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Persecution of the accused in rape case is unacceptable

Joanna Weiss, though conceding that it is less than “ideal,” applauds masked vigilantes taking revenge on two 16-year-old football players accused of rape as a “cultural service” (“Internet shifts rape stigma to perpetrators,” Op-ed, Jan. 8). Rather than being a service, such cowardly persecution is akin to lynching.

Weiss’s endorsement may stem from how she sees herself in the social order. She is unable to understand how sports can figure into the aspirations of young men, especially in a part of the country where one-quarter of the residents live in poverty. She callously dismisses the sacrifice, work, and talent of high school athletes, deriding them merely as being “good at throwing balls.”

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If in a court of law, not the Internet, it is proven that the boys took advantage of a girl intoxicated beyond her capacity to consent, are they heinous criminals? When girls post semi-nude photos of themselves on the Internet, drunkenness at high school parties is the norm, and the number-one bestseller among American women is a tale of sadomasochism, it is hypocritical to effect shock at teenage sexual transgression.

Three years ago 15-year-old Phoebe Prince hanged herself due, in large part, to the terrorism she endured at the hands of classmates. For Weiss to endorse such persecution undermines civil society no less than does the crime of rape.

Stephen Helfer

Cambridge

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