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Duke Lacrosse Team: Innocent until proven guilty

By Scott Tibbs, April 12, 2006

A controversy is raging at Duke University, where a stripper claims she was raped by three members of the Lacrosse team at a house party last month. The assault, as the alleged victim describes it, was truly heinous and anyone found guilty in a court of law by a jury of their peers should be punished as harshly as legally and Constitutionally permissible.

That said, I think it is important to remember four simple words: "innocent until proven guilty." No one has been convicted of a crime. However, they have had their names posted on the internet. The roster of a university-sponsored sports team is not exactly a secret.

If you believe the alleged victim's account of what happened that night, that still leaves 43 of the 46 members white of the team who did not commit rape. (The 47th member of the team is black.) All 46 of them submitted to DNA tests, however, and are all under suspicion. Forty-three men are the targets of nationwide scorn for a rape that three men allegedly committed. This is something that has been forgotten amid the protest marches and news stories.

Of course, it is possible that some of the 44 men who were not involved in the alleged rape (including the black player) acted to cover up or assist that alleged rape. How many of those 44 are guilty of a crime (if any) will be determined in a criminal trial, if one takes place. Those men too must be punished as harshly as legally and Constitutionally permissible.

However, it is not inconceivable that at least some of the other 44 men did not know what was allegedly happening in the bathroom. It is well within the realm of possibility that at least some of the other 44 men are completely innocent of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with the alleged rape. It is wrong to lump all 47 team members together as if they were all in on this heinous alleged crime.

One name keeps getting repeated by people who doubt the alleged victim's story: Tawana Brawley. As you may recall, Brawley fabricated rape charges against several men, and the shocking allegations were splashed across the news. Brawley's story was a hoax, but the men falsely accused of assaulting her saw their lives forever changed. If the assault at Duke is a fabrication, the woman making the accusation must be punished as harshly as legally and Constitutionally permissible.

As it turns out, the alleged victim was injured and drunk when she showed up at the party and DNA tests have failed to connect any of the players to an alleged rape. While this does not conclusively prove that there was no rape or that members of the Duke lacrosse team were not involved in a rape, it does raise doubt.

However this plays out in court, there are lessons that should be learned from this case. If the alleged victim's account is true, any of the other men in the house who knew of the assault while it was happening are not "men" at all. A real man would stand up for a woman being brutalized by his so-called friends. A real man would spill as much information to law enforcement as he could recall.

If the alleged victim's story is true, one should not be surprised that an event that revolved around the objectification of a woman's body would result in sexual assault. After all, Ted Bundy said before his execution that it was pornographythat started him on the depraved path to murdering a number of young women and becoming perhaps America's most notorious serial killer.