Fact or Fiction: Hate Crime Edition

When an openly gay woman was viciously assaulted in her own home by three masked men who broke into her home, tied her up, painted “We found U Dyke” on the walls of her basement, and carved even more derogatory terms into her body with a knife before attempting to set her house on fire, the LGBT community–both local and national–rallied around her in support. They planned fundraisers and held candlelight vigils.  Her story made national headlines and journalists and bloggers labeled it a brutal attack and a grisly hate crime.

But it may have never happened.

The woman, 33-year-old former college basketball star Charlie Rogers, was charged with false reporting. According to authorities, the evidence obtained from the scene did not match Rogers’ story. For example, she claimed that she had never seen a pair of white gloves that had been found at the scene and yet most of the DNA found in the glove belonged to her and none of the DNA came from a male. There had been no signs of a struggle nor was any blood found in the bedroom where Rogers told police the attack had occurred. The angle of her wounds indicated that they were likely self-inflicted. And shortly before the incident, Rogers had posted this on Facebook:

 So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me.

Be careful what you wish for.

Comments on various articles across the web have ranged from prayers for Ms. Rogers and concern for her emotional health to outrage and demands that she be locked away for a very long time. So what would motivate someone to go to such lengths, to create such a scenario and carry it out to this extent? Mental illness? A desperate need for attention? A cry for help? Or a genuine desire to be a catalyst for change?

For the sake of discussion, let’s say it’s the latter. Perhaps Ms. Rogers felt that this kind of attack would launch some dialogue in her local community. (Sidenote: I’ve lived in Lincoln, Nebraska and the LGBT community there has a lot of support from the citizens of Lincoln as well as the local government.) Maybe she knew it would make national headlines (it did) and hoped that people would take hate crimes more seriously and realize that attacks on innocent people because of their sexual orientation or identity didn’t end when Hilary Swank won her Oscar.

If that’s the case then her motives may have been sincere but the plan backfired and may have done more harm than good. We’re all familiar with the story of the boy who cried wolf. Because of Ms. Rogers’ actions, more doubt may be cast on those who report similar crimes in the future. (We can only hope that it won’t discourage victims from coming forward.) Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a story like this has been fabricated. So how many times does it have to happen before people stop listening? Obviously, this is the exact opposite of what Ms. Rogers and others like her may have intended.

There is a bright side though. Given that the wounds were superficial and likely self-inflicted, she didn’t suffer from any serious physical injury. And she won’t have the emotional scars that would have resulted had the attack actually happened the way she claimed it did. And in those few weeks while the investigation was going on, people from one end of the Kinsey scale  to the other came together to show their support and lend a hand to not only this one woman but to the entire LGBT community and that was a beautiful thing to see.


By April

If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted, I wish I had some ice cream.

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