Monday, February 3, 2014

This may be the most outrageous rush to judgment in a sex case we've seen in a long time

It is time for all persons of good will to boycott Salon and like-minded Internet sites that never met a rape accusation they didn't believe. Roxane Gay's article on Woody Allen is among the most irresponsible, poorly-reasoned, and outrageous articles I've ever seen, and that's saying a lot.

It is one thing to be respectful of a woman who says she was sexually abused and to insist that she not be dismissed as a liar or a fraud. It is quite another to declare that the presumptively innocent man she accuses -- who has never been charged with, much less convicted of, any crime, and who certainly may be innocent -- is a "sexual predator." That's what Roxane Gay has called Woody Allen.

Gay's piece is yet another of those somber, hand-wringing columns that doesn't bother to deal with silly things like evidence. In fact, Gay doesn't even mention, much less analyze, the particular facts of the case at issue. She assumes from the first word that the accused man she's writing about is guilty of years-old sex offenses based on nothing more than the accusation.

What's Gay's supporting evidence for this epiphany? The "pervasiveness of sexual violence around the world is overwhelming," rape is underreported, and there is "little . . . to be gained from false accusations of sexual assault."

I'm not making this up.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, a titan of the criminal defense bar, once wrote that in sexual assault cases, "don’t assume anything until all the evidence is in. The story is almost never what it appears to be on first impression."  In the Woody Allen case, at least this article cites actual evidence -- and it casts serious doubt on the accusations. I have no idea if it paints an accurate picture. Gay's article, on the other hand, relies solely on feelings, or more accurately, biases and predispositions, to convict Allen.

That none of Gay's blather even touches upon the actual case she's supposedly writing about likely won't be noticed by her like-minded readers. But just imagine the reaction if a writer for a major internet site assumed that a black man was guilty of a crime because, she writes, blacks commit a lot of crimes. That writer would be fired that day, and rightly so.

To show how silly and one-sided Gay's piece is, she takes to task New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof for having the temerity to state the following completely factual statement: “Allen’s defenders correctly note that he denies the allegations, has never been convicted and should be presumed innocent.”

Gay is also upset that in the reporting about the story, reporters refer to Allen's adopted daughter as Allen's adopted daughter.

I'm not making this up.

But the real problem may be that Gay doesn't just think Allen is guilty, she wants Allen to be guilty: "I know I would rather stand where I stand and eventually be proven wrong than support Woody Allen and eventually be proven wrong."

Folks like Gay do survivors of sexual assault a grave disservice by holding up unproven, doubtful cases as examples of rape culture. Fair-minded people don't like to see men who might just be innocent destroyed on the basis of an accusation. If the Woody Allen case is all they've got, most people aren't buying it. Sadly, people like Gay do this all the time. It could be worse: sometimes, they try to prove the existence of rape culture by citing cases where the accusation was proven false. See here.  Which begs the question: aren't there are enough actual rape cases to write about without latching onto a doubtful case and smearing a presumptively innocent man with vile assumptions?