Duke Rape Scandal (4/05/06)

By Rene Jackson

The following letter was originally submitted to Newsday in response to the March 31st article publicly convicting the Duke Lacrosse Team.

As a graduate student in Forensic Psychology, and an employee of a rape
hotline agency, I know a thing or two about the topic of rape from a
professional standpoint. As the friend of a person who was falsely accused
of rape I also know on a personal level the damaging effects and reverse
victimization that can occur to the accused.  I do not know what the truth
is in Raleigh, North Carolina, but I do know that the media-frenzied,
public conviction of the Duke lacrosse team is a direct violation of the
civil rights and liberties granted to us as American citizens.

There is a
reason why suspects are deemed innocent until proven guilty and we should let the police and the criminal justice system determine the fate of these
boys, and not the media.  I have attached an article that I would like to
submit for publication in your newspaper in the hopes of making people
aware of how wrong this biased, public trial and conviction is, as well as
to point out the numerous false 'facts' that have been quoted against
them. Apparently people will publish anything that sells, even if the
facts are completely distorted.


Do you believe everything you hear in the media to be true? Do you think
it is unfair or inappropriate for suspects in the criminal justice system
to be deemed innocent until proven guilty? Most people would answer no to
these two questions, yet at Duke University, the school's lacrosse team
have been labeled, as Newsday reporter Johnette Howard put it in her March
31st article, as being part of a 'narcissistic, sex-saturated, self
important world of privilege that male athletes lay claim to, even no-name
lacrosse players.' 

Just last month these same players were considered

role models for the youth, holding youth lacrosse clinics, being straight
A students at a top Ivy League school, as well as being world class
athletes, some of which represented and even served as Captain on the Team
USA Junior Olympic Team. And being part of a Division I NCAA team, these
players are subject to regular drug testing to ensure that they are not
under the influence of illegal substances.  Hardly sounds like the
depiction Ms. Howard described.  But an allegation from an exotic dancer
that she was raped by 3 of the players changes all that in a single

The fact that after the alleged rape a 911 call was made most

likely by the other stripper regarding a racist comment made to them seems
to be completely overlooked.  Though the racist comment witnessed by a
neighbor by ONE of the players was completely uncalled for, it is quite a
far step from rape, and from judging all 47 players on.  No one has yet to
ask why would someone, after allegedly being raped, have her friend call
and report a racist comment? Wouldn't you report the rape? But no, the
media would rather focus their attention on irrelevant facts such as how
almost a third of the team has received an infraction or citation at some
point, mostly for nothing more than a beer ticket.  Apparently being a
college student that was caught drinking is uncommon and something that
the American public should judge these boys harshly on? Give me a break.

It is this kind of ignorant thinking that also overlooks the very true and
unfortunate reality that false accusations of rape do indeed occur, and is
not uncommon. This last statement many people refuse to believe and would
rather state that the concept itself constitutes discriminatory harassment
towards women (Grano, 1990).  However, if the accused is in fact innocent,
is not the negative publicity and abuse suffered by the accused also
severely traumatizing? These boys, who were chasing their dream of a
national title, are now forced to deal with animosity, protests, and being
labeled as rapists, when there has not been any decision made by our
criminal justice system as to their innocence or guilt. 

Please note, I am
not saying that rape does not occur. It does and I believe it to be a very heinous act and one that is deserving of severe punishment.  However, I am also a firm believer in the laws that our country has developed to protect
the rights of all citizens. And one of those laws states that we deemed
innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.  As Cathy Young
stated in her 1999 article 'Who says women never lie about rape', is it so
unreasonable to think that a uniquely damaging and stigmatizing charge
will be used by some people as a weapon?  Feminists should be more
concerned about how every false accusation of rape by a woman makes every
real victim of rape less credible and less likely to receive criminal
justice (McElroy, 2005).

For those that would like to pretend that false rape accusations do not
happen, just Google the name of Desiree Nall.  She was a vocal feminist
who claimed she was raped by two men in a campus bathroom on November
17th, 2004.  The case was highly publicized, protests were held regularly
on campus, and after $50,000 was spent on the investigation, the
allegation turned out to be a lie.  However, the damage was already done
to the two men accused.  Did every person who spoke out against them with
such harsh criticism and demands for punishment go up to these two men and
apologize? Of course not.   Or search for the case of Scott Mintz, a
member of the LAPD who served 5 months in jail before allegations of rape
from his wife and another woman were found to be completely false.  The
list goes on. 

It is for this reason that cases involving sexual conduct

should not be held in the public eye because if the case turns out to be
false, severe damage will have occurred to the accused. But it seems no
one really cares to take these miscarriages of justice seriously.
The FBI found that 9 percent of rape accusations were not substantiated,
and in an investigation done by the Washington Post in 1991 they found
nearly 25% of 'victims' had lied (Young, 1999). Also, in a study done by
Dr. Eugene Kanin at Purdue University in 1994, he found that out of 109
forcible rape cases reported over a 9 year period, 41% were constituted as
a false rape allegation.  The definition they used for 'false' was simply
this, "the complainant admitted the allegation was false" (Kanin, 1994).
Not really much room for error there. 

Ms. Howard, in her article
chastising the Duke lacrosse team, mentions the heinous sexual assault stories that came out of the Air Force Academy some years back, however she fails to mention the McDowell model of false rape allegations developed based on a study of 1,218 reported rapes on Air Force locations throughout the world during the early 80's.  Of the 1,218 reported cases,
nearly 20% of the cases were false, and over 40% remained unresolved.
Again, all I am stating here, is that false accusations do occur and the
devastating effects they have on the accused are often irrevocable and so
the possibility that they're not true should be considered.

Last, let us not forget Ms. Howard's claim that the Duke players 'have no
shred of decency and are hiding behind their lawyers rather than speaking
to police.'  Apparently newspapers will print anything without checking
the facts first. Ms. Howard, unfortunately you are 100% wrong.  Actually,
when the police showed up 3 days after the party without a search warrant,
the co-captains said, go ahead, take our computers, rugs, phones, whatever
you'd like.  They went down to the police station and offered to take a
polygraph, which the police refused.  And every one of them immediately
agreed to providing DNA samples to prove their innocence.  But according
to Ms. Howard, there is not even one honest player on the Duke lacrosse
team willing to step up and do the right thing. According to Ms. Howard,
the right thing apparently is admitting guilt, as if there is no question
that a rape indeed took place. 

According to Forensic evidence, signs of
sexual activity is definitely apparent. And so based on this evidence one of two things should happen, either prove that one of the players raped the stripper, or prove that none of the players did.  However, should there turn out to be no evidence sufficient to prove any wrongdoings by any of the players, the damage to their reputations, the trauma they and their families will have suffered, will most likely be written off as a
mere honest mistake, no big deal, or worse, people may simply still
believe they are guilty due to media conviction. Ms. Howard, in your
article you state you want to know where the outrage is? I'll tell you.
It's on poor journalism that preys on destroying innocent people's lives.
Imagine the reaction of kids across America that idolize these players are
having because of your article? And now imagine that these players are in
fact innocent of these accusations. Yes, there's your outrage.