In the shadow of the Duke case 100 alleged rapes were reported in Durham last year Herald-Sun

, The (Durham, NC) March 12, 2007 Author: Brianne Dopart bdopart@heraldsun.com; 419-6684 Estimated printed pages: 4 One alleged rape out of the 100 reported in Durham last year overshadowed all the others -- the accusation that three Duke lacrosse players assaulted an exotic dancer at a March team party. The alleged incident sparked rallies, vigils, outpourings of community concern and massive media attention. That's no surprise, perhaps, considering the mix of elements in the case. The alleged attackers are white men from comfortable families and play on a team known for its raucous behavior. The accuser is a black single mother from a modest family who attended N.C. Central University and was hired to perform as an exotic dancer at the party. Though the rape charges have been dropped against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, sexual-offense and kidnapping charges remain. Both are felonies. No trial date has been set. Each year, Durham police and workers at Durham's Crisis Response Center handle scores of reported rapes. In 2005, police took 61 rape reports. The Crisis Response Center helped 109 people who said they were victims of a recent rape or sexual assault. In 2006, police got 100 rape reports, and the Crisis Response Center provided services to 102 people. Eleven were gang rapes, said Aurelia Sands Bell, the center's executive director. The Herald-Sun asked the District Attorney's Office for a list of rape charges that resulted in convictions. Candy Clarke, an assistant in the office, said there is no way to link the incident numbers the police assign to charges to the case numbers the DA's Office uses. Clarke called it "a glitch" in the system. Patrick Tamer of the state Administrative Office of the Courts in Raleigh said one person was convicted of rape in Durham in 2006. Tracey Cline, who prosecutes the county's sex-crime cases, didn't return several phone calls seeking comment. Although The Herald-Sun routinely publishes information on rape charges (but not the names of alleged victims) when law enforcement agencies release it, some blame the media for many rapes going unnoticed. Kelly Jarrett, who was involved in protests about the alleged lacrosse incident, says lack of media coverage is the reason no rallies or vigils were organized to protest other alleged rapes, including two involving Duke students.

"Where was the press on those?" she said. More stories should focus not on allegations or protests but on the volunteers, counselors and advocates who work with victims of sexual violence every day, she said. The social and racial politics shadowing the lacrosse case spawned a maelstrom of debate -- particularly since District Attorney Mike Nifong was accused of withholding evidence favorable to the defense, and since the accuser repeatedly changed key elements in her account of what happened the night of March 13-14, 2006, before finally acknowledging she could not be certain a rape occurred. Some people simply don't believe women lie about rape. Others believe false accusations are all too common. Wendy McElroy, a Fox News columnist and feminist who says she is a rape victim, has written and blogged extensively about what she calls "the myth" that one in four female students on today's college campuses has been raped. That number, she said, comes from the feminist publication Ms. Magazine. McElroy said she is suspicious of the false-accusation numbers from both sides of the debate. In an interview, she said the absence of firm statistics on false accusations reflects "a strange sort of prejudice" prevalent in today's culture. Depending on whom you believe, she said, anywhere between 2 percent and 50 percent of rape accusations are found to be false. McElroy traced the 2 percent figure -- which seems too low to her -- to Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book "Against Our Will." A widely quoted statistic from Purdue University researcher Eugene Kanin -- that 41 percent of rape accusations are false -- seems too high, she said. Regardless of the exact percentage, she said, lack of concrete information shows how afraid some people are of doubting alleged victims of rape and sexual assault. "People are terrified of saying 'I don't believe this woman,' " she said. In essence, she said, that is the same as saying, "I'm afraid of bringing the same level of skepticism I would to those charges if they were made by a man." She cited a 1985 study of rape charges in the U.S. Air Force that found that 139 of 556 accusers admitted to making false claims. That equals about one of every four cases. "Women lie about rape all the time," McElroy said. "There are no consequences. It is very rare that women are sued." Even if an accuser is held accountable, there is little the justice system can do to repair the fractured lives of accused men, said Wake Forest University criminal law professor Ron Wright. Making a false report carries a $500 fine in North Carolina.

The accuser in the Duke lacrosse case may harm future cases, Wright said. "If she made it up, she's done a lot of damage and more than $500 worth," Wright said. The decision to drop the rape charges, he said, could affect future victims and how the public and the criminal justice system perceive them. But he said he didn't think the outcome of Duke lacrosse case would affect the future handling of any other rape cases. McElroy said the way the charges were handled has tarnished the accuser. "This will be part of a growing wave in cases and change in public attitude," she said. "Women who step forward [to say they were raped or sexually assaulted] will be less likely to be believed. Speaking as a woman who has been raped, that is a horrible thing." While most mainstream media, including The Herald-Sun, have followed their longstanding policy of not naming rape victims, the lacrosse accuser has been named on some Internet blogs and by some talk radio hosts. "Anyone who wanted it could find [her name]," McElroy said. Indeed, days after the case became public last March, the accuser's name easily could be found on Google searches. Despite the trauma of rape, McElroy believes accusers should have no right to anonymity. Neither the accuser nor the accused should be on trial, she said, but rather evidence a jury weighs. Wright said that, regardless of the Duke case, laws covering rape and rape victims should not change. "This is one of these settings where you really have to appreciate the history," he said. "Historically, it has been quite traumatic for women to press charges. Being the complaining witness in a rape case is far more unpleasant than being the accused." Caption: The Herald-Sun FILE PHOTO BY Bernard Thomas A "Take Back the Night" rally is held March 29, 2006, on Duke University's East Campus to honor victims of sexual assault amid the publicity about the lacrosse case. The Herald-Sun Walt Unks Some of the more than two dozen audience members listen during a kickoff address on March 27, 2006, at Bryan Center for Duke University's Sexual Assault Prevention Week. Activities and addresses were planned each night for a week. Edition: Final Section: Front Page: A1 Index Terms: police investigation Copyright, 2007, The Durham Herald Company Record Number: 0542623561