It is a case which has some disturbing echoes of the Warren Blackwell case.
- There was no physical evidence that rape had taken place.
- The accuser changed her story several times.
- There was official corruption involved in the prosecution of the case, including the suppression of forensic evidence when it was found to undermine the accuser’s case and help the defence. The prosecutor, Mike Nifong, is now facing disciplinary action over his mishandling of the case.
- Feminist activists adopted the case as a cause celebre, insisting that the accuser must be believed, no matter what.
- The defendants find themselves hounded by the feminist lobby, and denied the presumption of innocence.
Cathy Young has some interesting things to say about the case in her recent article Duke: The Waterloo of "rape-crisis feminism"?
She documents the defamation being hurled at these (increasingly innocent-seeming) students by professional feminists of "the camp that Katie Roiphe once dubbed "rape-crisis feminists." These are the ideologues who see rape as the ultimate act of a male "war against women," and for whom, as Catharine MacKinnon put it in her 1987 book, Feminism Unmodified, "feminism is built on believing women's accounts of sexual use and abuse by men."
In order to avoid seeing their dogmatic beliefs challenged, rape-crisis feminists are obliged to attack the real victims in these cases - the falsely accused - while defending the real perpetrators - the false accusers. If they have to tear down the presumption of innocence enshrined in law for centuries in order to preserve their own credibility, then so be it.
In the Blackwell case, Ruth Hall and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape harangued the BBC for having the audacity to allow Mr Blackwell airtime to defend himself:
"By affording him the status and power of authoring his own item, supporting his point of view on the Today programme, and making his "speaking out" a news item, the BBC has contributed to a miscarriage of justice." Reference
Wendy McElroy attempts to analyse the reasons behind this disturbing trend. "The attack is not based on what is true or false, on whether a rape occurred or not. NSVRC derives its money from the current paradigm of victimhood...They are fighting for their lives and livelihood."
Young comments: "I'm not sure it's money per se, so much as ideology. Either way, the victim advocates are strongly invested in perpetuating their dogma, at the expense not only of accused men but of the real victims."
I believe that both of these comments contain valuable insights. Young points out that feminists have built their careers on the presumption that their dogmatic beliefs are absolutely correct, and they simply cannot afford for this to be questioned; it means having to countenance the possibility that their life’s work has been wasted. McElroy is also right to follow the money. Groups such as Women Against Rape in the UK attract funding because others believe that they are responsible advocates caring for the needs of a vulnerable group. If they are shown to be corrupt, incompetent and politically motivated, they may see large chunks of their income start to dry up.
In order to protect themselves, they are obliged to attack (in the US) the Duke Lacrosse Three and (in the UK) Warren Blackwell, and in both cases, defend the false accuser, leaving her free to offend again.
In view of the analysis offered by McElroy and Young, the actions of these feminist advocates seem even more outrageous, not less. They are demanding the withdrawal of the presumption of innocence from sexual assault cases, flying in the face of centuries of legal practice. They are demanding an artificial lowering of the evidential criteria in such cases, in order to make securing a conviction easier. The costs of this, in both cultural and humanitarian terms, will be vast. And they demand this, just so that they can protect themselves, and their own funding. The arrogance and narcissism of that is astonishing.
These cases may well be, as Young suggests, ‘The Waterloo of Rape Crisis Feminism’. If she is right, then the outlook, in the US at least, seems bright; the Duke case has now reached such pantomime proportions that there seems to be no possibility of a conviction; indeed the prosecutor is now the one under investigation.
In the UK, meanwhile, Warren Blackwell hasn’t been so lucky. The innocent father served the whole of his sentence for sexual assault before having his conviction quashed. In order to give justice to him and his family, and others like them, we need to bring his accuser to account. While we are at it, we should also demand that genuine rape victims be given the quality of representation they deserve, rather than having their cause hijacked by this ragtag of unscrupulous heterophobic time-servers.