Washington Post Rape Coverage

What does the media love more than a scandalous in-school rape case?
A young woman recanting her story.
The recent Washington Post articles examining the alleged rape of a 15 year-old girl at Mount Hebron High School in Maryland have been remiss in their handling of the girl’s recent recantation.
The girl had previously accused three boys of forcing her into a bathroom, where one held her down and the other raped her. The third boy allegedly watched out for anyone at the bathroom door.
The first 4/17/04 article noted that a “physical examination of the girl at Howard County General Hospital showed that her body had signs of trauma consistent with forcible rape.”
Later stories implied that the girl’s story was dubious–despite the above evidence.
In a 4/21/04 piece, “Rape Probe Flawed, Lawyers Say,” the Post quoted one of the attackers’ lawyers, Lawrence B. Rosenberg:
Rosenberg suggested that police were eager to make arrests “because of where it happened, inside the school. Maybe it’s sexy to charge right away. . . . It was a juicy story.”
The rape of a high school freshman is sexy and juicy? How nice.
The real transformation in the coverage, however, took place once the girl recanted her story. The headlines went from “3 Howard Teenagers Charged in Rape Case” to “Girl Who Accused 3 Schoolmates of Rape Recants.” Teenagers are scary; schoolmates wear dickies.
The 4/23/04 article makes it seem like the accuser got caught in a lie:
…several students have told police that the girl did not appear upset when she emerged from the restroom…”She’s essentially backed off her original complaint completely,” (State’s Attorney Timothy) McCrone said. “At some point she might have realized that things might have gotten out of control and had a change of heart.”
Or maybe she was terrified about the media coverage and the possibility of being vilified in court? There are a myriad of reasons rape victims recant their stories–it is not a direct indicator that they are lying.
It’s time that the media took a more in-depth look at the intricacies and politics of sexual assault; but I guess at the end of the day it’s just “sexier” to think that a 15 year-old girl would have consensual sex with three boys in a school bathroom.
The girl’s mother has stood by her daughter’s story.

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