Did Assange's Accusers Want STD Testing?

Some of Julian Assange's defenders* are citing this special report by Mark Hosenball as proof that the rape allegations against the wikileaks figurehead are unfounded.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) The two Swedish women who accuse WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sexual misconduct were at first not seeking to bring charges against him. They just wanted to track him down and persuade him to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, according to several people in contact with his entourage at the time.

So, several unnamed people who were "in contact" with "Assange's entourage" told Mark Hosenball that they knew the true motives of Julian Assange's accusers. Who are these people and how do they claim to know what was going on in the minds of these women?

But let's assume that these women didn't initially want to press charges. That doesn't necessarily damage their credibility.

According to the story, the two women only went to the police for help after they tried and failed to get Assange to submit to STI tests. The cops passed their stories along to a prosecutor, who decided that the women were describing sexual assaults and issued a warrant to arrest Assange on rape charges. The warrant was dropped the next day, but the case was later resurrected.

The fact that these women didn't seek to press charges until after a prosecutor labeled their experience as rape is neither here nor there. Rape victims don't always label what happened to them as a crime. In fact, rape culture encourages women to blame themselves.

Even women who know they were raped are often reluctant to press charges because they also know that the process is harrowing and the chances of winning are slim. If you're going after a high profile figure, you can expect to be vilified.

There seems to be a double standard in terms who counts as a "good victim." Suppose your investment adviser isn't paying out returns as promised. You don't want to press charges, you just want your money. So, you go to the prosecutor's office, the prosecutor hears you out, and she says, "You got mixed up in a Ponzi scheme. That's fraud. Do you want to press charges?"

Up to this point, you just wanted help to get what's yours, but now an expert has re-framed your experience in legal terms. Is anyone going to argue that you weren't really defrauded because you didn't realize you were a victim until someone explained your rights?


**For the record, I'm one of Assange's defenders when it comes to his work as a crusader against excessive secrecy. The revelations about the illegal U.S. plan to spy on the UN Secretary General vindicated the wikicables leak all by themselves.

I'm also a defender of the presumption of innocence and due process for all. Assange is innocent until proven guilty.

The way the Swedish authorities have handled this case makes me wonder if eagerness to do a favor for the United States warped the dispassionate pursuit of justice. 

As Amanda Marcotte says, we should be able to entertain multiple ideas at once. a) Julian Assange does great work fighting government secrecy; b) He is facing some serious allegations of sexual misconduct for which he deserves a fair trial; c) There are reasons to worry that justice has been politicized; d) It's even possible, though as yet unproven, that Assange's enemies somehow contrived to get him charged; e) Even if the charges are politically motivated, it doesn't necessarily mean they are unfounded. It's usually easier to find real dirt on an enemy than to manufacture misdeeds out of whole cloth.

If I were a spy who wanted to destroy Assange, and I knew he had a Tiger Woods-like appetite for groupies, I'd make it my business to get to know these women and draw out their grievances. Some men who enjoy the company of groupies are in it for the consensual sex. But as Amanda points out in her piece, a non-trivial subset of male super-stars who revel in sex with adoring underlings are getting off on the power trip. Some power-trippers will take their need to dominate and control to the point of rape. If you wanted to dig up rape-related dirt on a guy with groupies, the groupies would be a good place to start. Just sayin'.

Spies implicitly understand rape culture as well as any feminist. If a Notre Dame football player, a rock star, or a celebrity hacker routinely disregards sexual consent, great efforts will be made to downplay or ignore his behavior. A motivated digger can find a lot of dirt in places where nobody was previously willing to look. Even if Assange's accusers were somehow put up to making their complaints, it doesn't follow that the complaints themselves are baseless. We'll have to wait and let the courts decide. Assange and his accusers deserve their days in court.

[Image credit: bbwbryant, Creative Commons.]

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