Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Revictimization As Dangerous Game Of Chicken

This story provides a starkly different picture of the allegations made against members of the English rugby team than other stories I've read about this case. Those other stories minimized or eliminated this woman's injuries from their coverage which changes the nature of the allegations and allows many people to more quickly make unfounded allegations against this woman.

The 18-year-old at the centre of rape allegations against England rugby team members has described how she went to a hotel with one player and ended up being violated by four of them.

The injuries from the alleged sexual violation were so severe that medics referred her to police.

New Zealand police are investigating the incident and the English Rugby Football Union has launched its own independent inquiry into the matter.

Four England players - Danny Care, David Strettle, Topsy Ojo and Mike Brown - stand accused of sexual assault after taking the 18-year-old back to the Hilton hotel following a game in Auckland on June 15. The men have denied any wrong-doing and claimed the sex with the girl was consensual. [...]

The woman has denied being a lap dancer and said the reason she would not lay a formal complaint was to avoid being victimised again.

"As you will appreciate, she anticipates that that course would generate extensive and invasive news media, threaten her privacy and personal life, and compound the impact on her of the 15 June sexual violations," said the letter, written by Chapman Tripp lawyer Jack Hodder.

This anticipation of how this woman will be treated is based on the current media coverage of this case and how other rape cases involving sports figures have been treated. Unspoken is the assumption that enduring that secondary trauma is pointless because legal accountability for non-stranger rapists is a joke -- and a bad one at that.

Not wanting to be traumatized by people who only care about upholding stereotypes of women who report being raped by popular men will of course be spun by those who have already been attacking her as proof that she wasn't raped.

This is nonsense.

Many people are unapologetic in their efforts which scare rape victims away from justice. When they succeed that says nothing about those who decide not to file a police report.

Those who use the media to make unfounded claims against those who report rape will of course issue disclaimers that they have no interest in protecting real rapists. Their only interest is in protecting innocent men. That response turns innocent rape victims into people of no significance and from there the harm done to innocent rape victims is also of no significance.

The Daily Mail UK on June 20 decided to report baseless speculation about this alleged rape victim as if that speculation were fact based. This approach is unfortunately typical of the type of reporting done on high profile rape cases.

The England 'rugby rape case' was in limbo last night as a leading British lawyer blocked police requests for access to players - and the 18-year-old girl involved had still failed to lodge a formal complaint.

As the England squad maintained a wall of silence, New Zealand rugby circles were alive with speculation about what really happened in the luxury harbourside Auckland hotel in the early hours of last Sunday.

With five days having passed since the incident, questions were being asked yesterday whether the un-named girl had been raped by one or more of the England players or had instead willingly agreed to sex, which she regretted later.

This speculation and more of the same later in the story by reporter Richard Shears is baseless and is not news and should not be given this level of credibility. But the known facts are boring compared to baseless slander directed at a woman who claims she was raped.

It's easier to report rumors and to write of nameless sources, but the problem goes deeper than what is easier. If the truth of the allegations are unknown then rumors and unproven statements made against the alleged victim must be viewed by reporters with deep suspicion.

Her boyfriend had then taken it upon himself to tell police that she had been sexually assaulted, it was suggested.

Hey, if some unknown person suggests that something happened that's all that's needed, right? No need to verify this claim or to have sources willing to be publicly accountable for these claims if they turn out to be false.

The problems in this story go beyond reporting baseless speculation as if it were news. Notice the scare quotes around "rugby rape case" which sets up readers to assume that this case is considered bogus. And the alleged victim "failed to lodge a formal complaint" which again insinuates that this case is bogus.

This reporter is writing this story from the assumption that this alleged rape victim is the guilty party and if anonymous sources and rumors are all that are available to support this assumption that's acceptable.

The facts which are used as a foundation for speculation are meaningless in this context and any reporter with a minimum level of competence knows that. If this woman had immediately lodged a formal complaint there would have been the same questions about whether she had willingly agreed to have sex, which she regretted later.

The supposedly innocent English rugby players are refusing to cooperate which is a fact, but that fact isn't given the taint applied to the alleged victim in this case. The reporter in this case doesn't even mention that stonewalling is a useful technique when an alleged victim is being vilified in the media.

The quick assumptions many people have that most reports of rape are false are not based on evidence. They are based on stereotypes which are directly supported by reporters such as Shears who present openly biased stories as journalism. This story is in reality an editorial.

What I found sickening is that the only editorializing related to English rugby players refusal to talk to investigators was over how answering those questions might impact their performance on the field.

Some ended up in an underground bar called the Pony Club, a former male striptease venue located below a lap-dancing club and a massage parlour.

Notice that this quoted claim doesn't say that the players at the center of this investigation went to this club or that the woman was ever there. Mentioning the businesses about the bar some rugby players went to and mentioning the former use of the bar are not relevant to this story since they provide no facts relevant to this case.

What they do provide is fuel for unfounded speculation about the woman alleged raped. Providing this baseless fuel is not journalism.

Shears choice to include this detail is deliberate and shows that this "news" story is agenda driven. He is an active participant in providing readers with fuel for more unfounded attacks on a possible rape victim from people with clear and selfish agendas.

If unknown people close to the team say this 18-year-old is a liar, then that is good enough for Shears.

He concludes his article with these unfounded claims and that choice cannot be viewed as anything less than a deliberate decision about what lasting impression he wants readers to have about this case.

Hat tip: 2 B Sophora

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:14 AM   1 comments links to this post


At July 08, 2008 3:33 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Thank you Marcella and also Sophora for disentangling the media's deliberate attempt at slandering and attempting to cause this young woman further trauma and pain.

Quite correct, the men accused of group raping this young woman are using stonewall tactics by refusing to even talk to the police.

If these men were innocent then they would not have any reason to refuse to assist the police with their investigation. Using the media's tactics one could easily ask what is it these men have to hide? But this is speculation not facts.

The fact is this young woman refuses to lodge a complaint because she rightly knows the media will immediately depict her as a vicious mendacious liar and will subtly imply she is not a 'respectable' or credible woman. Society hates yes hates women who speak out about male sexual violence committed against them and this is why so much effort is being put into twisting this case into a cause celebre, rather than just another instance of men accused of group raping and committing sexual violence against a woman.


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