OurHeartsWorld.com, the website sponsored by a coalition of community groups across North Carolina, is no more.
When it was launched on Mother’s Day (May 14) of last year, the goal of the website was to defend the right of the accuser in the controversial Duke lacrosse alleged sexual assault case to have her day in court.
The woman, a Black exotic dancer, was hired by the Duke lacrosse team to perform at a wild, off-campus party on the night of March 13, 2006. She alleges that she was beaten, kicked, strangled, raped, sodomized and robbed.
Evidence turned over to the defense attorneys representing three players who were ultimately indicted for three first-degree felonies reportedly failed to confirm her allegations. The case was finally turned over to the NC State Attorney’s General’s Office for a final, pending determination on whether there’s any evidence at all to justify going forward with a prosecution.
In the meantime, the accuser, whether she is telling the truth or not, has been the lightning rod for some of the most vile, vicious, racist, and disgraceful attacks and demagoguery imaginable from many, but NOT all, so-called “Duke Three supporters.”
Some of these people, as documented in the past year, have also chosen, using the accuser and her troubled history as cover, to viciously attack the African-American community, accusing us of wanting the three defendants convicted only because they’re white and rich, regardless of what the evidence shows.
For the record, a consensus of the community has voiced no such opinion. Still many Duke Three supporters use the media and Internet blogsites to unceasingly slander and demean African-Americans in connection with the case.
So in an effort to give African-Americans a vehicle to not only reach out and encourage the accuser to tell the truth, but also stand strong against those who hate us, ourheartsworld.com was launched.
The NCNAACP, the Triangle Urban League and three Black newspapers in North Carolina cosponsored the website.
Since May 2006, literally hundreds of email messages from all over the world have poured in to be posted at the site. Every faith, ethnicity and age group has voiced support for the accuser to march into a courtroom and give sworn testimony. It then would be the province of a judge and/or jury to decide what the truth is.
All the website has said is let her tell her story, then let the courts decide after hearing all other admissible evidence.
But, as you know, the case has taken several dramatic turns.
In December 2006 it was revealed that the accuser could not substantiate her rape accusations, so those charges against the three defendants were dropped.
We immediately reflected that change on the website, dropping all administrative reference to an alleged rape, and informing visitors to the site that depending on what happened to the remaining first-degree sexual abuse and kidnapping charges, the website would soon be phasing out.
Of course, the allegations against Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong per his handling of the investigation and exculpatory DNA evidence was also a factor in our growing weariness about the integrity of the case.
And just recently, word that the accuser is not cooperating with the special prosecutors of the State Attorney General’s Office has also concerned us.
If the essence of our support for her was ensuring her right to tell her story, but she isn’t doing it, then the reasons for continuing that support are fewer and fewer.
We have consulted with the co-sponsors of the website, and they agree with our assessment that the time has come to pull the plug.
We are proud of this website and what it represented to our community. It served as a positive outreach vehicle, a place where African-Americans could express their support for a young woman that all of us believed had been dehumanized and violated, thouigh we may have ben lied to.
Still, we offer no apologies for supporting someone that law enforcement assured us had been violated.
But we also offer no apologies for demanding a cease to “trial by media,” and that a fair and just legal process proceed, a process that would once and for all, determine whether a crime was indeed committed or not.
If not, then this whole episode is certainly a tragedy that should never be repeated.
No one should be falsely accused, or prosecuted. If the facts determined that there was no case there, then certainly it this episode was a travesty.
But at the same time, those who demand justice must always comport themselves in a just fashion, or else their advocacy is meaningless. Duke Three supporters have yet to learn that.
Indeed, some will never learn, because they don’t want to.
For the record, the website was also a public service. It never, EVER raised one penny for the accuser because no legal effort was ever mounted to do so for her or her family, to the best of our knowledge.
So thank you for your visit during these last days. Go through the archives and re-read some of the inspiring messages.
Pay particular attention to messages from sister survivors who reached out to the accuser. Many of them shared their touching stories of struggle with us.
We will never forget them.
We want to thank the many, many people and groups that supported the website and its cause. We want to thank our partners, The NCNAACP, the Triangle Urban League, and The Carolinian, Wilmington Journal and Carolina Times newspapers. We want to especially thank the organizations that help counsel the victims of rape, incest and sexual abuse. Their services are needed more than you know.
So for now we say goodbye to OurHeartsWorld, and GOD bless.
You served your purpose well.