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Perspective shapes views on Aberdeen

THE FALLOUT from Wednesday's column about Aberdeen started almost immediately, with a call from a reader the next day. Not that I didn't expect it, what with the passion of Americans to engage in comparative victimology.

"Once again the white woman is not being validated for what she has to say," one caller fumed. "I hope your next column won't be so degrading and minimizing a white woman's trauma."

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Hold on there. I thought the white women recruits were the very ones who were validated in the Aberdeen sex scandal. None of them went to jail, although under Army regulations they could have been charged along with the drill instructors. So far, the only ones who are going to jail are black drill instructors.

"This really, really upsets me," another caller said about my reference to knees and men's private parts. "I can't get over the paper printed something like that." The caller thought I implied that all women need do to avoid rape is to give a rapist a shot to the private parts. She thought it was insulting to women.

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But what I imply and what folks infer from what I've written are two distinct things. I was discussing men's fears. I say and I say again most men have a fear of damage to their private parts. That's why most of us aren't rapists. Aside from the moral revulsion we feel about rape, men feel rapists are an excruciatingly stupid lot who, apparently, don't realize they're putting their private parts on the line.

Some women claimed rape victims can't resist because men are stronger. The fact is lots of women successfully resist rape, through all sorts of tactics. We hear little about them, of course. Women who resist rape and domestic violence can't be easily pegged as victims. That hurts the cause of the faculty and instructors of America's ever expanding School of Victimology.

I could easily buy into this women-as-weak-victims school of thought, were it not for the fact that I'm descended from a long line of women who had no hesitation about knocking a man the hell out when the situation warranted. I guess some folks have their view of reality, and I have mine.

Now back to this nasty business of the Aberdeen sex scandal. Some women argued the women were raped because the drill instructors were in a position of power. In such situations, some folks argue, consensual sex becomes rape. (Mind you, they've never said this about Thomas Jefferson's alleged sexual relationship with his slave Sally Hemings. Jefferson has been called many things. Rapist is not among them.)

There's another way of looking at such relations. I didn't want to bring it up before. It might not have sounded too politically correct. But do not the women trainees have the power to falsely accuse drill instructors of rape? Much like the woman who accused Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin of rape?

Most folks won't admit it, but when we heard about the Irvin rTC incident, most of us assumed he was guilty. Irvin insisted from the start that he was innocent and that his accuser was lying. The woman subsequently recanted her charge.

But Irvin's reputation is forever tainted. He'll never get it back. The power to accuse falsely and have an overwhelming majority of people believe you is just as great as - perhaps greater than - a drill instructor's power over a trainee.

(A corrections officer said such an incident happened to him. A female inmate - a drug user and child molester - accused him of making unwanted sexual advances. Her story was believed without question. The officer - who had received a corrections officer of the year award - was disciplined. He's maintained his innocence to this day. As was the case at Aberdeen, the officer was black, and the woman making the charge was white.)

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Kweisi Mfume, NAACP president and still the best local talk show host around, dedicated his "Bottom Line" show to this topic several weeks ago. Two female Army sergeants - both former drill instructors at Aberdeen - swore that not only was much of the sex in the scandal consensual, but that some of the women actually initiated the action that led to it. In such a situation - the subordinate making a pass at the superior - does the power relationship still hold?

Apparently, that depends on whom you want to court-martial and why.

Pub Date: 5/25/97


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