There have been conversations across the country around kitchen tables, in local pubs, in college classrooms, and in law school classes, concerning the now famous "Hofstra Case."
Unfortunately, no matter how it ends, no one wins. It is a human nightmare for all involved. The Hofstra University student who falsely accused five young men of gang raping her in her dormitory bathroom will not face criminal charges, as long as she is in compliance with an agreement designed by the Nassau County District Attorney.
The heart of the agreement makes mandatory a year of psychiatric counseling at the young woman's own expense, and 250 hours of community service. If she fails to be compliant criminal charges can be made against her. The District Attorney expressed deep concern that this young woman get serious mental health treatment.
Is mandatory counseling and community service really holding this young woman accountable for such a horrific act that could have sent five young men away to prison for a long time? When they came home, they would be registered sex offenders, which for all practical purposes would end the possibility of a normal life forever.
There are a number of things that are very troubling about this case. First, there are many questions about the police work involved and how this case was handled from the initial complaint to the ultimate arrest of the falsely accused.
It is scandalous to think that the young men accused were convicted in the press by the way the story was told and the way their pictures were exploited across the news services. It seems that little investigation into the alleged accusations was done before the story was released to the media.
It seems to this writer that sensationalism was the operating principle. There is something wrong with a society that supports the abusive way the media exploits people in trouble!
Those young men were treated as perverse, violent rapists in the press. Each of those young men has a family, parents and siblings who have also suffered due to sloppy journalism.
What happened to the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty? If we believe that we need to act differently, have we learned anything in this regard, since this unfortunate circumstance?
Yes, their names have been cleared, but the humiliation, embarrassment and shame that they and their families have had to shoulder does not evaporate or go away so easily.
Hopefully, people will use this as an opportunity to address the way serious allegations are covered by the press and the media, and a new protocol might emerge that protects the character and integrity of the accused until they are found guilty or the allegations are dismissed.
From my perspective, the young woman who made the false allegations should be charged according to the law. The agreement designed by the District Attorney could be a condition of her probation, therefore focusing more on rehabilitation then on punishment. She needs to be held accountable and experience the criminal justice system like the falsely accused experienced it.
This entire drama is serious business. Many lives have been forever damaged because of her lie. Reputations are not easily repaired.
Consensual group sex among adults is not against the law, but it's not a social behavior most parents and adults would like to hear about in the paper or on the evening news regarding their college students who are away at school.
It seems that alcohol was at least one of the social lubricants that contributed to that disastrous encounter. Rape is a serious charge that should not be made lightly. When it is reported, it should be treated with the utmost seriousness. The alleged victim should be treated with the utmost respect.
However, if the victim is found to be lying, she should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Victims should not be afraid to come forward, even though it is awkward and uncomfortable. People who are angry, should not use false allegations as a weapon. Innocent people's lives are at stake.
As a society, we definitely need to be more compassionate. We should be more focused on rehabilitation than on punishment. However, compassion does not excuse accountability and responsibility for the choices that we make. Every choice we make has a consequence.
Much has been written and said about the "Hofstra Case-more is probably going to be written and said. Hopefully, we have all learned something invaluable from this very painful human circumstance that will cause all of us to act more responsibly and respectfully, especially our college students and young adults.