Steve Carney, Karen Winkler & Santa Cruz Women Against Rape

June 23, 1984: Steve Carney takes a co-worker for a drive with a mutual friend. They park in a secluded spot and consume alcohol. The girl was upset because she’d had a fight with her boyfriend. According to Carney, there was kissing but no sex, and certainly no rape. Because of both her emotional state and her heavy alcohol consumption, the girl had a fuzzy memory of what had happened.

In January 1985, Carney’s attention is drawn to a list of names being circulated; he had been accused of attempted rape. He sues the girl - who is later identified as Karen Winkler - and the publisher of the list, Santa Cruz Women Against Rape. Winkler settles with Carney before the October 1988 trial at Santa Cruza County Superior Court; she does not testify but does apologise to him. Carney is awarded $7,500 for pain and suffering plus $25,000 punitive damages by a jury of 7 men and 5 women.

In June 1990, the judgment was reversed on a technicality and remanded for a new trial, which was somewhat academic on account of this organisation having no assets, but the trial was a moral victory for Carney.

The real lesson of this case is that this group decided Karen Winkler had been sexually violated, but rather than encourage her to file a police report they engaged in what was in effect an act of vigilantism acting as judge, jury and executioner.

[This case was the subject of a lengthy article in the December 10, 1987 edition of the Los Angeles Times by Ann Japenga on which much of the above is based].

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