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Activists Battle Victim-Blaming Coverage of NYPD Rape Trial After Acquittal of Officers

Activists Battle Victim-Blaming Coverage of NYPD Rape Trial After Acquittal of Officers

The woman who accused two NYPD officers of rape today released a statement expressing her devastation at Friday’s verdict of not guilty, adding, “everything they say about the difficulties of a rape trial is sadly true … you are tested beyond what any crime victim should have to endure.”

While the trial uncovered instances of misconduct by the on-duty two cops, including confessing to “cuddling” in bed with the intoxicated woman, it also subjected the woman’s private life to widespread scrutiny and victim-blaming attacks. The website TMZ violated the privacy of the alleged victim by publishing her photograph, inviting inappropriate comments. The New York Daily News published a description of the woman as “bombed and blacked-out.”  Blogger Jessica Varlese also points out that even the New York Times “spent about nine paragraphs describing how drunk the woman was and whether or not she had an alcohol problem.”

As Jamia Wilson, Vice President of Programs at WMC explained to Ms. Magazine, “no matter what your behavior is, no matter how drunk you are, you shouldn’t call 911 and be assaulted.” Yet, as is often the case, the woman’s drinking and conduct on the night in question have been attacked as character failings in the media, implying that her testimony is untrustworthy. Such coverage reinforces the concept of “deserving” and “undeserving” victims, and discourages the reporting of sexual assaults due to fear of moral judgment.

Despite research that shows false accusations of rape are extremely rare, and Officer Moreno’s confession to falsifying a 911 call in order to return to the woman’s apartment multiple times, it is nevertheless the victim that was criticized for not providing a stronger case. The NY Daily News ran a story characterizing the woman as “emotional” at trial, but lacking substantive news about the case. The same story ran a quote from one of the officers claiming she invented the whole story. Additionally, the officers mounted a defense that rested in part on allegations that it was the woman who ‘asked for it.’ They claim to have fended off advances from her in her apartment, and explained their recorded admission that they “used a condom” by protesting they just told her what she wanted to hear.

Thankfully, activists are keeping this story front and center.  WMC’s Progressive Women’s Voices alumni Shelby Knox of Change.org is calling for NYPD officers to be trained on sexual assault, and a juror who spoke with Women’s enews is questioning the handling of the rape evidence, affecting her decision.  Hundreds of protesters turned to the streets in New York on Friday night to protest the verdict and march in solidarity with the accuser.

As the woman’s statement concluded, “public opinion will be the ultimate verdict.” And how is public opinion shaped? By the media.

This post was originally published by the Women’s Media Center.

 

Related Stories:

Police Officer Advises Women to Avoid Sexual Assault By Not Dressing Like a “Slut”

Students March to Protest Stereotyping Rape Victims

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Pleads Not Guilty To Sexual Assault Charges

 

Read more: , , , , , , , ,

Photo from Xtra.ca via flickr
Written by Justin Hamano, a Women's Media Consortium blogger.

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56 comments

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6:22AM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

This is horrible. When you can't trust people who have a responsibility to protect you, you know society is becoming more corrupt.

7:12PM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

I'm never gonna get drunk again

11:23PM PDT on Jun 9, 2011

It is so sad that we can not trust the very people we once thought so highly of. As for the media well they are just drama queen's.

8:43PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

No one ever "deserves" to be raped. That there so many people out there that perpetuate the thought that a rape victim was asking for it or deserved what they got because of certain behaviors saddens me.

6:32PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

thanks for sharing.

3:54PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

got two questions. How does one prove innocence when the perp is truly innocent and how does one prove rape when the victim really was raped? We need to ask ourselves what would we look for and what does it take for us to believe anything?

5:13AM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

Sickening.

4:37AM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

This story has left me feeling sick. :(

12:48AM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

Its disgusting such thing happens in third undeveloped countries like Congo or Asia but America call them self developed and highly educated advance country and this is happening in USA its simply shameful that Police can go to that level so it is poor women is to be blamed for the rape the policemen is an angle who only help people even if it comes to satisfying the sexual need of help less women SHAME ON THE POLICE FORCE these two black sheep should be behind bars for long time to come

11:51PM PDT on Jun 7, 2011

Absolutely pathetic. Those cops should be fired. They aren't paid to be fornicating while on duty. There is no excuse.

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