OPINION: More questions than answers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Duke lacrosse scandal has dragged on for almost a year, but on my way to work this morning (Wednesday) news reports broke that the scandal may be over.

By the time you read this, if news reports from ABC are correct, the charges against three Duke University lacrosse players will be dismissed.

When the scandal first broke I debated about putting in my two cents, but decided that wasn’t a fire I wanted to jump into. However, after hearing the charges would be dropped (again, if news reports are accurate) I decided to end my silence.

In my opinion, the case was handled badly from the get-go.

If there was a crime, we’ll never know for sure.

I can’t fathom how a prosecutor could charge three people with a crime without ever having talked to the accuser.

From the start this crime became about race and social status and not what it should have been about n rape.

If a rape occurred, then the book should be thrown at the guilty.

Since the accuser changed her story it’s hard to know if one occurred and if it did, who committed the crime.

Reports quote the accuser as saying one man didn’t rape her because he was engaged.

She said one rapist had a mustache.

Since neither of the three charged fit either of those criteria I’m left to wonder if anyone on the Duke lacrosse team did.

There has never been any DNA evidence to link any of the players to the crime.

If this crime happened in a bathroom over a five to 10 minute span as reported by Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong back in September, I would expect there to be some DNA evidence of an assault.

If a rape didn’t occur then these three men have been paraded on national television only to have their reputations destroyed.

Let’s be honest n the stigma of being accused of rape will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

There will always be hushed whispers of “What if”.

As a woman, the worst facet of this case is that a woman may have cried “Rape” when one didn’t occur.

I know women that have been raped and the trauma of that crime is very real. A friend I had in high school tried to commit suicide after being date raped. Luckily her attempt failed and she recovered from the trauma.

For any women to cry “Wolf” is a disgrace to us all and belittles the challenges and stereotypes women that have suffered rape must face.

No woman “asks for it” or “deserves it,” all terms used to describe victims in the past and even now.

I was reading an article on ESPN.com this morning about the case and there were several comments posted that brought up two interesting points.

If the accuser was lying, will she be prosecuted?

If she did lie, she defamed the character of these three men and cost Durham untold amounts of money in their investigation.

The second comment posted spoke towards repercussions against men and women that reported legitimate rapes, if they reported them at all.

What’s to keep someone from reading the coverage on this case and fearing similar treatment, decide not to come forward when they have been victimized?

I realize there are a lot of “Ifs” and since it appears there will be no trial these “Ifs” will never be answered. What is not an “If” is that rape occurs everyday and is a violent crime against both men and women, young and old, committed by strangers, friends and family.

If there was a crime at Duke, we may never know. If there wasn’t, then the accuser has done a greater injustice to all victims of sexual assault than the lacrosse players.

Heather Odom can be reached by emailing sports@r-cnews.com.