Rape or 'Rape'?

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First
published as "The Kennedy ‘Rape’ Case" in the June 1991
Rothbard-Rockwell
Report
.

Once
again, various grinches have interfered in our quiet enjoyment
– this time in the delicious scandal of yet another case
involving the Kennedy family, a Kennedy compound, 4 A.M. parties
with assorted females, and an alleged rape to substitute for a
non-alleged drowning. But now we aren’t allowed to enjoy anything
free of the external imposition of several Moral Problems.

Problem
One
: Was it or was it not evil and unconscionable for NBC
and the New York Times to follow the lead of the tabloid
Globe, and reveal the Name of the alleged rape victim?
(P.S., it’s PATTY BALDWIN, dammit, and so there!) The almost universal
consensus of all pundits and right-thinkers, including all sides
on Crossfire, is Yes, it was evil. Sorry, folks, I don’t
see it. The prime business of the media is to report the news,
to report what will be to the interest of the readers or viewers.
Was the public interested? Hell, yes. And the silly polls in which
the vast majority of the American masses denounced NBC and the
New York Times is a lot of malarkey. It was merely the
public registering their Official rather than their Real Selves
to the grinches and pests who constitute the pollsters.

Suppose
that a girl were murdered, or simply and non-sexually mugged
and robbed on the Kennedy compound. Would it have been immoral
for the media to reveal the name of the victim then? Why? In
a sense, anything the media reports “invades the privacy”
of those whose activities constitute news. Are we to ban all
reporting whatever except public relations handouts?

But
that is indeed the logic of the absurd view that the media must
get the rape victim’s agreement to publish her name.
For that means that everyone in all walks of life would have
a veto power on his or her name ever being mentioned.

The
now-fashionable feminist view holds that rape is only
a crime of violence, equivalent to mugging, that sex is not
involved, and therefore rape should be treated like any other
crime. Since no one (I hope) advocates withholding the names
of all victims whatever from the public, then feminists should
consistently favor revealing an alleged rape victim’s name.
Yet, curiously, only the egregious Alan Dershowitz (and, to
give her credit, Karen DeCrow) takes the consistent feminist
line on the Palm Beach rape case. Most feminists hold that since
a “stigma” unfortunately continues to attach itself to a rape
victim, that the name should not be disclosed. In that way,
the feminists can have it both ways: protect the alleged rapee,
and keep on yammering about rape having nothing to do with sex.

In
my view, the feminist position is balderdash. Violence is of
course an inherent aspect of rape: that’s why it’s a crime.
But also inherently connected with rape is a sex act,
which is what distinguishes rape from assault, mugging, etc.
Rape is sex plus violence; why is it difficult to get this point
across?

There
is another point here. The alleged Palm Beach rape was not simply
private, and its reportage was not the result of intrepid investigative
reporting into private affairs. The rape became public as soon
as PATTY BALDWIN reported it to the police and charged William
Kennedy Smith with the crime. The public is surely entitled
to know about all public charges and actions, including this
one.

Moreover,
the name of the accused raper, William Kennedy Smith, has been
plastered all over the media, to the jeers and ridicule of a
large section of the American population. If PATTY BALDWIN’S
good name must be protected at all costs, why is it OK to publicize
and jeer at William Kennedy Smith? Even if there is a stigma
attached to the rapee, surely there is far more of a stigma
attached to the alleged raper. So are we supposed to withhold
his name too? Will we be left with sort of bowdlerized
“reporting”?

A
young woman was allegedly raped last night at the compound of
a famous political family in Palm Beach. The famous uncle of the
alleged raper was named as chasing a girl at 4:00 A.M. clad only
in T-shirt (or blue oxford-cloth shirt, as the case may be).

To
his credit, Pat Buchanan was the only person I have heard worrying
about the news damage to the Kennedy family, and he is not exactly
a long-time Kennedy admirer. Pat, too, denounced revealing the
name of PATTY BALDWIN on the charming, old-fashioned ground
that rape, precisely because sex is involved, carries a public
shame with it for the victim.

But
I don’t think this gentlemanly consideration outweighs the media’s
obligation to report the news, and the public’s right to know
public events.

Problem
Two
: Rape is coercion and therefore a crime, and therefore
it was unconscionable of the New York Times to reveal
the rather sordid past and present of PATTY BALDWIN, her kid
out of wedlock, her inveterate bar-hopping, etc.

Apart
from the fact that these sordid details are intrinsically interesting
in themselves, are they really irrelevant to the fact
that rape is coercion? It is true, very true, that rape is coercion,
and that rape is a crime, regardless of the sexual or
virtuous status of the victim, that is, whether she is a nun,
a monogamous wife and mother, a swinging single, or a hooker.
But the virtuo-status of the rape victim is relevant to important
considerations: (1) the credibility of the victim as witness,
and (2) the degree of punishment to be levied upon the criminal.

By
its very nature, rape – in contrast to mugging or
simple assault – almost always takes place without witnesses.
If PATTY BALDWIN charges that Willie Kennedy Smith raped her,
are we to believe her? Remember that criminal convictions can
only take place if the charge is proven beyond a reasonable
doubt, and hence the credibility of the victim must be vital
to reaching a verdict. Take two hypothetical cases: A: a virtuous
nun or married lady charges Willie Kennedy Smith with rape;
or B: a bar-hopping party girl, picked up at 3:00 A.M. agrees
to go on for drinks and other frisky activities to the Kennedy
compound, and then, after some cuddling, charges rape. Isn’t
it reasonable to conclude that Female A’s charge is more credible
than Female B’s? Especially, if I might revert to PATTY BALDWIN,
when the girl seems to have made off with a valuable Kennedy
urn at the same time as the supposed rape?

A
separate and also relevant point occurs when the judge or jury
is handing down punishment for a crime. Punishment differs in
proportion to the severity of the crime, and most of us agree
that someone clubbing a victim and making off with his gold
watch deserves a more severe punishment than a kid stealing
a grape from a fruit-store. Is it then unreasonable to assert
that coercion taking place after lots of drinks, a 4:00
A.M. return for drinks and hi-jinks at the fellow’s home, and
consensual cuddling is less reprehensible than attacking and
raping a stranger on the street? Note that I am not saying that
“leading the guy on” justifies or exculpates later coercion
and rape; but it should mitigate the severity of the crime and
the ensuing punishment. Which is why most people have the sound
instinct that “date rape,” while reprehensible and indeed criminal,
does not reach the deeply reviled status of “stranger rape.”

So
perhaps momma’s caution about visiting guys in their homes late
at night had something to say for it after all?

Murray
N. Rothbard
(1926–1995) was the author of Man,
Economy, and State
, Conceived
in Liberty
, What
Has Government Done to Our Money
, For
a New Liberty
, The
Case Against the Fed
, and many
other books and articles
. He
was also the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
.

Murray
Rothbard Archives

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