There is an old axiom that says that if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth.
With all the vigils, seminars, angry letters, and all-around smear tactics aimed at Delta Chi fraternity, I, too, believed they were booted off campus because there were hooliganish rapists in their midst. The juxtaposition of the suspension and the alleged incident couldn't have helped their public image. But the social chair of the fraternity deserves praise for stepping forward and setting the record straight. Predictably, much vitriol in the form of response letters followed in high volume. The damage has been done, and whether or not there is a conviction, or even whether an assault occurred, are moot points.
This is not in any way aimed at discounting the claim of the alleged victim, whatever her name may be. If things occurred as she said they did, and a crime occurred, she deserves redress, and the perpetrator(s) should not see the light of day for a LONG time. In addition, anyone who covered for them and obstructed justice should also be called to answer.
Nor am I even affiliated with the Greek system. I'm not a booster or fan of them, for they have some culpability for the problem of rape, and it is a problem. No one is arguing that. But unfairness is unfairness, wherever it lies.
The point is that "date rape" has become the modern Scarlet Letter, only getting this tattoo requires no proof, only speculation and innuendo. Why is rape the only crime where even "innocent until charged" does not apply? Because of the ways the media and law enforcement handle rape cases.
Women's groups have pushed over the decades for legal and ethical procedural policies that show more sensitivity to the plight of women who come forward with rape accusations. The assumption is that there is unique stigma that rape victims experience, and consequently fewer would be compelled to come forth if they knew they would be subject to public scrutiny. It has led to the rule of thumb that a victim's name should not be published. I disagree with none of this.
But doesn't it stand to reason that if rape is the most humiliating crime to be a victim of, wouldn't it be the most humiliating crime to be accused of? A case in point is the Smith trial four years back. Despite the fact that it took a jury only 77 minutes to acquit him, the first word people think of when they hear William Smith is not "doctor," or even "Kennedy," but "rape." His named was smeared for several months, but the New York Times was castigated for printing Patricia Bowman's name before the trial.
By not affording the same pre-justice anonymity to the accused, we engage in a de facto suspension of the "innocent until proven guilty" ethic. This is what happened to Delta Chi. In our rush to protect someone we assume to be a victim, we make a victim out of the party who has yet to be proven the perpetrator by allowing and/or participating in what are essentially slander campaigns. We tell men and their organizations that they are guilty until proven innocent, and that there public image is not important. All this under the dubious auspices of "victim advocacy" and consciousness raising.
The assertion that Delta Chi's reinstatement somehow sends a bad message to women is ludicrous. The fact remains that only the principals involved know what happened, like most rape cases, and this one will be decided on evidence. For the campus at large, just like the society at large in high profile cases, it's none of our business until the end of a trial.
What we need to is stop jumping to conclusions, put our impetuousness in check, and stop attacking prematurely. The lives and reputations of two people, a young man and a young woman, and an entire organization, Delta Chi, are at stake here. We may have already poisoned the waters of justice already to the point where one party may well drown, and the lines of what constitutes rape have been so blurred that we may well never get to the truth, and neither side may get a fair hearing. In general, until a jury or a county attorney makes a decision based on evidence, let's be fair as human beings. We don't need to attack one side in order to protect the other. Women need to know that they will be supported and protected, but men need to know that they won't become bogeymen-by-innuendo.
Tyrone Henry is a political science senior.
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