Friday, August 14, 2009

I Can't Help Myself...

I'm seeing a lot of mini-blogging about this.

Nutshell: A woman was raped in a hotel parking garage at gunpoint in front of her children, with the rapist threatening their lives. There is little more horrifying than that. Her rapist was captured, prosecuted, and sentenced. Though that's more justice than a lot of women get, I doubt it went very far toward her recovery.

The woman then filed a lawsuit against the Marriott, claiming they knew the rapist was hanging around and did nothing.

The gist of the Twitters and Facebook status outrage is that the Marriott defense, in part, says she failed to exercise due care, interpreted by the public as blaming her for her own rape.

That's unconscionable, but it's the LAWYERS who are doing that. The LAWYERS are the soulless, unfeeling freaks who would apply standard response language (according to other lawyers in the comments of the linked article). I say the lawyers are working for Marriott so the defendant should have a say in how the defense is mounted, but someone else said it's in the insurance company's hands, not the hotels, and if there is anyone more soulless and unfeeling than lawyers, it's insurance companies. I mean, we've all got to agree with that, right?

Another detail is that the woman is only suing for $15,000. I don't think this is true. The article says MORE THAN $15,000, and another attorney in the comments said this is also a standard factor in Connecticut law, that they have to prove the case is worth at least that much. Most companies are smart enough to settle a case that's going to make them look bad, so they either got really bad legal advice (by someone seeking a spotlight, maybe?), or they know the case could cost them millions, maybe billions, once it goes to court. It's also possible they are trying to avoid a precedent. If they settle this, how many people are going to come out of the woodwork trying to blame hotels for things that happened in them?

Part of the prosecution argument is that the man was hanging around for days before the rape, that hotel staff saw him, and no one did anything about it.

1. How do they know he was hanging around? If the woman saw him, why didn't she report it?

2. If two separate security people and a staff person all later admitted they saw him but none of them knew others saw him, how would they have known their one spotting was part of a pattern? One person has to see someone multiple times to recognize loitering.

3. Someone in the comments to the article said all security had to do was ask him if he's a guest and if not, kick him off the property.

3a. Yeah, 'cuz he's going to admit that he's not staying in the hotel (and hey, maybe he was--the article doesn't say).
3b. Do people realize how many thousands of people go through a hotel every day? The turnover of guests over a week probably numbers in five digits, PLUS you don't have to be a guest at the hotel to be on the premises--a conference could have hundreds of people attending it who aren't guests of the hotel. I was in the Waldman Park Marriott a few weeks ago for HOURS. I was in the same spot multiple times. I could have gone to my car in the parking garage two or three times during the day. They should have asked me if I was a guest and kicked me off the premises...oh, except I don't think any staff saw me, beyond the server in the restaurant and maybe the bartender in the bar, several hours later.

I am NOT blaming the victim here. What happened to her is horrifying and my heart breaks for her and her children. I totally understand the need to lash out and place blame as part of the healing process. Maybe there WERE things the Marriott staff could have done. I don't think the attorneys were wise in the way they laid out the defense, and I also think they should have just settled and kept it quiet (though if this was filed over a year ago, maybe they tried and she wouldn't).

But I'm not going to assume extreme negligence by the staff based on a few lines in a news story, nor do I think boycotting the company who licensed their name to the hotel will have any impact, though I wouldn't tell anyone not to do it--that's personal principle.

Mini-blogging and our short attention spans/lack of time have given us more opportunities for knee-jerk reactions to bits of information, and this post is my rebellion against that. Feel free to call me names in the comments; I'll feel free to delete them. :)

Disclaimer: The article I'm referencing seems to have its dates wrong. It says the woman filed suit against the hotel in May 2008 and that her rape occurred on October 10, 2008, which is obviously impossible. Therefore, many things in the article could also be wrong, invalidating anything I said.

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