Guilty, but not of rape

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - January 10, 2021 - 12:00am

If there’s anything to be learned from seeing 11 men, combined with a single woman found dead in a hotel room, it’s that we all have our prejudices and biases, and we must all carefully look at ourselves to avoid landing in minefields.

Some straight-identifying men couldn’t believe that none of the 11 men would pass up an opportunity to rape the woman.

Some gay men insisted all gay men would be physically, emotionally, or mentally unable to rape any woman for that matter.

The police leapt to the conclusion that given liberal doses of alcohol, any gay man can rape a woman.

Some gay-identifying friends decried this conclusion, again relying on stereotypes of gay people that, to them, clearly incapacitated gay men from molesting women in any scenario.

There’s plenty of room for debate. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence for the barrage of theories and the defenses. There’s also plenty of mud to be slung. But perhaps, this is where it’s important that we hark to principles and values long regarded as essential in society, lest we lose our way (and lose our way, we did, so very fast and so very far).

This is why we have due process. This is why we avoid trial by publicity. And for heaven’s sake, this is why we have data privacy. I cannot countenance this vomiting of personal details like names, employment affiliations, and even the sexual preferences of “victim” and suspects (again, in the same vein of due process, I enclose ‘victim’ in quotation marks because only the fact of death, and not manner, is established).

To our law enforcement authorities, kindly finish your investigation first before releasing statements of any kind. As we just saw, the public outcry that arose from premature conclusions - that were also prematurely publicized - resulted in the pillorying and even threatening of the “suspects”.

Who would want their names to be part of a list of suspects, with rewards posted by lawmen for their capture? Or be included in a manhunt? Who would want to be named in tabloids, as far away as London and New York, as being suspects in rape or murder?

Even the woman who died is on the receiving end of negative publicity. Her family would probably not want her name (and theirs) to be sullied, and would wish for a bit of privacy in their time of grief, yet here she is being described as “wild”, with the New York Post trumpeting the fact that she was initiating kisses with her guests based on CCTV footage.

Even as I saw friends and family post their own views and conclusions on social media, I had to restrain myself. I confess I had my own hasty thoughts, and all sorts of nasty possibilities presented themselves in my brain, but I didn’t have sufficient information to validate either what they believed or what I thought. Sure, my friends were being hasty, but they could have been right. It pained me that I couldn’t correct them, since we were all working from different sets of data points, all, I must stress, incomplete.

A tragedy occurred this New Year’s Eve, at a time when people wanted to come together and celebrate being alive after a year of horrors. Perhaps, the 11 LGBTQ members were idiots for violating quarantine and lockdown restrictions. Indeed, they were young and foolish, as we can gather from their continued blathering in interviews to the press, when they should be consulting and listening to their lawyers.

But they aren’t rapists. Neither are they murderers. Not yet. Not until a judge gets to hear the evidence. And not until the prosecutors have had a chance to appreciate the evidence gathered by the police (or the Department of Justice).

(That’s your cue, dear law enforcement authorities.)

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