Watch “Good Girls” Confront the Golden State Killer
I feel privileged to be among the victims of the Golden State Killer. I didn’t see it coming, I could not have predicted it, but it has absolutely been vital to my getting through the last two years since Joseph DeAngelo’s arrest. Don’t get me wrong, not being in the club would have been okay too, but since I couldn’t prevent the crime, finding myself among amazing women (and some men) has been life-sustaining.
We share struggles that bring us together.
Thanks to a private discussion group, we’re able to speak with one another without judgment. Sometimes it’s an article or an update from the court — with different jurisdictions, it’s been a bit of a mess with all of us not getting the same information. Other times, we’ll have a sad moment, or memory and we need a place to share. And often, it’s our place to scream: our black hole, our void.
It’s no secret writing my Victim Impact Statement has been difficult (I did get it done). Especially when trying to represent the person I was forty years ago along with the person I am today. That’s where this process has become interesting to me — a rhetoric major — who considers context to be as important as the words we choose. In this case, we have a lot of former “good girls”, many of whom were told to never discuss their rape¹, coming to terms with their grown-ass-woman need to be heard.
The number one thing that inflames the victims is being told to be nice.
Let me take you back to the late 1970s. While the women’s movement was gaining momentum, we were still taught to be good. Being good meant we were supposed to manage our activism. If our male partner or parents were progressive, they would indulge our feminism but only if we got our other work done first (school, working, cooking, cleaning, shopping, child raising).
I was still a teenager and like most of the women of my time, minding our manners and being respectful was expected. I realize now it was the way they kept us in line by repeatedly telling us how to behave. “Good girls” could have smarts, but it was important not to embarrass the family.
“Apparently, when you’re seen as a good girl, people think they can get away with anything, because they know you’ll continue to behave like a mature, respectful adult regardless of what’s thrown in your face.”
Susanna Newsonen, MAPP
I could argue, “good girls” were some of the reason serial rapists thrived in the 1970s. The rapists found little resistance from society as sexual assault was still not seen as the horrible crime it is today. Add to it, the confluence of women struggling to embracing their individuality and power, with the broader cultural pressure for women to mind their manners and avoid controversy, and you’ll begin to understand the cognitive dissonance we experienced.
It was the perfect cultural storm.
I’m sure this chasm caused enough distraction to allow deranged men to commit horrific crimes with little to no consequence. After these monsters raped, the police, the legal system, communities and, sadly, their families, asked the victims to be “good girls”, to be quiet and get on with life. The statute of limitations on sexual assault codified this perfect storm.
In 2020, there’s no more room for “good girls”.
Not as they were defined decades ago. And yet, here we are. The Victim Impact Statement process has triggered a lot of angst. As I watched and listened, I believe our collective reaction, which was visceral, was so powerful because it felt like once-again they were telling us to be “good girls.” I know this wasn’t the intention of the District Attorney’s offices, but alas, it was the result.
Initially, we were told our statements were due on August 1st. Naturally, we assumed we could do and say whatever we wanted. Many fantasized about how they would directly address Joseph DeAngelo. After forty years, facing a man who’s basically not suffered at all, in a case that didn’t have a trial or any explanation at all for his behavior, and after not hearing one word from the son-of-a-bitch (besides “guilty” and “I admit”), we would at least have the satisfaction of saying whatever was on our minds! Talk about pent-up demand.
But alas. We discovered that’s not how it works. There are rules.
I mentioned I pay attention to words and context. Here’s why.
Context matters. Court has rules and process and a certain decorum is expected. The first thing we learned is our statements must address the judge. We are not to address the convict (lots of names for him at this point, the documentation says “defendant” and after conviction, he’s referred to as the “offender” but I’m just going to streamline things here and call it as I see it). If nothing else were communicated, this would have been enough. This was likely the hardest thing for us to digest. Some of the victims had been working on their statements since the day of his arrest. Finding out we aren’t allowed speak to him directly² was devastating.
Next-up, statements needed to be turned in a week earlier than planned (July 23 instead of August 1st). This hit us on two fronts: one, we had just managed to shower-off the filth we lived through on June 29th at the plea hearing. Nearly everyone sat through the whole thing and it was like bathing in toxic waste. The detox took more than a few days. Most of us found ourselves in a state of utter exhaustion as we finally could put the “big moment” behind us. We slept, we ate, we walked, we caught up on email. And we paced ourselves knowing we had until month-end to get the darn thing done.
But more importantly, as the date was changed, a subliminal message was sent: The District Attorneys would be reviewing our statements. Now I’m sure that’s not what’s happening, but man, the subtext was definitely there. If you want to see “good girls” after 40 years lose their collective minds, intimate their statements will be reviewed. For “good girls”, that was 1970s code for being judged, censored, and being told how we must behave. Our group blew up. What began as anger and rage, morphed into, “I’m not about to be told what to do, that’s what DeAngelo did to me!”, “I won’t be silenced,” and “I’ll do what I damn well please”. It was inspired and bad-ass, and for me, completely invigorating.
The Victim Impact Statement reading is television worth watching.
I expect Sacramento will live stream the statements via YouTube. We hear we’ll be in an actual courtroom³, but in shifts to allow for social distancing. They are building the schedule now, balancing all the variables including the length of what we’ve written, where we live, the crimes, jurisdictions, availability of our prosecutors to be there with us, and more. It will begin on August 17th and we understand sentencing will happen on that Friday, with all of us being able to attend in person (maybe back at Sacramento State).
I can’t wait to see what my fellow victims do. I don’t want to blow your mind, but the “good girl” garbage isn’t over. In 2018, a mere two years ago, a Stanford study found the most “desirable traits listed for women were all about relationships: loyal, compassionate, warm, cheerful, soft-spoken.” Hopefully, as fierce women, these are not the traits that will be on display at the hearing. While we respect the court and understand the importance of decorum, I expect we’ll get to see each victim’s individuality shine through. I expect them to leave their “good girl” persona at the door and deliver their statement with truth, conviction, strength, and dignity. Every darn one of us has a reason to feel proud.
This man did not stop us then, he won’t stop us now.
¹Since my dad and stepmom were murdered, I don’t have the same experience as the rape victims. They have body memories, soul injuries, that make their experience different from mine. With a murder, I couldn’t hide, my name, my business, was out there for everyone to see from the very beginning.
²Technically, the judge can approve someone speaking directly to the convict. We’ve been advised our judge is not inclined to let us do that.
³This case has been unusual. The preliminary hearings were always held in the County Jail courtrooms (Dept 61) and, without a trial and thanks to Covid19, we did the socially-distanced plea hearing in the ballroom at Sacramento State. We’ve yet to be in a real courtroom.