b. Desiree Washington


During the rape trial of Mike Tyson, many depicted Desiree Washington as a stereotypical female liar who lusted after Tyson's money--in other words, a gold digger. In July 1991, Mike Tyson telephoned Desiree Washington at her hotel room and asked to see her. Around 2:00 a.m., Tyson sent his limousine to her hotel to pick her up. Tyson told Washington that he forgot something at his hotel and asked her to come up to his room while he retrieved it. According to the part-time limousine driver, a public school guidance counselor who specialized in crisis intervention, and who took Tyson and Washington to Tyson's hotel, approximately an hour after Tyson and Washington left the limousine, she saw Washington rush out of the hotel. The driver, Virginia Foster indicated: "She looked all frantic like she might have been in a state of shock. She looked dazed, disoriented." Back at her hotel room, Washington confided to her roommate that Tyson had raped her.

Tyson's defense attorney portrayed Washington as a sophisticated woman who viewed suing Tyson as an economic opportunity. Consequently, Tyson's supporters labeled Washington a vindictive, jealous woman. Washington's supporters, however, were convinced that she was a young, inexperienced and naive girl. In the end, the jury found Desiree Washington to be a credible woman who was telling the truth. Washington knew many people would think she was a liar. In her 911 call to police, "[she expressed] her fears that no one would believe her or that they would think that she was just after money."

She was correct. People disbelieved her even though other women had previously accused Tyson of sexual and physical violence. Although vindicated by the conviction and incarceration of her attacker, Washington continues to be criticized for assuming it was safe to go to Tyson's room and for subsequently reporting the account to police. As many African American women who accuse celebrities and non-celebrities of rape, Washington feared that she would be deemed a liar. Even when the jury convicts the rapist, as in Washington's case, the victim still suffers ongoing attacks on her credibility. A year and a half after the rape, Washington stated: "I think I was also tried and convicted." The victimization that Washington experienced was not unique. African American women rape victims are advised:

"Don't talk about date rape, because we won't believe you, you must have consented." "Don't cooperate with the Man in taking down a Brother, even if you think he is wrong, especially one who is a celebrity." "Your concern about your bodies and how males inflict pain on you has to be subordinated until the racial problem is resolved."