NEWS

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June 30, 2006

Whose responsible for bogus rape allegations?

As much as I don't like preppy lacrosse players, it seems like the Duke Lacrosse team members (likely for the first times in their lives) have been the ones duped in the Duke Lacrosse scandal. The most damning information to come out lately is that the much vaunted physical evidence the prosecutor claimed to have, may not exist (which, to my understanding, was the only evidence outside of a creepy email):

Early in the Duke lacrosse rape investigation, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, who was in a close race to keep his job, spoke about the physical and emotional trauma the alleged victim had suffered at the hands of the players. A police affidavit stated that her medical records revealed the victim had "injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted vaginally and anally." But according to a motion filed by defense attorneys last week, no such physical trauma was found during her exam at Duke hospital. Quoting from the report, which was submitted to the court under seal, the motion states that the nurse—who was in training—examined the woman's entire pelvic region and noted only diffuse swelling of the vaginal walls, a condition explainable by consensual sexual activity.
Now, if this is all true the obvious inclination here is to blame the woman who levied these allegations. And why not? She happily has her identity shielded while young men's lives are ruined, not because they necessarily did anything wrong, but because they were even accused in the first place. But the damage doesn’t stop there. I remember the hoopla after the Kobe Bryant accusations were made and much of the coverage just revolved around past instances of bogus rape accusations. Despite the fact that the Bryant accusations seemed legitimate at the start, the media still refused to give her even the slightest bit of credit. You can't really blame the media in that case (especially because it ended up being kinda correct). Given the way high profile rape cases have played out, it’s hard to avoid highlighting how many have been, historically, bogus. But, given how hard it must be to come forward with rape allegations in the first place—especially in high-profile cases—adding more cost associated with coming forward is certainly not a good thing.Then how to rectify this situation? Well, a first good move would be for prosecutors to stop politicizing rape. Both the Bryant and Duke Lacrosse cases were motivated by prosecutors with more ambition then evidence. Both the cases turned into PR madhouses after the prosecutors came forth with allegations to the press, not defendants. The people trying to make a buck off the misfortune of others, in both cases, were the lead prosecutors. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the prosecutors to try cases for the interest of the public and justice, neither of which is fulfilled by prosecutors who cheapen the weight that rape allegations ought to carry.Now I could be all wrong about this. The Duke lacrosse players could be guilty as charged (although more and more news is indicating otherwise—and has for sometime), but either way, the politicization of rape allegations has been going on for quite sometime, and recent developments don't seem to indicate that we should be expecting a change for the better anytime soon.