Rape Shield Laws and the Duke Case

PowderBlueReport carried a post from Lee Lemke on the Duke Rape Case and how the Duke Lacrosse players had been found innocent (go to the site and scroll down). 

I viewed this result as the criminal justice system working.  These boys engaged in some not-so-angelic behavior (drinking to excess, I’m sure some underage drinking, leading to “hiring” some X-rated talent to perform for them), were found innocent when the evidence did not support the charge of rape.  The justice system worked.

This is what happens in a criminal investigation.  Facts come to light and a decision to prosecute or drop charges happens though I will freely admit the case dragged on for an unnecessarily long time.  But this post is not so much about the Duke case as it is about attitudes on rape expressed by Lee in his post.

Lee’s reference to Don Imus’s comment on “Nappy Headed Ho’s” was typical of his posts, but what really got me was what he wrote below; I have italicized certain points that really stand out:

Hopefully, the players will be able to sue him (the DA) in some way for everything he has. The black stripper (I didn’t say nappy-headed Ho) who over a year ago accused them & has been hiding ever since has finally been identified as Crystal Gaile Mangum. Because of the screwy rape-shield laws, her identity has been protected while she ruined the players lives with her unfounded charges. However, the players identities were revealed immediately. My guess is that she originally thought she could get a big settlement in return for dropping the charges. The case got so much publicity that she lost control. Women want to be considered equal. However, the law does not treat them as being equal. The law treats them as delicate little flowers who must be treated as supersensitive. The supposed stigma from being a victim of a sex crime is ridiculous. Suck it up! It is not a secret that woman have vaginas. What do you think they are used for? It should not matter if a person is a victim of a sex crime or car-jacking. Since men who are accused of rape are immediately identified before being found guilty, women accusers should be identified immediately too. Either women are equal or they are not.”
I contacted Dawn Foor, the supervisor for the Department of Prevention Education and Community Outreach for the Sexual Assault Victims Services for Community Services Program Inc.  Dawn works for the only Rape Crisis Center in OC.
They get a few hundred calls per month and the average age of the women who call are between 14 and 99.  She assures me that all the victims who call span of those ages.  About one percent of calls come from men and some of those are crank calls.  Dawn’s position is to take all calls seriously.  Dawn read Lee’s post and admitted that it made her throw something across the room.  


“We hate this kind of cases (the Duke case) because it negates all the work we do to inform the public that rape is a serious crime,” said Foor, herself a rape victim.  “When we get a false-accuse, it hurts what we do and validates the social perception that women are always falsely accusing in a rape case, when this happens in only about two percent of all rape cases.” 
Lemke’s reference of rape shield laws really rattled Foor.
“Rape shield laws are inadequate in protecting women,” she said.  “Rape is not a ‘supposed’ stigma, as rape victims’ labor under this stigma for the rest of their lives.  And to have rape compared to a carjacking is insulting.  Women will never be equal to men until men stop raping them.” 
Lee also has the wrong idea about rape being a sex crime.  It’s not.  It’s a crime of violence and domination of men over women.
“His perceptions are typical and I’ll say he is blessed because no one he has loved or care for has been raped,” said Foor.  “He has not had to deal with this on a realistic plane.  Rape victims do not bring a rape upon themselves.”
She added, “Rape victims have no real rights in the criminal justice system; the DA does.  Rape victims don’t bring charges; a DA does.  Rape victims are witnesses to crimes committed against them.  So ridicule and scorn placed upon this girl is misguided.  He (Lemke) is so ill informed about the dynamics of victimization.  Most people are ill informed and have no idea how rape affects a victim for the rest of their life.”
As it so happens, its Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  There is some sort of event at UCI Wednesday night where Foor will speak.  To learn more about sexual assault, go to: http://www.rainn.org/.  

For information and help dealing with sexual assault and rape in Orange County, please reference the information below:
Sexual Assault Victim Services/Prevention Program:
Since 1981, the Sexual Assault Victim Services/Prevention Program has been a component of CSP providing extended support services to victims of rape and child sexual abuse each year. Rape Crisis Centers are located in Santa Ana and Irvine. Certified Sexual Assault Counselors working with law enforcement and the Criminal Justice System serve all of Orange County. The Program maintains three 24-hour crisis counseling hotlines. Staff and volunteers respond to hospitals and police departments on request.  Support groups for survivors of sexual assault are offered in English and Spanish.  CSP’s Sexual Assault Victim Services/Prevention Program offers self-defense classes and sexual assault prevention education programs for elementary, junior high, high school and colleges.
 Center Locations and Phone Numbers:
Sexual Assault Victim Services – Serving North Orange County

Central Justice Center
700 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(714) 834-4317
Sexual Assault Victim Services – Serving South Orange County

Community Service Programs
1821 East Dyer Road, Suite 200
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(949) 752-1971
Rape Crisis Hotlines – 24-hour Counseling:

(714) 957-2737
(714) 836-7400
(949) 831-9110

Sexual Assault Prevention Education

Community Service Programs
1821 East Dyer Road, Suite 200
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(949) 417-2108

And an addendum; Lee is recovering from acid reflux surgery and complained about only two of his nurses having limited English speaking skills.  He also described his condition as “…wrapping the top of the stomach around the sphincter valve where the esophagus enters the stomach.”   I have to admit, I thought of Lee the moment I saw the word “sphincter.”

  4 comments for “Rape Shield Laws and the Duke Case

  1. April 16, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Who is to blame for this case, and the reactions by those like Lemke? The media, and the passive audience that eats it up.

    They grabbed onto it because of its racial, sexual, and class implications, and they ran with it as far as they could — the Daily Show had a clip of Nancy Grace Show showing phone numbers for rape crisis centers she tried her best to spin the lack of DNA evidence identifying the defendants.

    If you want to blame someone for this case, I’d blame the people who tried their best to make the case into a celebrated study of social evils, and not as a simple matter of criminal procedure.

    This is not meant to be a defense of the Power Blue Report material. But I do think that the early cheerleaders of this case, seeing another cut-and-dried case of racism and sexual assault by over-privileged white males, deserve much of the blame for encouraging such sentiments.


  2. Dan Chmielewski
    April 16, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    My post has more to do with Lee’s attitiudes towards rape shield laws. He believes victims should be treated equally. Exposing a rape victims identity will cause many rape victims not to report the crime. Too many rape victimes are placed on trail as sluts (re-read the Jane Doe/Haidl case again). As far as the Duke case goes, the justice system worked. The boys have been exonerated with the same type of press they had when they were accused.

  3. April 16, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Fair enough.

    And even then, behind the crude words, I see Lemke’s point — you have a sixth amendment right to confront your accuser’s testimonial allegations, and rape shield laws work against that. Consider the difficult position the falsely accused is in — unable to answer back and at a weakness against a point-scoring DA.

    I wouldn’t forget that right so quickly.


  4. Dan Chmielewski
    April 16, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    And if the case had gone to trial, that right would have been guaranteed. The case didn’t go to trial. The ongoing investigation finally exonerated the accused.

    The prosecutor probably should have admitted he was wrong a long time ago on this case; in much the same way Bush should admit he was wrong about Iraq.

Comments are closed.