(Hat tip to Shakesville)
[Trigger warning for sexual violence; rape apologia; victim-blaming.]
This is a copy of the letter I’ve sent the New York Times over this article, in which the writer would have you believe that the account of the defendant in a rape case is more important than that of the victim, despite evidence that it also false. I urge my [X amount of readers] to let the Times know how much they suck at this and why it’s wrong and actively harmful by contacting the Public Editor.
Dear Mr. Brisbane and the Editorial Staff of the New York Times:
I understand that “innocent until proven guilty” is one of the cornerstones of our legal system. However, adhering to that maxim does not mean that one should try to skew sympathies to favor the defendant, which is what reporter John Eligon has done in the article “In Rape Trial, Officer Calls Woman the Aggressor and Says They Only Snuggled”. The article is problematic in many significant ways, which, when combined with the Times‘ equally wrongheaded reporting in the recent Texas gang rape case, leads me to believe that the newspaper cannot be trusted to cover rape or sexual assault in a responsible manner.
First, the headline, which as one learns in Journalism school, will often be the only part of an article a reader will read, and therefore needs to summarize the news article accurately. Does “In Rape Trial, Officer Calls Woman the Aggressor and Says They Only Snuggled” do that? As it turns out, no: we learn later that in a secretly recorded statement “in which [Officer Moreno] made several statements implying that he had had sex with her.” However, that bit of information, despite putting in question everything the officer claims and being the most important piece of information in the whole piece (and therefore, something that should be placed in the lede) is to be found in the article’s nineteenth paragraph–long after many readers will have stopped reading the article. What does a person who only read the first few paragraphs end up thinking? That a responsible officer, despite doing his best to help, only gets a rape accusation for his troubles. Moreover, the article is written to allow the reader to follow the defendant’s point of view, letting us know (irrelevant) details about the officer’s life and casting him in a sympathetic light, while the victim is not described in any terms that are not those of the defendant. This is not an unbiased account of the facts.
Part of the reason why rape as a whole remains under-reported is because it can open the victims to accusations that they are liars, despite the lack of factual support for such a narrative. In writing this article, John Eligon and the New York Times have continued to reinforce that narrative, therefore helping assure that rape victims will not get the support they need, and that rapists continue to rape, safe in the assurance that their side of the story will be the one that will be heard.
…is dead. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that, except it sounds a little something like this:
In a few hours, my parents will return from their Caribbean cruise, and my one week as the sole human in the house will end. It’s been an odd week, and I’m not sure what lessons I should take from it. Things I’ve noticed:
1) I can totes get prepared and ready to leave for school by 7:00 a.m.
2) I apparently have a blind spot when it comes to my brother’s girlfriend, and will easily forget past interactions with her.
3) Overt religiosity (say, for example, a visible rosary) will not prevent me from being attracted to someone. Should have asked her out, even if I’d just met her. Worst case scenario, she says no, we never see each other again (we met on a train station I very rarely take).
4) Being alone will not curb my internet addiction. I really must try getting a typewriter some day.
5) I am apparently willing to sell my (non-existent) soul if it’ll get me out of here. Also, working for Andrew Sullivan now feels like selling out.
6) No response yet on the Princeton Review count, although I’ve been assured that I am still being considered. I really hope it happens.
7) Also no response on my appeal for reconsideration regarding the Translation Program at the University. Does not bode well.
8) I’ve totally screwed myself when it comes to my special education class, and it appears I won’t be able to get the necessary six hours of observation before the deadline. Now my options are either dropping out (which would make this the second class where I’ve done so this semester) or taking the grade hit and hoping I still have enough to get a C (not likely).
9) Existential dread level: 6 (out of 10)
10) My Arthurian lit professor gave my essay a provisional A (pending revisions), which, given how rushed it was and how good he usually is, strikes me as disappointing. Also, his handwriting is officially less understandable than Japanese.