Saturday, December 14, 2013

Around Town: Staying close to your kids

In 1970, a classmate left the UCLA law school after dark. She was kidnapped at gunpoint, raped repeatedly, and released at 3 a.m. She called the police. The male officers took her to the ER where she was seen by a male resident. She cried during the exam.

For the next week, one male member of the LAPD night shift repeatedly called the victim between 1 and 4 a.m. to request more details. Did the assailant climax? Did you? What color were your panties? Were you a virgin?

She was ashamed. She grew increasingly distraught. After several nights without sleep, she finally confided in another student. The student told a professor. The professor called the watch commander and the behavior stopped. The victim wanted to remain anonymous but she confided in a few more of us. She began attending counseling. The professor asked the watch commander about the evidence. A detective called back. He said that the evidence from the ER was never logged in.

Times have changed. There are more women in law enforcement, law and medicine. Our local sheriffs are well trained. ER personnel are trained to be more sensitive. There are protocols for the handling of evidence.

Attitudes have also changed. Take the case of Daisy Coleman. Daisy is a teenager who used to live in Marysville, Mo. Last month, Daisy’s mother gave an interview to the Kansas City Star stating that on Jan. 8, 2012, Daisy, then 14, had been given alcohol, then raped by the 17-year-old son of a politically prominent Missouri family. Daisy was dumped on her front lawn later that snowy night, unconscious. Daisy’s mom took her to the ER and called the police.

Daisy’s mom said that a video of the assault passed among the students, that the Coleman family was harassed and forced to leave town, and their house burned down under suspicious circumstances.

Within days, the Star interview went viral. Hackers from Anonymous, the loose-knit Internet community, took on Daisy’s case, with a special focus on the alleged perpetrator. Anonymous noted that he was a football player.

Both Daisy and a second victim, Paige, went public. Fresh on the heels of the Steubenville rape case, where Anonymous used a Russian Web server to post hacked personal information about dozens of prominent Steubenville citizens, the Kansas State Attorney General quickly reopened the Coleman case and called for a special prosecutor. Local law enforcement and the boy’s family dispute the charges. Some of their supporters blame the girl for drinking alcohol that night, at the age of 14.

The difference between 1970 and 2013 is significant. Today, there is a removal of shame. This allows the victims and their families to go public and to publicize and politicize their cases.

But not all football players are rapists. Remember Brian Banks, a high school football player who was exonerated of rape after serving a five-year sentence, when the “victim” approached Banks on Facebook? She later talked with him. Banks wore a wire and recorded her admission that the charges were false.

These would all be easy cases when there's an incriminating video. A 14-year-old, drunk or sober, cannot consent. An unconscious girl cannot consent.

But what if there’s no video? And what if there was no rape? What if the parents are gone, there’s a party and all the kids are drunk? What if there are no witnesses? Is a football player presumed guilty? What about the presumption of innocence?

Meanwhile, here in La CaƱada, the Community Prevention Council “continues to combat the illegal use of drug and alcohol … in our community.” It urges parents to monitor their kids, to monitor the parties and to stay involved.

It’s also important to tell our girls to be strong, to stay away from those parties, and if something happens, to never ever be ashamed.

Valley Sun

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