3 Horrible Things You’ll Hear About Patrick Kane’s Accuser And How To Respond

This weekend, I had the misfortune of being in the room when one person asked a group: “So what do you think of Patrick Kane?”

What they were asking was, implicitly, What do you think of the news that Chicago Blackhawks hero Patrick Kane raped a woman he met at a bar in his hometown of Buffalo last weekend? The conversation derailed from there: “I heard she’s 17” (she wasn’t, not that it matters). “If you’re in a bar and you go home with a man, what do you expect?” “She’s a groupie.” “All these people care about is money, money, money. It’s all about the money.” And so on. I was so angry that the only answer I could muster without getting furious was, “That’s what people said about the Cosby accusers, too, until that sworn deposition came out with him confessing that he had drugged and raped women.”

These are the types of things we say about accusers of alleged rapists, particularly (but not exclusively) when they’re celebrities. And they all round out to being the same thing: It’s the victim’s fault, she should have known what was going to happen – or, it didn’t really happen, she’s lying, she wants attention/fame/money; or, even more perversely, maybe it did happen, maybe this woman put herself voluntarily through a violent sexual encounter, because she wanted money.

Here are the three core myths at play in the Patrick Kane story and how you can respond to them:

1. If you’re a groupie, what do you expect?

First of all, who said she was a groupie? And why do we still use this term? Just because a woman is a fan doesn’t mean she’s a groupie, it just means that she might be star-struck and eager to hang out with someone she admires.

Which is not to say that if she was a groupie – and we’ll depend on the Urban Dictionary definition of a groupie as “A young woman, often under age, who seeks to achieve status by having sex with rock musicians, roadies, security, and other band-related guys” – it doesn’t mean that it’s justified to rape her. It’s not justified to rape anyone. The premise there is that if at any time a woman wants to have sex, for whatever reason, she can’t complain if that sex becomes non-consensual. Or, really, the premise there is that a woman who wants to have sex at any point can’t ever rescind her consent. As in, there’s no such thing as raping a sexually active woman; they’re always asking for it. And that’s a disgusting premise.

We don’t know that this woman left SkyBar with Patrick Kane and went to his home because she wanted to have sex with him, because the fact of going to a man’s home doesn’t necessarily mean you want to have sex with him. And even if she did want to have sex with him, that doesn’t mean that she at any point at all couldn’t stop wanting to have sex with him.

Short answer: Whether or not you’re a groupie, you should be able to expect not to be raped.

2. She’s just doing it for the money.

Settlements in rape cases are actually a fascinating topic. William Hubbard wrote about the topic for the University of Chicago Law Review in 1999, stating the case that it’s understandable that rape victims wouldn’t want to undergo the trauma and scrutiny of a public trial and would therefore find closure in a pretrial settlement. However, he argued, the prevalence of pretrial settlements gets in the way of justice and opens opportunities for false accusers to extort money from innocent people.

But instead of placing that burden on the victim, let’s talk about the fact that poorly-trained 911 operators are authorized to do sexual assault coding, meaning that if in their opinion a woman wasn’t raped, the case won’t get coded as such – not to mention the fact that if they aren’t trained to be sensitive to rape victims, rape victims will not proceed with their report. Millions of rape cases have been left behind because of this problem. When victims report in person, they face the same scrutiny and mistrust from investigators. The treatment victims receive when they report their rapes is itself traumatizing. On top of that, there’s rampant victim-blaming in the news media in high-profile rape cases.

It’s been made very clear to victims that if they proceed with a rape charge, they will be smeared for it, privately and publicly. So why would they report? And why would they go ahead with a criminal case when they could receive a modicum of justice via a settlement and go on their way without having their trauma dissected and disbelieved and scrutinized in public? The problem isn’t victims who are willing to accept settlements in rape cases, the problem is police who doubt rape victims more than they doubt victims of other violent crimes, news media who sensationalize rape stories and side with rapists even when there’s clear evidence, and, of course, people who sit around their kitchen tables telling each other that victims accuse their rapists only because they want money.

Being a rape victim isn’t glamorous, and the scant money a victim might receive more often than not goes to legal fees and medical bills. There’s so much to lose in sexual trauma – your public reputation, your job, your education, your privacy, your health. Why would we begrudge a victim a settlement?

All of which is well beyond the fact that, for the millionth time, 2 to 10 percent of rape accusations are false – or, in other words, 90 to 98 percent of rape accusations are true.

Short answer: I’ve never met anyone who was willing to go through horrible trauma and years of therapy just to get some cash, and I don’t blame victims for taking settlements.

3. People like this make it harder for real victims.

Bottom line, it’s no one’s job to judge who is or isn’t a “real” rape victim, and besides, every “real” victim is going to be doubted and judged regardless of the fact that they really did go through a violent sexual encounter. And it’s especially unfair and hypocritical to say that a victim wasn’t really raped when you also say that if someone doesn’t live up to your standards of sexual purity, they should expect to be raped.

The only real answer here is the short one: Who, by your standards, is a “real” rape victim, and without being that rape victim, how could you ever actually know whether their rape lived up to those standards?

And if you don’t want to get into it, you can always just propose a change of topic. The very fact of people getting together and discussing the details of a stranger’s sex life, sexual purity, and sexual assault; reassuring each other that there is nothing to worry about here, our hometown hero didn’t do anything wrong; confirming to each other that they don’t have to put the effort into feeling empathy for people who have been violated – that’s the core problem with our culture’s conversation about rape. Taking it off the table and not allowing them to pat each other on the back for their good judgment about Patrick Kane’s accuser and what really happened to her body might be the best possible solution.

[Buffalo News]

[Business Insider]

[Chicago Unbound]

[The Nation]

[Philly.com]

[Human Rights Watch]

[ThinkProgress]

[Vox]

[Image via Getty]

Send me a line at rebecca@thefrisky.com.