it is difficult for us to empathize with inmates, even if it means failing to be consistent in our moral outrage.
When inmates go to prison, they are sentenced to segregation from society. They are not sentenced to segregation from society along with this other thing that happens that we could stop but basically don't care enough to stop, since it makes for an easy laugh. Being punished for a crime beyond what the crime necessitates is cruel and unusual punishment.
I thought we had constitutional protection from that.
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