Thursday, April 12, 2007

Duke: Rueful reflections begin...

Broadsheet -
The case has proved to be a litmus test for individual feelings about rape cases. Some spectators were quick to discount the accusations and call the accuser a lying whore; others automatically offered her support and the benefit of the doubt. Neither camp really knew what went on at the ill-fated party, because it's impossible for anyone other than those present to know for sure.
[This is true, in a technical sense, in the vast majority of disputes. But does there come a time that reasonable outside observers can no longer responsibly avoid making some judgments about the credibility of differing accounts?]
But the 13-month media circus surrounding the Duke case didn't help matters. Many news outlets -- including, in some instances, Broadsheet -- were quick to side with the accuser. On the flip side, there are also ample examples of media coverage firmly in the other camp. Beyond Tucker Carlson's predictable tirade, there was musing about lacrosstitutes and some egregious blame-the-victim coverage.
[And now? Just who are the primary (if not morally guiltless) "victims" here? Is it time to give the "blaming the victim"rhetoric a bit of a rest, and to move toward a more sophisticated assessment of what are often complex and messy circumstances?]
Reasonable arguments about presumed innocence sometimes wandered into less reasonable arguments that certain women are asking for rape, or that accusers should be silenced because they might be lying.
[What would you suggest as the appropriate balance as such cases develop in real time? What criteria would you apply?]

The polarized responses to the case dredge up a peculiar tension regarding rape allegations: It's critical that the accused are presumed innocent, but it's also important that accusers are offered support and the assurance that someone believes them [Is every story worthy of belief?]; that's a key part of post-assault counseling. [Should that always be the highest priority?]These priorities aren't necessarily mutually exclusive -- supporting an accuser isn't the same as convicting an alleged perpetrator, and ultimately we'd like to believe that even in cases of conflicting reports the truth will come out. [That would be nice. The evidence suggests otherwise, especially when the accused lack resources for an effective defense.]

I don't have the answers here; I am struggling like the rest of us. But maybe we can agree on the necessity of moving past the unreflective, knee-jerk responses on both sides. Legal due process does have something to be said for it.

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