Public discussion surrounding Duke University Rape Case reinforces rape myths
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DATE: April 19, 2006
CONTACT: Susan Lewis 877- 739-3895 ext 102 or Monika Johnson-Hostler 888-732-2272 ext 17
National Sexual Violence Resource Center and North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Public discussion surrounding Duke University Rape Case reinforces rape myths while undermining safety and justice asserts sexual assault experts and advocates. ENOLA, PA – April 18, Karen Baker, Director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), responded to recent media attention of the rape case involving the Duke University Lacrosse Team. “I am concerned that public opinion surrounding this case is essentially elevating rape myths and innuendo, and increasing confusion. Rape is a devastating crime that deserves thoughtful deliberation and a clear understanding of the facts.
On March 13, 2006 a North Carolina mother and student reported being raped by three members of the Duke University Lacrosse Team at a party; the team had hired the student to dance at this party. Since that date, media and public interest in the case escalated. Monika Johnson-Hostler, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault also expressed concern over the recent coverage of this case. “The public discussion in the media of this case demonstrates fairly widespread misunderstandings of the real facts about sexual assault, DNA, trauma, the role of alcohol, ‘date rape drugs’ and a host of other facts. It shows how deeply imbedded certain myths are about this crime. Sexual assault experts and advocates have for years tried to dispel these rape myths.” Johnson-Hostler points particularly to a range of possible explanations for the victims’ seemingly drugged or drunk condition as a result of the party. “Public speculation about the condition of the victim suggests that she was very drunk and that that in some way justified the rape. The reality is that trauma could explain such a state; and ‘date rape drugs’ can cause serious impairment of consciousness; some of these drugs act very quickly and powerfully, and then the effects may wear off within a few hours.” Johnson-Hostler said, “alcohol use by a victim or an offender is never an excuse for sexual assault, and in cases where a victim is drunk, she is clearly unable to give consent –so, it is still sexual assault. I think there is too much attention and speculation about the condition of the victim. Alcohol is never an excuse or justification for rape. Baker adds, “I am also concerned about some of the misunderstanding regarding DNA evidence in rape cases. The vast majority of rape cases do not have DNA evidence and in many of these cases, the only evidence there is comes from the identification of the perpetrator by the victim.” Baker says “the NSVRC hopes that media will turn to the sexual assault experts and advocates for information and facts about sexual violence. Rape is a serious, traumatic crime. Victims should be believed, not re-victimized by misinformation and speculations. Then, let the criminal justice system judge the case.” The NSVRC is a national information and resource center relating to all aspects of sexual violence. It collects and disseminates a wide range of resources on sexual violence including statistics, research, position statements, statutes, training curricula, prevention initiatives and program information. The NSVRC assists coalitions, local programs, advocates and others working to end and prevent sexual violence. For additional information, visit www.nsrvc.org or call toll free 877-739-3895. The NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault is a statewide alliance working to end sexual violence through education, advocacy and legislation. NCCASA provides training and resource information to rape crisis centers, law enforcement, sexual assault nurse examiners, students and others working to end sexual violence. For additional information, visit www.nccasa.org or call toll free 888-732-2272.