Do you know that guy from Modest Mouse? Yeah, the singer. Did you ever hear how he raped some chick a few years back? No?
At the time I was a teenage college radio devotee. I remember dutifully purging my Lonesome Crowded West MP3s the minute the news hit Usenet. But the thread never got hot. The accuser dropped charges that summer. Modest Mouse went on to sell Nissans and Miller Light — their last album went platinum. Today’s Boolean phrase: “Isaac Brock AND rape” pulls up only a handful of pithy articles in The Stranger from ’99, a Siri Hustvedt-esque, thinly-veiled pop-novelization of this case and other late 90′s gossip entitled Never Mind Nirvana, and a whole lot of cyber tumbleweeds.
My point is not to condemn Isaac Brock. He may be innocent; and either way, he is innocent by prudent legal definition. But contrast this media mum with the sexual assaults of Fiona Apple or Tori Amos. Their careers are almost always defined by their victimhood, although both incidents happened long before either became famous. (Interestingly, like Brock’s accuser, neither artist went to trial).
If millions of reactionary and overly-sensitive indie kids looked the other way for a popular musician, then what of the rest of the world? Do you remember Juanita Broaddrick? Did anyone stop going to Lakers games?
Or will anyone stop going to Duke Lacrosse games?
A rape case is sometimes like litigating the proverbial sound of trees fallen in an empty forest. And public perception can be as counter-intuitive as arguing the trees never fell in the first place. What does a sex worker get out of charging a man with rape? She has just put her income at risk. Do you want a lap dance from her now?
If you wanted to rape a girl without getting caught, who would you target? A sweet, virgin freshman — or a garish, black stripper? If a ‘ho says no, isn’t she just teasing anyway?
Now, one can imagine racial epitaphs and comments like, “Hey bitch, thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt,” might anger a woman to the point of pressing a dubious charge. But one can also imagine the sort of “clean-cut” kids that would say these things are very capable of sexual abuse.
That’s the Rorschach blot of this case. From one perspective we see the race of the victim, from another angle her occupation emerges, and then it comes out that she has accused a group of rape before. But the only shape we should see yet is a question mark.
Instead, defense attorney Kirk Osborn is fishing through the accuser’s personal records — even childhood records — in order to expose her “history of criminal activity and behavior, which includes alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and dishonesty, all conduct which indicate mental, emotional and/or physical problems, which affect her credibility as a witness.”
How many of us would appear credible under similar scrutiny? Nice-boy rape suspect Collin Finnerty certainly wouldn’t hold up under that spotlight. He will stand trial in July for an unrelated misdemeanor assault. Unprompted, he began brutally beating a man on the streets of Washington, DC, calling him homophobic names. He and Reade Seligmann, like many of the 46 boys at the party that night, arrived to Duke fresh from all-boys prep schools. Is every one of the 46 of them credible? Even the one who emailed the team the next day, suggesting they hire strippers again and skin them while he is “cumming in [his] duke issue spandex”?
But now I’m the one jumping to conclusions. Let’s look at the case: the fluid DNA did not match the lacrosse players (it matches the accuser’s boyfriend’s DNA, from a reported consensual act). However, DNA evidence under one of her fingernails matches a third suspect, likely to be indicted today. Medical examiners said she appeared and acted in accordance with someone who had just experienced a rape. The prosecution expects to provide a toxicology report proving a drug was put in her drink. The other stripper hired did not consume her beverage.
The probable cause warrant says: “One male stated to the women, ‘I’m gonna shove this up you,’ while holding a broomstick in the air so they could see it. The victim and her fellow dancer decided to leave because they were concerned for their safety. After the two women exited the residence and got into a vehicle, they were approached by one of the suspects. He apologized and requested they go back inside and continue to dance. Shortly after going back into the dwelling, the two women were separated.”
But it’s not cut and dry. Those of us with CSI and Law and Order: SVU in our Netflix queues might have unreasonable expectations of forensic evidence. Genetic traces of semen can remain in the body up to six days after intercourse, but we don’t shed hair and tissue excessively; certainly not much during a thirty-minute rape. Nor is semen frequently found in rape cases; an estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of rape prosecutions do not involve forensic evidence at all. A full examination, two hours after the crime, did not pull up any other DNA samples on her body except under a single fingernail. Now, how did it get there?
Consider that the police doubted her story before she had a chance to tell it. She never claimed twenty lacrosse players raped her. That faulty estimate came from a hyperbolic off-the-record cell phone exchange from one police officer to another. A campus officer mistakenly used what he overheard to write up the initial report.
Either way, making a statement is hard to do after trauma — especially intoxicated, and especially if all you want is to do is go home and take a bath. And yes, the victim has charged rape before. Lots of rape victims grow up to be strippers. And lots of strippers are raped. Thankfully, the same free country that has us innocent until proven guilty also won’t take away a token one rape accusation. Another report that night said she was “crying uncontrollably and visibly shaken . . . shaking, crying and upset.” That behavior, the report said, “Doesn’t suggest that the case was likely to just ‘go away.’”
Most rapes go unreported or charges are dropped. That does not mean crimes were not committed. Given the ambiguity of most cases, the retribution of sentencing a rapist does not necessarily exceed the risk involved or the pain of facing a trial. One method designed to assist women with their charges is the rape shield. While it is by no means effective against the rumor mill (the accuser’s name and address is already all over the internet), in many cases it is the incentive a victim needs to stand trial.
Can you imagine an article about parents of a leukemia patient that ends with a condemnation of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy? Again, the press acts with cognitive dissonance. Despite a good chance that a rape occurred, editorial hypothetical situations revert to cases that are complete fabrications. Many libertarian editorialists have used the Duke case to push their own agendas against the rape shield. Of course it creates an asymmetry in the justice system; but instead of doing away with it, the best method seems to be to extend the shield to the suspects. A dual shield would, after all, discourage false claims against celebrities and high-profile figures as well as protect the accuser from extra salt on wounds.
Of course some women do lie, but never have reports shown a statistic that people lie about rapes more than any other crime. The accuser may have misidentified her perpetrators; but that is not lying or fabrication. It is up to the justice system to find out who was responsible for the rape.
“My father came to see me in the hospital,” the accuser said. “I knew if I didn’t report it that he would have that hurt forever, knowing that someone hurt his baby and got away with it.” If Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty are innocent, they will go on with their lives, just like Bill Clinton, Kobe Bryant, and Isaac Brock. But, raped or not, she will never live down this trial.
Joanne McNeil is a writer is Chicago, Il. Her website is joannemcneil.com.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Jacob Hayutin
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Hadley Heath