Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Cathy Young's questions for rape advocates

Cathy Young in her response to Alas, a blog: Yes Cathy, victim advocates should believe rape victims wrote:

As for the advocate's role: yes, of course sexual assault victim advocates should provide support and aid to anyone who reports a rape.
I might take this statement at face value, except for the questions that follow, which I will respond to as a rape survivor and volunteer victim advocate with over 9 years helping rape victims.

Q1. But should they continue to back a woman's claims unconditionally even if emerging facts and details cast very serious doubt on her credibility?

Many times the emerging facts and details that come out before a jury returns a verdict are defense team spin disguised as facts or these "facts" attempt to say women with certain histories can't be rape victims. In effect, Ms. Young wants victim advocates to tell certain women, "Some in the public don't believe you and a jury may not believe you so I must assume you are lying."

What can be more factual than DNA evidence, yet despite announcing that DNA has cleared the Duke lacrosse players none of the defense attorneys will release the DNA report that supposedly proves their claims.

Q2. Should they support a woman who calls herself a rape victim because she had sex with her boyfriend after he threatened to break up with her? or because, after she told her date early in the evening that she didn't want to have sex, she got tipsy and they started making out and one thing led to another?

Again this gets into the realm of spin and rationalization on the part of men accused of rape and their supporters. If a woman didn't give legal consent, no matter how the alleged rapists tries to frame it, victim advocates should continue to be their advocates.

This question assumes the popular myths about date rape to be absolute truth.

Date rape isn't miscommunication and it isn't a case where the woman consented and then regretted giving that consent. On the tipsy scenario, these rapists (who often pose as nice guys) accept no for an answer until their victim is unable to say no or unable to ward off rape.

Does Ms. Young really think that men who rape their dates or someone else they know are going to admit it when charged with rape? If they believe there may be DNA evidence, they are going to spin what happened so they look like the only victim in the case.

Q3. Should they denounced the "abusive" tactics of a defense attorney who brings up the complainant's history of false reports of rape?

Interesting question because when I've heard defense attorneys announce that the alleged victim has a history of false reporting of rape, they are refering to reports of rape that didn't lead to a conviction, not verifiable false reports of rape.

Defense attorneys can't plead ignorance when they try to make those two equivalent. They know the difference between an unsubstantiated claim and a proven claim, but they hope the public won't know or won't care about the difference. If a defense attorney demands "innocent until proven guilty" while calling the alleged victim guilty of a crime without a conviction, I can't do anything but denounce that sort of grandstanding.

This question also ignores all other forms of abusive tactics used by defense attorneys and makes it sound the most abusive tactic used by defense attorneys is telling objective facts that don't favor the alleged victim.

Defense attorneys know they can get away with tactics that demonize the alleged victim. They know that real rape victims may not be able to withstand the personal attacks leveled against them and if that happens, victims may stop cooperating with the prosecutors. So they and their clients are frequently rewarded for attacking the victim's character and taking the focus off what the alleged rapist did that got him charged with a crime.

From my post, Ethics and the defense attorney who represents alleged rapists:

MSNBC-TV's Dan Abrams talked with Joseph Cavallo, a defense attorney named in a civil suit and attorney Gloria Allred last month about a civil case filed by a sexual assault victim. Mr. Cavallo said, "Do you control yourself when you'e defending somebody' life? We'e looking at 192 years for three teenage boys for a 20-minute interlude."
So a defense attorney doesn't think he should control himself, but criticism of that uncontrolled behavior is not allowed. Got it.

Q4. Should they write letters to the editor complaining about the overly prominent coverage given a false accusation?

Yes, especially when people claim anything short of a conviction is a false accusation, repurpose statistics that aren't correlated to rates of false allegation, then use that shaky "data" to openly attack rape victims.

This question is also interesting in that it asks people to see victim advocates who give voice to their experience and insight as wrongdoers. Since Ms. Young's writing has sparked rebuttals, this question sounds quite self-serving. She has the right to disagree with other's public statements however and wherever she wants, but those who disagree with her must remain silent.

I don't think so.

Q5. Should they, when a woman recants a story of being raped, argue -- with no evidence -- that she may have been raped after all and may have recanted under pressure or out of fear? [emphasis mine]

I'll respond with a question of my own. Should you, in response to this same scenario, argue -- with no evidence -- that she couldn't have been raped and couldn't have recanted under pressure or out of fear?

If you believe that men can be induced to make false confessions, then you can't logically reject the possibility that women can be induced to make false retractions. If you don't believe people, no matter their gender, can be induced to make false confessions, I have to take everything you say as unfounded babble.

Here's just one example where a jury believed that a confession was induced:
Jury: Rape, Murder Confession was Faked

Q6: Should they go on national TV and make the claim that they have never seen a woman who said she was raped but really hadn't been?

The implication of this question is that those who believe rape is a serious problem, and who have worked to help rape victims, can't go on national TV unless they admit they have seen evidence of miscarriage of justice by their clients.

If that's the expectation, then those who support anyone accused of rape must confess that they have supported men who turned out to be real rapists before they are allowed on national TV.

Cathy Young follows up her questions with:
My answer to all of the above would be "no."
By the wording of the questions, your answers were never in question Ms. Young. Neither is the answer to, "Do all rape victims deserve justice?"

And she closes with:
And, while I certainly agree that rape crisis counselors should not be skeptical toward those seeking help, I don't think it would hurt for them to develop some guidelines to help identify false allegations. In many cases, the women who make such allegations are not malicious but deeply troubled individuals who need help -- just not the kind of help that includes complete support for their claims.
This paragraph contradicts itself. We shouldn't be skeptical, but at the same time we should be trained to be skeptical and the moment we are, we should treat the alleged victim as if she is delusional. The sad truth is that some rapists do things that we don't want to believe any human being can do to another human being.

Police have rejected women's claims that they were kept as sex slaves simply because they can't believe that sort of crime happens, but it does.

Ms. Young may not be malicious in her opposition to victim advocates who advocate for all rape victims, but I have to wonder if she is the one who is deeply troubled and in need of help -- just not the kind of help that includes supporting her claims.

Here are some of my recent posts related to this topic:

DNA clears Conn. man convicted of rape

Pandagon: It would just be so much easier if they made getting raped a crime

Weak responses to rape allegations embolden rapists - the story of a serial campus rapist

Article on false allegations of rape on possible sex tourism site

If you think reporting a sex crime is risk free, read this story

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