Rape, Good Victims and HORRIBLE JOURNALISM

So I wake up this morning and as I am pilfering through the morning news I read a story on the NYTimes about how the Strauss-Kahn case is “on the verge of collapse.” Now, when the allegations came out against Strauss-Kahn I was shocked at the media’s response to the case. There were minimal stories on the background of the accuser, on what she was doing that day, on who she hung out with or the things she liked to do. She was taken seriously as someone who was REPORTING A CRIME, her credibility was not undermined by journalists “uncovering” facts about her sexuality, her situation or things of that nature.

As the media ran out of things to write about, with Strauss-Kahn awaiting his trial and the accuser silent, the NYTimes began to look into her background, and profiled her as what Jezebel termed a “Noble Savage” – a “good victim”. Now, as we can all probably remember, the NYTimes happens to have a HORRENDOUS track record when it comes to reporting on victims of rape, so perhaps type-castingStrauss-Kahn’s accuser was their attempt to showcase their journalistic abilities, which resulted in a weird stereotypical portrait of a noble immigrant.

Well folks, it seems this morning things have just got a lot worse. The crux of the article is in this paragraph, “Although forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a French politician, and the woman, prosecutors now do not believe much of what the accuser has told them about the circumstances or about herself.”

So. Even though Strauss-Kahn fled the scene, even though numerous other victims are coming out and taking a stand against him, and EVEN THOUGH THERE IS FORENSIC EVIDENCE TO PROVE AN ENCOUNTER HAPPENED, now the accuser is discredited because apparently the accuser did not tell officials that she was involved with an incarcerated man. And there is more; the prosecution just got a hold of the taped conversations. Conversations where she ASKS HIM IF SHE SHOULD PRESS CHARGES – where she weighed the pros and cons of pressing charges. Wow, apparently that is enough to mar her reputation as a noble victim. Also, apparently there are “inconsistencies” about how the accuser describes her own FGM experiences. These “revelations” in my mind are laughable, however I know that this morning many people will read this article and for the first time believe that Strauss-Kahn might actually be innocent.

The thing is, the story about her attack hasn’t changed. And even if it had that shouldn’t discredit her. The fact that the NYTimes is yet again publishing alarmist calls about a rape case isn’t particularly surprising. The fact that their story unquestioningly takes the tactics that are being used to discredit people who bravely report and accuse rapists is sad, it is unjust, and it is not surprising that even police officers who admit their rape on tape are not charged. Even if the accuser was running a drug-ring out of her basement, that should not affect her being taken seriously as a victim of sexual assault.

There should not be such a thing as good victims and bad victims. All victims, all women and men, should be taken seriously when they take the difficult step of reporting sexual assault. Until we stop type-casting women, until we stop assuming that WOMEN are the case of rape and not the RAPISTS WHO RAPE THEM, and until news sources like the New York Times are held accountable for the damage that they cause every time a story like this passes an editor’s desk, we will have to keep marching as sluts, hand in hand.

**Slutwalk is coming to NYC on August 20th, 2011**

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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