Friday, February 7, 2014

Did you know that celebrating an acquittal in a rape trial is a bad thing?

This story is out of the UK. Beloved television star William Roache of the soap Coronation Street has been acquitted by a jury of eight women and five men at Preston Crown Court. Shortly thereafter, the owner of SysFix IT Support posted details of a 25 per cent offer on the company’s website to celebrate the acquittal.

But the chief executive of the Rape Crisis South London rape and sexual abuse support center, Yvonne Traynor, is appalled by the offer. She said: “It’s disgusting for someone to turn this [acquittal] into a media opportunity." She added: "I’m just hoping that this will not deter other women from coming forward that have been raped.”

Say what?

Expressing approval about an acquittal in rape case is disgusting and might keep women from coming forward? Seriously?

First, let's state the obvious. The suggestion that publicizing or celebrating an acquittal in a rape trial will keep women from reporting rape is absurd -- there is no evidence for this epiphany -- and attempts to shame those who do it are heinous. We hear similar glum pronouncements after many high profile rape cases end in an acquittal or where the accusation turns out to be false. After Duke lacrosse, some people were downright apoplectic when the accused young men were declared "innocent" by the state's attorney general. (Would they have preferred that the accuser actually be raped?)

Second, what this company did was scarcely a "media opportunity" until Traynor used it to her advantage. A "media opportunity" is what happened at Duke after false rape charges were lodged against three innocent lacrosse players. There were daily protest rallies, including the pot-bangers with their "castrate" banner, and relentless media coverage that assumed the players' guilt. Folks who advocate for sexual assault victims were fine with those media opportunities.

A "media opportunity" is what happened at Hofstra, where the news media appallingly jumped on a scary college rape story by presenting four minority young men as rapists. The young men turned out to be innocent, but even after that, they were booed on a national television show.

A "media opportunity" is what happens to men (usually, but not always, well known men) who are accused of rape and subjected to a perp walk. For well known men, police often tip off the news media, and then the suspects are intentionally paraded through a public place like war trophies so reporters can splash video of the humiliated suspects on the 6 o'clock news. The news media defends this barbaric practice despite the fact that it undercuts the presumption of innocence to the point that "even Mother Teresa" would like guilty in one. Prof. Alan Dershowitz has said: "The next time I have to defend a case where there’s any chance of a perp walk, I’m going to federal court to demand an injunction against it."

A "media opportunity" was the William Kennedy Smith trial, the biggest media circus trial this side of O.J. Or  the Tawana Brawley spectacle. Smith was aquitted, Brawley was a fraud, and people like Ms. Traynor were fine with the media circuses.

A "media opportunity" is any number of high profile cases where presumptively innocent men's names are dragged through the mud like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one and this one, and this one. In each of those cases, the men were either innocent or at least cleared of vile charges, but not before their good names were scarred.

A "media opportunity"was Lorena Bobbitt's trial for slicing off her sleeping husband's penis. It was a mini-feminist Woodstock with a carnival atmosphere. Outside the courthouse, feminists sold buttons that read: “LORENA BOBBITT FOR SURGEON GENERAL.” Hundreds of Lorena Bobbitt supporters cheered their champion when she walked outside the courthouse, but the man she mutilated — the real victim — was greeted with boos and whistles. When the jury found Lorena Bobbitt not guilty of malicious wounding by reason of insanity, self-described feminists cheered and gave each other high fives. In Lorena Bobbitt’s hometown of Bucay, Ecuador, hundreds took to the streets, cheering and firing shots into the air the way joyous fans do when their team wins the World Cup or the Super Bowl. That was a media opportunity.

I don't know anything about Yvonne Traynor except what I read in the news story linked above, but it's fair to assert that "media opportunities" are just fine and dandy for a lot of people so long as a presumptively innocent man's name is being dragged through the mud or it's used to show support for a putative sexual assault victim.

Celebrating an acquittal of someone you love or admire, and even using the occasion to give a discount, is not "disgusting," and people who celebrate acquittals should not be shamed with unsupported assertions that it would put off rape victims from reporting. What's disgusting and appalling are attempts to use an acquittal in a rape case to fan the flames of rape hysteria.