New piece today at Pacific Standard on Nicholas Fifield, rape culture, and disability.
The details, though, reveal a number ways in which this assault embodies some of the most dangerous aspects of American rape culture: the lack of consequences for sexual predators and the repeated victimization and dehumanization of rape victims. First, Fifield turns out to be a high school tennis star in the Des Moines, Iowa, area. His dad is the team’s coach, and media coverage of the case has highlighted Fifield’s athletic prowess and shared glamour shots of him on a tennis court. He was suspended for just one game at the start of the season and seems poised to continue his sports career without further consequences. Second, the victim — whom I’ll refer to as Jane Doe — is disabled. So, even as the reporting humanizes Fifield by presenting a nuanced (sometimes generous) picture of the star athlete gone wrong, Doe has been dehumanized, reduced to a collection of diagnoses, and cast into a system primed to remove sexual autonomy from people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). Instead of teaching people with IDD about consent and working to create a safe community where they can live an integrated life, too many guardians and group homes instead seek to closet disabled victims or potential victims away from the rest of society, particularly when it comes to romance and a healthy sex life.
Denial of sexual autonomy and the prevalence of sexual assault is a huge issue in the intellectual and developmental disability community. They overlap in extremely complicated ways. Please read the whole thing! Obvious content notes apply.