The Naval Academy Case was “heartbreaking,” “devastat[ing],” “the toughest six months of my life.” Reading these words, one would think Annys Shin of the Washington Post was describing the impact of sexual assault on the Naval Academy survivor, who endured 30 hours of abusive cross-examination during an Article 32 hearing even as she was ostracized at her college campus. One would think, but no. This experience, Shin wants us to know, was a tragedy for the men that the survivor says raped her.
For over 3000 words, Shin does her best to make you feel sympathy for the alleged perpetrators, emphasizing difficult childhoods, their hopes and dreams, the question of what they will do now. She tells us about their families. She tells us about “countless nights without sleep,” “random breakdowns,” even self-deprecating twitter handles. Meanwhile, she spares the survivor less than a fifth of the space, and even that is lacking.
Even as Shin portrays the alleged perpetrators in a favorable light, she repeatedly questions the survivor’s credibility — pointing out that she, too, was under investigation, that she, too, faced punishment for underage drinking. As if, because she did not behave as an impossibly “ideal” victim, that makes her a liar.
Where is the outrage over the mental health records she had to fight to keep out of the courtroom, or a discussion of the devastating impact of sexual assault, of trauma? Shin even broke the story of the mental health records earlier this year, but never mentioned. Mishandled investigations, commander bias, widespread social and professional retaliation, and abysmally low conviction rates—these are never mentioned at all.
It is unfair, the article implies, that the survivor gets to graduate when two of her alleged perpetrators have separated from the Navy. In a justice system with only a 7% conviction rate, it is chilling to imagine a system where she could not.
According to RAINN, only 3 in 100 rapists will ever spend a day in jail, and the Department of Defense’s own statistics tell us that only about 1 in 10 victims of sexual assault ever report the offense. Why do so few survivors come forward? Today, one needs to look no further than Shin’s reporting.
By focusing on the plight of the alleged perpetrators and all but dismissing the survivor, this article contributes to a culture of silence—a culture that blames victims for sexual assaults, questions victims’ behavior rather than that of the alleged assailants, and is always willing to give the alleged perpetrators (but never the victim) the benefit of the doubt. Articles like this send a strong message: if you are a survivor, you will not be believed.
For now, Shin wants us to know that at least one of the alleged perpetrators doesn’t have “any animosity” towards the survivor. One can’t help but wonder about the impact the alleged assault and judicial proceedings have had on her—wonder, because Shin never bothers to care.