Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Balancing Act

One of my major arguments with my militant feminist friends is over cases like this:
The three Duke lacrosse players who faced charges from a sexual-assault case are going to get off the hook, according to a television report.

ABC News reported last night that the office of North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper will announce he is dismissing all charges. The sources did not know when that might come.

Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans were charged with kidnapping and forcible sexual offenses, based on the claims of a dancer hired for a house party March 13, 2006.
You may recall the case: a woman claimed she was hired by the lacrosse team to perform as a stripper at a party, and was raped and sodomized there. Much was made about the disgusting behavior of male teams on college campuses, and rightfully so:
Authorities in Santa Clara County, Calif., are investigating a woman's claim that she was sexually assaulted in December by community college baseball players at a house where police said a 17-year-old girl was raped during a party in March.
Except in the Duke case. The DNA evidence on and in the woman's body did not match the DNA of any of the players she accused, and she identified one of her attackers as a man who video surveillance at an ATM proved was not even at the party at the time the attacks supposedly took place.

Soon, inconsistencies in her story began creeping in. Despite this contradictory evidence and testimony, the DA at the time, Rob Nifong, moved to indict the three men.

Three white men of privilege versus one working class black woman. This story has so many levels to it, it's not even funny. I see where the right wing blogosphere is turning this into "reverse racism," which it clearly isn't: had this been a black football team and a white, or even a black, stripper, I suspect the players would have been in jail, rather than on campus continuing their education. And one could even make this into a classist struggle, that privilege means power means the ability to warp the legal system, but that's wrong, too.

No, this is about a far more troubling prospect: the use of sexual & child abuse laws designed to protect women & children as a tool to harm men.

I have a friend who has a daughter who, when she was thirteen, was ordered to her room for acting out. Her room, furnished with a queen size bed, a telephone, and cable TV with video game system, was hardly a prison cell, yet this child learned something in school about reporting child abuse.

So she called the cops. For nearly a year, this family suffered the indignities of being investigated by the childrens' services bureau, the state police, the local sheriff, submitting to family counseling, individual counseling, marital counseling. The father, in particular, was basically put on probation and ordered to report in anytime he was leaving the jurisdiction, except for his daily commute.

(Side note: this same child grew up and entrapped her husband by getting pregnant, but I digress)

Similarly in this case, three young men, who have now been legally exonerated of all charges in connection with this case, will now go through the rest of their lives, not as champions on a national-class lacrosse team, but as "likely" sexual predators. Their names were plastered all over the news, the Internet, and college campuses. Their lives, while probably not ruined, have likely been tarnished and hurt badly by this outrageous manipulation of the legal system by someone who saw an opportunity to cause mischief, for whatever reason, to draw attention away from herself. Societally, they were convicted the moment their names were publicized.

Think about it: no matter where they go, at some point this story will follow them, no matter how much they try to put it behind them. And for what? For being at a party with strippers.

Yes, I'm well aware of the one stupid e-mail, and no, I'm not condoning that, but in fact, that proves my point: if not for this horrible abuse of a system designed to protect people, you wouldn't even have that piece of evidence to wave about in accusation, and the accusation remains false, despite that piece of mail, so you basically slander someone in support of a slanderous charge.

I've been on both ends of this cycle, the accused and the accuser. It's not fun to know that people are smearing your name, both behind your back and to your face, based on the unbaked crazed statements of a self-indulgent psychotic "victim" who is desperately trying to cover up his or her shortcomings by pointing a finger and raising an alarm. You never really live it down, as I've discovered, no matter how false it is.

On the other hand, it's not fun, far from it, to be suddenly confronted with the helpless terror that abuse victims get during and after their abuse. To feel the violation is to understand, in a flash, the horrible things a human can do to another human being. And you relive it in some form or other, whether you like it or not, whether consciously or subconsciously, whether adult or child, every single day.

One wonders if the only real solution to this crime would be for the three players to sue the stripper for sexual harassment?