Posted on | March 20, 2013 | 14 Comments
Two 18-year-olds in Torrington, Conn., are charged with sexually assault. The case involves a 13-year-old, and it has caused some ugly reaction:
[O]n social media in recent weeks, dozens of athletes and Torrington High School students, male and female, have taunted the 13-year-old victim, calling her a “whore,” criticizing her for “snitching” and “ruining the lives” of the 18-year-old football players, and bullying students who defend her.
“Even if it was all his fault, what was a 13 year old girl doing hanging around 18 year old guys..” said a Twitter user with the handle, “@LoryyRamirez.” That was reposted 11 times and received six favorites.
Balancing the rights of victims and the rights of the accused can be difficult in such cases, and when rape accusations become national headlines, commentary is often wildly irresponsible. Lee Stranahan covered the ways in which reaction to the Steubenville case led to false accusations of a “cover-up” that impugned the entire community. Dana Pico at First Street Journal reminds us of another media-created travesty:
Many of our friends on the left immediately jumped on the guilty, guilty, guilty! bandwagon in the infamous Duke lacrosse team not-rape case, including our old friend Amanda Marcotte, who was extremely reluctant to believe that Crystal Gail Mangum might actually have lied when she made the accusations, stating that the charges were dropped against the three accused lacrosse players because the “prosecution in the Duke case fumbled the ball.” ….One of Miss Marcotte’s commenters even held that:
Rape is a crime unlike others. In any rape case, but especially in a rape case where a black woman accuses a white man, the rapist should be considered guilty until he proves his innocence. And he must prove his innocence not beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any possible doubt. The Durham rapists have not done so, by any means.
The rush to judgment, the irresponsible haste to comment on what happened before we actually know what happened, causes all kinds of unecessary problems in situations like these. Trying criminal cases in the media is always a bad idea, and using blog comments as a way to vent personal or political sentiments about a rape case can easily turn into a digital lynch mob mentality.