Monday, May 7, 2012

Reckless 'rape' talk in the news: (1) Insisting a penis joke hints at 'our agressively sexualized culture,' and (2) Insisting that a rape claim not charged must have been false

Two cases in the news underscore the need for greater discernment and maturity in talking about matters related to rape:

The Cox T-Shirt: Lucy Berrington thinks the Tuft's men's rowing team's cox T-shirt "hint[s] approvingly at the aggressively sexualized culture within some fraternities and college sports teams." That's an unwarranted stretch because the shirt suggested nothing agressive or misogynistic; it was a juvenile college boy wiener joke. 

Indignation about our aggressively sexualized culture should be reserved for the real thing, not for every silly reference to penises. 

Massachusetts Gaming Commission: Here's a story that warrants some indignation.  The new interim executive director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was accused several years ago of sexual assault in Florida.  No charges were ever brought.

The problem is that the chairman of the state’s gambling commission apparently justified, in part, hiring the new interim director by telling the commission that the sexual assault charges were false and that Florida authorities had concluded there was zero substance to them.

In fact, it appears that the Florida authorities only decided not to press charges, but their reasons for that decision aren't evident from the news reports.  According to a news report: "A police officer who handled the case told the Globe last week that he ‘absolutely’ believed the [alleged victim], who was curled up in a fetal position, shaking and crying after the alleged attack."

It generally isn't fair to treat a presumptively innocent person who was accused of sexual assault, but not charged, much less convicted, the same as a convicted rapist.

But words matter, and the fact that a charge wasn't brought doesn't necessarily mean that the claim was "false." 

To his credit the chairman of the gambling commission corrected himself: He said he should not have referred to the allegations as "meritless, if I did, because I do not know the full facts. I should have said ‘evidence insufficient to warrant prosecution of the charges.'"

Declaring charges "false" when they might not have been is hurtful to the alleged victim. As a society we need to be sufficiently mature to be able to treat with dignity and respect both the presumptively innocent man who was accused of, but not charged with, rape, and the alleged victim who claimed s/he was raped. This means not making inaccurate assumptions about either.


  1. One tiny thing if I may:

    "it was a juvenile college boy wiener joke".

    Well, yes it was and a very clever one to boot.

    Do you understand that it's the juvenile college boy who shrugs off the wiener jokes, and with the urging of peers, can turn into a rapist with team approval?

  2. She speaks!: To suggest that this is just one step on the road to degradation sounds like Prof. Harold Hill of "The Music Man" fame. If every college guy or woman who told or laughed at a wiener joke were rapists-in-waiting, our entire student body would be suspect. There is no basis in fact for your concern, and I agree with the piece that we need to exercise "discernment" about which issues to get upset about. You would do well to focus on the second piece in the post.

  3. Dear Archivist: Don't tell me all this time that you too have now been infected with the Political Correctness bug! For an accused person to truly be "presumed innocent", the charges MUST be "presumed false" unless and until proven otherwise. Until the end of time.
    This struck a very raw nerve with me, because I myself was denied a government job for having been arrested for rape. The employment rejection was explicitly for that reason and that reason alone. They told me so, in writing.
    And the sole reason I was arrested is because the arresting officer "absolutely" believed the false accuser, who was also "curled up in a fetal position, shaking and crying after the alleged attack."
    Her case fell apart when she couldn't keep her story straight, and had to keep changing it each time police confronted her on one of her easily disprovable lies.
    But what if she had made up a better story? Why should myself and my supporters not be allowed to say the charges were false? To spare her feelings? Really? When even a decade later, even with the accusation proven false, I'm still suffering from government-sanctioned job discrimination?
    Take a well-earned week off, if you need it, but when you get back, please kindly return to being the champion of the idea that people should not be punished over unproven accusations.
    The Falsely Accused have suffered enough. And if actual rape victims disagree, let 'em thank the false accusers, including, no especially, the ones who learned from TV to curl up in a fetal position and shake and cry on cue for the friendly, trusting officer.

  4. Ray, you should read the post again.

    No one is suggesting that the man NOT be hired. He is presumed innocent. Period.

    No one is suggesting that the accused NOT say the charges were false. He knows what happened, and if he didn't do, he has every right to say it.

    The post is suggesting that persons in positions of authority shouldn't make statements that they don't know are true. Like, for example, calling a teenage boy in this story a LIAR just because charges weren't brought. There is no such thing as "presumed false." We've never advocated charging everyone who made a claim that wasn't charged.

    These are difficult issues, complicated issues. They require nuance, not knee jerk reactions. Sorry everything can't be black and white. We live in a world of gray.

  5. I have no problem punishing rapists to the fullest extent of the law.
    But the problem is that American law enforcement are using protocol perversions and semantics games to paint the erroneous picture (which prejudices the jury of ones peers; that women and girls never, ever, ever, lie about rape; which is simply not true.
    They do lie about rape, and when law enforcement manufacture the misinformation that they never lie about rape, that prejudices the public, and prejudices the jury pool against the innocent.
    Using state and federal dollars to prejudice against a defendant is not only a perverse stain on American law enforcement, its un-constitutional.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.