Meet Julia Moreno: Newspapers Give The “Rape Cop”‘s Wife A Platform To Trash Alleged Victim

“SHE CAN GO TO HELL: Says woman ‘made up’ rape for money.”

That was the cover story headline on The New York Post on Sunday morning.

The woman who can go to hell? The 29-year-old fashion executive who accused an NYPD officer of raping her when she was blackout drunk one night in 2008. The woman damning her? Julia Moreno, the accused cop’s wife, who swears his innocence.

Is Julia Moreno herself a victim — a victim of the idea that a good woman stands by her man and self-sacrifices, no matter the personal cost to her?

Just a sleazy tabloid capitalizing on the jury’s acquittal Thursday of Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, the “rape cops” whom the NYPD promptly fired for official misconduct? Nope. The New York Times also gave Julia Moreno an opportunity to rage against the victim. In a piece that also ran on Sunday called “For Ex-Officer’s Wife, Anger at His Accuser and Tears at an Upended Life,” Julia Moreno trashes the “young girl” who is “not mature” and “wanted sympathy from her friends.”

(You can read the background on the “rape cops” story here and here.)

While Julia Moreno assailed the victim in both the Post and the Times, the two papers handled the respective stories differently.

The Post, of course, took the more sensational track: the victim is described as “a money-grubbing liar” in the second sentence. Julia Moreno also accused the victim of, quote, “hav[ing] two days to make up this story with her lawyer friends before she went to the hospital.” I don’t know what “lawyer friends” she is referring to, but I wonder if we can assume there’s a class-resentment element: the victim was somebody who had “lawyer friends” who could help her screw over the blue-collar cop? In any case, Julia Moreno then said the victim was motivated by money, citing her $57 million lawsuit against the city. The Post quoted her on how she knows in her heart that Kenneth Moreno is a good guy:

“I know him. He’s the guy on the force that they call to take home partners’ girlfriends when they’re too drunk. He’s trusted by everyone. He’s been on the force 18 years without ever having any incident with women.”

That last quote is the only one I personally think was really in good taste in the whole article: the wife of the accused said something substantive about the accused, rather than an open season character assassination on the victim. Alas, moving on …

In The New York Times article, Julia Moreno was slightly more nuanced, describing how the two years from the accusation to the trial were difficult on the Moreno family. But the Times also printed Julia Moreno’s conspiracy theories about the victim’s accusations, despite the fact her husband warned her, quote, “realistically, I can’t tell you I’m going to come out of this okay.” But no matter! Julia Moreno says:

“Everything about this case was so set up, I feel. The parts that didn’t fit, they molded them to make them fit in their little twisted minds, to make up this crazy story against him.”

She then trashed the victim some more:

“From the beginning of time, this is what girls do — young girls, inexperienced. They’re not mature. They get drunk. They do these things and, you know, they want sympathy. In his case I believe she wanted sympathy from her friends because they threw her out of her own party.”

The victim was 27-years-old at the time of the — hardly a young girl or inexperienced. (Julia Moreno herself is currently 28.) I’m also calling BS on her comments that the victim was thrown out of her own going-away party. From the many, many articles that I’ve read on the story, she decided to leave around midnight because she was so drunk.

Lastly, Julia Moreno repeated the most obnoxious, “I watch too much ‘CSI’” comment of them all regarding the lack of DNA evidence:

“Being a realist, you know that deed [sex] is a messy business.”

Um, Julia? Did you miss the part where your husband was taped by the victim wearing a wire where he said he wore a condom?

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

There’s a lot of problematic crap in these articles. First of all, did Julia Moreno really need to be given a platform to blame and slut-shame the victim? Victims in high-profile rape and sexual assault cases already struggle with tropes that work against them in the court of public opinion: they’re attention whores, they’re unreliable drunks, they’re after money. I don’t understand why it’s relevant, at all, for the accuser’s wife — biased much? — to get a platform for that. To be sure, a lot of us would have nasty things to say about someone who was directly responsible for dragging our personal lives through hell for two years. But the character assassinations of the victim are so ignorant. While I’m not questioning what may have been a journalistic impulse to shed light on family members who were affected by the “rape cops” saga, I am questioning how it was handled, i.e. why newspapers printed Julia Moreno’s ranting and raving verbatim.

That brings me to the next thing that’s problematic about these articles: the catfight narrative. It’s juicy to read Julia Moreno s**t-talking the victim. As author Leora Tanenbaum explains in her book, Catfight!: Rivalries Among Women — from Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room , the media loves nothing more than to watch two women go at it. Although the “rape cops” case is not directly a rivalry amongst women, there is the same “she said/she said” element. It is a tired, old narrative that should have no place in respectable journalism.

And lastly, there’s the “woman in denial” narrative. That’s another juicy angle for us readers: Meet Julia Moreno, the new Mary Jo Buttafuoco! To its credit, The New York Times, at least, put it delicately and let readers draw their own conclusions, writing:

“While Ms. Moreno sees the jury’s verdict as affirmation that her husband was telling the truth and his accuser had fabricated her story, many people around the city remain unconvinced. “

Still, what’s the translation? Everyone thinks you’re delusional, lady. If you believe Kenneth Moreno raped the victim — which I and innumerable others do — there’s a certain amount of gawkish “Can you believe her?” head-shaking to level at Julia Moreno. (Especially when you learned that this wife-who-stands-by-her-man started dating him when she was only 18 and he was 33.) Even I’ll admit to being entertained that Julia Moreno is so delusional — until I remember how sad it is that the media is all too happy to give her a rope to hang herself by … which, in turn, makes her vulnerable to judgment. Lesser accusations of infidelity would not fly with a lot of women, yet this man is accused of raping a drunk woman while wearing an NYPD badge and she is convinced of his innocence. Although he denied raping the victim, Kenneth Moreno testified that he, in fact, cuddled the victim while she lay in bed wearing only a pink bra, sang her a Jon Bon Jovi song, and kissed her either on the forehead or the shoulder. Before he was arrested in 2009, Kenneth Moreno told his wife about the incident — but left out the part where he cuddled the victim. “I don’t remember much except for crying and being like, ‘You are stupid,’” she said. The couple was separated at the time of the incident, which apparently made her more sympathetic to him. According to the Times:

“Ms. Moreno said she was upset that her husband went that far with the woman. But she quickly got past that, she said, in part because they had been separated for several months at the time; their relationship was buckling under stress from her attending college classes, as well as conflicts that he had with his former girlfriend, with whom he had a child.”

Her forgiveness of his infidelity and the eyebrow-raising reasons for their breakup are to me, as a woman, fascinating. I have to wonder why Julia Moreno is so damn forgiving of her hubby, why he’s been acquitted by not only a jury but by his wife too.

Is Julia Moreno herself a victim — a victim of the idea that a good woman stands by her man and self-sacrifices, no matter the personal cost to her?

That question could be a whole separate blog post entirely (one which I may get around to writing). But in the mean time, I’m dismayed — to put it mildly — that media outlets have not only let Julia Moreno blame and slut-shame the victim, but have furthered the “catfight” and “woman in denial” narratives that are harmful to women in general.

A civil suit is still pending against Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata. If these cops are eventually found guilty in a civil trial — and I pray they are — the media coverage has a higher standard to attain. Here’s hoping they do it.

[NY Times]
[NY Post]

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