a. Tawana Brawley


The story of TawanaBrawley illustrates the stereotype of a promiscuous, young Jezebel who is thus incredible. Fifteen-year-old Tawana Brawley told the police that she was kidnaped by six white men and taken to the woods near her home in Wappingers Falls, New York. Brawley was found in a plastic bag behind the apartment building from where her family had been evicted. Her body, hair, and clothes were covered with feces, and the racial slurs "KKK" and "Nigger" were written on her chest. Brawley told her family and the authorities that she had been abducted and raped by six law enforcement officials.


When a part-time policeman named Harry Crist, Jr., who fit the description given by Brawley, committed suicide days after Brawley's beaten body was discovered, investigators traced Crist's whereabouts during the time Brawley was missing. Officials linked State Trooper Scott Patterson and Assistant District Attorney Stephen Pagones to the case after it was discovered that Patterson and Pagones were alibi witnesses for Crist for part of the time Brawley was missing. In spite of these facts, Brawley's mother was fined and sentenced to thirty days in jail for refusing to cooperate with the grand jury investigating the case, possibly because she saw the grand jury as part of the same system that spawned her daughter's abductors and rapists. Later, Tawana Brawley's case was thrown out of court with the New York grand jury determining that her story was without merit. Recently, Pagones won a defamation suit against one of Brawley's spokesmen who publicly accused him of Brawley's abduction and rape.


From the beginning, the media's fascination with questions concerning Brawley's credibility diminished the atrocities she had suffered. As one scholar noted, "Tawana Brawley's rape, like the rape of all Black women, [was] surrounded by suspicion and doubt. The notion of a Black woman being raped has always been considered patently absurd by white society. To be a Black woman has meant to be sexually 'loose' and 'available."' Because Brawley did not testify under oath about what happened to her, the public and the grand jury readily disbelieved her. Moreover, the real message the public sent was that a young African American girl who accuses white men of rape and sexual assault is normally a liar. In society's eyes, Brawley became the wild young Jezebel who loved to lie and who was definitely not an innocent victim. Eventually, Brawley broke her silence. In 1997, ten years after the incident, at a rally at the Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, she stated, "[i]t happened to me, and I'm not a liar. I'm not crazy."