By Rodney D. Coates


Yesterday, across the U.S. headlines screamed that the “Duke Lacrosse Accuser”, “woman who falsely accused Duke Lacrosse Team” in the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, ABC News  even the Boston Globe, the story actually made headlines in the UK –has been yet again arrested.   It seems that that Crystal Mangum has been reduced to “that woman” “accuser” of the Duke Lacrosse Team.  But who is ‘that woman” and why has she achieved such notoriety.  Clearly, one who can displace the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya, the Ivory Coast, the ongoing crises in Japan, world markets continual unrest, the GOP backed Health Care proposals –must be one powerful woman.  But who is this Crystal Mangum, and why has she become the poster child for liars, false accusers, and tragic womanhood?  Truly the story is worth telling, and just perhaps it might provide a bit of insight into America’s racial, sexual, and class angst.  For this story –pitting this poor, black woman against wealthy, white males is one though it will not launch a thousand ships, and though it will not cause a war –certainly has felled many a tree, and provided gist for not only our tabloids, but also every sordid racial commentator such as  Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.  Even David Dukes got into the act.

Ms. Crystal Mangum was born in one of the poorest sections of Durham, North Carolina.  In the shadow of Duke and privilege, she was raised in a community where the average family income was 50% below the poverty line.  At the age of 14, Crystal Mangum claims to have been raped by 3 men.  Only her mother supported her daughter, while others ridiculed Ms. Mangum and dismissed her claims.  Creedmoor Police Chief Ted Pollard said Mangum filed a report on the incident in Aug. 18, 1996, three years after the rapes allegedly took place. The case, however, was not pursued, because the accuser backed away from the charges out of fear for her life, according to her relatives.”  Economic situations, a failed marriage, bankruptcy and the father of her children’s refusal to pay child support limited her choices, she was lured into stripping as a means of making ends meet.  And in walks our heroes to the rescue, knights in shining armor looking for a night of fun –calls to an escort service –for white strippers.  Needless to say, they were more than a bit peeved when –two black, female strippers show up.  I will not bore you with the sordid details –but let’s say that things went rapidly downhill from there with sexually explicit racial slurs, innuendoes, and etc. And here the story gets muddy –according to Crystal while in the bathroom she was raped by some of the “knights”.  The young men in question deny the charges.  An overly zealous state’s attorney (seeing his political stars shining their brightest) did everything he could to railroad these men even with no DNA linking them to Ms. Mangum. Now here is my quiry…

1)      Query:  What do you think smart, savvy, college men would do if they decided to have sex with a stripper whom they also suspected might be a prostitute.  Would it be a fair assumption that they would practice safe sex –and thus use condoms.  If this is the case –if charged by this very stripper for rape –would there be any biological evidence to support her claim? I think not.

Well this is mere conjecture on my part. Failing to obtain DNA evidence linking these men to Ms. Mangum, the charges were subsequently dropped. And Ms. Mangum has since been labeled a liar, false accuser, etc.

In 2010, the excesses of the States Attorney with regards to Ms. Mangum are demonstrated by charging her with “ attempted murder charge, $1 million bond, the 88 days in jail and a no-contact order with her children” over an argument with this same boyfriend, where she allegedly burned his clothes in the bathtub.  Although the jury ended this trial deadlocked, Ms. Mangum’s name is not cleared.    Now we are up to date: Just 2 days ago a Federal Judge gave the go ahead to the Lacrosse Team Members to file their lawsuit against the city of Durham.  And the saga continues.

Ms. Mangum has a “record” of filing allegedly “false” accusations about men in general and white, wealthy men in particular –her 8 year old daughter calls 911 to report that ‘somebody is trying to kill her mommy”.  White cops show up –find Crystal is locked, screaming in the bathroom with a knife.  Her boyfriend reports that he fears for his life –and she get’s arrested.  The cops dismiss the only witness there –her daughter who actually made the calls.

And this makes national news –what makes national news “A sad final chapter to the Duke lacrosse scandal” Hence my comments..making reference to this whole sordid affair ..that Crystal Mangum’s biggest mistake was to believe that a poor, black woman’s testimony would ever stand up against wealthy, white males…but then what is new.  Perhaps this helps explain these startling statistics:

For every white woman that reports her rape, at least 5 white women do not report theirs; and yet, for every African-American woman that reports her rape, at least 15 African-American women do not report theirs (Bureau of Justice Special Report 2003).

Was Crystal Mangum raped? I honestly do not know.  Could she have been raped? Honestly this could have happened.  What’s the likelihood of a poor, black woman being able to substantiate such a claim? Again, let’s look at some statistics. Lefree as early as 1980 documented these stats.

JSTOR: American Sociological Review, Vol. 45, No. 5 (Oct., 1980), pp. 842-854 . While more recently we note:

“When the jury does find the assailant of an African American woman guilty of rape, her race continues to play a role in the proceedings. A study of actual trial outcomes indicates that, in combination with defendant race, victim race affects the seriousness of the defendant’s charge and the severity, location, and length of his sentence. Where a black man was convicted of raping a white woman, he was more likely to be charged with a felony, more likely to receive a jail term, more likely to serve his time in a state penitentiary than in a local facility, and received a longer sentence on average than defendants in cases with a different defendant-victim racial dyad.
With occasional dissent, studies that have sought to determine the impact of victim race on rape cases have found significant effects across the spectrum of legal decisions that occur within any prosecution, though the effects often exist in relation to other racial factors. Most striking are the studies suggesting that African American women have internalized historical racism, as well as rape myths, in ways that affect their status as potential and actual victims of rape. Surprisingly, few of the authors made explicit reference to the history of discrimination against African American women, or discussed their results as the potential legacy of that discrimination. Yet the connection seems inescapable, and further study could illuminate the specific ways in which slavery, the violent aftermath of the Civil War, and persistent societal discrimination against African Americans contribute to the range of inequalities that African American women face as victims of rape.”  Source:”Victim, Race and Rape” Feminist Sexual Ethics Project

In the end, it really does not matter if Chrystal Mangum is guilty or not of these most recent charges.  The real crime is that she is no longer a person but an object –the object that falsely accused a group of wealthy white males, the false accuser that false accused 3 men of gang rape when she was but 14, the arsonist and attempted murderer who burned a man’s clothing in the tub, and that liar who stabbed her boyfriend.  So what are we left with –a tragedy in America and the unfortunate realization that women in general, black women in particularly, and poor, black women more specifically have few friends in court where the charge is rape. More than that, they are more likely to find that they and their past is on trial, where they must first prove their moral worthiness to accuse any male but particularly any white male and more specifically any, rich, white male with such a crime.


Thanks for your time..


Rodney D. Coates is a professor of sociology and gerontology at Miami University. He can be reached at

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The man who has no imagination has no wings. 
Muhammad Ali


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