Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Browse a comment board, and it'll be immediately obvious at how quick people are to judge suspects in sexual assault cases. One of the most recent examples is the potential boycotting of actor/director Nate Parker's "Birth of a Nation" film after news surfaced of him and his Penn State roommate, Jean Celestin, being accused of a 1999 sexual assault case. Then there's the $21 million alleged rape lawsuit that NBA star Derrick Rose is going to trial over.
In both cases, the victim was someone who knew both of them: One woman was an off-and-on girlfriend of Rose's for two years, the other was a woman who had sexual relations in the past with Parker. The woman linked to Parker, whose name has been revealed, was found dead in 2012 at a drug rehabilitation facility, after she was found with two 100-count pill bottles of an over-the-counter sleep aid nearby. The woman linked to Rose wants to keep her name anonymous, and she chose to sue him and report the alleged rape two years after it happened (2013).
Anonymous names, questionable police report timing, amounts being sued for, word-of-mouth debating and recorded phone calls are all cause for confusion, making people either more confident in their opinions about what happened or hesitant to take a stance. But how can the first group be so sure of what happened when the people involved are both telling different stories?
A few statistics may be able to make sense of it all.
According to the Justice Department study "Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females" from 1995 to 2013, student victims (12 percent) were more likely than non-student victims (5 percent) to state that the incident was not important enough to report. Male offenders were the cause of a greater percentage of female student victimizations (97 percent) than non-student victimizations (91 percent)
According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 will walk away free from charges. Of every 1,000 rapes documented in the criminal justice system, then 344 are reported to police, 63 lead to arrests, 13 cases are referred to prosecutors, seven will lead to felony convictions and six rapists will be incarcerated. Three out of four rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.
With the odds stacked against rape and sexual assault victims, some may feel that women and men who would be brave enough to speak up about crimes against them must be telling the truth. This is even in the case of settled lawsuits, such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston, who settled a sexual assault lawsuit for $950,000 from a 2012 incident at Florida State University. Some would believe that a settled lawsuit means one party is guilty. Others realize that the amount of money spent in court and the dependence on a jury could be a more economically sound decision than proceeding forward, regardless of guilt or innocence.
Those who judge the suspects, especially accusers of elite entertainers, may question whether the criminal accusations are due to past indiscretions, a desperate attempt at money or the need for attention. While the likelihood of a person lying about being raped is low (ranging from 2 to 8 percent), once someone has been accused of it, that accusation tends to stick to their reputation the way a misdemeanor/felony conviction sticks to a job application. For that reason alone, some people just don't want to believe the accusations could be true – even if they are.