Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Duke University sexual assault case

There's been a bit of talk about the rape case involving the Duke University lacrosse team. Part of it is in response a deleted blog post by a person I respect highly. She mentioned being angry hearing people talk on CNN about the charges of rape being dropped from the case.

I get angry when I hear much of the talk about the case too. So should most people.

Let's lay out the facts of the case, okay?

Two strippers go in with a contract to perform; they are treated in a manner that makes them feel afraid, and they leave. One goes back inside. The other dancer reports that she's not gone long.

When she comes back out, her fellow dancer claims she's disoriented - maybe drugged or drunk. Let me note that most people are not aware of what deep withdrawal from the world is like; it can appear to be some form of intoxication. So, the other dancer sees behavior consistent with being hurt and scared enough to cause withdrawal.

Later, when a police officer confronts her (thinking she's drunk or on drugs), she reports having been raped. The attack she describes was vicious and brutal. She's given a rape exam; the defense claims it's inconclusive, but the results have not been released, so we don't know what, exactly it shows.

Interviews with witnesses included this tidbit, per an online Newsweek article: "The neighbor, Jason Bissey, says that before the woman went back inside, he heard one of the partygoers repeating urgently, "Guys, let's go." He also says the party broke up within five minutes after the women left."

A e-mail, sent prior to the party, turns up, and it jokes about harming the strippers when they arrive.

A search of the house reveals personal items belonging to the stripper, including her purse, artificial fingernails, and $160. One artificial fingernail was found in the trash of one of the suspects, and had some DNA on it. It might have been his, it might have been someone else's.

So, what makes me angry? There's been a lot of talk about these poor, poor boys facing an accusation of rape. I've seen people speaking scornfully and contemptuously of the accuser. I've seen her flat out called a liar by someone who must have failed "Critical Thinking 101".

Well, let's take a look at what we know, and see what model fits, 'kay?

Null hypothesis: "these boys did nothing wrong! Okay, they were yelling some racial epithets and stuff like that, but it was just words."

I'm sure "just words" put her into such a panic that she left her purse and a good bit of cash behind, eh? And I'm sure she was "disoriented" because she was, in her devious mind, coming up with a plot for revenge against those nasty, racist boys who said nasty things to her. She'll accuse them of rape! Yes, that will work, even though *nothing happened*, and she knows *full well* that no DNA will show up in a rape exam because *nothing happened*.

She's smart enough to play the victim spot on - even though most people wouldn't recognize the appearance of deep withdrawal! - but stupid enough to make a false accusation that's bound to fall apart.

Yeah, right. I'll skip heaping scorn on that pathetic scenario because I can't think of words scornful enough.

Alternate hypothesis: those men did something nasty, and terribly frightening, to her. She ran out in a panic, causing them to believe that they were in danger - she might call the police! - so they cleared the area as quickly as they could. She appeared to be disoriented, and then later, reported being raped. This would be understandable - she was surrounded by a large number of college atheletes, and if anything was done to her, with those other folks nearby ignoring the situation, she'd be in real fear for her life.

Now, what gets me really angry? People are speaking as if this is a hoax, a lie, a made up story.

I grant, no laws of physics would be violated if it turns out she wasn't raped. Hell, no laws of physics would be violated if she wasn't even manhandled, groped, and/or scared out of her wits. But the facts all point strongly to "something happened."

And the lacrosse players want us to believe that nothing happened... that she's just making up a lie out of whole cloth. And there's whole bunches of people willing to talk about how terrible it is to accuse this poor innocent young men of rape! And none of these people seem willing to dig into the story, and apply as much skepticism to the lacrosse players' stories as they are to the woman's story.

We know rapes occur much more frequently than false accusations of rape. And yet, when the time comes for skepticism, it invariably is pointed at the accuser.

And yes, that makes me angry.

Since all the evidence points to something ugly having happened in that house on that night, none of those men who had a chance to prevent it is "innocent", and everyone who knows what really happened, but refuses to come forward is guilty of helping cover up a crime.

Anyone want to whine about "innocent until proven guilty"? Whine away. I'm angry, and anger doesn't require a jury verdict. Those lacrosse players should and must be treated as if they are innocent by the courts and the government. That doesn't mean I have to abandon common sense, and think that nothing happened.

I agree with you! Unfortunately victims are seen as either "righteous" or "deserving of what they got" and mixing race and class along with the obvious messups that the prosecution has had has taken a difficult situation and muddied it further. Thanks!
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