Monday, June 24, 2013

Can we stop trivializing the victimization of the wrongly accused in order to support rape victims?

Australian football star Stephen Milne has been charged with rape over an incident that occurred in 2004, and sports writer Geoff Lemon is not happy that his teammates and ex-footballers in the media are supporting him.

Lemon believes that a wrongful accusation is just as "distressing" as a rapist's false protestations of innocence: "Of course the presumption of innocence is anyone's right and any wrongful accusation of assault must be distressing," he writes, "but having an attacker deny the truth would be a no less distressing kind of wrongful accusation."

How could it be lost on Lemon that the stakes for the man accused of rape are infinitely greater than for the woman who accuses him? It is patently absurd to suggest that the distress experienced by a rape survivor when her rapist denies his offense is in any sense comparable to the horror of a wrongful accusation of rape. The wrongly accused stand to lose everything, including their good names and their liberty. We don't minimize the horrors of rape when we correctly assert that the loss to a rape victim from a wrongful acquittal isn't even remotely comparable.

Even now, Milne's name is splashed all over the news for the alleged offense while his accuser's identity is wrapped in the mantle of anonymity.

Lemon would do well to school himself on the issue before deigning to write about it again. He could start here. Pointing out the horrors of rape is one thing. Trivializing the victimization of the wrongly accused to make that point is not merely unjust, it is asinine.