Unless you've been living under a rock for the past five days, you've probably already heard about the Patrick Kane investigation. Content warning on everything below for sexual assault.
You can read about the details at Deadspin and you can also read The Public writer Alan Bedenko's take on the coverage here.
What you should absolutely not do, however, is read the report published yesterday by the Buffalo News. I'm not going to link it here because I don't want to give them clicks but I do want to talk about their article.
The entire report is a lesson in how not to cover a case like this. Or, put another way, the column is a lesson on how to discredit a rape survivor in four easy steps.
Step one: Imply that she wanted to have sex with him.
But Croce told The News that he and several of his employees noticed a young woman "hanging all over" Kane at SkyBar for at least two hours that night, putting her hands on his arms and "being very forward, very flirtatious with him."
Step two: Imply that she was the aggressor
Croce said the woman and a female friend "followed" Kane as he left the nightclub with a couple of male friends around 3 a.m. last Sunday.
Step three: Imply that the alleged rapist is actually a good guy and that boys will be boys
"(Kane) was acting like a typical young guy his age, out having fun with some of his buddies. A lot of people were coming up to him, asking to have pictures taken with him. He was a gentleman. Pat had a couple of drinks and maybe a couple of shots. He was having a good time, but he wasn’t stumbling or doing anything obnoxious."
Step four: Do all of this using quotes from someone who has no idea what actually happened (and whom you have absolutely no reason to quote) in order to avoid a lawsuit.
SkyBar’s owner, Mark Croce, told The Buffalo News on Saturday night that he has no way of knowing what happened between the woman and Kane at Kane’s home. He said he only knows Kane casually and has never been to his home.
This report by the Buffalo News is a sorry attempt at journalism. It's both disgusting and irresponsible.
It's also, sadly, not at all special or unique. Coverage of alleged rape cases is often like this. CNN news anchors worried about the futures of two high school football players after they were convicted of rape. The New York Times implied that an 11 year old was gang raped because of what she was wearing.
This kind of coverage actively cultivates a hostile environment that makes survivors afraid and unwilling to come forward. It creates an environment that, even when survivors do come forward, makes it unlikely that their rapist ever gets convicted or even arrested.
This is why statements like "innocent until proven guilty" are anything but neutral. It's a statement that supports articles like the Buffalo News', articles that victim blame and question women's credibility for no justifiable reason.
Why is it that the only time I hear that phrase used is when it's in response to articles like Clark's? Articles that force us to confront the rampant rape culture in our society? Why don't I hear people trotting out this tired phrase when they read articles that affirm the status quo?
There isn't a single person yelling the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" at the Buffalo News, in part because they did treat Kane as innocent. In fact, the newspaper bent over backwards to try and exonerate their local hero. They quoted someone who had no business being quoted in their story in order to paint Kane as innocent.
So why is the court system used as the final arbiter of whether someone accused of rape is guilty or not when we know that somewhere around five per cent (5%) of rapists are ever convicted in a court of law?
I'm not saying that Patrick Kane is automatically guilty.
What I am saying is that "innocent until proven guilty" is a terrible thing to say every time a celebrity is accused of rape because what you're really saying is "I trust a broken justice system more than I trust you."
What many people hear when you say "innocent until proven guilty" is "I don't believe you."