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Family Defends Daughter’s Painful Past

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Yesterday the pending case against the two Duke University students accused of raping a 27-year-old North Carolina Central student took a new, and some say vicious, turn as defense lawyers for indicted lacrosse players Reade Seligmann, 20, and Collin Finnerty, 20, filed a motion seeking the young woman’s past medical and mental-health records. Lawyers for the two young men charged maintain their clients’ innocence.

But family members immediately went on the offensive about the young woman’s history. The mother of the alleged victim told ESSENCE magazine that her daughter did go away to a hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, for about a week last year, where she was treated for a “nervous breakdown.” While the accuser’s parents did not say they knew what brought on the breakdown, they did say that their daughter was upset about mounting bills. The mother also told ESSENCE that when her daughter was 17 or 18, she was raped by several men, one of whom was someone she knew. The attack took place in the town of Creedmoor, about 15 miles northeast of Durham, and was a “set up,” according to the accuser’s mother. Although other family members confirmed that the alleged victim reported the incident to police in that jurisdiction, the young woman declined to pursue the case, relatives say out of fear for her safety. Officials from both the Granville county sheriff’s department and the Creedmoor police department said they were unable to locate any records of the incident. They also added that this does not mean that the assault did not occur.

Family members said that after the first alleged assault, the young woman underwent about a year of professional therapy and received a course of prescription medication. Her parents said that they were not aware of any other drug use in their daughter’s past, as defense attorneys have suggested. The woman’s mother told ESSENCE that her daughter, who had lived in the same home with her parents and her two children prior to the March 13 incident, appeared to have recovered after the therapy she had following the incident.

“She’s not crazy,” said her father, responding to what he says has become a smear campaign to damage his daughter’s credibility. “She takes her children to school and picks them up. She works. She goes to school herself.” Her mother and father also maintain that her medical history has no bearing on the pending case.

But as both the defense and the alleged victim’s family gear up for what appears to be an extremely challenging court battle, the accuser herself is still refusing to speak to reporters and has not spoken with civil-rights attorney Willie Gary, despite her family’s urging that she do so. Gary, as first reported by ESSENCE, met with the mother Sunday at a local church in Chapel Hill at the suggestion of the Reverend Jesse Jackson [“Accuser’s Family Meets With Famed Attorney”]. Gary has also spoken with the father by phone on at least two occasions. The parents and an aunt have expressed strong interest in having Gary represent the young woman.

“I declare … I really hope she does,” the mother told ESSENCE yesterday.

Additional reporting by Tatsha Robertson.

Names have been omitted to protect the identity of the family and the alleged victim.

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