By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) “The media has to some degree lost interest in the case.”
Derrick Rose’s lawyers declared that in a memorandum filed Aug. 22 regarding the civil suit filed against him. An as-of-yet unnamed woman is accusing the former Bulls and current New York Knicks point guard, along with two other men, of drugging her and gang raping her three years ago.
Remember that news from last year? Maybe you recall it better as the story about Rose and the woman and a sex toy. Because that makes it kinkier and therefore funnier and therefore more easily dismissed from public conversation and tops of minds.
A judge doesn’t find it all that funny, as the case against Rose is set to go to trial Oct. 4 despite Rose’s attorneys trying to get it thrown out under the types of strategic info-planting like reducing the accuser to a disgruntled sex toy dabbler.
The whole situation is really icky despite the defense arguing that it isn’t as valid because the media and thus the public don’t care about it. Most important here is a woman attempting to use the court system to exact justice on her alleged rapists. As she does, Rose’s side has been pressuring her into recanting –“slut shaming,” accusing her of a money grab, trying to get her name on public record (which serves no purpose other than to get third parties on the Internet to harass her into submission). Pursuing this case in a society that’s proved to be decidedly against women who suffer violence by famous men is nothing short of brave.
And it’s that we are collectively against this woman and all victims of sexual assault who we wish would just shut up that is the most uncomfortable part about it. Because not long after she took Rose to court, we in the public and in the media stopped caring. We never made this case as hard on Rose as he has tried to make it on his accuser.
We failed victims. Again.
I didn’t look around too hard last year because I was too busy rooting for Rose, both on the court, in his admirable social stances and in the silliness of the battle of wills between him and the Bulls front office. When the Bulls shipped him to the Knicks in June, I devoted a whole 68 words of a 1,300-word piece to the case. I did my noble part. The “humble kid from Chicago” — both the literal player and the marketable persona I’ve bought into — had no time for this.
Which meant I wasn’t paying any attention to the path the court filings were taking until Lindsay Gibbs at ThinkProgress put together a comprehensive piece on the case containing crucial text messages from Rose and testimony that suggests there’s a valid case. Gibbs doesn’t have to do much indicting of rape culture because Rose’s and his attorney’s very words in the court room already do that.
“This is not a rape case,” the defense lawyers have demanded. “It’s pure and simple extortion by a plaintiff who wants to hide behind the cloak of anonymity while seeking millions in damages from a celebrity with whom she was in a long-term non-exclusive consensual sexual relationship.”
That’s the standard go-to in such a situation because it’s the most comfortable for the public. The famous person we have invested time and emotion into can’t be a criminal, lest that time and emotion be corrupted. And we hate women, consciously or subconsciously, and they don’t get to claim ownership of their bodies. So one accusing a rich guy of rape obviously must be a scam. It’s Occam’s razor of our cultural garbage disposal of empathy. We just sort of then lean on the assumption (hope) that this pesky topic will go away — either that the accuser quits on it or if a discreet settlement occurs, so be it. It’s a small price to pay for our cognitive dissonance.
Problem is, a judge doesn’t see it that way. There’s “a genuine dispute of material fact as to the central issue in this action: whether Plaintiff consented to sexual intercourse with Defendants in early morning of August 27, 2013.” Crap. Now we have to pay attention again to a person with privilege being accused of something that one-third or fewer of victims even reports, let alone sees prosecution or conviction.
Anything else you can do, defense lawyers, to push this out of the courtroom and eventually our consciousness once again?
“Of special note, Plaintiff is publicly portraying herself as sexual,” Rose’s lawyers have claimed. “The production includes photos from Plaintiff’s Instagram account that are sexual in nature. In these images, Plaintiff is dressed in provocative attire, is in sexually suggestive poses, and is in photographs indicating that she engages in sexually charged encounters with more than one man at a time. Plaintiff’s use of twitter and other forms of social media further belies her apparent desire for anonymity.”
Those are real words in court documents. The accuser deserves public backlash from men’s rights activists and every armchair misogynist because she uses her social media to look “sexual,” which is the convenient attack on a woman daring to feel comfortable in her appearances.
“Public disclosure of Plaintiff’s name and likeness does not serve any legitimate purpose but rather only serves Defendants’ attempts to intimidate and harass Plaintiff and to have a plausible deniability defense if third parties engage in harassment, intimidation, or worse,” the accuser’s attorneys said in a memorandum filed on Aug. 29.
In a small victory for victim-smears everywhere, the judge responded thusly:
“The Court is uncertain what to make of this reasoning. Defendant Rose appears to suggest that women who publicly portray themselves as ‘sexual’ are less likely to experience embarrassment, humiliation and harassment associated with gang rape. Such rhetoric has no place in this Court. No matter how Plaintiff chooses to depict her sexuality on social media, her allegations of rape entitle her to the protections of anonymity.”
Which, for our collective apathy, is unfortunate. There are certainly some courageous souls out there on the Internet certainly working to get the accuser’s vital personal info spread across the web so that we can once again breathe a sigh of relief that a woman deserved her alleged rape.
But the case against Rose isn’t going away any time soon. Poor us.
Ah, remember those better days we were having when we had “to some degree lost interest” in this case? How inconvenient for us.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.