No word on chopped off ring fingers, either
September 6, 2005 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Rape rumors false? No word on turnstyle jumping or wearing of heavy coats . . . (via)
posted by hackly_fracture (38 comments total)
A few days I thought the same thing. That some of these accusations were being inflated. But it seems like there are many corroborating reports of the rapes, the assaults, and even the murders.

I'm still not believing the cannibalism rumor, though.
posted by billysumday at 3:12 PM on September 6, 2005

When I was reporting news professionally these types of
stories were referred to as "sexy", but we did not report unsubstantiated rumors, even with a caveat that they were rumors. The cutthroat (sorry) atmosphere of competition in the news business these days has eroded standards.
posted by longsleeves at 3:15 PM on September 6, 2005

What? The rumor about the guy who built a raft out of his own feces could be false?
posted by cleverusername at 3:23 PM on September 6, 2005

I can't say I'm all that surprised, but I wouldn't be surprised either way. They may well get substantiated, but they may be the kind of urban legend that's a very understandable reponse to this kind of situation.
posted by OmieWise at 3:51 PM on September 6, 2005

So I'm surprised this hasn't really been discussed much but I think the biggest problem that amplified this tragedy was the communication blackhole.

Folks living in NOLA had a full week of no power, no phones, no TV, no Radio and no communication to or from the outside world. Workers there on the ground could not coordinate help to places and people that needed it.

Certainly in this world, rumor and the tendency to hyperbole in communication passed person to person would run wild. I'm not sure we'll even know "The Facts" in this case but I can say for certain hundreds if not thousands of people needlessly suffered and died due to our national incompetence to deal with this kind of tragedy.
posted by aaronscool at 3:57 PM on September 6, 2005

"We don't have any substantiated rapes. We will investigate if the individuals come forward."

While I don't want to jump to any conclusions, I also don't think that the best way to tally sexual assaults is by the number of women who lodge official complaints. Even under normal circumstances, many women do not formally complain for a variety of reasons, and all the more so now. Witness accounts may be the best we can do.
posted by piers at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2005

I dunno. It's gonna be hard to do a rape kit on bodies that have been rotting for a few days in pools of fetid water. I would not be surprised at all if the stories of rape were true. I've already seen a number of photographs of people murdered after the flood; why should rape be so far-fetched?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:38 PM on September 6, 2005

I read one story of an emergency worker who treated a woman who was raped and her jaw broken when she stepped out of her hotel. I can't find the link. Has anyone read the same article?
posted by Alison at 4:42 PM on September 6, 2005

I read that too, Alison, I'll try to find the link.
posted by piers at 4:45 PM on September 6, 2005

I live in houston and one of my good friends was told directly by her parents to not volunteer at the Astrodome. Her mom said two nurses under her direction got raped. I'll believe that. Another one of my good friends at an apartment a few blocks from the Astrodome said people were going door to door, and becoming angry if residents didn't give them stuff.
posted by tricky_t at 4:47 PM on September 6, 2005

Witness accounts may be the best we can do.

I'd agree, piers, but actual witness accounts are needed, not hearsay. Much of the media reporting was 100% hearsay. They didn't go find someone that was raped; they didn't find someone that saw the rape; they found "reports" of rapes and whatnot, perhaps 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th hand.

Which is like playing the telephone game in Kindergarten. I'm sure bad things happened: any city of that size that loses all law and infrastructure is going to have lawless people doing horrible things. But I'd be very surprised if a good deal of the reporting on what was happening in NOLA was nothing but rumor.

It was a communications black hole, and is still a very difficult place to get around in. So there is no way in hell a great many of the stories about conditions could be verified. Many of them could quite easily turn out to be false.
posted by teece at 5:03 PM on September 6, 2005

My cousin told me that her roommate's sister was walking to work in Baton Rouge when she was handed a flyer for a kitten-juggling gambling den that was set up in the basement of an elderly woman who was forced to provide sweet tea.
posted by longsleeves at 5:05 PM on September 6, 2005

When I took psychiatry I remember learning that one of the very first things that happen in a natural disaster is the rapid spread of rumours. It's just some kind of human response to crisis and instense anxiety. Thus this interpretation has the ring of truth for me. However, it also seems possible or even probable that putting thousands of desperate shocked people in the situation in which they were placed, some proportion of whom were likely, for want of a better term, 'the dregs of society', might result in rapes, murders, etc. actually occurring. I bet, though, that it will turn out that there were a lot of unfounded rumours circulating during this terrible time, including but not limited to the Superdome itself.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:09 PM on September 6, 2005

Unfortunately, the kitten juggling is 100% true. Who will speak for the kittens?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:10 PM on September 6, 2005

and when things become very intense, my friend, they become inSTENSE! Word.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:11 PM on September 6, 2005

what about the helicopter shootings? confirmed?
posted by mecran01 at 5:48 PM on September 6, 2005

The doctor has been here for six days, volunteering for the state. But the federal government has control now. "You can't do anything if you're not with the feds," he says. "All they needed was to send in the Army. This is too big for the state. A couple of days ago, there were people being murdered left and right. I treated this one lady at the airport, a stranded tourist. She just stepped outside of her hotel. They beat her over the head, broke her jaw and raped her." -- Salon.
posted by skoosh at 6:01 PM on September 6, 2005

It's so true, Turtles. Who WILL speak for them?

Man. Now I feel horrible, posting that in a thread like this. In all seriousness, there are tons of reports of grim, grim stuff happening. Rape, cannibalism, shooting at rescuers, the flashing-for-rescue story FPP earlier today... police looting...

I hope and pray the stories are false, but given the situation, none of it seems unbelievable.
posted by verb at 6:10 PM on September 6, 2005

Thanks, skoosh!

While the account isn't from the victim herself, it could be considered first hand. Let's hope there aren't too many more like this.
posted by Alison at 6:32 PM on September 6, 2005

I went off in search of the helicopter-shooting story the other night. There are two people who went on record about it, the head of Acadian Ambulance and a dispatcher relaying what the head had said. He's the only one, though. The FAA had no reports of any helicopter shootings at the time. And since this was supposed to have happened as they tried to land at the Superdome, I would expect a few hundred eyewitnesses to corroborate it, and I haven't seen that evidence yet.

I wouldn't be surprised if rapes did occur. But I think it's safe to say some percentage of stories of rape are apocryphal while some percentage of true. No idea what the ratio might be.

The Astrodome stories I do not believe at all; they have the ring of hysteria, and the Astrodome is one of the most highly controlled, highly covered, highly staffed facilities imaginable. By all accounts it has, so far, been peaceful due in part to an enormous police and volunteer presence. I'd have to see a reliable source like a published newspaper or police blotter. Nurses, in particular, are far more likely to report rape than other women (since they know the medical repercussions intimately and would want an exam) so I'd expect it to be logged.
posted by Miko at 7:58 PM on September 6, 2005

...oh, but I forgot the original reason I posted: I saw the corpses at the Convention center, saw them on TV, different channels, multiple times. So it's pretty odd that the Guardian asserts that there were none. That, at least, was pretty evident empirically.
posted by Miko at 8:00 PM on September 6, 2005

I can believe stories of rape at the Superdome. At the Astrodome, no way. Those would be all over the Houston papers. Not only wouldn't a nurse be likely not to report, in those conditions especially she would be unlikely. There are children in the Astrodome, for Bog's sake.


The Superdome was being widely reported -- by Geraldo Rivera on live TV, among others -- as having a cache of bodies in bathrooms or (powerless) freezers. Even the WSJ passed on some: There were bodies in there freezer there... Fights. People screaming. Gunshots. We heard a young girl got her throat cut. There was a man in the bathroom waiting to rape people. We heard they beat him up bad -- killed him -- the people, not the cops. Usually the rape victim was reported as being a 14-year-old. The Times-Picayune said they were told by National Guard -- during a post-evac walkthrough -- that a freezer contained "30 to 40" bodies, including "a kid ... a 7-year-old, with her throat cut", and a bludgeoned man, which would match the tale of a rape and vigilante execution. Their source, an Arkansas guardsman, told them One of the bodies... was a girl they estimated to be 5 years old. Though they could not confirm it, they had heard she was gang-raped. "There was an old lady that said the little girl had been raped by two or three guys, and that she had told another unit. But they said they couldn't do anything about it with all the people there," Brooks said. "I would have put him in cuffs, stuck him in the freezer and left him there."

Late (later?) reports say that 10 bodies were recovered at the Superdome, and all had been people on respirators. (Presumably that includes the two that were outside and on TV for several days.)

So we may have 8 bodies in a freezer getting reported as 30-40 by a sworn soldier? I suppose it's possible. There does seem to have been one dead girl among them, age indeterminate, cause of death unproven, which doesn't fit the respirator angle.

Elsewhere, USA Today was treated to the sight of a murder victim with the weapon, scissors, at hand. And there was the cop who got shot in the head. We know it wasn't the Tubbytronic Superdome. But was it the Superdome of urban legend?
posted by dhartung at 9:57 PM on September 6, 2005

Jesus, verb. Take it to b3ta. Theres really nothing funny about the floodwaters, not even when you add a kitten to them.
posted by item at 9:59 PM on September 6, 2005

MeFi has my sincerest apologies, Item. I'm a bit numb at this point, with stories of rape, suicide, murder, conspiracy, destruction, and looming national breakdown if gas prices stay higher than $4.50 or so for more than a month.

I'd just read an article about PETA trying to raise millions to support pets in New Orleans while humans are dying, and the spirit in which the image was made was profoundly sarcastic. "Won't someone speak for the kittens" was a bit much for me.

I am duly shamed.
posted by verb at 5:44 AM on September 7, 2005

The Superdome was being widely reported -- by Geraldo Rivera on live TV, among others -- as having a cache of bodies in bathrooms or (powerless) freezers.

Geraldo was reporting from the Convention Center. The bodies-in-freezer and gang-rape stories were also reported - as hearsay - from the Convention Center.

Like I said, I have no doubt that some horrible things went down and have seen or heard evidence for many of them. But I am certain that too much hearsay was reported (and is now believed as fact).
posted by Miko at 6:21 AM on September 7, 2005

At least one instance of shots being fired at helicopters is substantiated here.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 7:18 AM on September 7, 2005

I'm inclined to believe all of it until proven otherwise. I know that is foolish, but I know too many women who were treated with disbelief after they had been raped to do otherwise.
posted by agregoli at 8:15 AM on September 7, 2005

I'm inclined to believe all of it until proven otherwise. I know that is foolish, but I know too many women who were treated with disbelief after they had been raped to do otherwise.

It's tough to reason like this. Certainly, it's not good to report like this. Proving something did happen requires only one piece of concrete evidence. Proving something did not happen takes infinite pieces of evidence. That's why we reason from examples - we don't imagine everything that could have happened, and then ask people to prove it didn't
posted by Miko at 8:35 AM on September 7, 2005

ereshkigal, just a note: you linked to an article saying

Federal agents arrested a young Algiers man early Tuesday

That's Tuesday as in yesterday. On Friday, when helicopter-shooting rumors were being reported as fact, I searched high and low for an attribution and only found the two Acadian Ambulance sources (who offered it as the reason they did not land at the Superdome), and I haven't yet seen a corroborating account.

Since then, it may have happened elsewhere (as this one account states) but for the three or four days we heard it being reported, it had happened in one single occurrence at the Superdome, if it happened at all. And if the Superdome helicopter shooting did happen, it wasn't reported to the FAA, which is unthinkable because that's really the kind of thing you report to the FAA so they can begin to address the problem and warn other pilots. That's why I posted it with this phrasing:

The FAA had no reports of any helicopter shootings at the time

posted by Miko at 8:44 AM on September 7, 2005

At least one survivor reports that young men were firing weapons, not AT a helicopter, but into the air to get it's attention.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:45 AM on September 7, 2005

Miko, I wasn't offering the article to substantiate all of the purported instances of sniping at helicopters. But the article does provide some evidence that there are, in fact, people Out There who would do such a thing. (One of the questions I heard repeatedly last week was, "who would shoot at rescuers?")
posted by ereshkigal45 at 8:48 AM on September 7, 2005

Certainly, it's not good to report like this. That's why we reason from examples - we don't imagine everything that could have happened, and then ask people to prove it didn't.

Agreed in reference to news media. I thought that adding "I know it's foolish" before my statement would have avoided this kind of reply. I can't help it - it pains me to hear "rape rumors false?" when it's probably likely that at least one woman has been raped during this crisis - and that is one too many.

It's all speculation and unconfirmed reports at this time - it will be a while before we know what happened. I don't see the point of speculating on what's true and what's not true now.
posted by agregoli at 9:06 AM on September 7, 2005

agregoli: I pretty much see it your way, but I do believe it's imperative to stop the spread of unsubstatiated rumor. It scares people, it provides leverage to those who want to argue that the victims were a bunch of lawless animals who didn't want to be rescued, and it's just untrue. But I do agree that many of the stories will prove to have a basis in reality.

ereshkigal: I'm just saying that at the time it was being reported as if it were an epidemic, it wasn't an epidemic. It may happened more times since then.
posted by Miko at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2005

I pretty much see it your way, but I do believe it's imperative to stop the spread of unsubstatiated rumor.

As do I, which I just said.
posted by agregoli at 9:24 AM on September 7, 2005

Charmaine Neville [windows media] is the daughter of Charles Neville of the Neville Bros. She has something to say about the rapes, the refusal of the "rescue" people to do anything the help them, and about people firing towards helicopters.

It's heartbreaking.
posted by dejah420 at 1:12 PM on September 7, 2005

Has this been linked yet? It seems to be a first-hand account from the Convention Center freezers. Hopefully we'll know the veracity of these things in a few days.
posted by Alison at 2:31 PM on September 7, 2005

agregoli: we don't really disagree, I declare peace.
posted by Miko at 5:00 PM on September 7, 2005

At first, I thought it was rumor also, since the news did not say anything else about it. Now that the people from the superdome are talking, i believe it and i am OUTRAGED AND HEARTBROKEN! My anger is directly at the perpetrators of these acts first and the home lives that created these monsters! I am so sad for people who had to fear other people during a time such as this!
posted by msthinker at 8:48 PM on September 7, 2005

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