If one listens to the mainstream media, they would think that until the “Me Too” movement, charges of sexual assault were not taken seriously. For example, in her September 1 7th Washington Post article: “Do we really believe women. How the Kavanagh accusation will put a slogan to the test”, Washington Post gender columnist Monica Hesse, noted a mantra that came out shortly after the Me Too movement: “Believe women.” Meaning Hesse explained: “believe them when they tell stories of assault and harassment.”
Regarding sexual assault, she asked: “Are you willing to believe one woman if it means explicitly, definitely not believing one man. How many women’s testimonies are worth one man’s protestations?” But is it true that before Me Too, women’s claims were discounted and even now are unfairly questioned? This of course is what all good and sensitive men should believe.
Some of these sensitive men, are the ones suing colleges for wrongful convictions of rape. Others are men who served time in prison and were cleared by DNA evidence, based on one women’s faulty testimony. Add to that, men wrongly convicted of charges not involving DNA, who were later found to be innocent. Innocent men wrongly convicted of charges never vindicated. Of course, many guilty men were convicted by one woman also.
To the contrary of what has been stated, the concept that women don’t lie, was the popular media sentiment before Me Too. So is it okay to look at the other side of Hesse’s question. What about being willing to believe a number of men, even if it means explicitly not believing one woman?
This applies to what are most likely the two most widely covered recent rape charges by the media preceding Me Too. That being, the Duke lacrosse rape case, and the gang rape charges derived from an article in “Rolling Stone” magazine against a fraternity at The University of Virginia.
Obviously, there were powerful reasons for people involved with Duke University not to believe the rape allegations involving players from the 47-man lacrosse team. The reputation of the school was at stake. In addition, prior to the charges against them, the Duke team was considered a potential national champion. Would that have happened? We will never know, because of the rape charges, their season was cancelled and their coach was fired.
However, not only did most of the media assume the worst, so did many Duke students, as well as many vociferous members of the Duke facility, people whose income was derived from the university. Even after it was announced that the DNA test cleared all the players, the case was not dismissed and many people still believed her.
A woman who had earlier criminal charges against her, was believed over the entire 47-member squad. Only three players were charged, so most of the players had not just a moral reason to tell the truth, but a legal one. Meaning, if the allegations were true, they could turn others players in to clear themselves. Indeed, they did make a moral choice. None tried to look like a hero, or exonerate themselves, by taking the media’s bait and tell of an event that didn’t happen.
Did the media learn their lesson? Let me put it this way. No. Eight years later and about 140 miles away from Duke, ACC sports rival Virginia was beset by a major scandal. In this case, the entire evidence was a female student’s account in “Rolling Stone” magazine written by Sabrina Erdely. Instead of a whole lacrosse team, nine men were cited. Nine unnamed, fictitious men. Still her word was taken over all of them, who of course didn’t speak out. Fictional men are like that. I found the article bad enough, that not long after it was published, I took advantage of a chance to call in to an NPR talk show where Erdely was a guest and question her about it.
As for the article, I was unable to find a single piece of corroborating evidence in it. Not even as much as the mention of a doctor’s appointment. Meaning after a violent gang rape, she decided not to get checked out for physical injuries, seek a venereal disease test, or even a morning after birth control pill.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. The story had enough holes to fill the Albert Hall. The alleged victim claimed she was in a “pitch black” room, yet recognized one of the culprits. She left the room and there was a party going on in the building. Erdely noted that there was no sign that anybody noticed the girl with the bloody dress and beaten face leaving the party. In fact, she cited no evidence that at any time, anybody, anywhere, ever observed her beaten face.
Rather than ask for a ride from anyone at the party after being gang raped, she went outdoors at three in the morning. She then called her friends and waited outside for their arrival.
Her friends told her to keep quiet about the assault, because helping her might keep them from getting into sororities or fraternities. Makes perfect sense. Particularly at a University. College campus’s being a place where seemingly innocuous behaviors by men are considered sexual harassment. Nor was there an explanation, if indeed such a preposterous scenario was true, why didn’t her friends just call her a cab and leave the scene, to avoid the stigma of helping a rape victim.
The article included many more implausible things. What then was the reaction to this idiotic, unsubstantiated article, from a magazine? It became international news and gained wide acceptance. Which means millions and millions of people believed this one woman. The piece was praised by members of the media. Andi Zesler of Salon called it “one of the best articles I wish I never had the chance to read.”
Based on one women’s uncorroborated story, many students at the University believed the worst about nine students in their own school. The fraternity house was vandalized, the students were harassed on campus, fraternities and sororities were shut down.
Eventually something untoward happened. Journalist’s Robbie Soave and Richard Bradley, had the audacity to actually question the story. For this sin, “Jezebel” magazine writer Anna Merlan, exhibiting very skilful command of the English language, called Soave “an idiot” and Bradley “a giant ball of shit”. How dare these two hooligans question a story that if proven in court could lead to life sentences.
Journalist Cathy Young, pointed out that the unraveling of the article: “exposed the troubling zealotry of advocates for whom believing rape claims is somewhat akin to a matter of religious faith.” This is no doubt true, but it is the mainstream media parroting this belief, that makes it untenable to disagree, even when the facts tell us so.
In reality, data shows that many women do not report actual sex crimes and rapes. It also shows that many who do report them to the police are not telling the truth (see for instance https://archive.org/stream/ FalseRapeAllegations/false-rape-allegations-archive_djvu.txt. Justice requires considering both sides of this equation equally.