WashPo was handed a false sexual assault case — and they didn’t bite

Photo via Huffington Post

Out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.

Why? The glaringly obvious reason reported by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is that only 310 out of those 1,000 will report it. The reason is fear. Fear of what might happen to them, what people will think and most importantly, if they’ll be believed.

That’s why when something like this happens, I’m enraged. It delegitimizes the stories of men and women who have actually suffered a traumatic experience and will be told that they’re lying or exaggerating because of what happens only 2 to 8 percent of the time (which — in and of itself is a misleading statistic).

We’ve seen report after report of men with power in Hollywood and D.C. being  unveiled for the horrific monsters they are. It has been appalling but refreshing for all women watching from the sidelines.

Finallywe are cheering. This isn’t a new thing. Sexual harassment, assault and rape is are taboo topics women have been dealing with since the dawn of humanity, but oftentimes, men are so quick to turn a blind eye, stating that it rarely happens or it’s just “boys being boys.” Now no one can’t ignore  it.

Rule of thumb: if someone comes and reports a case of sexual assault to you, you believe them. The difference is, once your career and other people’s lives depend on that story, it needs to be validated. It’s a matter of ethics.

As a journalist and a feminist, I struggle. I want to believe every woman, but every case needs to be substantiated when being presented to the general public, especially considering someone’s career and life could be destroyed.

Journalists have fallen short in this arena before. I’m sure many remember the Rolling Stone article exposing rape on college campuses where a student completely fabricated an entire story of being sexually assaulted. The slip up cost Rolling Stone tons in legal fees, $1.65 million to the fraternity in question and most importantly, their credibility to readers.

So in comes a woman with a dramatic story alleging Republican congressional candidate Roy Moore of impregnating her as a teenager. It’s without a doubt tantalizing story for The Washington Post, but also incredibly dangerous. The reporter spent two weeks conducting a series of interviews about the alleged assault that caused her to get an abortion at age 15.

Fortunately, The Post did not publish an article with the unsubstantiated story. The reporter confronted the woman about her inconsistencies and questioned her motives once reporters saw her entering Project Veritas, a New York based organization that targets mainstream media and left-leaning groups. The organization’s goal is to conduct “stings” by using false stories to expose what the group calls “media bias.”

Leaders of Project Veritas have declined to comment on the woman, but the evidence leads The Post to believe they were being deceived. Although The Post has a policy stating they will not publish off-the-record comments entered in good faith, reporters did so anyway under the argument that Project Veritas wouldn’t exposed the conversations anyway, had The Post fallen for the trap, Executive Editor Martin Baron said.

I applaud The Washington Post for their impeccable and thorough (as usual) reporting. Having read through their expansive ethics policy, I am assured of the integrity of their reporters. The Post has proven that fair, unbiased news organizations exist, despite constant criticism from skeptics of good journalism.

What leaves me reeling is how this one instance of fabrication affects the narrative of sexual assault victims. The lying tipster approached The Post almost immediately following an article published about Roy Moore’s sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32. Some people immediately rushed to his defense, even though the story had been backed with pretty significant evidence. If people didn’t believe her — among countless other women  — before, what about now? The baffling part is how this woman could be so against her own agenda as a woman. Females everywhere have experienced some form of harassment or assault, and bringing these true and numerous cases to light is important step in breaking down the system and restructuring it in an equal and fair way.

The conclusion I keep coming to is there will always be evil people with cruel intentions, whether than is a twisted adult assaulting an underage girl, a man in power abusing his position for his own sexual gain or a woman lying about something so horrid for her political or personal agenda (although some of those instances far outweigh the others in frequency)

The best we can do as individuals is hold the men in our lives accountable, educate others who we justify as “always having been that way” or are “ill-informed,” and believe women who have the bravery to come forward about their horrible experience, removing all judgement and stigmas attached.

As journalists, we must be thorough in our investigations, accurate in our facts and unbiased in our reporting. Publications like The Washington Post make me proud to do what I do.

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One thought on “WashPo was handed a false sexual assault case — and they didn’t bite

  1. Hooray Abbey; You’ve hit the ‘nail on the head’ w/this blog. I’m so proud of all you’ve accomplished these past couple of yrs & really do look forward to hearing & seeing you as a ‘bona fide’ reporter for a news outlet or on TV. Keep up blogging your opinions as you make valid comments tha should be addressed.

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