Sunday, June 13, 2010

Perplexed by the Roethlisberger case: he is likely the victim of a false rape claim, yet he needs to learn some lessons?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an editorial in Sunday's paper regarding the audio and video interviews and other information released this week in the Roethlisberger case.  In a city that, we are told, has turned it's back on Roethlisberger and would prefer that he be traded, the editorial describes the inconsistencies in the accuser's narrative, and notes: "It is hard to believe that a jury could have concluded that her testimony was credible when . . . she answered at one point that she was 'not sure' whether she'd had sex with Mr. Roethlisberger."

While no one can say for certain what happened, and while some people will assert that merely because charges weren't brought "doesn't mean he didn't do it," it seems more accurate, and more just, to state that Mr. Roethlisberger was likely the victim of a false rape claim, one of the worst things that can happen to a human being.

While we were about the applaud the Pittsburgh newspaper for having the courage to admit the accuser's narrative is the legal equivalent of steaming horseshit, the editorial continues: "Most of the lessons from this abhorrent incident are for Mr. Roethlisberger, who must . . . repair his reputation."

That's where they lose me.  Clearly, the incident has revealed that Mr. Roethlisberger can be, and apparently often is, a jerk. Not just when it comes to women, with men, too.

But a terrible, vicious crime, the apparent false rape claim, not only has been downplayed, it's been completely ignored.

An illustration will underscore the problem.  Suppose Mr. Roethlisberger were a famous female athlete, Ms. Roethlisberger, and suppose it appeared likely she'd been raped, but that the evidence supporting the rape also revealed information that she's a world-class jerk.  Would the rape be ignored in favor of reporting the information showing she's a jerk?  Or would the information showing she's a jerk be swept under the rug due to fears it would detract from "the real story" about the rape? 

Would the rape of a famous female athlete be used to highlight the purported vulnerabilities of women in a hypermasculine culture? 

And how many in the mainstream media would dare suggest that it is Ms. Roethlisberger who needed to learn lessons from the rape?

And how long would it take NOW to organize a massive protest if a newspaper suggested Ms. Roethlisberger needed to learn lessons from the rape?

We all know the answers to those questions. Then, tell me: why is it different when the genders are reversed and the victim has been falsely accused of rape?

The media coverage of and the public's reaction to the Roethlisberger case -- where the victim is treated as the real criminal who is "lucky" he wasn't charged, and where the likely false rape accuser is nowhere vilified and is treated as the victim -- underscores that our society is perfectly happy to tolerate false rape claims and doesn't think they are that big a deal.