Ehrlich Anthony Coker was a rapist.
He was a murderer and thief, too. While serving three life sentences at the Ware Correctional Institution in Waycross, Georgia, Coker escaped.
On that same night, Coker broke into the home of Allen and Elnita Carver and held the couple hostage. He raped Elnita, and then took her with him, using the couple’s car. Elnita got free, and the police re-captured Ehrlich Anthony Coker.
This time, he was charged with a capital crime – rape. In Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana, in those days, rape was punishable by death. Coker was sentenced to death.
The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Justice Byron White wrote for the majority. White wrote that rape is a crime that shows “almost total contempt for the personal integrity and autonomy of the female victim.” Apart from murder, rape is, White wrote, “the ultimate violation of self.”
The ultimate violation of self: that is what it is – and, as we have learned in the intervening years – it is really not just about sexual gratification. It is, as White wrote for the highest U.S. court, an act that “inflicts mental and psychological damage.” That, oftentimes, is the rapist’s purpose, their goal: subjugation, degradation, domination.
That was the goal, too, of Hamas on October 7. They slaughtered 1,151 Israelis, their government now says, and they took 240 hostage.
But Hamas also raped many of them.
At the United Nations this week, there was finally a presentation about Hamas’ use of sexual violence. CNN, which has been frequently critical of Israel’s war against Hamas, reported – as fact – that the U.N. was shown “evidence of sexual violence [that] was ample and overwhelming and came from different sources.”
Here is just a short summary of it.
• “A woman was shot in the back of her head, lying on her bed, naked from her waist down. A live grenade was planted in her hand.”
• “[Another woman] had nails and different objects in her female organs. Her body was brutalized in a way that [first responders] could not identify her.”
• “There were girls with broken pelvis due to repetitive rapes, their legs were split wide apart.”
• “We heard girls that were pulled out from the shelters. Girls that shouted. They raped girls. Burnt them just after that. All the bodies outside were burnt.”
• “Several female soldiers were shot in their crotch, intimate parts, vagina, or shot in the breast. There seem to be a systematic genital mutilation of a group of victims.”
And, now, CNN reported, “dozens of hostages have been released from Gaza as part of a truce between Israel and Hamas and some have also mentioned sexual abuse during their testimonies.” So the rape and torture and sexual violence that happened on October 7? It continues.
A few weeks ago, this writer (and others) was invited to the Israeli consulate in Toronto to see video shot by Israeli first responders, or Hamas terrorists themselves. Over the course of 42 minutes, I saw 138 people killed by Hamas, or the immediate aftermath. Men, women, children and babies. Over and over and over.
We also saw something else: many, many women and girls, stripped below the waist, legs apart, their bodies bloodied and charred. We didn’t need to be told what had happened to them. We knew.
Despite that – despite all of us knowing that denying sexual assault re-victimizes the victim, despite the lessons of #MeToo – some denied it all. The former Ontario NDP politician Sarah Jama denied it. So did the University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre. So did a Victoria, B.C. city councillor, Susan Kim. So have others, using cowardly, slippery phrasings online.
And some have just ignored it. It was only this week, in fact, that Canada’s own Minister of Global Affairs, Melanie Joly, finally issued a clear statement on the rapes and horrors of October 7.
Sixty-two days after the rapes took place, Joly put up a few words on X: “Using sexual violence as a tactic of war is a crime. We strongly condemn [sexual and gender-based violence], including rape, perpetrated by Hamas against women in Israel on October 7. We believe Israeli women. Canada will always stand against #SGBV and advocate for justice for all victims.”
Except Canada didn’t strongly “advocate” for Israeli women, in that way, for many weeks. Despite being asked to do so. Despite clear evidence that “the ultimate violation” had taken place on October 7.
Which leads us back to the 1977 judgment of the U.S. Supreme Court in the appeal of Ehrlich Anthony Coker. Capital punishment was too harsh a penalty for Coker, the Court ruled.
For Hamas, it isn’t.
Find them, and end them all.