Blame and doubt in rape | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Blame and doubt in rape

/ 12:16 AM February 28, 2014

It seems the increasingly complicated story of the “Vhong-Deniece-Cedric-Roxanne” alleged rape(s) and vigilante-style beating has captured the attention and imagination even of Filipinos living abroad.

A longtime friend based in Paris writes to ask if I had written anything about the controversy, and what my “insights” are, “from the point of view of a feminist.”

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Well, first let me explain why I have not commented on these events (except in passing), tempting as it may have been to weigh in with my views. The reason is, first, I happen to personally know a relative of Deniece’s, her granduncle Rod Cornejo who has come out publicly to support his grandniece. I can only presume the discomfort, if not anger, Deniece’s family members are experiencing, and I’m sure one more opinion would not help their situation any.

Especially since, given the details aired in recent weeks, Deniece’s story sounds more and more dubious, and her credibility is increasingly getting tattered as time moves on and more

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details and CCTV footage emerge.

But my friend echoes the views of many other friends and acquaintances about the possibility of Deniece having made up the rape charge in possible collusion with Cedric Lee and his gang mates. “If her story were false and proven to be false, this would be a great disservice to real rape victims,” my friend writes.

“It’s so hard  na  nga  to prove that one has been raped, we know that. The burden is always on the woman to prove it. And even then, she is often blamed for having ‘invited’ it.  Tapos, if Deniece’s charges were dismissed, I fear that real rape victims will find it even harder to get justice.”

Then she adds: “Hopefully, something useful could come out of it. Maybe it could be an occasion for education: what to do when one is raped” (or about to be raped, or feels the threat of it).

* * *

I have often written in this space about how important it is for people to “believe a woman when she cries rape.” This is because rape is often a crime committed in private, away from prying eyes, with guilt or blame being a matter of “he says/she says.”

As a matter of principle, I believe the victim’s or alleged victim’s story. This is because simply reporting a case of rape entails a lot of risk and loss for a woman: the risk of ridicule and shaming; the damage to one’s reputation especially when “the other side” starts exploring her sexual history; the loss of one’s privacy.

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But then, there are circumstances in this case that tend to cast doubt on Deniece’s story: her initial refusal to file a charge of rape when she and her friends dragged Vhong to a police station to have the incident “blottered”; the emergence of a demand for P2 million from the comedian to keep things quiet; that incriminating CCTV footage.

Adds my friend: “Even if she indeed was raped,  parang  di  rin  tama  (it’s not right) that the guy was mauled. While it would be understandable, it couldn’t be condoned either. If it were,  parang  sinabi  na  natin  that,  sige,  idaan  na  lang  natin  lagi  sa  suntukan  o  bugbugan  (it’s like saying, go ahead, let’s solve all problems with fisticuffs and beatings).

* * *

It doesn’t help either that the accused is a celebrity, and that coverage of the reported crime has been skewed somewhat by what many surmise as a network circling its wagons around a troubled talent, and the rest of the media in thrall to the cult of fame and celebrity.

Indeed, in the wake of a new accusation of rape that supposedly took place two years ago, another ABS-CBN talent has come forward to vouch for Navarro’s presence in an out-of-town venue at the time of the supposed crime.

So, whose side am I on? Let me confess that when the story broke, I was mostly engrossed in the fascinating details and even more colorful speculations surrounding the events. But who is telling the truth, and who is fabricating a sensational case? Who is using the media to gather public opinion support?

Do we have to take sides? Rare is the rape victim with enough media savvy and contacts to skew the story her way. But if indeed, as my friend says,

Deniece, Roxanne and their cohorts are taking part in an elaborate hoax, then they have done “real victims,” among whom are children, a great disservice.

* * *

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TAGS: At Large, Cedric Lee, Deniece Cornejo, opinion, Rape, Rina Jimenez-David, Vhong Navarro
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