Last Friday, Crystal Mangum, the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case, re-opened a wound that was in bad need of healing.
Alongside her agent, Vincent Clark, Mangum held a press conference to announce the release of her new book, in which she again claims that she was sexually assaulted at a March 13, 2006 party at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., a charge famously refuted by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
In releasing this book, Mangum is not doing herself, the lacrosse team, Durham or the University any good.
The book, “The Last Dance for Grace,” purports to be a memoir of Mangum’s life. In it, she alleges that she was raped on two separate occasions before 2006. Although neither charge has been definitively disproved, neither has been proved, either, and both were later dropped. Mangum’s father has also said one incident had not happened.
But the most disturbing allegation of all is Mangum’s insistence that an assault did occur in 2006. All the evidence points to the contrary, and the state has exonerated the wrongly indicted players of all charges.
Mangum has no credibility in these matters, and her renewed claims threaten no one. What she clearly needs above all else is help.
The cliche of letting sleeping dogs lie fits the situation well, as the recent statement by the father of wrongly indicted lacrosse player Reade Seligmann regarding a potential lawsuit shows. Successful book sales will give more of an incentive for the people she has accused to potentially file suit against her for libel.
Though there is no condoning the false accusations that Mangum has brought against Duke students, she is not the only one at fault here. All along, she has been used by others to her great disadvantage.
Her story was used by disgraced former Durham district attorney Mike Nifong as a political ploy to win an election. Additionally, other elements of the Durham community – not all, but a few – have used the narrative as fodder to fuel hateful and racially charged statements and demonstrations.
And even in this case, it seems as if her agent, Vincent Clark, is using the book as a media marketing opportunity for his company, fire! Films and Books.
The company’s Web site has a statement that reads: “The people in society needing the most protection are the ones most vulnerable to abuse. Left on the outside looking in and their voices silenced for fear that the truth will be revealed.”
This is an important and valuable statement. It should not be cheapened. It should not be used for personal gain. Sexual assault is a grave social problem that should neither be frivolously levelled nor dismissed. Crystal Mangum is a vulnerable person whom we should pity. But we cannot forget that her claims were false, loud and damaging.
The final tragedy, in this story where no one wins, is that Mangum’s book attempts to refocus the discussion on an allegation that should stay at rest.
Rather than dwell on a particular event that did not happen, the discussion should be focused on the real issues that have arisen from that case – Duke-Durham relations, the Durham Police and Duke campus culture. That’s constructive conversation. That’s how we need to move on.