A couple of weeks ago I endorsed an important and well-written, well researched book on sexual violence by law professor Jody Raphael, a nationally prominent researcher, anti-violence advocate, lecturer and attorney. The very point of Raphael’s book, Rape Is Rape: How Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming Are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis, is how powerful interest groups nationwide are making a large problem worse by intimidating victims and challenging their credibility, downplaying rates of sexual assault, and protecting their own institutional environments. The book has been met with well-deserved praise by those of us in the anti-sexual violence movement who know how meticulously well researched and accurate it is.
Raphael has been challenged, though, not through honest discourse or documented findings, but through rank intimidation and an organized smear campaign. She discusses, among many other topics, the tragic inaction (and worse) of officials involved in the Sandusky/Penn State crisis. This caught the attention of a group of Paterno supporters in the Penn State community who decided they didn’t like Raphael’s illumination of the subject to the extent it threatened their hero-worship. What followed was a organized campaign to rate her book negatively on the Amazon book selling site in an attempt to make it less visible to to potential book buyers. On a message board (no longer visible) on the site “BlueWhiteIllustrated,” a poster wrote: ”I and others have been posting negative comments on the Amazon site where the book is being sold. As a result, the rating for the book has dropped from 5 stars to 2. Please go to the site and add your comments. Let’s drop the rating to 1 star. BTW, Ms. Raphael is a law professor – hard to believe.”
As a result, and since that campaign began, there are 41 negative reviews of her book, just about everyone of them related to the Penn State issue. As friend and colleague Katie Feifer of Counterquo put it so eloquently, “Seldom do real life events so quickly prove the key point that an author makes in her book.”
Raphael has experienced other forms of harassment and intimidation in the wake of her book’s release as well; thankfully she has the strength, dedication and courage to face them all down. But what she’s experienced in an effort to expose the truth about a preventable national shame and tragedy should sound a louder alarm. The problem is, in fact, even worse than we thought.