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I wish I could say I was surprised that Derrick Rose and his cohorts were found not liable on all counts in the civil trial accusing them of rape, but I’m not. Disappointed, certainly. I’ve indicated previously that I believe he did it, and in following all of the details of the case — from the motions filed to the texts exchanged — that conviction continues to hold true. But I’m not surprised.
I’m sure that there are people who will accept this “not guilty” verdict at face value – a legal term which, when determining someone’s actual “innocence” means practically nothing; infinitesimal in its significance. Still, the fact remains that the burden of proof in rape cases is generally high, albeit lower in a civil case. There was no DNA evidence, and if more than 10 people were able to surmise the exact same interpretation from a series of text exchanges than half of the debates on Black Twitter would be dead in the water.
What continues to be jarring to me, however, is that I can fully examine a case in which the accused has an admittedly tenuous relationship with the meaning of the word “consent” and backed by a legal team who has spent the last several months executing every possible combination of slut-shaming like it’s a freakin’ game of Madden, and still be wholly expectant that the verdict would be a toss-up at best. As messy as this case seemed — from the TMZ involvement to exposés on sites like “Baller Alert” — the core circumstances of the case were not altogether different from the majority of rape cases involving a friend, acquaintance, or current partner. Alcohol is involved, the details are fuzzy, the victim takes some time to report, and it ultimately comes down to a matter of competing narratives. It’s the case with countless cases — including the Nate Parker case of current infamy — yet no matter how many times it is shown to be the standard when it comes to acquaintance rape, these are the same details that are constantly used to detract from the validity of the victim’s case.
“They were both drinking.”
“She interacted with the accused after.”
“She waited weeks, or even months, to report.”
As much as we like to continue to tell ourselves that our understanding of consent and rape culture has evolved – and it certainly has for some of us with names other than Derrick – we still haven’t done nearly enough to address this many-headed beast. Whether it’s 17 years ago or 17 days ago, rape – and to a greater extent, violence against women – continues to be a violation that is annotated way more by the miscarriages of justice tied to it than by landmark progress. The need for rape accusations to be clear cut and not be marred by any sort of gray area or doubt will continue to undermine the reality of most sexual assault victims.
The dust will settle and Rose’s life will go back to business as usual. He’ll prepare to start the season as the presumed starting point guard for my home team, and I will continue to hope that Brandon Jennings replaces him. But moreover, the Jane Doe who tried to find some justice for what she many others believes happened to her will have to try to hit reset on her life and move forward after having her truth denied to her. And somewhere, a victim who may have been on the fence on coming out with her story, may have decided to continue to stay silent. Because the justice system in its current iteration is not made for radical progress, much less any true definition of justice. We see further reinforcement of this in practice every day.