Jacquielynn Floyd, writing in the Dallas News, takes offense at the reaction of some readers to the news that a high school baseball player was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl in his car last weekend. Floyd bemoans the unfairness of people who assume the accuser's account is false. "Their automatic disbelief is so sad, so utterly lacking in compassion, that they sound like savage animals tearing at the flesh of a wounded member of their own pack," she writes.
Let's examine Floyd's claim of unfairness more closely. This is a verbatim quote from her piece: "What’s unfortunate about this case — wait, scratch that. What’s revolting, what’s sickening about this case, is the outpouring of comments on public forums vilifying the victim, an unidentified teenage girl."
Floyd's hypocrisy is breathtaking. In a piece where she bemoans a rush to judgment that assumes the innocence of the accused, before a single scrap of evidence is admitted at trial, much less an adjudication of guilt, Floyd, herself, has declared the accuser to be a "victim." That can only mean that the young man must be guilty.
Is it even necessary to explain that such a description does a grave disservice to (1) the presumptively innocent young man who, unlike the accuser, is named in the Dallas News, and (2) Floyd's readers, who are entitled to accurate reporting but receive something less than that when she transforms an accuser into a "victim." People reading the newspaper assume the writer is writing responsibly. Branding the accuser a "victim" is unjust and irresponsible by any measure.
People of good will need to insist that people stop assuming they know what happened in rape cases based on nothing more than information about an accusation. That includes Floyd, who should be held to an even higher standard than those casual readers she compares to "savage animals."
Floyd's entire unfortunate piece is after the jump.
Victim-blaming hits new low in Highland Park rape case
The Dallas Morning News
Let us imagine that a person — could be anybody, but for our purposes, let’s say it’s a wealthy, popular high school athlete from a well-connected family — is accused of armed robbery.
A store clerk identifies him as the robber. The police find the clerk’s story, which is supported by physical evidence, to be credible enough that a warrant is issued and the alleged perpetrator is arrested and charged.
Community-wise, it’s a big story. Everybody’s talking about it.
Tell me, is this your first reaction: The clerk probably gave him the money voluntarily, then yelled “robbery” to cover up the cash shortage. Clerks lie about robbery all the time.
Or this: The store is just asking for it by leaving that cash register full of money right there in plain sight. You can’t expect robbers to resist that kind of loot! What was the store doing open at that time of night, anyway?
Would you wring your hands and lament: Poor kid, there’s no way to tell what really happened. Now his life is ruined.
I assume you’re ahead of me here, and that you know I’m fixing to work around to the case involving Highland Park High School baseball player Ryan Romo, who is charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl in his car last weekend.
This case began its lumbering journey through the justice system with everybody doing their jobs. A complaint was made; two separate physical examinations supported the allegation, police say; they opened an investigation; a judge acknowledged there was probable cause for an arrest.
Some rape arrests are reported in the news; some aren’t. Given the wealth and prominence of the alleged perpetrator’s family, this particular case was publicized based on information outlined in the warrant affidavit.
It’s not a conviction. It’s an accusation that, at this point, detectives say is supported by evidence and that they are taking seriously. That’s how the system works.
What’s unfortunate about this case — wait, scratch that. What’s revolting, what’s sickening about this case, is the outpouring of comments on public forums vilifying the victim, an unidentified teenage girl.
I can’t for the life of me understand the cruelty of people who are busy constructing speculative, unsupported tales about how this girl is either lying about being raped, or, if she actually was raped, is nonetheless somehow at fault.
“Let’s not pretend women/girls don’t lie about rape,” wrote one commenter/self-appointed legal expert.
The basic facts are known. Romo, who will turn 19 on Tuesday, ran into the girl at a concert Saturday night.
After the show, the pair took a cab back to his Chevy Tahoe.
They drove to his home and parked outside, got in the back seat and began kissing.
According to the affidavit, when Romo began physically pressing for sex, the girl told him “no” and “stop” several times. She later told her mother, “I said no but he didn’t care,” again according to the affidavit.
A hospital rape exam, and a second examination by the girl’s own doctor, both found physical trauma consistent with forcible assault.
Again, it’s not a conviction. But I was genuinely poleaxed with disbelief at some of the crazy, cruel scenarios some people are spinning to explain this particular set of facts.
“Sounds like she told a story when she was late getting home and this has skyrocketed out of control,” one commenter said. And another: “No way this girl testifies. If she climbed in the back seat consensually, his attorneys will destroy her.”
Several writers characterized the case as “he said/she said,” as if conflicting stories make it impossible to get at the truth.
One commenter theorized that even if sexual assault occurred, the victim is partially responsible: “It seems like both sides didn’t make the best choices.”
Several posters, discounting the professional investigative process entirely, insisted that “there’s no way to know” what happened, and that the alleged victim’s statement “is all they have.” Maybe they should throw her into the lake to see whether she floats.
One commenter constructed an entire defense theory.
“She probably consented to having sex [but] claimed it was ‘forced upon her’ due to the fear of consequences by her parents.”
The writer also shares a little forensic gynecological expertise by explaining the victim’s physical trauma as being “most likely from the intense sex that they just had in a car.”
It’s hard to believe that people are saying such things about a teenage girl who might be a rape victim. Their automatic disbelief is so sad, so utterly lacking in compassion, that they sound like savage animals tearing at the flesh of a wounded member of their own pack.
One woman wrote The Dallas Morning News that the accused attacker “should not be put in the paper with his mugshot like a rapist who breaks into homes and preys on women.” What’s missing in the affidavit but the burglary?
Some comments, of course, expressed concern for the alleged victim, or at least suggested that idle speculation should be curbed.
But there was enough outright victim-blaming to scare the daylights out of anybody seeking justice, or even simple decent compassion, after a sexual assault.
I don’t wonder why victims “lie.” I wonder how they ever summon the courage to tell the truth.