08/31/2013 Jonathan Taylor

University Herald, Among Others, Demonstrates How Not to Cover Rape Accusations

Headlines:

Towson Student Raped Outside Off-Campus Apartment

Scary stuff. Rape is a serious matter. So are false accusations of rape. And so is how we report it.

Today, we see this article in the University Herald, penned by one Stephen Adkins. It begins:

“A 19-year-old Towson University student was raped by two unknown men early Friday just outside an off-campus apartment building close to the campus.”

That would be yesterday.

And we already know the person accused is guilty. For a fact! That’s a pretty quick turnaround. They say that everyone is entitled to a speedy trial, but who knew that not just one, but two men accused of rape could be charged, prosecuted, and be pronounced guilty in just one day? Of course, no trial has yet been held, because the presiding judge and jury in this case is none other than Stephen Adkins and the publication for which he is writing.

The next paragraph begins:

The victim of the alleged rape…

An interesting way to begin a sentence. If it’s “alleged,” how do you know she is a victim? I mean, it’s not like you were there to see it happen.

Right?

Imagine you were selling your car or home and the person buying it from you said, “You can  trust me. Don’t worry, I’ll pay you with the money I supposedly have in my bank account.”

Would you feel confident in such an exchange? Seems a little contradictory, doesn’t it? Here’s an idea: if you don’t know, and if a verdict has not been reached, why not just call her an accuser?

The article continues:

The victim of the alleged rape told Baltimore County police that one of the two men aggressively grabbed her from behind, threw her to the ground and attacked her about 1:00 a.m. outside the University Village.

Residents have claimed that the University Village hardly has any criminal records and therefore is a secure place to reside.

Junior Malik Partman, 20, of Upper Marlboro said that the University Village is a ‘nice community.’ “I was shocked when I heard about it,” said Partman, who has lived at University Village for two weeks. “It’s unfortunate, but at the same time, I do feel secure here.”

The accuser (see what I did there?) claimed she was victimized near an off-campus apartment at 1:00 AM, and has given the police no other description of the alleged attackers, other than their being two males. This is not anything to build a case on. If the alleged attack actually did happen, let us hope that more evidence comes to light.

Why might the accuser have no other description of the alleged attackers? One possibility might be that she is fabricating the story. Another possibility is that it might have been, quite simply, too dark to see. While most colleges and universities themselves are usually fairly well-lit, there often exists a very shady area just outside its margins, between the last building on-campus and the surrounding off-campus apartments.

Mr. Adkins’s approach is, unfortunately, very much the norm when it comes to reporting of alleged sexual assaults on campus. At the University of Waterloo last year, when the university issued a statement about an alleged rape, they not only treated the accuser’s words as if they were pure gold, they also told male students that female students would be given first priority for rides on the school bus system. The very next day, the university issued a statement saying that the accusation was false.

In 2011 at my alma mater A&M University-Commerce, the campus paper The East Texan scared the campus by publishing an article, the headline of which read:

Assault Raises Safety Concerns

They also included this picture in the article:

Scary Rapist picture

Two days later, the paper issued a statement saying that the alleged attack was found to be false. They re-used the picture in that article, however.

We may be grateful that these universities issued retractions. Many do not, leaving those wrongly accused tarred for life and ostracized from their communities.

Some may think that Stephen Adkins’s reporting on the Towson accusation is less damaging because the accused men were not called out by name.

It isn’t.

Now, at Towson University, every male student is a suspect of a rape that definitely supposedly occurred. A little more responsible reporting is in order. In the future, Stephen Adkins at the University Herald would do better to use words like “accusers,” “the accused,” “alleged,” and to refrain from using words like “victim,” until a trial is complete.

Also, Stephen, if you’re reading this, would you mind speaking to someone in the web development department of your publication about the videos that begin automatically playing whenever I access the University Herald page, and then start playing again at random intervals no matter how many times I pause them? I don’t like constantly hunting through the 20+ tabs I have open to find the UHerald page to pause videos, nor do I find that websites are user-friendly when they don’t give me a choice about whether to access video content. And I bet many other web users feel the same.

Thank you.

Jonathan Taylor
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Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan is Title IX For All's founder, editor, web designer, and database developer. Hailing from Texas, he makes a mean red beans n' rice and is always interested to learn new things.
Jonathan Taylor
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About the Author

Jonathan Taylor Jonathan is Title IX For All's founder, editor, web designer, and database developer. Hailing from Texas, he makes a mean red beans n' rice and is always interested to learn new things.

Comments (8)

  1. Roberto

    Digin this website.
    And agreed. Somehow “alleged victim” seems to be politically incorrect to say, except that it is the right thing to say.

     
  2. Anne

    Imagine the reaction if the automatic anti-male bias were switched to automatic anti-female bias and papers automatically made statements such as “A 19-year-old Towson University student made a false rape accusation against unknown men early Friday just outside an off-campus apartment building close to the campus.” People´s, particularly feminists male bashers in general, heads would explode. Do journalism classes even teach fairness or responsible reporting these days? Honest question.

     
  3. scott

    What was the name of that girl who paid a guy she met on Craigslist to beat her in return for sex, so she could “Inflame” the college students at a rally she was attending with her false rape accusation???

     

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