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August 5, 2002
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"The Associated Press, which usually does not report names of sexual assault victims, stopped identifying the girls by name after authorities said they had been raped. The AP resumed reporting Marris' name Friday after she came forward and used Brooks' name after she appeared on national television Monday." Richard Roeper and the Los Angeles Times cover the media decision to cover rape differently than other crimes.
posted by rcade (41 comments total)

 
"The Associated Press, which usually does not report names of sexual assault victims, stopped identifying the girls by name after authorities said they had been raped."

The Associated Press got raped? What a complex they seem to have...admitting it, and yet referring to themselves in the third person.
posted by bingo at 10:55 AM on August 5, 2002


Wait, wait, I may be wrong. Sorry if I offended anyone...I just read the sentence again, and it looks like it might have been the authorities that got raped, which is even worse.
posted by bingo at 10:56 AM on August 5, 2002


It's a unique situation here since the info was broadcast to alert the public and made the difference between life and death, but I do agree with withholding names of rape victims, unless they expressly allow it to be published.

Even though a victim is not to blame, most probably wouldn't want their horrifically dehumanizing and embarassing ordeal to be a front page spread in the paper.
posted by dr_dank at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2002


I don't know if anyone really thinks that it was wrong to post the names & photos of the girls to begin with, but I certainly don't, but I do feel that the papers that did pull the names & photos after the girls were rescued were doing the right thing. While the girls were missing, posting the identifying information served a purpose -- after they were found, it was no longer necessary. Those papers that removed the girls' names and photos may not have really afforded the two any real privacy, but it is a sign of respect and a symbol of offering to the girls a choice to speak publicly or to deal with what happened in a private and quiet manner.
posted by catfood at 11:21 AM on August 5, 2002


bingo: off-topic distraction. I believe the meaning is clear in context; and English doesn't have the luxury of choosing between a transitive and intransitive form.

I do believe the stigma is only heightened by refusal to identify victims. Many come forward of their own choice; and this may be the social solution that preserves all options (i.e. leaving it up to the victims afterward). But this is a hard case; and as they say, hard cases make bad law. Everyone already knew the girls' names, and the presumption of sexual violence was there. It was quite odd for any news organization to then retreat; ABC was forced into the strange construction of "Marris and the other girl" on one nightly program (I'm losing track of the timetable).

In general I think the journos' policies on this are defensible. I don't know that this case's strange turns -- a one in a million scenario, literally -- argue for a change.
posted by dhartung at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2002


I wonder how much of the stigma of rape is from the actual rape itself, and how much is from everyone so delicately stepping around the victim and treating her like, well, a victim.

I mean, I can see how in one respect it protects the victim's privacy if she doesn't want to be further violated by the press. But on the other hand, I think it perpetuates the idea that rape victims are somehow tainted in some way by the crime (total bullshit, of course).

I'm just thinking of analagous behavior regarding cancer, which used to be considered so horrific that people paled at the thought of saying the word out loud. This served to contribute to those so afflicted feeling even worse, methinks.

Nowadays we know it's not contagious or related to internal sinfulness or any such crap like that, and it's considered almost halfway normal to have a bout with cancer. Most people know someone who's either been through it or going through it (my supposition).

Not that we should ever be less horrified by rape, but just that maybe treating the victims more normally might actually help them heal.

Or I could be totally wrong. I'm not like a social worker or someone who has experience helping rape victims or anything.
posted by beth at 11:25 AM on August 5, 2002


dhartung: The link is to an article by the associated press about the proper way for the associated press to identify who it's writing about. And I'm not sure how the transitive/intransitive issue figures into this.

dr_dank: Even though a victim is not to blame, most probably wouldn't want their horrifically dehumanizing and embarassing ordeal to be a front page spread in the paper.

But I think the issue here is more than simply whether the victim was to blame. It's also about whether the victim has anything to be embarassed about, and whether they have in fact been dehumanized. Should someone be embarassed by something that wasn't their fault, and is a part of someone's humanity taken away when they're the victim of a serious crime...or should debasement and embarassment be reserved for the state of the criminal?

Maybe the press shouldn't be able to identify the victims of any crime. But if they are so allowed, I think we as a culture need to deal with what exactly we think makes rape a special case, as opposed to, say, murder (or even, as Roeper points out, rape and murder together).
posted by bingo at 11:35 AM on August 5, 2002


beth, I think you are on to something very concrete. I'd be interested to hear from some of our European counterparts to learn whether other countries more open to discussing sexual matters place less self-fulfilling shame upon rape.
posted by machaus at 11:35 AM on August 5, 2002


The thing I find disturbing about this whole situation is that the police officer stated openly that they'd been raped on national television soon after the victims had been rescued. I think he should have thought twice about revealing that information without first discussing it with the victims. It would have been better (in my opinion) to let the families have time to digest it before the rapes became public knowledge.

I will identify myself as a survivor of rape, not a victim (although it took many years to get to that point). After my rape, I wanted to do nothing but hide from it, and not acknowledge that it happened. I certainly didn't want the entire world to know -- primarily because of the way I was treated when people did find out. People's motiviations are good, but sometimes their behavior can be ignorant. The emotional trauma of the rape is hard enough to deal with, without the "well-meaning" actions of others. I know I certainly felt more like a social pariah after my friends and family were told. It took years to get people to stop treating me like a victim, and begin relating to me as a person again.
posted by greengrl at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2002


Names are also withheld to alleviate any future victims' fear of coming forward and asking for help. Which, to me, is a more compelling reason.

Also, the topic wasn't mentioned in any of these articles, but as a parent, I wouldn't want my child's name or photo used with the "crime victim" label. So that makes the whole thing even more confusing. I hope none of us ever has to make that choice.
posted by whatnot at 11:38 AM on August 5, 2002


Of course, this is all part of a larger issue that is getting obscured in the tug-of-war about whether hiding a rape victim's identity underscores the perceived stigma. The issue for me is whether _any_ crime victim should be identified in the media without their express permission. Why add insult to injury? Isn't the perpetrator the real issue?
posted by silusGROK at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2002


looks like the defining issue in this case was the fact the the state's attorney & the county sheriff both decided to announce the rapes on larry king live. i don't think it was an especially wise decision.

it would be great if we could live in a world where rape didn't traumatize the victim any more than a mugging. but it does--and for a myriad of reasons. and i think it should be up to the victim as to whether or not this information is shared. for example there is a huge difference between "he shoved a gun in her face" and "he shoved his penis up her vagina" which is, in basic terms, what a rape is. it's very personal information. since these girls are still in high school, i shudder to think of how classmates are going to deal with this.

it is surprising to me that this rule still holds pretty fast, given how invasive and insenstive the media can be.

on preview: what greengrl said.
posted by witchstone at 11:46 AM on August 5, 2002


The issue for me is whether _any_ crime victim should be identified in the media without their express permission.

Short story, there. "Someone was robbed, but we can't tell you who, because they don't want you to know. Oh, and someone was killed, but we can't say who. And three people were arrested in Las Vegas ... but because one of them was Michael Jordan, and his family wants privacy, well..."
posted by krewson at 12:04 PM on August 5, 2002


Greengrl states a big part of the reason why I think the protection of the rape survivor's identity is still so important. Another part of the reason is the fact that circumstances surrounding rape can involve horrific moral ambiguities.

The preceding links are reviews for the film Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, a documentary examining the case of Lisa Gier King. She was a stripper hired to perform at a University of Florida fraternity party. The morning after the party, she stumbled to a nearby fraternity and told the men there that she had been raped. The police were called, and in the course of their investigation, they discovered there was a videotape of the night's proceedings. They retrieved that videotape from the fraternity, and on the strength of the footage, not only did they fail to indict the fraternity members in question, they turned around and charged Ms. King with making a false allegation of rape. Since she was deemed not to be a "rape victim," according to Florida's Sunshine laws, the footage entered the public record, and is still accessible to anyone who wants to view it. Billy Corben made that footage the centerpiece of this thoroughly controversial documentary. At the film festival where I saw this, different people alternately charged Corben with two contradictory claims. Several people insisted that he made a documentary that cruelly maligned the fraternity boys for something that was obviously not rape (the audience does see the footage in question, by the way). And others were enraged that he subverted the testimony of the stripper, who was clearly raped.

Rape cases are often severely divisive and not clear-cut at all, especially when dealing with acquaintance rape. Names get dragged through the mud, long friendships are obliterated, and there's really never a "winner" or a "loser." The discussion and portrayal of rape should be more nuanced than it is (I think the documentary, though awfully difficult to watch, should be seen and studied by everyone who even tangentially deals with issues of rape*). I think individual cases are best kept as private as possible.

*Unfortunately, the documentary's availability is very limited. For quite a while, it was kept from distribution by some copyright problems between the director and Artisan Entertainment. Hopefully now that the ownership of the documentary has transferred, it will be more widely seen and discussed.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:11 PM on August 5, 2002


Wait a sec, krewson, you suddenly swithed from crime victim to alleged perpetrator mid-sentence.
posted by Lori at 12:15 PM on August 5, 2002


Well certainly in the U.K it is prohibited to identify an alleged rape victim, this same protection is not afforded the defendant. I think the cancer analogy is one that does not hold water, and may be construed as being offensive. Cancer is a disease, one which does not involve concious thougtht and disregard for the victim. Cancer is the uncontrolled proliferation of cells. Rape is a base violation, a knowing act of terror to impart feelings of control and degradation.
posted by johnnyboy at 12:17 PM on August 5, 2002


grrarrgh00 makes a good point. Not all allegations of rape are true; some are imagined (often with the aid of overzealous social workers), some outright lies, a few are instances of miscommunication (party A doesn't consent but party B honestly believes A has consented). Just to play devil's advocate — and I am not necessarily advocating a change in journalists' policies — there are good reasons to identify rape victims. Knowing the identity of the alleged victim may help readers to evaluate the veracity of his/her claims. If someone had witnessed the victim elsewhere during the time he/she claims a rape was committed, it could keep a guilty person out of jail.

Of course, none of these considerations apply in this case, and whether the negative repercussions of printing rape victims' names outweigh the benefits is certainly debatable; but I think it's important to keep in mind that there are benefits, and that the issue is not as cut-and-dried as some seem to be assuming.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2002


The paper at the university I attended did not have a policy in place to keep victims of sexual assault anonymous until *AFTER* I registered a complaint with the campus paper when they provided all of the identifying details of the assault against me. I was furious that they would identify me without checking with me or my family first since the last thing I wanted at that time was for the whole school to know what I had just been through.

The university has problems with privacy issues that make headlines, while their statistics only reflect the number of assaults that are *tried and convicted*, not reported to the police.

I agree wholeheartedly with greengrl's comments on well-intentioned people, and that the public release of information should be discussed with the family first.
posted by illusionaire at 12:35 PM on August 5, 2002


I disagree with the way the media covers rape victims. I think it contributes to the notion that being raped is something shameful that should not be revealed, and it's a huge double standard when all other crime victims are put through the media wringer, including dead rape victims.

Just to pick one high-profile example, why didn't Mary Jo Buttafuoco deserve media privacy when she was shot in the head? While rape is a horrible crime that inflicts physical and psychological injuries I can't even begin to imagine, attempted murder is also a heinous injury, and yet the media doesn't even think twice before reporting on people like Buttafuoco.
posted by rcade at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2002


I pointed this out on another weblog discussing the naming of the victims - their ages. We're talking about a 16 and 17 year old girl.

Perhaps if they were adult women a case could be made to treat it as any other crime, but when your "community" is your high school, I think it's safe to say you could expect a lot of trauma from everyone knowing. The one girl came forward, and that's her choice, but the press shouldn't name them without consent.

I think that juvenile crime victims should not be identified. In B.C. you almost never hear the names of victims if they are under 19. I don't know if it's the law or tradition, but it works for me.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:50 PM on August 5, 2002


witchstone: it would be great if we could live in a world where rape didn't traumatize the victim any more than a mugging. but it does--and for a myriad of reasons. and i think it should be up to the victim as to whether or not this information is shared.

So, should the degree of trauma experienced by the victim dictate whether or not the public has the right to know about the crime? Are there crimes against men in which the victim warrants the same respect, or do women have the monopoly? Or is it the victims of crimes related to sex that have it?
posted by bingo at 1:54 PM on August 5, 2002


It took years to get people to stop treating me like a victim, and begin relating to me as a person again.

But doesn't that tie right in with beth's point? Perhaps if it were something that people had to address more often in their lives (not through increased incidence, of course, but through increased awareness), they would develop better skills for dealing with such a situation.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that revealing the name of any victim of any crime where there is no clear public benefit to doing so is anything but prurient ratings-mongering, and we'd all probably be better off without any of it. In its current form, much of broadcast news, especially, does little more than feed people's sick appetite for gossip and voyeuristic glimpses of the misfortunes and suffering of others.
posted by rushmc at 1:55 PM on August 5, 2002


The problem wasn't really with the fact that they were named and had there images in the media (as it was necessary to help locate them), it is that the facts of what happened to them at the hands of their abductor shouldn't have been made public at all. Had they not bothered to announce that they had been raped, everyone would have known that they were alive and back with their familes. The rest should have been left for the girls and their families and friends to deal with in whatever way they saw fit.
posted by Orb at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2002


What's odd is that late last week, Late Night with Aaron Brown on CNN was showing unedited footage of both girls, with one of them (Jacqueline), talking calmly into the camera, telling how the two of them plotted to kill the kidnapper. This was a day after the media had already started pulling their names etc. Then, half an hour later, Connie Chung, on the same channel, showed the same footage with the girl's faces pixelated out and she even warns the boyfriend of one of the girls to not mention her name. And as soon as Aaron Brown was rerun that same night, they showed it unedited again!
posted by jschuur at 2:18 PM on August 5, 2002


IshmaelGraves: Don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to point out that "not all allegations of rape are true." I personally thought, from seeing the footage, that the stripper was raped. If anything, I think we blame/mistrust the victim too much in these cases. When faced with the suggestion that a person we know and trust, who has always been well-mannered, polite, friendly, charismatic, has committed an offense of such grotesque dimensions, it's only natural that we question the suggestion itself, or the reliability of the person who made that suggestion. Which leads to my next point ...

rcade and bingo: The difference between rape and attempted murder, or between rape and most other crimes period, is that it is most often not a crime seen by witnesses, with a preponderance of physical or even clear circumstantial evidence. Very frequently, rape is a crime committed in the most intimate of circumstances, completely without witnesses, completely without evidence (rape kits consist of pictures and fluid samples; they are never pristine records of what happened between two people). Rape is most often a psychological crime that produces psychological injuries. It is frequently delineated in subtle gestures, words and expressions. It can involve circumstances of such nuance that even when the entire alleged crime is videotaped, as I described above, viewers cannot agree on whether a crime actually occurred.

I don't think the solution to these matters is to drag the participants into a public forum where all of America can have its say on what happened. I don't think the media should really be involved in matters of rape, at least until the media begins to portray rape with more sophistication. The movie-of-the-week rapist, that big strange man who drags his screaming victim into a dark alley and treats her with unambiguous violence, is a fictional character. What about the slightly inebriated college student who thinks that "not right now" means "I'm being coy," and takes her lack of physical resistance to mean consent?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 3:50 PM on August 5, 2002


It is frequently delineated in subtle gestures, words and expressions. It can involve circumstances of such nuance that even when the entire alleged crime is videotaped, as I described above, viewers cannot agree on whether a crime actually occurred.

That's an argument for not identifying rape suspects. I don't think anyone in the media has said that we shouldn't identify rape victims because they might not have been raped.

the facts of what happened to them at the hands of their abductor shouldn't have been made public at all.

The press has to report crimes, both for reasons of public safety and to serve as a watchdog on the police and courts.
posted by rcade at 4:21 PM on August 5, 2002


That's an argument for not identifying rape suspects. I don't think anyone in the media has said that we shouldn't identify rape victims because they might not have been raped.

I don't understand what you're talking about. If a young college student reports to campus police that she's been raped by her boyfriend of three years, should the details of that story make their way into the campus newspaper? Should the campus women's rights group be allowed to make her their poster-child and vilify the boyfriend and his fraternity? Should the members of her boyfriend's fraternity get to malign her character in editorials in the school newspaper?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:00 PM on August 5, 2002


The press has to report crimes, both for reasons of public safety and to serve as a watchdog on the police and courts.

I don't buy this at all. It certainly didn't improve the public's safety, nor its oversight of the police, to announce that the girls in question had been raped.

Oh, and bingo: I think the issue is future trauma to the victim, and yes, I think it's appropriate for any sex-related crime (of which men can also be victims).
posted by whir at 6:14 PM on August 5, 2002


Thank you, whir, for that last parenthetical comment. I always feel uneasy when statements that are otherwise extremely carefully considered blithely use 'she' for the victim and 'he' for the perpetrator. Either pronoun could fit in either blank.

This isn't intended to be a thread hijack, but I think if we agree that the 'movie-of-the-week rapist' is more a caricature than a portrait, we have to let go of the equally oversimplified assumptions about gender and rape.

On the subject of victims' names in the media, I really couldn't care less if the stories are missing details and therefore less interesting to read. News isn't supposed to titillate. And personally, I find the argument that privileging rape cases reinforces a sort of victim mentality less convincing then the argument that we should spare victims of the crime from future anguish, so I'm all for leaving their names out. By that token, victims of any crime deserve similar protection
posted by amery at 7:04 PM on August 5, 2002


It certainly didn't improve the public's safety, nor its oversight of the police, to announce that the girls in question had been raped.

I'm talking about the general function of the press in covering crime. If the media decides tomorrow that privacy is so important it will never offer specifics on crimes committed and suspects accused, the police and courts could arrest and convict with impunity in the absence of public scrutiny. Though the media reports crime for sensational reasons, the coverage also serve a legitimate public need.

In this particular case, the fact that the girls were raped is at least partially relevant because the suspect was subsequently killed by police. If the media hid that detail, it could be accused of presenting the story in a manner that's biased against the officers who shot and killed the man. It also leaves a major hole in the story: Why was the guy trying to find a place to kill them, many hours after he chose to kidnap them?
posted by rcade at 7:07 PM on August 5, 2002


I would have to agree with those who commented against the speed of the announcements. From what I have read, the victims' families found out about the rapes by way of the news. It is as if the police found themselves in front of a camera, got excited, and had to spill all they knew right away.

There are many cases in which certain details are with held from the press until an appropriate time. For example: someone is killed, the event is reported, minus the victim's name, pending notification of the family. Even when the details eventually make it to the press, those personally involved have time to react and adjust to the news on their own, without a media blitz.

I know that the lack of such consideration can be terribly traumatic. My cousin died in a car accident one Christmas, just down the block from her house. Her father, sitting at home, learned of the accident and her death by way of the local news.

Waiting a few hours for the girls to be reunited with their families to announce to the press that they had been raped would not have hurt anyone.
posted by kayjay at 9:59 PM on August 5, 2002


grrarrgh00: Should the campus women's rights group be allowed to make her their poster-child and vilify the boyfriend and his fraternity? Should the members of her boyfriend's fraternity get to malign her character in editorials in the school newspaper?

No -- I personally dislike that kind of "vilification" of any kind of defendant. It's contrary to the "innocent until proven guilty" presumption in our laws, yet it seems to be happening more and more in the media. Rapists (and murderers, etc.) should be punished, but they should be found guilty by a court of law, and not judged in the media or by the court of public opinion. Just my $0.02.
posted by greengrl at 5:05 AM on August 6, 2002


I think it perpetuates the idea that rape victims are somehow tainted in some way by the crime (total bullshit, of course).

That reminded me of something Germaine Greer said. I can't find a link so I quote:

The fact that a sex act may be meant to humiliate and degrade should not necessarily mean that it does humiliate or degrade. We do not have to accept the rapist's script. If women are to reject the role of natural-born victim, they will have to reject the elevation of the humble penis to the status of devastating weapon.... Of all the parts of a man that can hurt, a penis is the least.

But fighting against the stigma of rape is fighting against thousands of years of culture. It can't be done just by willing it. Something radical has to happen in the way we view sex and power, although I don't know what that would be or how we could achieve it.
posted by Summer at 7:17 AM on August 6, 2002


grrarrgh00: The difference between rape and attempted murder, or between rape and most other crimes period, is that it is most often not a crime seen by witnesses, with a preponderance of physical or even clear circumstantial evidence.

That's the difference that's relevant here? Then shouldn't the standard be for the press to not reveal names of any victim of a crime not committed in public? I don't have a link, but I've read that most murders are also committed in private, most murder victims also know their assailants. Those qualifications also apply to burglary (which, for it to be burglary and not robbery, has to be done, or attempted to be done, without witnesses), embezzlement, and a host of other crimes.

Rape is most often a psychological crime that produces psychological injuries. It is frequently delineated in subtle gestures, words and expressions. It can involve circumstances of such nuance that even when the entire alleged crime is videotaped, as I described above, viewers cannot agree on whether a crime actually occurred.

This makes it sound like rape can happen without physical contact. It seems to me that the problem is more in finding an accurate legal definition of the crime, than in the way the media chooses to talk about it. We're talking about a crime so serious that to be publicly accused of committing it, or having it committed against you, can stigmatize both the accuser and the accusee, and yet, as discussed re the documentary above, we can't even agree on whether it's happening, even when we're watching the incident in question on video.

I don't pretend to have a solution, but it seems to me that the entire concept of exactly what rape is, and what consent is, and exactly what sort of crime rape is, has to be examined more closely and defined much better. And if it can't be defined, then I think we as a culture need to examine what that means (and I don't pretend to have an answer to that, either).
posted by bingo at 11:38 AM on August 6, 2002


Question: due to the often he-said she-said nature of rape, isn't it a bit unfair that one could be accused of rape with the accusor receiving privacy protection but the accused is hung out to dry before any sort of court case?
posted by owillis at 1:18 PM on August 6, 2002


amery, I agree with you about the oversimplification of gender roles with regards to rape, but until we have a gender-neutral third pronoun, I'm going to assume a male perpetrator and female victim, reflecting the majority of rape cases.

Then shouldn't the standard be for the press to not reveal names of any victim of a crime not committed in public? I don't have a link, but I've read that most murders are also committed in private, most murder victims also know their assailants.

My point is not that rape is committed in private. Read it again. My point is that rape is often defined almost entirely in a psychological space, unlike burglary, or murder, or embezzlement, or any other crime you mention. Is it not rape if the victim isn't scratching, hitting, biting, screaming and pleading to get away? What if a victim says "You don't have to do this," and locks her ankles together? What if she also says "Will [having sex with] me make you a man? Then go ahead, prove you're a man"? Is she indicating compliance? What other crime hinges on such particulars? What other crime is often so bereft of any implicating evidence that even after the trial is done and the perpetrator is convicted, many people don't believe he's guilty, and choose to blame the victim instead?

This makes it sound like rape can happen without physical contact.

Rape is not defined by physical contact. Yes, it is a component, but it is not the crime.

I don't pretend to have a solution, but it seems to me that the entire concept of exactly what rape is, and what consent is, and exactly what sort of crime rape is, has to be examined more closely and defined much better.

Again, if you read my comments, this conclusion is what they suggest. It's something that should be studied with more nuance. Currently, whenever you ask many people what rape is, they drone, machinelike: "Rape is about power and control." We have to get beyond that.

But we don't need to drag the victims of rape into the public forum in order for that to happen. The survivors can volunteer to come forward with their own thoughts and stories, like greengrl and illusionaire have, and contribute to the dialogue. But there is a stigma attached to the victims of this crime, and that is often because "proven guilty" is such a tenuous concept when dealing with these matters. Especially in instances of acquaintance rape, there will always be a segment of the population who either think the rape didn't happen or think the victim somehow brought it on herself. And there is no need to subject victims to that without their complicity. We have two rape survivors in this forum who have both demonstrated the harms of having been identified in the press without their consent. Do we need more evidence that this is a destructive thing?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 1:48 PM on August 6, 2002


And owillis, yes. I also don't think an accused perpetrator should be identified until he is convicted (that's part of what I meant by "I think individual cases should be kept as private as possible"). Greengrl suggested the same thing.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 1:50 PM on August 6, 2002


My point is not that rape is committed in private. Read it again.

Okay. Here's what you said:

The difference between rape and attempted murder, or between rape and most other crimes period, is that it is most often not a crime seen by witnesses, with a preponderance of physical or even clear circumstantial evidence.

Which word did I misunderstand?

Rape is not defined by physical contact. Yes, it is a component, but it is not the crime.

It is a vital component. Physical contact is not the entire definition, but it is an indelible part of the definition.

My point is that rape is often defined almost entirely in a psychological space, unlike burglary, or murder, or embezzlement, or any other crime you mention.

Murder, which I mentioned because it too is often committed in private, is definitely defined partly (and not less than rape) by the psychological state of the accused, and what was going on in the given situation.

Even if you were right on this point, why should alleged rapists and alleged rape victims get special treatment by the press? Shouldn't we either allow full disclosure of all crimes and alleged crimes, criminals and alleged criminals, victims and alleged victims, or none?
posted by bingo at 1:30 AM on August 7, 2002


Bingo: Which word did I misunderstand?

Well, you seemed to leave out the whole preponderance of physical or even clear circumstantial evidence part. With a murder, we know for sure that a wrongful death has happened. There's a corpse. There's blood. There's usually even a discernable motive. In a rape, all we know is that sex has happened. There may be semen. There may be marks on the accuser or the accused. But in most cases, all the forensic evidence in the case can verify is that yes, sex has happened here. The question of whether that sex was in any way wrongful, of whether a crime has been committed, can only sometimes be teased out in a tough process of psychological inquiry, emotionally wracking for both plaintiffs and defendants. In the absence of physical evidence that bolsters a charge of murder, outside observers to the process are left to question details that are often extraneous to the case. Was she wearing a miniskirt? How could she ask him to wear a condom if she was being raped? Why did it take so long for her to come forward? These details can cruelly center on the character of the accuser, since there are few facts in the case on which to speculate. And hey, if having your character maligned in the press is your idea of a good time, then go for it.

It is a vital component. Physical contact is not the entire definition, but it is an indelible part of the definition.

Thank you for rephrasing what I had just said. Now, while we're on the same page, what is the demonstrable physical distinction between rape and sexual intercourse?

Even if you were right on this point, why should alleged rapists and alleged rape victims get special treatment by the press? Shouldn't we either allow full disclosure of all crimes and alleged crimes, criminals and alleged criminals, victims and alleged victims, or none?

So, bingo, what you're saying is that regardless of the details of the crime, the right of the public to know about the case should always be privileged over the right of the victim to be protected, is that correct? A man has taken a family hostage and orders the police to inform the media that if he sees the episode reported, the family will die. Does the right of the press supersede the safety of the victims? Victims should never have the recourse of choosing to remain anonymous before the press? I'm sure you can come up with several similar exceptions to your across-the-board full disclosure idea.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 2:19 PM on August 7, 2002


I'm not necessarily advocating full disclosure. I'm just saying that, whatever the standard for disclosure of victims and defendants in the media, sex crimes, or any other sort of crimes, shouldn't be an exception. We should either allow disclosure, or not allow it.


With a murder, we know for sure that a wrongful death has happened. There's a corpse. There's blood. There's usually even a discernable motive. In a rape, all we know is that sex has happened. There may be semen. There may be marks on the accuser or the accused. But in most cases, all the forensic evidence in the case can verify is that yes, sex has happened here. The question of whether that sex was in any way wrongful, of whether a crime has been committed, can only sometimes be teased out in a tough process of psychological inquiry, emotionally wracking for both plaintiffs and defendants.

I disagree; sometimes rape is obvious, and sometimes murder is not obvious. The presence of a dead body does not mean that murder occurred. It could have been manslaughter, suicide, self-defense, or something else. Murder suspects are no more likely than rape suspects to sit around waiting for the police to arrive. And the information that might have to be dragged up to determine who the killer is, and why the murder happened, and what sort of scandalous circumstances brought it about, has the potential to embarass an awful lof of people if it was printed in the paper.

You said: Rape is not defined by physical contact. Yes, it is a component, but it is not the crime.

I said: It is a vital component. Physical contact is not the entire definition, but it is an indelible part of the definition.

You said: Thank you for rephrasing what I had just said. Now, while we're on the same page, what is the demonstrable physical distinction between rape and sexual intercourse?

I don't think I was rephrasing you at all. We agree that physical contact doesn't tell the whole story, but disagree on how much a part of the crime the physical contact actually is. It's a murky area that may have more to do with semantics than actual ideas. Or, it may be the semantic ideas that are important.

I'm not sure what the point of your links was in terms of this discussion. I agree with the argument made by the journalist in your last link. And I agree with the column about the situation at Harvard.
posted by bingo at 3:11 AM on August 8, 2002


I just thought I'd add, as an extremely bizarre appendix to this thread, the fact that the two teens in question are now on the cover of People Magazine. People doesn't say much about the process of its reporting, except to say that "those involved told PEOPLE's Maureen Harrington how the ordeal unfolded." From this statement I can't really deduce whether People interviewed the teens, or whether they got their consent for the article, but the photography suggests that the teens participated voluntarily, along with their mothers(!). They are identified by name, and the rape is mentioned ("In the back of the Bronco, Marris and Brooks did their best to keep each other's spirits up through their 12-hour ordeal, which one sheriff claimed included sexual assault." - page 3).
posted by whir at 3:03 AM on August 13, 2002


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