Saturday, April 27, 2013

News report derides family and friends for speaking up about the character of man accused of sexual assault

Hakop Kaplanyan, a freshman star on UCLA’s water polo team, has been accused of, but not charged with, sexual assault of an acquaintance.

Now, his friends, family, and classmates have put together a You Tube video as a way to lend him moral support. They call him dedicated, intelligent, honest, and caring -- and they say that he is accused of actions that he did not commit.  See it here.

We have no idea is Hakop is innocent. We cringe when armchair Internet jockeys, or worse, writers for major Internet Web sites, take sides in sexual assault cases as if they know the truth. They often form judgments based on vile stereotypes about gender.

But this is different. When a father is reported as saying his daughter is telling the truth about being raped, or a mother says her son didn't do it when he's accused of rape, we respect their sentiments as the natural testimonials of loved ones. All they are saying is, the person I know tells the truth and wouldn't do anything wrong. It does not mean we should think they have first-hand knowledge about the incident at issue.

It is commendable for family and friends to believe, and to stand up for, someone who says they were raped, or who denies having committed rape. Too often, we see heart-breaking stories where it turns out a young man was wrongly accused, but before that, his loved ones had abandoned him.  That is often the most cruel aspect to being wrongly accused. We don't know whether Hakop is innocent or guilty, but the young people who put together this You Tube video should not be ridiculed. They are being loyal to a friend; if he's innocent, he surely needs such loyalty.  Their video is far different than, for example, the cynical professional writer who sits at her computer and takes sides in a high-profile rape case -- based on nothing more than "rape happens to too many women."

The mainstream media typically is very respectful of character testimonials supporting women who say they were raped.  But look at the way MSN's web site derides Hakop's friends and family for daring to lend support to him.

First, the inappropriate and sarcastic headline: "Friends' video says what a swell guy athlete accused of rape is."

Then, in the news report itself, there is this:  ". . . his supporters are aggressively coming to his defense, releasing a fawning 76-second video titled 'Hakop Kaplanyan - Innocence 2013,' in which they praise his character (and his smile) and laud his athletic skills — which, of course, everyone hates to see imperiled by pesky accusations. Not once is 'rape' or 'sexual assault' mentioned . . .."


The writer should just come out and say s/he thinks it's wrong for friends and family of men accused of sex crimes to publicly lend them moral support.

And what a peculiar thing to say -- "not once is 'rape' or 'sexual assault' mentioned . . .." As if this were a public service announcement about sexual assault.

The tone of this report is all off, but it's a chilling sign of the times. Another implicit message from the mainstream media that we are supposed to believe every man accused of rape is guilty by reason of the accusation, and that he is undeserving of being treated like a human being.