One of the themes I have been reading about a lot around this Duke rape case is one of being falsely accused and about how terrible such a thing is. I think it is a terrible thing to be sure and if anyone accused of raping that woman has been accused falsely, I do genuinely have sympathy for them. But what few people seem to be mentioning or maybe what I think that not enough people are mentioning is that very often in that case, the people who talk about how terrible it is to accuse someone falsely turn around and accuse the rape victim of being a liar and being the sort of person who would falsely accuse someone of such a terrible crime.
In an odd coincidence, I read a short blurb in the New York Times about some letters around Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre where Bronte apparently considered rewriting her accounts of the Lowood School in response to threats from a former headmaster of a school she attended. One might presume that since he so obviously saw himself and his school in her work that *he* was not so much falsely accused of anything. But that is neither here nor there. I read that and decided it might be fun to re-read Jane Eyre since it was a favorite of my childhood to the point where I used to sit at breakfast and then pretend the oatmeal my mother served was the terrible burnt porridge from Bronte’s account of the Lowood School. (I am sure she loved that).
I came across a lovely quote that just seemed to fit with my thoughts about how it isn’t easy when people believe false things about a person. In this case, Jane’s friend Helen is comforting her after the headmaster of the school accuses her publicly and falsely of being a liar. Helen says to Jane:
"If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends."
It is really such a beautiful sentence. And one I find very comforting during those times in my life when people have thought ill of me unjustly. I know that actually being innocent is more important than having people believe that you are although I will admit that having people believe things about me falsely is just about one of the most annoying things in the world to me. I would rather get slivers under my fingernails!
As for those people at Duke. I think that every one them knows deep in their hearts if they are guilty or innocent. If they happen to be innocent (and fwiw, I am kind of siding with the rape victim on this one), then I hope they know that actually being innocent is more important than people believing you are. Being a person of character is more important than being thought of as a person of character. And a person of character will never ever be without friends.