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'Billionaire Being Investigated for Rape ... '

Susan Estrich on

I plead guilty. If I didn't know better, I would just assume that the billionaire being investigated must be guilty. I might even be thinking to myself, "There goes another one."

Except I would be wrong.

This billionaire happens to be a client of mine, and even though lawyers aren't supposed to vouch for their clients (lest we be caught not vouching for one), I volunteered for this one, because I saw a headline like that one and thought, "No, not him." This billionaire was a classmate of mine long before he was rich, and while I wouldn't vouch for his taste in women, I know just what a headline like that means.

It means nothing.

In 2021, if a district attorney doesn't open a file, answer the call or take the meeting when someone complains of rape, they probably won't still be the district attorney in 2022.

Which is good. Because when I was in the back seat of a police car more than 40 years ago, the cops warned me that I might not want to file a complaint about the guy who held an ice pick to my throat, threatened to kill me, stole my wallet and my car, and, yes, raped me, because things were that tough for rape victims back then. And they were. And victims knew it, which is why rape was (and still is) the most underreported violent crime.

 

Believing women is long overdue. But believing women doesn't mean that every single complaint is true. Most women don't report; most women don't lie; complaining of rape is a really lousy way to get even both because it is so horribly wrong and also because it will almost always backfire.

If you're old enough, you'll know exactly what I mean when I reference the Duke lacrosse case. Three members of the Duke lacrosse team were accused of raping a young woman. Take my word: The accusations were vulgar. Bad acts. Bad language. White boys and a young Black woman.

I was on the bandwagon.

Here is what I should have focused on but didn't. The district attorney was up for reelection. His support was flagging. Especially in the Black community. Nothing like prosecuting three rich white boys (I have no idea if they were rich, almost certainly not after their legal bills, but that was how they were portrayed) to win political points. Racism in reverse turns out to be just as ugly.

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