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“One Rape. Two Stories.”

The historical diaries displayed in “One Rape. Two Stories” reveal a contrasting record of the time in July 1790 when Rebecca Foster was raped. The specific details are vague, discussed exclusively in Martha Ballard’s diary. The facts in place are that she filed charges in December of 1789. What is debated is the story before the trial and the actual guilt of the accused. Three primary reasons that he was acquitted are that the jury consisted of all men, the Foster family were very poorly regarded at the time of the accusation, and that it took so long for Rebecca to bring charges.

In 1790, when the trial was held, only male landowners were permitted to vote, and only those who were able to vote were allowed to sit on juries. In 1701, the colonies held their first mixed gender jury trial in Albany, New York; however, a the release of the Balckthorne Commentaries in 1769 changed that. These papers stated that a man and a woman were one person under the law, thus a law was passed in 1777, a mere thirteen years before the trial, to forbid women from voting (2001).

This created a jury pool with a strong favoritism in trials where a man was accused of assaulting a woman. Men did not wish to convict other men unless the evidence was overwhelming. In this case, it was not. The second reason probably held more weight with the jury that mere gender bias. By the time the alleged assault occurred, the Foster’s had a very poor reputation in town and were not considered trustworthy.

It is conceivable that the jurists believed, or were led to believe, that Rebecca had invented the attack in order to get even with the town for how it had treated her and her husband. From the point of view of the men sitting on the jury, it is a woman from a less than honorable house accusing a judge, who, I’m sure it was believed, had a higher level of integrity than she did. More than a few wondered about Rebecca’s motivation. Finally, the fact that it took Rebecca four months to bring forth her accusations is cause to call into question the validity of her claim.

The long delay makes one think that there was a hidden motive behind it, and it is inevitable that the jurist were left wondering what that was. This made her less believable and left the court members wondering what made her come forward after all that time. Proving any rape charge during this time in history was a challenge. Not only were men hesitant to convict other men, but also during the 1780’s and 90’s, they did not even accuse of rape but attempted rape no matter what the fact was.

Even this charge was difficult to convict. Evidence is hard to come by, and waiting four months for the accusation to come forth only makes it more difficult. Add in the Foster’s poor reputation and the judge’s position and it is an inevitable acquittal. Works Cited 2001. “Timeline of Legal History of Women in the United States. ” Women’s Source Book. Retrieved 23 May 2009 from <http://www. iasb. uscourts. gov/Community/WHMsection5. 4. pdf>.

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