Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The angry reaction to the acquittal of the Dartmouth student charged with rape is evidence of what's wrong with "rape culture" advocates

The recent jury acquittal of former Dartmouth student Parker Gilbert, who was charged with raping a female student at the school, has sparked the usual cries of injustice by the usual angry voices who try to turn every acquittal of rape into evidence of "rape culture." Some of the reactions in this instance are especially egregious and represent a twisted mindset bent on punishing anyone merely accused of rape, the evidence and the verdict of acquittal be damned.

From the news reports, it is impossible to know with certainty what happened in this case because it was a classic "he said-she said" affair that is all-too common in rape cases that arise from drunken college sexual encounters. No one, except the two principals, knows exactly what happened, and it may be that the principals themselves aren't exactly sure.

But after the verdict, one juror explained that the accuser's story just didn't add up. Rick Rogers, one of the 12 jurors who actually sat through the whole thing (in contrast to persons now pontificating about it on the Internet), explained the jury's thought process: “(The woman’s) story of how the night played out, the evidence wasn’t there to support that. To the contrary, it was more in Parker’s favor. Her statement in the morning (to a friend) — that Parker stopped by and we had sex — is just not the answer that a rape victim would have.” Mr. Rogers pointed to other evidence that, he said, didn't add up for the jury: the fact that after Mr. Gilbert left the room, the woman went to sleep without even locking the door, and the woman’s decision not to alert a residence hall adviser who lived on the floor. Moreover, the testimony of Nancy Wu, the accuser's suitemate who said that she was awake and heard sounds consistent with consensual sex, was the most credible evidence for the jury. “There is tons and tons of evidence that just doesn’t add up,” Mr. Rogers said, “and to find somebody guilty of rape that will change everyone’s life, it has to be solid evidence and we have to feel that completely, and we did not.”

Mr. Rogers said he believes the accuser was misled by a friend who encouraged her to go to the hospital and get an exam, and that he feels sorry for Mr. Gilbert. “To accuse somebody of rape and to not be able to prove it. ... It just hurts, and I feel very sorry for Parker and his family.”

But there are always some angry rape pundits on the Internet who know better, who know for a fact that the jury got it wrong and that yet another rapist beat the rap. Read, for example, Lulu Chang's utter certainty that justice was not served: "As a student of Dartmouth, my first reaction [to the jury's verdict] was that of incredulity. It was quickly replaced by rage, and then followed by fear." And: "As a member of Dartmouth’s Student and Presidential Committee Against Sexual Assault, I have dedicated much of my Dartmouth career to eliminating cases like these from our campus." Chang, who had no hesitation in branding the accuser a "survivor," has convicted Mr. Gilbert on the Internet without bothering to deal with silly things like evidence and the presumption of innocence.

Worse, WISE, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower victims of domestic and sexual violence, issued a formal statement that is jarring in its certainty about Mr. Gilbert's guilt: "Today’s decision in the Dartmouth rape trial of Parker Gilbert is devastating and there is no doubt that it sends a terrible message to survivors of sexual assault. Something has got to change if we can allow a man who has no relationship with the victim to violate her in her own bed and face no consequences." And: ". . . today’s decision will no doubt impact survivors’ decisions in reporting their crime."

Another writer, commenting on the fact that Mr. Gilbert was acquitted of six counts of rape leveled by his accuser (including anal, vaginal and oral rape), called the accuser "the victim" and made the following bizarre leap in logic: ". . . when 6 charges of rape are brought in against one person, innocence seems somehow difficult to believe." This sort of analysis, of course, is unworthy of serious refutation, but it plays well to the chattering classes who know better than the people who actually sat through the trial and had serious questions about the accuser's veracity.

These comments are but the tip of the iceberg of angry rape activists and radical feminists who know better than the jury. They are an unconscionable affront to Mr. Gilbert's rights and dignity, to the jury's good faith in discharging its duties, and to the rule of law. While we don't know for certain what happened in that bedroom, that doesn't mean that justice wasn't served by the verdit, that the jury didn't do its job, or that Mr. Gilbert must be guilty just because the accuser said so.

Beyond that, the commentators do no favors for rape victims. By insisting that yet another rapist beat the rap when, in fact, it appears that the jury had ample and legitimate concerns about the accuser's story, these angry pundits are telling women who've been raped not to bother reporting their violations because they won't be believed. The Gilbert verdict does not support that conclusion, but why let the facts get in the way of a good "rape culture' rant? If they wonder why women don't report their rapes, they need only take a look at the closest mirror. It reminds me of the words of the famous Stern Review which, on page 45, chided rape victims' advocates because they insist that law enforcement is uniquely ineffective when it comes to rape, which could discourage women from reporting their ordeals.

In contrast to the persons and organizations purportedly devoted to helping rape victims but who seem intent on discouraging women from reporting, this blog, devoted to giving voice to the wrongly accused, encourages all rape victims, male and female, to report their ordeals to law enforcement.

It is always puzzling to me that the usual suspects choose murky cases, and cases where there are real questions about the accuser's veracity, to be vociferous in their insistence that rape occurred and that ours is a "rape culture" that happily lets rapists walk. They seem to not care that while the public loathes and detests even a whiff of rape, it also loathes and detests sending innocent men to prison for crimes they didn't commit. The "rape culture" pundits set back their cause with puerile incantations that assume guilt based on accusations alone. Jessica Valenti, are you listening?

And that's the real lesson of the Parker Gilbert case. The verdict furnishes no justification for assuming the system doesn't work. The reaction to that verdict, however, does expose an unfortunate, indeed hateful, side of "rape culture" advocacy that assumes every rape accusation should be automatically believed. All persons of good will need to disassociate themselves from these odious sentiments.