Editor's Update: Marriott says, "It was a mistake to suggest that the victim of this tragic incident was responsible for the vicious crime against her." This story was updated on BlogHer with Marriott's response early Wednesday morning and with additional updates in the comment section August 20. You may read the update at BlogHer here.
You are also invited to read Marriott's official statement in the update's comments section and information about the court detail. Marriott International withdrew its "special defense on August 17 and on August 18 issued its statement of regret.
--Beginning of original post--
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just spent time addressing violence against women in the Congo, Africa, expressing disdain for a misogynistic culture. Perhaps next, in her spare time, she should have a talk with attorneys in America who represent Marriott International. The lawyers are defending that corporation against a female guest's lawsuit by blaming her for her rape.
Marriott never struck me as the kind of company that would blame a mother who was raped on its property in front of her children for her own assault, that would accuse her of being careless and placing her children in danger because a rapist attacked her. Indeed, on Marriott's Social Responsibility & Community Engagement page the slogan is "Spirit to Serve Our Communities."
And here is the quote at the top of its Business and Ethics page:
"We need to stand together to ensure that the travel and tourism industry is always a positive force for good in the world. -- J.W. Marriott, Jr., Chairman and CEO
I first learned about this story in email. It seems that the woman was in the parking garage of The Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa in Connecticut, when she was raped. Here's how this story's being reported by The Advocate of Stamford:
STAMFORD -- A downtown hotel being sued by a woman raped at gunpoint in its parking garage is claiming she was careless, negligent and "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities," according to court documents.
... On Oct. 10, 2006, (Danbury, Conn., Gary) Fricker stuck a handgun in the back of the then 40-year-old woman and forced her and her children, then 3 and 5, into their minivan as they left the hotel, according to court documents.
She let him go through her wallet and told him he could take it, but Fricker demanded she take off her clothes. Fricker sexually assaulted the woman for several minutes, pointing the gun at her and her children and threatening to sexually assault one of her children.
When another car pulled up, the woman screamed, and Fricker fled. Police arrested Fricker near White Plains, N.Y., three days later, and he immediately confessed, police have said.
Fricker, a transient carpenter, had been arrested 20 times before and was wanted in Florida on an arson case, police have said.(The Advocate)
According to the story, Fricker, 56, after pleading guilty, received 20 years. Six months later in May 2008, the victim sued Marriott corporation. And now, this company that's built an image of family values for more than 80 years has attorneys who argue an archaic view of rape, telling women, "It's your fault you were assaulted unless you can prove you locked all your doors and watched where you were going."
How is this any different from the old, misognynistic accusation "If you didn't wear that short, red dress, Ms. Slut, you wouldn't have been raped"?
The Advocate's article is detailed, explaining why the company's attorneys would make such a play, something about "a list of special defenses" that allows "defendants in civil suits to argue they are not responsible for damages even if the plaintiff's story is true." You can read about special defenses if you like, but I'm done. I don't care what the Marriott's "defense" is for its indefensible covering of its ass on this one.
I'm not necessarily saying I agree with the woman's lawsuit because I haven't processed that part of the story yet. What I'm saying is that the Marriott has slapped all women in the face with its reprehensible rhetoric in hopes of saving itself from paying damages. Did its attorneys think this story would not reach us? Do they not know the spending power of women who, in my opinion, should cross the Marriott off their lists for family hotels, stop using the Marriott for business trips, and influence their spouses and significant others to do the same?
Sounds harsh, right? However, Marriott's language is harsher about the victim, that she "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children and proper use of her senses and facilities." In other words, the woman can't control her environment and work her own body well enough to protect her children and outwit a rapist.
I'm not the only woman whose gut reaction is to never set foot in another Marriott hotel, which includes Residence Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, and Fairfield Inns plus others. And I tell you, I've always enjoyed my stays with Marriott, but I've also enjoyed my stays at Embassy Suites and Sheraton. Therefore, I don't need to stay at a Marriott, and clearly the Marriott doesn't need my business. No, it doesn't deserve my business.
Here are some of the bloggers outraged over the Marriott's defense.
- A poster at Shakesville cuts the Marriott little slack.
It is unclear when during this attack that the woman and her children, who were age 3 and 5 at the time, should have tried to "mitigate their damages." (Perhaps the 3-year-old should have grabbed for the gun while the 5-year-old subdued the attacker.) It is also unclear what the woman's tennis partners, Pilates instructor or the children's baby sitter have to offer on the topic, but the hotel subpoenaed them all the same, thus effectively outing the woman who had otherwise been identified as Jane Doe to help preserve her privacy. ... Whether or not the hotel bears any responsibility for the attack may be up for debate, but it should be obvious that the woman herself does not. Sadly, the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa does not seem to agree.
The blogger then gives contact information for the Marriott, including its headquarters address and phone number and its Twitter page URL. A number of commenters say they will no longer use Marriott, and at least one, who claims to be an attorney, says Marriott's using a boilerplate defense that she understands legally, but the company's still lost her business. Others say they will flood Facebook with the story and call or write Marriott.
- The Nutmeg Grater says she's never staying at a Marriott again. Never.
- At Feministing, the story's filed under "the meme that keeps on giving" and the comment section smokes with disgust.
- Not Ratched's Prosterous has posted only a picture that says it all.
This list is far smaller than the number of women outraged or blogs at female-oriented sites where WTF is the acronym of the moment for this case. In addition, men are sounding off. The male blogger at Unrequited Expectations, while not sure Marriott is at fault for the rape, nevertheless concludes that he's less likely book a Marriott hotel room again.
Chris Walters at The Consumerist writes, "If you want to live dangerously, why not try an unrelaxing visit to the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa?" He has a few more words on the subject and posts the same picture seen at Not Ratched Posterous which says, "Don't get raped, Lazy."
If the woman decided to not sue regarding being raped on Marriott property, she definitely should sue if the following is is true. Per The Advocate, "The victim's attorneys also argue the hotel has inadvertently identified her to acquaintances by asking them to testify."
It sounds as though the corporation's attorneys have contacted her friends and family, but the lawyers claim they have not told anyone contacted about the assault.
According to court papers as reported by The Advocate, the woman says that Fricker had been hanging around the hotel and its garage for days, that the hotel did not make him leave, and security did not see or stop the attack. My question is Cameras? Where were the cameras and if they have them why was nobody monitoring them?
At her blog, Monica Potts, the reporter who wrote the story in The Advocate, has posted a statement from Marriott International, Inc., issued today.
We wish to convey our respect and sympathy for Ms. Doe and her family, who were the victims of a horrendous crime in 2006.
Marriott is profoundly sorry that such a terrible thing happened to the victim of this violent crime. And unfortunately this situation has created a mistaken impression that Marriott lacks respect and concern for Ms. Doe or other victims of violent crime.
However, out of respect for the privacy of the victim and the expectations of the Court in the pending litigation, we are not at liberty to comment on the claims or defenses in this case. (Monica Potts at Stamford 411)
MomsRising, a nonprofit that seeks social justice for mothers, has taken action. It's started a petition with the following protest text.
As one of more than a million members of MomsRising, I am very concerned about recent news reports that Marriott Hotels is blaming the victim in the Stamford, CT rape case. Claiming a mom raped at gunpoint with two toddlers in her minivan failed to "make proper use of her senses and facilities" is disgusting and wrong. The woman in this case, and the moms of this county who now have deep concern about staying in a Marriott, deserve more.
You may sign it at momsrising.democracyinaction.org
Finally, I still have the same question that I had when I first learned of this story through email. I asked, "I wonder if Bill Marriott knows about this case?" Bill is the J.W., the CEO, quoted near the top of this post. At his blog last year on the corporate website, he addressed public outcry regarding Proposition 8, which he says the company did not support, and he declares Marriott is a public company and no one individual makes decisions. His blog is called "Marriott on the Move."
I have a few words for Mr. Marriott: "Hey, Bill. You're going the wrong way!"