When Grandma Gets Raped
by Noelle Howey,thedailybeast.com – The rape of a 73-year-old bird-watcher in Central Park this week ignited shock around the world. But why? Rape isn’t about sex but violence—and in this case, possibly revenge. Noelle Howey reports.
The suspect, 42-year-old David Albert Mitchell, was arrested Thursday on charges including rape, predatory sexual assault, and robbery. He has a long rap sheet, largely involving violence against elderly women.
The case has inspired outrage around the globe, largely for two reasons: the unlikely time and location—associated more with John Lennon–loving tourists and picnicking families—and the advanced age of the victim. As New York University lecturer Eric Ozawa, who found the battered woman shortly after the attack, told the Associated Press, “It’s shocking that it could happen in the park in broad daylight—that someone could rape somebody in her 70s.”
Ozawa’s horror that an elderly woman would be targeted for sexual assault was echoed in countless online comments and water-cooler conversations (and implicit in the newspaper headlines—virtually all of which highlighted the victim’s age). But unfortunately, elder rape is not unheard of. In August, John Anthony Vega was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 77-year-old woman in Pennsylvania. Last November, a Delaware man was charged with the rape and murder of a 70-year-old woman. In June 2011, a 53-year-old man died while in the act of sexually assaulting a 77-year-old Texas woman. And most disturbingly, in England, Delroy Grant was convicted last year on three counts of rape (among numerous other charges), but police think he may be responsible for more than 200 assaults on women ages 68 through 89 over several decades. These cases all made news. So why has the phenomenon remained invisible?
Even after decades of rape-awareness campaigns, many people still do not understand what motivates someone to commit an assault. “Society still implicitly believes that rape is about sex,” says Benje Douglas, project manager for the Lifespan Project at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “That’s because for most of us, sex is something you do for pleasure. But a rapist doesn’t think like that. It’s about controlling someone sexually.” Certainly, he points out, that’s the case with the Central Park victim, who appeared to be attacked out of a desire for revenge. Read more…