In the months since we first heard allegations that members of the Duke Lacrosse Team raped a stripper, we've been treated to a steady stream of coverage, a good portion of it done with a wink and a nod that the young men accused are innocent until proven guilty, but secretly suggesting they probably did it. Now, we have information that the head of the lab doing DNA testing on the alleged rapists collaborated with D. A. Mike Nifong to suppress results that exonerated the members accused.
This, along with other problematic events like the alleged rape victim's timeline not matching with the events, has uncovered some ugliness to this case. But nothing so ugly as how we treat accused rapists. We've been conditioned to think that "innocent until proven guilty" actually means "guilty until proven innocent" because we've been told for years that women wouldn't lie about being raped.
This brings us to a touchy subject: the kind of power women have in a situation like this. Because rape is such a highly personal violation of a woman, we give them the benefit of the doubt in a lot of cases, even in cases when the women may not be telling the truth. This is not to say that every woman who is raped lies about it. What I am saying is that there are women who will take advantage of the power we give them in a situation like this and use it for their own ends. For some, it's money. For others, it's as a way to disavow a bad decision to sleep with a particular guy. For still others, it's motivated by revenge against the guy or against men in general.
Yet, we rarely consider the real victims of bogus rape charges. Duke's lacrosse team pretty much lost a season. Duke University lost a bit of its luster. And the accused? Their lives are pretty much ruined, even if they are exonerated. With the media being the way they are, they have made these young men into targets. And the accusations and sidelong looks never quite go away.
Now that the case against these young men appears to be falling apart, we have to ask what justice there can be for them at this stage. A fair trial may exonerate them, but it will never be enough. A suit against the accuser may get them montary awards, but it will never be enough. Because of a dishonest woman, an overzealous District Attorney, and a media willing to be accomplices in this scheme, the Duke lacrosse team as a whole has been tainted.
I sincerely hope the parties who sought to use this sorrid affair for their own means can sleep at night knowing the damage they've caused. I know if I were in their shoes, I wouldn't.