My alma mater, Hofstra University, has been making the front page (and lead story on the TV news) these past few days owing to a gang rape that has turned out to be not that at all.
To recap the story as it stands right now for those not in the New York-Metro area, an 18-year-old Hofstra student claimed to have been gang-raped by five men in a bathroom stall in one of the Hofstra dorms at 3:00 a.m. Monday morning. She claimed that one of the men, whom she met while dancing in an on-campus club, took her cellphone away and used it to lure her into the dorm. Once in the dorm, the man was joined by a second and the two of them took her into a men's bathroom, tied her up in a stall, and raped her. Three more men, whom the woman first thought would help her, turned out to be friends of the first two and they also raped her.
After the incident, campus and local police were called and four of the five men, including one who was a Hofstra student, were identified and arrested.
Not surprisingly, the Hofstra staff and student body were shocked, appalled, and frightened for their safety. As campus security was increased, an investigation into the crime ensued and the search for the fifth man continued.
On Wednesday night, however, the shocking story took an unexpected turn. Confronted with the news that a video of at least part of the attack might exist, the woman recanted and said that the sex had been consensual. The D.A. dropped all charges, the four men were released from jail and the search for the fifth was cancelled. (In the meantime, however, the four men had their names and pictures plastered across the newspapers and on television, the modern equivalent of being locked in stocks in the town square.)
Hofstra has now suspended the woman, pending a disciplinary hearing, and the D.A.'s office us considering pressing charges. We do not know, as yet, why she lied or why she got into the situation to begin with.
One of the men in the case, upon being released, said that he was glad that justice had prevailed because he thought he was going to be put in prison for something he didn't do. Yes, that is the basic premise of our judicial system: Good and bad. Right and wrong. The guilty are punished and the innocent go free.
But just what is it that he didn't do? All four men admitted to having sex with the woman, though they insisted it was consensual. Does that make it right? In what society is it okay for four (or five, if there was in fact a fifth man) men to have sex in a bathroom stall with a woman? What is it that was lacking in these guys' upbringing that not one of them stopped and said, "Why am I doing this? Why are we doing this?" Or, at least, "What is the matter with this woman that she is doing this?"
One of the mothers, hugging her son after he was released from jail last night, proclaimed, "I knew my son was innocent." Well, ma'am, your son is not guilty of rape, but one would have a hard time arguing that he is innocent.
No one did the right thing in this case; there was just wrong and more wrong.