Tuesday, July 3, 2012

If A Woman Tells You She was Gang Raped...

I tuned in late this morning to WHYY's Radio Times but just in time to catch a female caller emotionally recalling how she was "gang raped" back in late 70s or early 80s when she was in the Air Force.

The call came in response to the morning segment which was about how thousands of women in the U.S. military are victims of sexual assault each year. Marty Moss-Cohane's guest was the producer of a documentary called The Invisible War on the subject.

But here's the thing: The more I listened the more I had doubts about the woman's story about what she claimed happened to her so many years ago.

She said on the night this happened that her roommate was entertaining a male guest in their room so she was in some common area when this really nice, good looking male cadet came up and talked to her. She described him as "Mr. Super Handsome Wonderful" and that she never thought he would pay any attention to her. But he did.

"He started talking to me. And he said 'You don't have anyplace to sleep, why don't you sleep in my room. And I was like, um Oh, I guess, I guess I'm OK with that. It never like occurred to me that anything would happen... That was really naive of me, I guess. And he took me in and... I figured we were going to mess around. He had turned out the light and we were starting to have sex and then his roommate came in... And then other men started to come in. I have no idea how many. They just started coming in and coming in... Then next day I told my roommate and girlfriend and they said don't report it because they are not going to do anything about it."

No idea how many? Did she fight? Complain? Had she been drinking? We don't know.

And it was at that point, Marty gently stopped and told her how "sorry" she was for what happened to her and then invited her guest to weigh in. Jean was thanked for sharing her terrible story and told what happened that night was not in anyway her fault and that there were thousands like her who had suffered in silence.

So that was pretty much it.

Now, I get that having a radio show and inviting callers on to tell stories can be a dicey affair. It's not like you or your producer is going to be able fact-check a story from 30 years ago. And when somebody tells you of some horrible assault that happened to them, you're in a sticky place of having to believe them, or pretend to...

But here was a anecdote that fit the narrative of the story Marty and her guest were telling and there was no point actually questioning whether it was true or not. But the lack of skepticism, the accepting of this story at face value is bothersome.

One of journalism's hoariest cliches concerning the need for detached skepticism is this: If your mother tells you she loves you... check it out. Certainly, that same sort of skepticism ought to apply to an anonymous caller who tells you a bizarre story about being gang-raped by a bunch of Air Force cadets 30 years ago. 

In any case, I think as a professional courtesy Marty Moss-Cohane could have spared us her deep sighs and soulful expressions of sorrow as this emotional tale was being told. That is, if she still considers herself a journalist and not some sort of counselor/therapist.

Her behavior reminds me of that scene in Broadcast News where William Hurt airs his expose on date rape and shows himself weeping in response to his own interview.

As the only real bona fide newsman at the station, Albert Brooks, cracks,"You really blew the lid off nookie."

No wonder he didn't get the girl.

(You can listen to the Radio Times segment here. Jean's call come at about the 23:30 mark.)

After listening to the broadcast, I came across this story. It shows why journalists and cops should keep their wits about them when interviewing self-proclaimed victims, who might turn out not to be crime victims at all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe women should have a rape camera imbedded in their foreheads so we can see if their lying or not.I mean the stories can't be real, this only happens in the movies!

July 3, 2012 at 3:25 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

I think you're on to something. Having a camera helped catch the liar claiming she was the victim of a hate crime.

July 3, 2012 at 3:27 PM 
Blogger CharlieSix said...

If the sun appears in the sky tomorrow, it must be true that the sun shines... If the sun fades to the west tomorrow, it must be dusk and night is approaching... Does this mean that the caller to Marty Moss-Cohane's show is credible. Sound disjointed? Yes it does. So too are the allegations which Ms. Moss-Cohane's anonymous' caller's proclaims. It is a good and joyful thing in our 2012 society to be a victim. But this situation clearly points to the fact that the victim is on occasion the accused, not the person pleading a wrongdoing.

July 3, 2012 at 10:58 PM 
Blogger Dannytheman said...

Rape is an ugly dirty crime against any individual. I think it even a worse crime if the supposed victim lies or is found proven to have lied.

The accuser should receive double the sentence that would have been passed on their supposed attacker.

July 5, 2012 at 11:12 AM 
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