Earlier this month, a small town in Texas was sent into a flurry as a teenage girl had been kidnapped and raped by three men. The girl appeared in her local church covered in cuts and scratches in only a t-shirt and underwear. The quiet town was shocked by this news, as the police began to try to find these criminals. There didn’t seem to be any clear leads to find these men until last week.
The teenager came forward to admit she had lied about being kidnapped and had not in fact been gang raped by the three ‘black’ men as she had claimed. With the phenomenon of “fake news” coming more and more into the mainstream, this is a dangerous trap to fall into. The fear-mongering against people of colour in the United States is bringing about more and more racism, and rise people like Trump to power. This story also does not help real rape survivors, who already face scepticism from those who will cry liar or slut, rather than believe the survivor.
This girl will face charges for wasting police time and lying to police, and she has also endangered the lives of people of colour and rape survivors. The false accusation unsurprisingly caused outrage in the small town, with people taking to Facebook to vent their rage: “We all need to stay alert and make sure that there are warnings issued to all young women, middle aged women and yes even older women that this has happened,” posted one Facebook user. “Lord find these animals give them what they deserve,” posted another user.
There is no need to remind anyone of the violence that black people have been facing at the hands of police officers, regardless of age, gender or even if they were not doing anything illegal. The fact that she identified these three made-up men as black will simply add to the fear-mongering that Trump and his supporters feed upon. Due to her lie, people of colour may face more and more hate and violence. Looking at pictures of this innocent, blonde, white woman it is not hard to see why those who already have prejudice towards black people would believe her and take their anger out on any black person.
For real rape survivors, this story must be hard to swallow. People who have been sexually assaulted have to live through people not believing them, saying that they will ruin the attacker’s life and that they were probably asking for it. This story just fuels those people who shame victims, this is a story that they can use against survivors. Rather than the millions of cases of sexual assault, this one story will prevail.
This story has made not just local or national news, but international news. Although it was clearly not intentionally fake news, but it was fake news all the same. For any rape survivors who come forward to report their attack, they will be examined in hospital to get DNA from the attacker. Of course, there are some tell-tale signs of sexual assault that can appear on the body, so perhaps publications should wait to see if there is signs of assault. In this woman’s case she had no signs of assault, other than the self-inflicted cuts.
However, it is hard to know how to deal with rape cases in general. For such a traumatic experience, it may not be easy to cross-examine the victim. Although there does not seem to be that much unwillingness from those who do not believe the victim.
This story has only served to heighten the beliefs of bigoted people, whether it be towards people of colour, rape survivors or their lack of faith in the media. This story does not damage the women and her family’s lives but instead her carelessness has endangered more and more vulnerable people, whilst letting people with intolerant ideals rise to power.