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This Man Was Raped

February 2, 2010

Michael Mineo is clear about what happened to him:

“It’s humiliating. I’m a man. I was raped by four men who held me down and put a baton into my rectum. How am I supposed to feel? There is no forgiveness.”

[Emphasis supplied.]

But it seems that journalists do have a problem saying that this man was raped, or even that this man alleges that he was raped. See, e.g., here and here. It’s not that they can’t say what, in precise detail, happened to him. In fact, the articles have described it graphically:

While they held him down to the ground and kicked and punched him, he alleges, one of the officers shoved a radio antenna up his rectum.

NYPD officials said Mineo had been smoking a joint as he walked down the street and then ran when officers – who are black, Hispanic and white – approached. They insist that witness accounts do not back up Mineo’s story that he was sodomized.

But several witnesses told investigators that Mineo’s pants were pulled down, exposing his buttocks. They said he screamed “What are you doing to me? What are you – a faggot?”

Mineo told investigators that one officer yelled, “No! No! No! Don’t do that!”

Turns out the instrument was a retractable baton, that left serious injuries. Mineo bled profusely, showed officers the blood, and kept telling them that he needed to go to the hospital. He was eventually hospitalized, and treated for a torn rectum. One officer has now testified consistent with Mineo’s account.

To my way of thinking, the trial offers only one possibility for acquittal: that the jurors dislike Mineo so much for his alleged gang activity (he is, among other things, accused of taking part is a serious beating of two teenage boys) that they decide he got what he deserved. I don’t expect that, actually. I would be very surprised and very saddened by that result. I expect convictions.

The trial is unfolding just like a rape trial. The whole defense strategy is to blame the victim and encourage the jury to judge him, instead of answering the question of whether the defendants did what they are accused of. He was raped, he was injured like a rape survivor, and now he’s being tried like a rape survivor. But the major news organs won’t say the dreaded R word. This is a persistent problem.

The papers can say that “rape” is a legal term in New York, and it only involves penis-in-vagina contact — which is true as far as it goes. But not every state even uses the word “rape” in its statutes. It’s an ordinary word, in addition to its legal meaning. That’s true of a lot of words — reckless, intentional, negligent, defame, slander, fraud, murder. They can be true in the ordinary sense whether or not they are true in the technical sense, and for journalists to hide behind the legislature is disingenuous.

I want editors to be up front about their style usage when it comes to the word “rape.” What they will and won’t call rape is part of what shapes public consciousness about what is and isn’t a rape narrative. Rather than guess and wonder, they should say it up front and let it be openly debated.

There are a lot more things to say about Mineo, but I want to focus here on the issue of word usage. The man alleges a rape. I think the newspapers should say that what he’s alleged is a rape. They largely have not, but they also largely have not said why.

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 1:28 pm

    Mineo was definitely raped in any meaningful sense of the term – and whatever issues he may have had with the law are pretty irrelevant to that fact.

    Considering the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy (New York cops illegally search over 1 million people every year – almost all of them young Black or Latino men) and the sweep arrests the New York police have been doing in neighborhoods of color since Dinkins was mayor, it’s not surprising at all that a young Latino man like Mineo had been arrested for so called “gang activity” and other petty crimes that, had he been a young White guy, would have gone unpunished.

    It says a LOT about the internal culture of the NYPD that this is not the first rape of a suspect by police officers.

    There was the Abner Louima case – and a less widely reported case where an officer in my old neighborhood, Far Rockaway, Queens, was, basically, a serial rapist.

    On seven different occasions, that officer detained African immigrant taxi drivers in his police van.

    Each time, he would take the man to a deserted area near the Far Rockaway beach, and rape the men in the back of his van (unlike the cops in the Mineo and Louima cases – who used instruments – that officer did the rape the old fashioned way – with his penis).

    That cop relied on the shame the taxi drivers felt to avoid prosecution.

    Now, either the NYPD is going out of it’s way to recruit officers with that mentality or there is something in NYPD training and doctrine that brings this out in them.

    The sad thing is, back in the day, in the 1960’s, that kind of over the top police savagery would have provoked rioting in the streets – but, sadly, the city’s Black and Latino “leaders” plus fake “radicals” like Al Sharpton, do a great job of channeling mass anger away from the streets and towards begging the courts and the government for justice (that we should know will NEVER come without a fight in the streets)!

    At times like this, I wish we still had the Black Panthers!

    • February 2, 2010 3:38 pm

      Not only was I completely unaware of the Far Rockaway series of rapes, I have not even been able to find any reference to it! Do you know where I can find more? That should get more attention. The NYPD is obviously encouraging some of its officers to violate and dehumanize people in the class they view as suspects — which are overwhelmingly black and hispanic.

      • February 2, 2010 3:42 pm

        It happened about a decade ago – I believe there was a story in the Village Voice about it, but I don’t have a link to that story bookmarked, unfortunately.

  2. Dawn. permalink
    February 2, 2010 8:50 pm

    The most infuriating yet unsurprising thing about this case is that it’s proceeding like any other rape trial. Victim-blaming galore. And thank you for addressing the media’s reluctance to use the word “rape” when reporting on this case, Thomas.

  3. sophia b permalink
    February 3, 2010 12:47 am

    Its not just with this case, people seem to have a real reluctance to use the word in an appropriate context, whilst being happy to use it when describing some trivial annoyance.
    My friend reads a lot of something awful forums. when he linked one discussion to me i found it blocks swear words and uses stupid euthamisms for them, i think they used ‘gently caress’ instead of fuck for instance. I thought this was pretty silly, but i noticed it also blocked the word rape. It was so sensible to replace it with ‘surprise sex’. So much less offensive \sarcasm.
    My friend got ranted to about that…don’t think he got the point though.

    • Ginsu Shark permalink
      February 5, 2010 3:22 am

      I *think* that only applies to people without forum accounts…

  4. February 8, 2010 2:08 pm

    Sexual violence against males is rarely framed as rape, whether committed with an object, committed with a penis and especially not when committed by a woman. It is very uncommon to see any articles reporting sexual violence against males as rape, even when it is an adult woman raping a boy. There is always some clever term used or some way to call it anything but rape, even when the charges are rape charges. Male victim advocates have argued this for years, but their only support comes from organizations like Just Detention.

    As for why the papers will not call male victimization rape (and why the law excludes males a potential victims), it is because certain groups have framed rape as something only men do to only women (largely as an act of oppression). They do not consider sexual violence against males to count as rape and generally do not even consider such violence against males as harmful, possible or worthy of addressing. The only groups that would object to the papers’ avoiding of calling the act rape are organizations like MaleSurvivor and Just Detention, which frankly no one is really listens to.

    If people want change the way male victims are treated in the media, then people should groups and organizations like The Men’s Project, 1 in 6 and MaleSurvivor, and also support their efforts address the biases and stigmas male victims face. It is only when the culture at large considers male victimization serious that newspapers or the media in general will stop treating male victims as a cute novelty.

    • harpyface permalink
      February 8, 2010 7:33 pm

      sounds like you are blaming feminism for apathy towards the rape of men, when really you should be blaming the patriarchy. feminist are trying to break down the gender binary that dictates male (and female) experience, patriarchy is what’s deciding that men must be strong and cant be raped (love sex etc), not feminists screeching “OPPRESSION” who ignore the plight of men. a victim is a victim and all must be stood up for. it is particularly hard for men who are not allowed to be victims in the patriarchy. this needs to change.

    • snobographer permalink
      February 8, 2010 10:56 pm

      The laws that define rape as PIV only were written by men long before anything resembling the current feminist movement ever existed. They also exclude female victims of oral and anal rape and rape with foreign objects.
      And no, rape of women and girls is not taken any more seriously by the law or the media than rape of men or boys. Look to coverage of the Catholic church scandal for an example.

  5. snobographer permalink
    February 8, 2010 4:26 pm

    Is it even legal for the media to go into that much detail about the assault and rape and publish the victim’s name? Not that he has anything to be ashamed of, but I hope the fact that that information was made public was his decision.

    The papers can say that “rape” is a legal term in New York, and it only involves penis-in-vagina contact

    Except they almost never use the word “rape” in those cases either.

    • February 8, 2010 6:29 pm

      Media outlets not revealing the names of rape survivors is NOT a law, it’s a CUSTOM practiced by journalistic outlets.

      The First Amendment permits media outlets to publish the names of rape survivors if they choose to.

      In some rape cases – particularly the ones where a Black woman chages White men with rape, the media will name the victim.

      Case in point, the Tawana Brawley case in Wappengers Falls, New York in 1988, where a Black teenager claimed that 6 White men – one of whom was a police officer – kidnapped and gang raped her.

      But when it comes to WHITE women – they NEVER name the victim (at the same time as the Brawley case was going on, 4 teenagers of color – 4 Black one Latino – were charged with raping White investment Patricia Melli [they were innocent – serial rapist Mettius Reyes actually raped Melli, and they were only cleared when he confessed 20 years after the fact] – the only paper in New York that named Melli was the Amsterdam News, a Black-owned newspaper (they were the only outlet that did NOT name Brawley – by naming Melli, they were paying the White media back in their own coin)

      As for male rape survivors – of any race – they are considered gay (because any man who is anally penetrated by another man instantly becomes “gay” as soon as he is sodomized – basically, the same logic jailhouse rapists use) and the media feels no need to respect their privacy and dignity, because their “gayness” makes them Other and not worthy of respect.

  6. memphisbluesagain permalink
    February 11, 2010 9:22 pm

    I’m a male rape survivor, raped while hitch-hiking decades ago by another man.

    The police and most of my male friends of the time treated me like dirt. The ONLY support I received in the years immediately following the assault came from my (feminist) lover and from the good people at my local rape crisis center–which was founded, funded, and staffed by feminists, almost all of them volunteers. None of them ever framed rape as something “that only men do to only women.”

    If anyone holds to such a definition of rape, it’s mainstream culture with its rigid rules for “masculine” and “feminine” behavior and rolls.

    Rape is about power and control. Men are supposed to be powerful, and in control at all times. That’s not a feminist credo, that’s your bedrock patriarchal construction of how gender is supposed to work. Male rape survivors, whether raped by men or women, are a direct contradiction to that construction, which, in my opinion, is why society is so reluctant to acknowledge our experience.

    If this story is any indication, we don’t seem as a culture to have made very much progress on the issues of rape and sexual violence, whatever the identity of the survivor or the perpetrator[s]. How sad.

  7. Liz permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:49 pm


    I’m sure you already know, but I just saw in HuffPo that the officers charged in Mineo’s rape were acquitted today.

  8. July 28, 2010 11:38 pm

    finally the story of this man has been revealed…………

  9. March 23, 2011 6:15 pm

    I was violently raped anally by my ex who is a white man! He sadomized my ass while i kept crying and begging him to stop! Instead of stopping he kept going at it faster and harder! This happened 3 months ago, and still no arrests, nor charges have been filed on him!
    This is racism and a violation of my civil rights in 2011!!!!

    The Oxford Police dept, in Oxford, Ma have done nothing to help me, instead have tried everything they can to stop me from presenting my anal rape case in a Court of Law!
    I want justice to be done! I want a chance to be heard!


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