First, I took issue with some of the commentators who seemed to assume his guilt: Comment 35: Pierce H. Says: How many of these guys have to be falsely accused of rape before you all stop assuming they’re guilty based on nothing more than the say so of some anonymous woman and before a scrap of evidence is admitted at trial? Remember Jerome Bettis? We won’t even mention that lacrosse team that was hung out to dry for a year (by a D.A. who was disbarred and a woman who was just arrested for attempted murder). But by all means, go ahead — rush to judgment, blame the guy who might just be the victim here, and convict him in the court of last resort, the blogosphere. Because some women nobody knows anything about, accused him. Pathetic!
Among others, commentator Jen in Comment 68 said this: You say we shouldn’t rush to judgement against Ben based on a lone accusation, but this isn’t a lone accusation. This is the second accusation. Why don’t we see the same multiple accusations against other high-profile athletes? With a pattern of accusations forming, it makes you wonder. I am not saying I think he’s guilty, I’m just saying that you have to consider the fact he might be guilty, and not dismiss his accuser as a “whore” or “slut” outright.
I agree that the evidence that has been made public in the first accusation (never filed a criminal complaint, waited over a year, friends who said she told them it was consensual, etc.) doesn’t seem to substantiate the woman’s claim. However, the circumstances of this accusation are different (immediate reporting to police and immediate medical treatment).
Then, me again, in comment 80: It is simply not fair to make any assumptions about the accused or the accuser here. But it is well to note that this nation has a long and shameful history of rushing to judgment based on an accusation and assuming men and boys committed rape when it later turned out they didn’t. The reputational harm they suffer often destroys their lives. If Ben Roethlisberger were your father, son, husband, boyfriend, or brother, you’d want everyone to treat him as exactly what he is — presumed innocent.
Let’s take Jen’s astounding refutation of my comment: “. . . but this isn’t a lone accusation. This is the second accusation.” Aside from making me want to bang my head against the wall, I would add this: yes, Jen, we now have a second accusation — in a wholly separate, distinct case. The first was an accusation in a civil, not a criminal, case about which you, yourself, said “the evidence that has been made public in the first accusation . . . doesn’t seem to substantiate the woman’s claim.” Yet you are content to take that admittedly shaky accusation which has not resulted in even an adjudication of civil liability, coupled with this one about which NONE OF US knows anything about, to find a “pattern of accusations forming.” The dark and sinister innuendo concocted from such a weak brew is breathtaking.
I note in passing that the Scottsboro Boys had a “pattern” of accusations against them, too. Theirs is among one of the most shameful injustices in our history. Gerald Amirault also had a “pattern” of accusations against him — the palpable injustices against him in Massachusetts became a campaign issue in the recent election where the Democrats lost John and Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat.
But you need not go back very far if you’re searching for atrocities when it comes to false rape claims; you just need to recall recent news stories, which are reported in hushed tones because it’s a subject too politically incorrect to talk about out loud: The testimony of a false accuser in New York sent an innocent man to prison for a twenty year term based on no other evidence than her say so. Finally, the false accuser found religion, recanted, and he was released after four years of — you guessed it — the worst kind of prison atrocities. She was sentenced last week to three years in prison and landed on the front page of the New York Post.
This week, a serial false accuser in the UK named Gail Sherwood was sentenced to two years imprisonment. A woman’s group protested the fact that charges were even brought against her. Also this past week, a false rape claim at Penn State ignited a panic. When it turned out there was no rape, the university used the incident as an occasion to warn everyone to be careful of rapists. Go figure.
At Hofstra University recently, a student falsely accused four young men of gang-raping her in a dormitory bathroom. Based solely on her word and nothing else, and despite their strenuous denials, the young men were immediately arrested with bail set high enough to insure they wouldn’t get out. Only then did police bother to review the video evidence to find that she lied. She recanted, they were released, but she, of course, was not sentenced to any jail time. The poor thing lied because she didn’t want her boyfriend to know that she had willingly engaged in group sex.
Another New York girl recently accused three teens of rape, and even after she recanted, one of the teens spent months in prison.
In Richmond, California earlier this year, a 17-year-old girl’s rape lie landed the suspect, her boyfriend, behind bars for three days because she was angry at him for something. Weeks later, a 15-year-old girl falsely cried rape in the same town.
At Loyola U. recently, a student falsely claimed she was sexually assaulted by three fellow students. And a 32-year-old woman recently falsely accused three younger men and a juvenile male of raping her at a party. In Florida recently, a fifteen-year-old girl falsely accused four 17-year-olds of forcibly raping her. Another boy sits in jail over a rape allegation made by the same girl just the previous month.
Have you heard about the black woman who recanted her previous claim that she’d been gang raped by seven white men now serving prison sentences? Even Al Sharpton wants that recantation taken seriously — and that will tell you something. What about the group of four men cleared of gang raping a 21-year-old woman after they claimed she invited them back to her apartment and engaged in consensual sex? Or the 25-year-old woman who falsely claimed, in graphic detail no less, that six men (including her boyfriend) gang raped her? Or the 16-year-old schoolgirl who had the temerity to falsely accuse six of her male classmates of seriously sexually assaulting her multiple times over several hours on a playing field? Or the 25-year-old hairdresser who falsely claimed five men raped her, but her lie was uncovered when it was discovered that a phone camera had caught her in the act of having enthusiastic, consensual sex with two boys (yes, boys)? And I could go on and on.
Is Ben guilty? I have no idea. And neither do you. If it turns out he’s not, will all you who are rushing to judgment promise to come back and talk about that? You see, the initial rape report is big news. The fact that the accusation turns out to be false or that there is nsufficient evidence to bring charges is often grudgingly reported. When three University of Arkansas players were accused of an alleged rape incident at a fraternity, a local television station actually broke into the station’s regular programming to provide a four-plus minute breaking news report about the accusation. Needless to say, when the prosecutor decided not to bring rape charges against them, there was no similar coverage.