A Hockey Star Was Just Accused of Rape, And There's Already Victim Blaming

August 10th 2015

Laura Donovan

Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane is the subject of a sexual assault investigation in Buffalo, New York, and critics are slamming the Buffalo News for printing an irresponsible interview that discussed rumors and innuendo about what may have transpired that night.

The alleged attack took place August 2 at 4 a.m., and the accuser apparently called a relative immediately after the incident and went to a hospital for an examination, which included a rape kit, the News reports. The Chicago Tribune reported that police searched Kane's home later that day. It is unclear how Kane met the alleged victim. Some are reporting that it happened at Sky Bar in Buffalo, where he was seen a few hours before the alleged attack, but WKBW-Buffalo reported that the accuser met Kane in a bar in Evans, New York.

That's why the Buffalo News has been slammed for heavily quoting Sky Bar owner Mark Croce, who told the paper that he saw a woman “hanging all over” Kane at Sky Bar that night and that she was "being very forward, very flirtatious with him." The interview with the bar owner has drawn harsh criticism about how the media should cover sexual assault allegations, specifically how to avoid suggesting that the victim's behavior could have warranted the attack.

Was it even the same woman?

For one, Croce has no way of knowing whether the woman he claims to have seen was the same person who was is alleging that an assault took place. Croce even admitted it.

“I don’t know if this is the same woman who made the rape allegation against him,” Croce said. “I only know what I saw that night on my own premises. If you’re going to ask what happened between them after they left that night, how would I know?”

The Buffalo News acknowledged this issue in the article after Croce's comments, explaining that they could not confirm the woman described by Croce is the accuser.

"That alone should have been enough for the paper to not publish his remarks," wrote Deadspin's Barry Petchesky.

Why this is victim-blaming at its worst.

Even if this was the same woman who claimed to have been sexually assaulted, her apparent interest in Kane prior to the alleged attack is not connected to what might have happened afterward.

"What those paragraphs do is victim blame, pure and simple," wrote sports blogger Brian Moritz. "It sets the table for the nauseous defense that the victim was asking for it. That she led Kane on. That there couldn't possibly be any rape because she was all over him."

As Moritz points out, a woman's behavior hours earlier at a bar has no bearing on a sexual assault case.

"Even if the woman was hanging all over Kane all night, even if she left the bar with Kane, even if she went to his house, even if she went into Kane's bedroom with him ... the second she (or any woman) says 'stop' or 'no,' that's it," Moritz continued. "Everything that came before it is irrelevant."

Poynter's Kelly McBride wrote about the pitfalls of victim-blaming in sexual assault reporting. Printing these types of rumors can hurt the perception of an alleged victim before a case goes before a jury.

"Be careful about details that could imply you are blaming victims. Describing what a girl was wearing, or how she made a choice, can be perceived as assigning blame," McBride advised journalists.

And the bar owner might be in trouble.

The Public writer Alan Bedenk wrote that The News could have done a better job providing context for Croce's statements and acknowledging that he might have said all of those things as a way to protect himself and his bar from a lawsuit.

"[H]e doesn’t want the authorities or the victim to come after SkyBar for any liquor law violations or 'dram shop' liability," Bedenk wrote. "Specifically, under New York law, if a bar serves an obviously intoxicated person who goes on to injure some third party, that injured third party may sue the bar for money damages. Croce is covering his own ass here, and the News didn’t even comment on his motive to provide these speculative details to its reporters. I mean, let’s just start the portrayal of Kane’s accuser as a whore-who-had-it-coming so that she thinks twice about suing SkyBar."

Sky Bar also removed photos of Kane at the bar when the assault allegation surfaced, furthering the notion that Croce was likely out to protect his business and reputation.

Here's how some Twitter users are reacting to the Buffalo News piece: