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April 12, 2007
Contact: Mark Rosenthal, <>

Duke Rape Case Reveals Need for Legal Reform, Groups Say

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2007 – The acquittal of three Duke University lacrosse players accused of rape exposes an insidious problem in the American legal system – the gradual erosion of due process protections for persons accused of sexual assault, many say.

In announcing the acquittal, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper noted, "We believe these cases were a result of a tragic rush to accuse and failure to verify serious allegations." Reade Seligmann, one of the exonerated athletes, explained, "The Duke lacrosse case has shown how society has lost sight of the most fundamental principles of our justice system."

Fox News columnist Wendy McElroy noted in a May 2, 2006 article, "False accusations are not rare. They are common." The McElroy column cited two studies:

The problem began in the late 1970s when states like New Jersey began to expand the definition of rape and weaken standards of proof. Passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, which addresses sexual assault by intimates, pressured legislators and district attorneys to prosecute alleged rape cases more aggressively.

"Coming from personal experience, rape is an important problem that needs to be taken seriously," notes RADAR spokeswoman Terri Lynn Tersak. "But removing the presumption of 'innocent until proven guilty' and excusing perjury is not the way to solve it. Every false claim of rape makes it that much harder for true victims to get the help they need."

The VAWA Reform Coalition, an association of 79 groups around the country, is calling on lawmakers to reform our nation's domestic violence and sexual assault laws. (http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/VAWA-Reform-Coalition-Declaration.pdf)

R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://mediaradar.org.

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