It’s often stated that rape is unusual, and hard to convict, because it so often involves “he said/she said” testimony. One person’s word against another: he says it was consensual, she says it was rape.
But I don’t think that’s all that unique.
Imagine that Bob comes to trial for being a drug dealer. Officer Jane testifies that Bob offered to sell her some coke. Bob says that’s a lie, and that the coke on him when Jane arrested him was actually planted by Jane.
Why is it that no one would call this case “he said/she said,” as rape cases are so often called?
My example is not unrealistic; there’s been at least one high-profile case of dozens of innocent people (nearly all black, surprise surprise) being convicted this way.
So why doesn’t anyone say that drug possession is a unique crime because a person can go be sent to prison for drug possession, based solely on another person’s word? Why does no one say “drug dealing is a serious charge; it is easy to make, difficult to defend”? Why does no one fret about the damage to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” when someone goes to prison for selling drugs based on someone else’s word?
I don’t think there’s a principled reason that the process of a jury hearing testimony and weighing credibility – which is routinely accepted in thousands of non-rape cases – becomes so suspicious and deplorable when the crime is rape. Rather, I think the difference is just evidence that our culture trusts cops but doesn’t trust women.
Now, as it happens, I’m not totally comfortable with sending someone to prison based on assessment of credibility, because “credibility” is something that is so easily given or withheld based on factors that should be irrelevant (race, gender, class, looks, etc). But it’s still appalling that this concern is constantly brought up in cases involving rape, but rarely or never in cases involving other crimes. If “she said/she said” is problematic, then it should be problematic in all cases, not just in rape cases.
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