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Web Letters | The Nation

For all the disbelievers

For those demanding physical evidence and a better source of information than a "gossip blog" rather than believing that sexual violence occurs on a larger spectrum than many of us are willing to acknowledge and in a larger capacity than many of us are willing to deal with everyday, you are not only minimizing this woman's experience but the experiences of many other women and men who go through the same thing.

Sexual violence is not cut and dry, it is not black and white and no, you don't get all the answers handed to you on a silver platter. Not only is the criminal justice system a waste of time, in most cases, it is demeaning and frustrating. Look at the way you are attacking these women in a Nation article! The way you are so quick to not believe a word that is said. How on earth do you think they should be bold enough to take their truth to the courtroom?

Jaclyn Friedman made a hell of a case here. Factual, precise and knowledgeable. I am not sure what more you really all want? Maybe you want us to just stop talking about it? Maybe you want us to just stop with the accusations of "upstanding" gentlemen like Al Gore. Maybe it hits a little too close to home.

Name me one woman or man alive who has gotten rich and famous off a false claim of rape or sexual violence.

And yes, it happens to men and women. Queer and straight alike.

Jennifer Patterson

Brooklyn, NY

Jul 21 2010 - 10:35am

An inconvenient truth?

I was relieved to finally read an article that wasn't riddled with victim-blaming. I read the police report and as both a rape crisis advocate and survivor, I have to say, I believe the victim. People have said it can't be true because she waited so long. However, many survivors of sexual assault wait years before they openly talk about an incident. Police did not find enough evidence to support what she was saying. Many times they don't in cases of sexual assault. The victim kept her pants? BFD. It's not uncommon for victims to hold onto articles of clothing on the off chance that there may be a trace of evidence on them.

And so what if she told him, "Get your hands off me, you're acting like a sex poodle." I cannot believe the cruel remarks people made about that statement. It really displays their ignorance to sex crimes. Victims often try to play down what is happening as an assault is occurring for many reasons. Sometimes it is a survival tactic. Other times things like that are said to talk reason into the attacker. Remember, she was in shock. When people are in shock they word things in ways they would not normally. She wanted to edit her police report before she released it to the public and it was probably statements like that she wanted deleted because she knew most people would not understand why she said it. Remember, what she went through was incredibly humiliating. And so what if she tried to make money when she gave her story to the National Enquirer? People who write books about their sexual abuse make money. She's telling something extremely personal and horrible that happened to her, I'd want some money if I told what happened to me too.

It saddens me that Al Gore would do this because I have been a huge supporter of his work for years. I find it a little too coincidental that Tipper and Al decided to split right before this information reached the public. It makes me wonder if perhaps Tipper believes it is true too. Regardless, I was happy with this article because, unlike all the others I read, it did not glorify Gore and blame his victim. It gave a brave perspective that, hey, maybe instead of immediately deciding this man must be innocent just because of his Inconvenient Truth documentary, we ought to read the police report with an open mind that this woman is telling the truth. I did and I've got to tell you, I really believe she is telling the truth.

Jessica Weinstein

New York, NY

Jul 21 2010 - 10:06am

Listen before ignorance takes hold

As a professional in sexual violence prevention, I was so heartened to see the piece by Jaclyn Friedman. Friedman was spot on about the realities victims face after an assault, and the intense compounding factors of having the perpetrator be famous (or well-liked). Without rancor, Friedman suggests that we as a public merely sit with the possibility that someone we admire (Gore) could do something we abhor (violence), instead of immediately firing the "she must be lying" shots before the story even picks up.

We have a responsibility as members of a society where sexual assault happens to believe that. Only by sitting with the possibility can we begin to see the realities that Friedman articulates, and only then can we begin the work of ending violence.

Perhaps some of the naysayers would do well to listen, rather than deny.

Kate Rohdenberg

White River Junction, VT

Jul 21 2010 - 10:02am

In praise of intellectual honesty

It cannot have been easy for The Nation to take the lead in the Al Gore sexual assault matter when other media organizations have treated it as a joke or taken as a foregone conclusion that the allegations are false. It cannot have been easy, but it was emphatically the right thing to do. Jaclyn Friedman's piece does not even take a position on what actaully happened. Instead, the author does precisely what the title says. She simply and soberly suggests that the matter should be treated as one on which serious inquiry is required. If journalists cannot do that, even when their heroes are the subjects of the inquiry are their colleagues and allies, then they are mere sycophants and propogandists.

I salute The Nation's decision to throw down the gauntlet of journalistic responsibility and eschew lock-step loyalty to any one person, whoever that person may be.

Thomas Hamilton Burt

Mamaroneck, NY

Jul 21 2010 - 9:39am

Hatchet job on Al Gore

This is not journalism befitting of The Nation. Nor does it show how "the media" should treat the "sexual assault allegations" against Al Gore. Quite the contrary. This advocate-writer says that media outlets should have responded to this unsubstantiated allegation by first interviewing an "expert" about the credibility of such allegations. What about looking in to the facts to see if there is any support for the story before engaging in such a half-assed smear?

S. Christianson

Albany, NY

Jul 20 2010 - 2:33pm

Lessons

In arguing the case for inappropriate behavior by former Vice President Al Gore against a masseuse, what remains beyond our ability to accurately discern is what actually took place.

I would suggest there is enough information available to suggest that essential portions of the "victim's" story are true. In assessing the nature of any acts by Mr. Gore, there is significant room for distortion or exaggeration by the victim.

Many men who travel on business learn that "massage services" are commonly thinly veiled prostitution. Even if this is not true in this case, it isn't hard to envision a situation in which a person ordering the service might be given the idea or might assume sex was to be at least part of the transaction.

The author is correct in arguing that violence against women is still entirely too common, and that redress is difficult to achieve.

Recognizing that it would be very difficult to establish precisely what took place in this instance, and that prosecution is probably impossible, we would do well to focus on what lessons might be learned from whatever took place, regardless of any difficulty associated with the details.

It's easy to imagine any traveler, tired from whatever he has been doing that day, perhaps having had a drink or three, finding himself in a situation distinctly different from what he expected.

Mr. Gore, or any other adult male, can be better sensitized to the effect his behavior (or assumptions) might have on a woman (perhaps ill-equipped to defend herself due to size difference) not expecting the same thing the man does. Where there is such a misunderstanding, a man can learn to back away instead of attempting to assert his expectation. If he has, in fact, been misled by the woman's employer, he can try to settle such a dispute with the employer; not the employee.

The fact that most unwanted advances by men occur in the absence of any witnesses means such problems will always arise. I am confident, however, that society can do a far better job of preparing men and women for the range of potential interactions that might include unwelcome behavior. Achieving that progress will also mean that men will be more inclined to use their influence over friends who might act with insufficient sensitivity.

All this leaves the particular circumstance involving Mr. Gore quite unresolved. Perhaps that is as it should be. No one can be harmed by whatever efforts are made to dissect such encounters, so a thank you to the author.

Philip Murphy

Cincinnati, OH

Jul 20 2010 - 12:38pm

Unprovable allegations

It's saddening that The Nation, so driven to go after any male public figure accused of anything negative involving a woman, has chosen to continue spreading unprovable allegations against Al Gore. The first source Jaclyn Friedman cites is TPM Muckraker, a politically oriented gossip blog.

There is no citing of physical evidence, no citing of a police report, nothing beyond a gossip column. From that point on, Friedman's writing devolves into a polemic on how society and law enforcement apparently don't take sexual assault seriously, as if the fact that a woman apparently considered contacting police over an alleged crime, but chose instead to pursue action through "civil litigation" (i.e., money-making channels) is simple enough to prove that apparently Al Gore is guilty as charged (he was never arrested). There is no addressing the fact that Al Gore is a celebrity, a highly visible and vulnerable public figure who might the target of occasional defamatory allegations or even blackmail attempts. Al Gore, in Friedman's mind, apparently has no position of his own, no perspective, no rights to consideration, as he is a man accused of something by a woman.

The Nation is typically a fine publication; sadly, when it comes to issues of "gender and sexuality" or similar, The Nation is willing to allow some of its writers to go after any man and men in general with any baseless statement or accusation available. Reading the publication at these times, it's as if the publication at some editorial or other level has a vendetta against men. Rebroadcasting something that surfaced in a gossip column and went nowhere as a sole premise that (a) a public figure who is a man obviously committed a sexual assault and that (b) sexual assault is apparently not taken seriously in America certainly falls into the "baseless accusation" category.

Seymour Friendly

Seattle, WA

Jul 19 2010 - 1:34pm