This was a mess from the start, and remains so. Prosecutors in the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case did today (curiously) what they probably should have done a long time ago – dropped rape charges against three young men accused of attacking a student/stripper at a team party. Charges of kidnapping and sexual misconduct remain but the highly-charged allegations that captivated the nation – and forced us to look at the ugly side of privilege, race and sexuality – are gone.
And rightfully so. As much as anyone wanted to believe that the 28-year-old student from nearby North Carolina Central could have been attacked vaginally, anally and orally by three men and the party, as she stated, each passing day cast a ever-thickening cloud over the charges. From this view, lacking DNA evidence and credibility issues creeping up like weeds, it’s long been clear that the prosecutors would never be able to prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Today, on a day (the Friday before Christmas) when few would pay much attention, they finally admitted it themselves: Lacking any “scientific or other evidence independent of the victim’s testimony” to corroborate that aspect of the case, District Attorney Mike Nifong wrote in a statement, “the State is unable to meet its burden of proof with respect to this offense.”
There are victims here almost too numerous to count – most particularly the student/stripper, her disloyal publicity-seeking partner, the young men, their families, two universities and an entire town. And there are few lessons, save filling our sons with a healthier dose of respect for women than the young men of the Duke lacrosse team displayed, and boosting our daughters with enough tools and self-esteem that they’ll never have to resort to such measures in order to pay their bills. (As Chris Rock says, Our only job as fathers is to “keep you daughter off the pole.”
Let’s also not return to our respective parts of town without understanding what role we all played in this mess. Privilege does not grant entitlement to those blessed with wealth, status and access to the best of everything. In fact, with such privilege comes a deeper responsibility to show humility, compassion and a real understanding that There But for the Grace of God…
Perhaps those the three young men who’s lives changed all for a party, their teammates, families and others of their ilk, will embrace that lesson as they return to their side of town tonight. But why do I think not?