Friday, April 13, 2007

About the Duke case

When something like the Duke story comes up, I want to understand it. I don't just mean "I want to have someone tell me some facts and accept them," I mean, I want to understand.

It's like when you're writing a story; if the character's motivations aren't believable by the end of the story, it's a bad story. And the recent situation involving the lacrosse team at Duke university creates a lot of problems for me.

From the beginning, with a few facts on the table, I was sure something nasty happened between the Duke lacrosse team, and the exotic dancer that three of them were accused of raping.

She left behind her handbag, with a good chunk of money in it.

Tell me that she was treated respectfully and in a non-frightening manner, but she bolted without her money, and it just doesn't compute. Of course, we know that she wasn't treated respectfully. She and her partner left because there was a suggestion that a broom might be used in lieu of sex toys... not quite a threat, but not a safe situation.

Still, she was coaxed back into the house, and it seems impossible to believe that she wasn't frightened by something. And it wouldn't be just a guy going "boo!" because she was an experienced exotic dancer; she knew how men reacted and what they were like when they were rowdy. If she spooked easily, she wouldn't be able to do that job.

Her partner reported that she left the house and seemed drugged, or drunk, but folks who know trauma know that some traumatized people appear drunk, drugged, or otherwise out of it. This is another indication that something had happened, something that frightened her.

People who think she was seeking revenge for something said or done to her, remember this: she didn't go out and make those accusations. The police were called because of her condition (seeming to be drunk), and it was only after the officer hassled her a bit (the report I found said he used a hold that would be painful if she didn't move as he directed) that she broke out of her shell and said she'd been raped.

This, to me, does not sound like a person trying to get revenge and making up lies. It sounds exactly like a traumatized person coming out of a daze, and reporting what she believed happened.

But the prosecutor has said that they believe "no attack occurred"... certainly not the attack she claimed. How could this be?

To some people, this says she's a liar, but it just doesn't fit.

She said she was raped by men who weren't wearing a condom. Isn't that a stupid thing to make part of your lie, knowing about DNA evidence? She described a rape lasting 30 minutes, when, if nothing had happened to her, she'd have known that 30 minutes couldn't be accounted for. Remember, her partner said the accuser was only in the house for a few minutes, five or ten, before coming back out.

She would have to be awfully stupid to make up such a transparant lie, and stick to it.

But then another piece of the puzzle dropped into place, and suddenly, I realized I might have the answer.

The woman reported being raped earlier. Years before the Duke incident, she reported to the police that she had been raped. The incident she was reporting then had happened a long time in the past (a long time before she made the report, that is). According to the article I read, the police declined to investigate, citing lack of evidence.

What does this suggest to me?

What kind of story can I write from these that puts all the pieces together?

I feel bad writing about this, because it involves mental health issues. I don't know her, I'm not competent to evaluate her if I did know her, I'm not a doctor, don't play one on TV, and refuse to play one on the internet. However, I've seen a lot of people who suffered a lot of different painful situations, and I know what a lot of mental health issues look like.

And people are calling her a liar, people are publishing her name, people are saying all kinds of terrible things about her, and I don't think it's fair.

The only way I can explain why I think that's not fair is to explain what I think happened, and why.

So, let's take this as a working hypothesis. Her report of being gang-raped (the one that she reported to the police, a long time before the Duke incident) was true. She'd been gang-raped.

You don't go through a trauma like that without scars; it's certainly traumatic enough to cause PTSD, or something similar.

At the Duke party, it's known that the guys were getting nasty and rowdy. She and her partner were going to leave, but somehow, she got coaxed back inside, and then something happened that was caused her to flee without her handbag and her money.

What is the simplest explanation? The lacrosse players did something that scared her, and she was in such fear for her safety that she had a traumatic flashback.

I'm not going to speculate about what the lacrosse players did. Given the circumstances, I'll assume that it was merely something nasty, but legal. I doubt that it was something meaningless, because, as I've said, you can't keep the job if you get spooked too easily.

But whatever it was, I'm suggesting it triggered a flashback. A flashback can seem real, as if it's happening right now. Even if it's not that bad, it's something you can't ignore; it fills your mind. It's exactly the kind of thing that could confuse her, and leave her unable to remember what, precisely, had happened when. She would be remembering the previous gang rape, and it would be mixing the the memories of what had happened in the house with the lacrosse players.

And then, later that night, she then reported to the police what she remembered, as best as she could.

Let me say that again and emphasize it: as best as she could.

It is not a "lie" or a "false accusation" or "revenge" if, having been traumatized once, she was scared, and had a flashback, and couldn't keep the two events separate in her mind. It is the responsibility of the authorities, the police and the prosecutors, to investigate the accusations. Crime victims often misremember the details of what, exactly happened.

So, my hypothesis, my guess, my "story that would make this all make sense", is that she had a flashback, and reported what she could to the police, but much of it was confused, because of the earlier gang-rape.

What she described was horrific.

I'm not going to excuse DA Nifong for what he did, but I will suggest that his motives - not his actions, but his motives - were better than most people believe. I believe that Nifong took her report, and was furious that the lacrosse players would cover up such an atrocity.

I understand his fury, and I think most people would, if they would simply put themselves in his place. Nifong believed the woman was raped, with a bunch of witnesses nearby, and none of them would come forward. Of course he would be angry; any prosecutor would be!

However, what this case proves is that a prosecutor must not over-reach the evidence.

I don't know who did what to the accuser... but, as I said, the one thing I won't believe is that an experienced exotic dancer panicked, left her money and handbag inside, and was dazed and confused afterwards, when "nothing" happened.

I don't know what happened that night. I don't know if any laws were broken, but I assume there weren't. It's a terrible thing that anyone was charged with anything (much less rape) when there wasn't enough evidence to support the charges.

But that doesn't make the woman a liar, a revenge-seeker, or a false accuser, and she should be left in peace.

Comments:
Your theory would make more sense if she hadn't been a prostitute and stripper for so many years after the alleged earlier attack. Something in her line of work would surely have triggered something like the PTSD flashback you're postulating, long before she danced at the lacrosse house.
 
Robert:

I'd heard that she worked as a stripper, not as a prostitute, and given the laws regarding prostitution, if she'd been arrested, or even convicted of such a charge, it woudn't prove that she'd worked as one.

For example: in Ohio, if you hire a pro-domme to give you a paddling on the bare bottom, it's okay, but if it's a spanking with her hand, it's prostitution, because she'll have touched you on the naked butt.

It seems more likely to me that, if she'd been charged or convicted with with prostitution, it was due to her job as a stripper, and a similar crossing of a boundary.

Nevertheless, I'd like to know how you came up with your thoughts on the matter. Are you an ex-stripper and prostitute, who knows what kind of situations she'd handle? Do you know what would trigger her?

It sounds like the reason you think this hypothesis is wrong is that you do not accept that anything bad happened at the lacrosse party, that she was just going to shake her booty, and suddenly panicked. But we know that's not what happened, from multiple witness statements. She was threatened, and later, panicked and left without her bag, her money, and her cell phone. This indicates that something out of the ordinary happened.
 
Note: Comment from USpace deleted.

My place, my rules. The comment was not a legitimate response, and was also, frankly, boring.
 
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