EDITOR’S NOTE: 

On September 25, the lawyer for Patrick Kane’s accuser quit, saying the rape kit evidence bag was compromised and he “no longer [has] the confidence in the manner and means in which that bag came to my office.” See Dave's follow-up post here.

 

In the entire horrific history of male sports stars and accusations of sexual violence, there may have never been a story as nauseating as this one.

Patrick Kane, the All-Star Chicago Blackhawks hockey hero, was accused of raping a woman in Hamburg, New York, (a small city of 56,000 near Kane’s hometown of Buffalo) on the morning of August 2. The rape kit, according to anonymous sources that emerged last week, showed no evidence of Kane’s DNA, although the absence of DNA does not mean an assault did not take place. On Wednesday, the accuser’s lawyer, Thomas Eoannou, held an extraordinary press conference where he held up the torn and damaged rape kit evidence bag of his client—clearly labeled with her name, date of birth, and the ID number of the nurse who did the exam—and said that it had been deposited on the doorstep of the victim’s mother. Eoannou said that he hoped it had been put there, in his words, by “a good Samaritan” attempting to show that the kit had been tampered with either by the hospital staff or the police.

There is also the obscene, and frankly more likely possibility that someone crammed the bag in between the storm door and front door of her mother’s home to taunt the victim and her family. (I am not writing “alleged victim” because based upon what happened today, she has been truly victimized.) No matter the motivations, the very idea of evidence being taken out of police custody and torn open is criminal and appalling. As Eoannou said, “In a rape case, the victim gets attacked. It’s called victim bashing. It’s absolutely atrocious.… This is a classic example of why rape victims don’t come forward in rape cases.”

I spoke with Katie Klabusich, writer and host of The Katie Speak Show on Netroots Radio. A longtime Chicago Blackhawks fan as well as a rape survivor, Klabusich has been vocal about this case from the onset. “I’m furious and nauseous,” she said. “I had been initially optimistic about the way law enforcement was handling the case—searching Kane’s house early and seemingly taking the victim and the accusations seriously. But having the rape kit compromised in any way complicates prosecution and announces to other survivors…that even when they ‘do everything right’ as this victim did, there is little guarantee that their case will be handled well and that they might get justice.”

The ripped bag is only the most exceptionally disturbing development in a case that tells an all-too-familiar story: how the hero worship of athletes leads to the systematic attacking of accusers by the media and fans who view the place of women in the sports world as little more than the spoils of stardom.

In this case, initial stories were released to the press that the victim had gone home with Kane—not that this matters a whit as to the question of consent—only to have it later revealed that she was reluctantly accompanying a friend to Kane’s home. This contradicted the bar’s owner Mark Croce, who, as Barry Petchesky wrote at Deadspin, “told the [Buffalo News] that a woman was ‘hanging all over’ Kane and ‘being very forward, very flirtatious with him,’ and ‘followed’ Kane when he left.”

As Petchesky wrote, “Croce’s implication was clear: whatever happened later at Kane’s house, the woman was partially to blame. (Croce’s motivation for talking was just as transparent: he was attempting to avoid criminal and civil liability, and to protect his bar’s most famous patron. The News didn’t see fit to mention that, though.)” In addition to the News giving the bar owner a platform to effectively say “she was asking for it,” they ran the unproven leaks about there being none of Kane’s DNA in the rape kit.

And now we have this.

Here is some advice for the NHL on how to deal with Patrick Kane: Start with what we know. We know that the victim called a relative immediately to report the attack. We know that the evidence in the case has been compromised in about as repulsive a manner imaginable.* We know that way too many of your sport’s “fans” are taking this opportunity to effectively merge their love of Patrick Kane with their cheerleading of rape. Put Patrick Kane on paid leave until his name is cleared or he is convicted. Show the world you take this seriously, at least more seriously than the police in Hamburg.

*The Hamburg Police Department maintains that the evidence in question was not compromised or tampered with when it was under the department’s control. There is now a formal investigation over evidence tampering, however, being conducted by Erie County prosecutors and the police have pledged their full cooperation. We will update this story as evidence comes to light.

Correction: This article originally stated that a rape kit had been deposited on the doorstep of the accuser’s mother. It was an evidence bag that allegedly contained the rape kit. The text has been updated to correct the error.