How Public Exposure Affects a Scandal

Commentator John McCann talks about how public perception is affecting the case of a North Carolina community college student who has made allegations of rape against members of the Duke University lacrosse team. McCann says the woman's lack of public exposure may be working against her.

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ED GORDON, host:

Duke University's men's lacrosse program has remained in the headlines as it fights its way through a rape scandal. A couple of the players have gone before the cameras to proclaim their innocence; but what about the alleged rape victim?

Commentator John McCann says her lack of public exposure may be working against her.

Mr. JOHN MCCANN (Columnist, The Herald-Sun, Durham, North Carolina): Turning his tassel, David Evans graduated a few weeks ago from Duke University with a degree in economics. But there was one more test he'd been prepping for. It was an oral exam, and he appears to have aced it - right there in front of the county jail. Time will tell if he gets a passing grade.

With no script or teleprompter, that even the Commander in Chief of the United States can't do without, Evans was rehearsed and made good eye contact, standing nice and tall. His oratory declared both his and his Duke lacrosse teammates' unequivocal innocence of raping a stripper one night at one of the most notorious addresses in America: 610 North Buchanan Boulevard.

And even if his lawyer put him up to this, even if it was some carefully choreographed show, the wonder is how come the accuser hasn't done the same.

The alleged victim instead remains a mystery woman, known to us primarily as a 27-year-old single mother and student at North Carolina Central University; which is problematic, because suppose she just drops the charges and this case just goes away. She gets to ride off into the sunset and finish school while making good on an offer by the Reverend Jesse Jackson to bankroll her tuition through the Rainbow/PUSH coalition. On the other hand, there's Evans and the other ten Duke seniors from the lacrosse team, plus the underclassmen whose names and future employment are forever tied to this mess.

Now, one saving grace is that those programs handed out with the hot dogs at lacrosse matches, they didn't contain player photos. Although prospective employers could - well, I'm assuming the interviewing process even gets that far with these guys. And you're probably thinking finding a job is a non-issue for lacrosse boys whose parents are able to $400,000 bails; but that's not fair.

Hiding behind a story that is, at best, shaky, the accuser has received a fair amount of support, including security from the new Black Panther Party for self-defense. Now, pardon my bad grammar, but ain't nobody gonna lay a hand on homegirl if she comes forward. She'd be in no more danger than the white boys on the lacrosse team who could get jumped by some ornery local brothers.

It gets argued that rape victims shouldn't have to reveal their identities in order to avoid the shame of being so horribly violated. But the only shame in a rape case is if the woman invites the rape. And most people would agree that nobody would ever ask for that to happen. So there's no reason for head hanging.

Let me tell you what is shameful: a justice system that allows the media to play judge and jury while the accused never gets a chance to face their accuser, and the accuser can level such charges behind the cloak of anonymity. But if the accuser is telling the truth, that's all the more reason for her to come forward to shame the evil men all the way to prison.

See, this is precisely the way an attorney should be counseling the accuser. Get her story out there, like Evans did. Put a face on the case, and don't talk to me about a single mom in school not being able to afford a lawyer. Maybe she can't, but the accuser does have the powerful district attorney on her side, not to mention the mighty 24-hour news cycle.

It won't cost her a dime to stand in even the most remote corner of Durham and have the likes of CNN descending to roll tape while she boldly articulates exactly what happened during the wee hours of March 14th.

GORDON: John McCann is a Columnist for The Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina.

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