picture taken from amazon.com
How I wish those letters were referring to Los Angeles Airport, LAX. But, no, we do not live in a life where my blogging concerns the details of luggage delays and incredibly long minutes of terminal waits. How I wish I could write a comparitive dissertation on mainstream airports such as O'Hare, LAX, La Guardia, and Reagon.
LAX refers to the non-shocking but heartwrenching story of the Duke Lacrosse/Nifong rape case. In case you haven't heard, all charges have been dropped against the three young men. Read more about it here, thanks to The Primary Contradiction.
Aside from the clear multiplicity of stories this case has birthed, the one I find myself most fascinated by is the intersection of media, journalism, and the public perception of rape and sexual violence.
In other words, in lay terms, I cannot fucking believe how ignorant people are about the effects of sexual violence and trauma on survivor's lives, choices, and memory.
I mean, SERIOUSLY, do people honestly think that women with "questionable" histories who dress in "sheer red negligee" go around saying they were gang raped for shits and giggles? Because it is SO much fun to be publicly humiliated and Wikipedia-ed as a result of reporting a sexual assault?
The plain and enraging fact is that no one - not media, Nifong, or even Finnerty and his crew (if they're truly "innocent") - know the truth. The truth, of sexual assault, is often buried in the moment it occurs. Every rape is different, every assault is different, and I happen to believe that this woman was assaulted. By who, when, where, and how, I will never know. But after working years in the field of sexual violence, what steams me most is the arrogance and ignorance of the "spectators" who have the audacity to supposedly determine culpability or innocense based on MEDIA's perception of the events?
Just because we have cell phone records and time lapsed photos that contradict the times where she said she was raped, strangled, and sodomized does not prove a violent act never took. Anyone with half a brain could reflect on the last time you were inconvenienced and draw a clear relationship between forced human memory and actuality. Ever wait in line at the grocery store too long when someone couldn't find the right change? In actuality, "price check on aisle 3" takes:
a) less than 2 minutes
b) ten minutes
c) at least 10 minutes
In the moment, I say B, or if I'm really pissed, maybe C. In retrospect, it was probably about 45 seconds. So, A is the reality. But, when you are running late because your boss is expecting you back at the office in 3 minutes or when you need to use the restroom, the 45 seconds are about 5 minutes. Five minutes feels like 10 minutes...and so on and so forth.
My point is that even under the most mundane conditions, our ability to measure time and its relationship to memory is skewed by one's EMOTIONAL STATE. A recount of how much time something took is different in how it FELT. Often, in trauma, there is no distinction or memory. So, take that and apply it to, oh, I don't know, someone pushing a penis, hand, or inanimate pointed object into your vagina or anas. It just might be that details and ability to recollect are less than precise. It just might be that drugs, alcohol, and perhaps general life experience and past abuses have prevented a one-way, linear avenue of clear communication that so many people demand to satiate their own demented conclusion of truth and justice. These elements might radically change time tables, causing eyeballs to sway to and fro.
We get so caught up in the search and the weight of "facts;" facts which usually tip the scale toward the accused and away from the accuser, that the understanding piece of the nature of sexual assault is swept under the rug. THE "TRUTH" OF SEXUAL ASSAULT DIES IN THE MOMENT IT HAPPENS. The details of what led up to "it," who wore what, what drink was poured and how much fade in the human act of violating another person's essense, their own body. There are necessary and appropriate places for wondering how the puzzle pieces fit, but a major, major problem is that general perception is tainted by our own gendered views of propriety.
For instance, in my experience, everyone always points to the woman in cases of college acquaintence or date rape. A woman makes a stupid decision, like, trusting a stranger at a party. Dumb decision, yeah. Who doesn't do their share of stupidity? I drive drunk sometimes. Isn't that more dumb, mindless, and idiotic than kissing a good-looking, perceivably good person who likes you? Do I or the other person deserve to have our bodies violated against our will? Does one decision warrant the most heinous human act of violence? Well, she should have known better to go home with him. I KNOW. SHE TOTALLY DESERVED TO BE RAPED. [read: intense trademark AWE sarcasm]
How much more does a lifetime of circumstances, a lifetime of choices that we do not approve of, taint our ability to see truth? She's a stripper. Single mother. Black. Student at a less prestigious school. She supposedly stripped less than 2 weeks after the alleged rape. If she was really raped, she wouldn't go back and do that sort of thing again. Or, SHE MIGHT HAVE NO OTHER OPTIONS AND NEED TO FEED HER CHILDREN.
She "wanted the money" she didn't receive from the Duke folks who hired her to take off her clothes. See? She's just a money-hungry liar who just wanted their money. She wasn't really raped. or, MAYBE SHE STARTED STRIPPING TO FINANCE SCHOOL AND FAMILY, AND EVEN THOUGH THE WORLD IS NOW WATCHING, YOU ARE STILL IN THE SAME ECONOMIC DISPARITY.
The multiplicity of begging questions surrounding this case are clearly overwhelming. Was she raped? Who raped her? Did Finnerty, Evans, Seligmann have any part in it? I don't know. Nobody knows. Not even the luxury box Duke parents who flipped their hands on 60 Minutes and called the accuser "disturbed" and cried over their sons' unknown future. Are their lives forever changed and smeared because of this? Absolutely! But you gotta find another blog if you want sympathetic commentary for the millionaire families with tarnished lives.
In the future, these men will always be, perhaps unjustly, linked to the case and they will forever have to prove they were indeed "innocent" of the charges, and that the "fantastic lies" were indeed fantastically told.
But, my primary concern is not of the first class smear affairs. My focus is on the young women who will forever have those three children that lived through this and the murky mystery of what truly happened that night. My curiosity is peaked by the fact that she did not want to move forward in it and yet her name has now been released for all of America to know. My concern is not that her life will be spent defending her name and reminding innocence, but building a life without privilege and credibility when the world has already deemed you a liar, at best. I'm more concerned about her ability to heal her body, her self, a history of violence and, I believe, rape.
But WHO raped her then? I really don't care.
You wanna have a go-round about whose got it worse? Tell the truth.
If you had to choose who you'd rather be in this case, now that "it's over," would you rather:
Have to rebuild a previously privileged life after a terrible ordeal and have family wealth, resources, and live with the sting of a pseudo "innocent" label attached to your name for the rest of your life?
Have to attempt to heal from the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma of rape that will be with you for the rest of your days with the label of the "that stripper who said she was raped by those lacrosse guys...what were their names again?"