By Julie DiCaro–
(CBS) Let’s dispense with the obvious first: Blackhawks star Patrick Kane hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime. No one, at this point, has any idea whether or not the allegations of rape against him are true. Kane is merely being investigated and is innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
It was minutes after the breaking news that Kane had been accused of rape that the character assassination of his accuser began. Before the allegations of rape had even been confirmed by the Buffalo News, Twitter was flooded with allegations that the accuser, about who the public knows nothing, was a gold-digger, was crazy, was lying to get attention. Faux “news” bloggers like Incarcerated Bob started tweeting out rumors about the alleged victim:
Respected Chicago attorney Eldon Ham had this to say to ABC Channel 7 about the investigation:
“My experience over all the years is that a big percentage of these cases first of all turn out not to be true,” Chicago Kent Law Professor Eldon Ham said. “The key is to not jump to conclusions. We don’t even know if there are going to be charges.”
This was in a report from The Buffalo News just on Sunday:
SkyBar’s owner, Mark Croce, told The Buffalo News on Saturday night that he has no way of knowing what happened between the woman and Kane at Kane’s home. He said he only knows Kane casually and has never been to his home.
But Croce told The News that he and several of his employees noticed a young woman “hanging all over” Kane at SkyBar for at least two hours that night, putting her hands on his arms and “being very forward, very flirtatious with him.” He said he does not know the woman and does not know her name.
“It was almost like she stationed herself near him and was keeping other women away from him,” Croce said. “I noticed it and kind of laughed about it.”
A bar manager that night also noticed the woman’s behavior with Kane, Croce said.
Croce said the woman and a female friend “followed” Kane as he left the nightclub with a couple of male friends around 3 a.m. last Sunday.
“I don’t know if this is the same woman who made the rape allegation against him,” Croce said. “I only know what I saw that night on my own premises. If you’re going to ask what happened between them after they left that night, how would I know?”
And Twitter was rife with speculation about the alleged victim’s veracity and motive:
— rdp982 (@bigredbyrdisu) August 9, 2015
— Jimmy Jam (@Jimmy_Jam96) August 6, 2015
Really hope that chick is Lying about Kaner 😩💔 #isupport88
— Jenaenae (@HHS_Huey) August 7, 2015
I don’t care what anyone says, Patrick Kane is innocent!
— Dominic Pisanti (@Dominic_Pisanti) August 6, 2015
You get my point: When it comes to the Patrick Kane investigation, internet stupid abounds. And while it’s tempting to laugh off some of the comments as written by misguided juveniles with a serious case of hero worship, the problem is actually a much bigger one. Tweets, comments, rumors and articles like those above are reflective of the way our society treats those who report rape, whether the accused is a famous athlete or not.
As both a former rape victim and a former criminal defense attorney, I have some tips on how to talk about the Kane investigation without saying things so out-of-line that people screen cap them and use them as examples of idiocy on local news sites. Here, then, is some advice on how to talk — and not talk — about the Kane investigation:
1. Understand “don’t jump to conclusions”: I’ve been instructed not to jump to conclusions by more meatballs in the past few days than the sum total of my entire life. Reporting the news, as we now know it, does not equal jumping to conclusions or branding Kane as guilty. The hard truth is that sexual assault is a big problem around the world in 2015, and Kane is a famous athlete. That makes the story newsworthy. Not reporting on the story until “all the facts are out” would be an abdication of journalistic responsiblity. If you don’t like hearing ugly allegations against your favorite hockey player, change the channel. That’s your problem, not the media’s.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, consider this: You don’t know what happened at Kane’s home two weekends ago. You don’t know Kane, and you don’t know the woman accusing him of rape. Know that and accept it into your heart. Then, each time you remind the world that Kane is innocent until proven guilty (which, by the way, he is), remind yourself that the alleged victim is also presumed to be honest until she’s shown to be otherwise. Fair is fair.
2. Don’t be part of the problem: Nearly 70 percent of rape cases in America go unreported. Think about that for a minute, then ask yourself why that’s the case?
As a rape victim myself, I can tell you exactly why, because I was one of the majority of rape victims who didn’t report the crime to the police. I was drunk. I left a club in Cancun with a guy I’d been “hanging all over all night.” I went to a secluded spot with him. Did I deserve to be raped? I certainly don’t think so, but plenty of people do.
One thing I do know is that I didn’t report my rape because I knew the questions I would face: “You were drunk? Why did you leave with him? Are you sure you didn’t lead him to believe it was OK? Why do you want to run this guy’s life? Are you sure you didn’t want to have sex with him and now you’re crying rape because you’re embarrassed?” Good grief. Who wants to go through all of that? We require rape victims to behave perfectly in the hours leading up to the crime or we instantly doubt their stories, yet we don’t do the same for victims of any other type of crime.
The tweets and comments about what possibly happened between Kane and his accuser persist. Maybe she targeted him for money. Maybe her parents are forcing her to press charges and she really doesn’t want to. Maybe she just wants to be in the spotlight.
If you find yourself having these thoughts, you might want to ask yourself why you are so quick to doubt the motives of an alleged victim while not putting the motives and testimony of the accused under the same scrutiny? Would you do the same to a victim of robbery? Or arson? Or fraud?
3. Don’t make up facts: We’ve heard it many times.
“Women do this to pro athletes all the time — they just want money.” “Most rape allegations turn out not to be true.” I even had one guy tell me that 78 percent of rape allegations against pro athletes turn out to be false. When I asked him for a link to his data, he blocked me.
The truth is, we really don’t have a good idea how many rape charges are false, because those studies count as “false” charges that are withdrawn by the accuser. But if you know anything about domestic violence cases, you know that just because a victim retracts her allegations doesn’t mean the crime never took place; it just means she’s chosen, for reasons unknown, not to prosecute the case. The best number we have, probably, is the FBI’s estimate that around 8 percent of rape allegations turn out to be false, but even that number has been criticized by statisticians on both sides of the issue.
Either way, the assumption that there’s a 50-50 chance the accuser is lying, which seems to be a tactic adopted by the meatball fan, has no basis in fact or statistics. And there’s certainly no evidence that pro athletes are accused of rape at a higher rate than the general population or that those allegations have a higher rate of falsity. This idea probably comes from seeing some athletes (Kobe Bryant comes to mind) settle out of court with their accusers, leading to the assumption that all the victim wanted was money.
But if I had the choice between having my social life and sexual history examined on the witness stand or cashing a check, I’d take the check every time. In America, we solve our legal differences by opening up our wallet and forking over some cash. Financial settlements certainly shouldn’t be looked upon as the accuser’s way of extorting money from the accused, unless you’re prepared to make that claim for every case that finds its way onto a civil docket.
When it comes to criminal allegations against a pro athlete, it’s tough not to weigh in with your opinion before all the facts are out. It’s human nature. But just as it’s wrong to convict Patrick Kane before the facts are known, it’s equally wrong to brand his accuser a liar and an opportunist.
Julie DiCaro is an update anchor for 670 The Score, as well as a recovering attorney. Follow her on Twitter @JulieDiCaro and like her page on Facebook. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.