One standard feature of the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times (a/k/a, "Women's Sports") is the "Modern Love" column, in which a contributor tells story of, well, love in the modern age.
Today's column is from Ashley Cross, a student at Columbia, who writes about learning that her boyfriend was accused of rape at Harvard. Which, on its face, is an interesting story, but not when it's told in a way that minimizes the offense. She says he said:
Driving back to camp he was uncharacteristically quiet, and later, in the privacy of my platform tent, he sat on my floor and told me he didn’t feel comfortable with our developing relationship unless I knew something about him.
It sounded so ominous; I couldn’t imagine what dark secrets he possessed. "What?" I asked.
He said it flat out: "I’m on leave from college because a friend accused me of raping her."
I didn’t say anything at first. I was shocked, yes, but not frightened. We hadn’t yet slept together, and his physical advances so far bordered on old-fashioned. I ransacked my memory to recall if I had missed clues to his character or ways I might have misjudged him, but I came up empty....
As I peppered him with questions, he talked me through the fateful night of only a few months before, when he and the girl, who’d been a friend, had mingled at a party and drifted off drunk together before winding up back in her room, where, several hours later, they had sex. She became hysterical, claiming he forced himself on her. He left, bewildered and distraught. That night he wrote her a letter apologizing for upsetting her and left it at her door. He told me the letter was an attempt to salvage the friendship.
"Did you rape her?" I asked.
"We had sex," he said. "But I didn’t mean to hurt her, no."
Cross reads the accuser's statement, notes that her boyfriend had left Harvard voluntarily, and complains on how things proceeded from there:
He knew the university was investigating the allegations and that he might face dismissal. What he didn’t know was that he soon would face consequences much more severe than being forced to leave school. Rather than allow the college administration to handle the situation, his accuser filed criminal charges.
Yes, I mean, God forbid that a victim should treat a crime like a crime, and a criminal as a criminal. She wasn't accusing him of plagiarism; this was rape.
He ends up pleading guilty, accepting a plea bargain that called for him to spend 18 months under house arrest. And most of the article is spent with Cross' sympathy for him, that his life was ruined, and how her friends couldn't understand why she still supported him, and how eventually their relationship crumbled. "His ordeal will always haunt me," Cross writes. "In my mind, he was not seeking to humiliate and subjugate a woman on that night many years ago. I believe he was a boy who endeavored for hours in the dark to express his drunken, fumbling desire in a way that, fair or not, ended up unraveling his life."
"Fumbling desire"? It takes about two minutes on Google, given the identifying facts she acknowledges in the article (rape + Harvard + letter + plea bargain), to find out what really happened here, facts that Times readers are not given thanks to the first-person nature of the piece. From the Harvard Crimson and the court records it reviewed, here's what D. Drew Douglas, once Harvard Class of 2000, did that night:
In the court records, the prosecutor reads an account of the incident, after which [D. Drew] Douglas is recorded as saying, "I admit to committing the crime."
According to the account, both students had been friends for a year. On April 3, the night of the incident, the woman saw Douglas while on a date with another man.
The victim told The Crimson yesterday that she was "feeling the effects of alcohol" that night.
Court documents state that the three attended a party together. Afterwards, as her date walked her home, Douglas began walking along with the pair.
The other man left her at her dorm, but Douglas" told her he wanted to go home with her," and stayed behind, prosecutors told the court.
"She told him that wasn't going to happen and was attempting to get into her door," the prosecutor told the court. "The defendant was blocking access to the card key [reader] she needed to use."
He followed her into the dorm and up the stairs. "She repeatedly told him that he was not going to come in," the document states. "The defendant kept telling her that it's his choice; she did not have input into that decision."
Outside her room he threw her against the wall, pushed her dress and grabbed her buttocks. He also began kissing her, the prosecutor said.
"[She] told him to leave [and] was struggling to get away from him," the documents said.
She managed to open the door to her suite, but did not shut it in time to prevent Douglas from following her inside.
"Once she was inside, although annoyed that the defendant was still there, because she was a friend of the defendant, [she] wasn't particularly frightened," the prosecutor said. "She told him to leave; she was going to bed."
She lay down fully clothed on the bed and began to doze off. "She next became aware that [Douglas] had removed all of his clothing and had gotten into bed with her," the document reads.
Once in bed with her, he proceeded to sexually assault her, though the court document does not describe any penetration. Some time later, the prosecutor said, Douglas left the bed....
The prosecutor said the woman assaulted by Douglas found a handwritten note under her door the next day apologizing "for pressuring her, forcing her to engage in these activities."
Make no mistake of it; this was rape, and Douglas deserved neither the sympathy of Ms. Cross nor the one-sided account she was allowed to publish in the Times today.