What Propels Rape Stories to Wide Attention?

Mark Holmberg, Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 14, 2006

It’s always interesting to see which story blows up in the national news and races across the land like a prairie fire.

No, this isn’t about Elliott Yamin.

We’re talking about the Duke University rape saga, which has become the latest reality crime drama to spontaneously combust in our collective consciousness.

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Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts suggested the Duke case would’ve blown up even worse if the racial tables were turned.

“Imagine if the woman were white and reported being raped by three black members of the basketball team. You’d have to call out the National Guard.”

Really?

“That hyperbole isn’t born out by the facts,” said Richmond-area attorney Jeff Everhart.

He’s representing one of the four Virginia Union University students indicted last week for allegedly raping a University of Richmond coed on Jan. 21.

All four of the accused are black, two who had ties to the football team. One was a star quarterback as a freshman. All four were considered good kids, attending a historic black university.

The victim is white, an out-of-state student attending the posh University of Richmond, which has Duke-size tuition.

She reportedly left a party at a UR campus apartment with the four. Police say she was assaulted in some woods in western Henrico. Police found her and two of the suspects after neighbors heard a woman’s screams.

Alcohol is a factor, as it is in the Duke case. Similarly, DNA tests will play a starring role.

But not a peep about the VUU case in the national media. The indictments played on Page B3 of this paper, while the Duke case started in our Sports pages and eventually made our front page.

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