In the early hours of Sunday morning, a 28-year-old woman checked herself into Mount Sinai Hospital and called 911 to report that she had just been raped in Central Park. Completing those two tasks alone requires an uncommon amount of bravery: According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, more than half of all rape victims never report the crime.
Now the woman must endure another awful experience, as members of the public, the media, and law enforcement are, with the scantest amount of detail available, either blaming her for being raped or skeptical that a rape took place.
When the New York Post reported the crime on Sunday, the paper put quotation marks around the word “rape,” running with a quote from an anonymous law enforcement source noting “inconsistencies” in her story.
This morning, when the New York Daily News posted video of the suspect in the hope that someone might recognize him, readers seized the opportunity to chime in with their opinions about what probably happened.
They unanimously agreed — based on the information provided in the Daily News‘s seven-sentence article — it was extremely unlikely this is a case of rape.
Several assessments were based on the time of the alleged event: 3:30 a.m. on Sunday — an hour at which most bars in the city are still open for business.
None of the commenters seemed too interested in the fact that the man captured on surveillance footage looks over his shoulder four times in the space of 20 seconds as he hurries away from the scene of the alleged attack.
While the Daily News let readers come to their own conclusions, the New York Post made its thoughts on the matter clear from the get-go, putting quotation marks around the word rape in the item’s headline: “Police investigating Central Park ‘Rape’.”
The Post credits two law-enforcement sources who provided details of the incident: “One source noted inconsistencies in her account, including surveillance video that showed her walking on Fifth Avenue with a man she didn’t mention in her initial report.”
The Post piece continues: “It was unclear if that man is the same one she said raped her.”
If it’s reassuring that the Post has two sources for its victim-blaming, it’s significantly less reassuring that such an assessment could only have come from individuals involved with the investigation.
This year alone, the Post has put quotation marks around the words “rape” or “rapist” in headlines more than ten times. In some instances, the usage is employed in a story that involves an attempted rape.
In a May story headlined “Victim stayed for breakfast with ‘rapist’,” an anonymous source tells the Post‘s Jamie Schram, “‘She couldn’t remember what happened,’ the source added. ‘She blacked out.'”
Schram is one of three authors of the Central Park piece. The Village Voice reached out him and one of the other two bylined authors (two additional reporters are also credited with contributing to the eight-sentence item) to ask whether the Post has a policy that dictates when it is reasonable to put quotation marks around the word rape.
We’ll update this post when we hear back.
In the meantime, here are all of the instances in which the Post has put quotation marks around the words rape and rapist this year alone: