Commish Ramsey Criticized for Bizarre Statements to the Press About Possible Rape Victim
A local sexual-assault case drew the attention and criticism of the national media-monitoring organization Women’s Media Center yesterday.
“Er. It’s OK for Philly police commish to tell press ’she was so drunk no one will believe her’ of an active rape case??” the group tweeted to its more than 26,000 followers, along with a link to a New York Times article profiling the case in question: Last Tuesday morning, a 21-year-old woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted in the Four Seasons Hotel in Center City. According to reports, the woman had been hanging out with 26-year-old Brooklyn Nets player Andray Blatche, who was in town to play in a game against the 76ers that night. The Times reported Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey’s statement that Blatche was among three men and three women in a room in the hotel where the alleged incident occurred, though other reports state there were six men and the one woman in the room. Ramsey essentially cleared Batche as an assailant: “From all accounts, he was not personally involved in any kind of assault or anything like that,” the commissioner told the Times. “He was there, but he was not involved.”
Ramsey then went on to make several bizarre remarks to the press — particularly this one:
“She was so intoxicated,” Ramsey said. “She is not going to be a very good witness.”
Why is Ramsey telling the public that this woman — and, by extension, any intoxicated victim of rape — will not make a very good witness if and when her case makes it to court?
Even the New York Post found the statement strange, and marveled that Ramsey “destroyed the credibility of the alleged victim.”
By making such a statement, Ramsey is placing his thumb on a scale that’s already stacked against rape victims. We know from research that rapists often use intoxication as a tool, both to provide opportunity (“I’ll drive her home”) and to avoid prosecution by, as Ramsey so helpfully pointed out, bringing reasonable doubt on the issue of consent and demolishing the memory of the person who is often the only witness for the prosecution.
That is why rapists often target drinking victims and/or facilitate getting victims drunk. It’s why we call a entire category of drugs that physically incapacitate and mentally disorient targets “date rape” drugs. It’s why pedophiles often offer children intoxicants.
Dr. Veronique Valliere is a clinician who has worked with hundreds of victims of sexual assault and thousands of offenders, and who conducts Megan’s Law assessments as a member of the PA Sexual Offender Assessment Board. From Valliere’s expert testimony during a public hearing for a bill related to the prosecution of sexual assault in Pennsylvania:
“The big thing in Pa., the jury perceived these women as having what they quoted as buyer’s remorse,” testified Dr. Valliere. “I wish I could invite you all to sit in a treatment group and go around the circle and say to each offender, ‘How did you get people to not believe the victim?’ And they will say, ‘I got her drunk.’
Julie Burton, president of Women’s Media Center, elaborated on her criticism of Ramsey in an email to PW. “For Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to tell the press of the victim of a recent alleged attack that ‘[s]he was so intoxicated…. [s]he is not going to be a very good witness,’ implying that she cannot be believed, accelerates [the] process of public shaming and discrediting,” said Burton. “Drinking is not illegal; sexual assault is … Law enforcement has a responsibility not to use the media to make a rape investigation more difficult than it already is.”
And it is difficult. Only approximately 3 percent of rapists spend a day in jail, according to an analysis of Department of Justice statistics conducted by RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
It gets worse. More from the Times piece:
[The woman], whom Ramsey described as “highly intoxicated,” said that she had “nonconsensual sex” with one of the men and “consensual sex” with another man. Blatche was “not an active participant” in either supposed sexual encounter, and he was not in the bedroom area when the alleged assault took place.
First, a term already exists for “nonconsensual sex.” It’s called rape. Second, if a person is so intoxicated that they won’t make a “good witness”— then doesn’t that imply they’re also too intoxicated to consent to sex?
Carol E. Tracy, executive director of Women’s Law Project, says yes. “The truth of the matter is, if someone is so intoxicated, they are unable to consent and therefore it is rape. So if there’s evidence of how intoxicated she was, along the lines that [Ramsey] is suggesting, then under Pennsylvania crimes code, she was incapable of giving consent to any sex,” Tracy says. “The degree of intoxication is something one has to evaluate, the prosecutor has to evaluate that.”
A prosecutor in court, that is. Not the police commissioner in a newspaper.
The district attorney’s office confirmed that no charges have thus far been filed.