What does it take to get a victim believed?

An utterly horrible story: Aja Newman goes to the emergency room for severe shoulder pain. She’s given a sedative…then the doctor in charge gives her more drugs, despite her arguing that she doesn’t need so much. Next thing she knows, she groggily discovers the doctor groping her and masturbating on her. She has enough presence of mind to stuff the bedding into a cabinet and take it in later for forensic examination. The evidence is discovered.

Aja handed her bag full of bedding to a forensics team and watched as a technician turned the sheets over and over, spraying Luminol on them, inspecting them in darkness under UV light and spraying again. They weren’t finding anything, she could tell, and were about to wrap it up and send the bundle to another lab. It was looking like a dead end, and Aja could not tolerate that. She stopped them. “Spray that stuff on me,” she said.

Initially, the technician objected — the spray isn’t made for use on people. But Aja persisted. “I want to help,” she said. So the technician closed the door, Aja signed her consent and took off her hospital gown, and she was sprayed all over her body.

“I heard the whole room go” — here Aja sucks in her breath. “It was all over my face, all over between my breasts like I told her. I remember she started crying, and she was like, ‘Aja, don’t move.’ And she took the samples off my face. I believe that’s the only thing that caught him.” The definitive match was gathered, in the end, from a spot near Aja’s right eye.

Thus begins the downfall of Dr David Newman (no relation), who had been groping patients for years and doing who knows what else to them. He was considered a young medical superstar, giving TED talks (ugh) and publishing radical op-eds, getting rapidly promoted at Mt Sinai hospital, and praised for his novel insights. But his true nature was his slimy disregard for the patients he was treating.

It’s a long, ugly saga, where he is caught red-handed and indisputably guilty of sex crimes, followed by lots of other women stepping forward to testify against him. What really caught my eye was this little detail.

The Daily News published its first story two days later, on January 14. Support for David Newman poured in from everywhere. Friends and colleagues sent boosterish emails telling him to hang in there, that they believed in him, offering solace and help — unofficially from the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and from well-connected friends with resources and expertise. On social media and in private Facebook groups, current and former colleagues, acquaintances, students, and admirers swore their allegiance. “Dr. Newman is literally someone who has changed the ways thousands of other physicians practice medicine and by extension improved the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of patients around the world. This earns him the benefit of the doubt from me,” someone named Verjeep wrote in the comments of a news story.

Another theory went like this: Emergency rooms are notoriously difficult places to work. ER doctors regularly experience violence and harassment from patients, and half have been assaulted at work; they are frequently hit up for drugs by addicts in need. This victim was just such an addict. Or she wanted sex or money, was retaliating for an affair gone wrong, mistook him for someone else, and, when she didn’t get her way, made a false charge. “He’s the victim,” a close associate told me at the time. “I don’t believe that he would do anything like this. My routine day is getting yelled at and cursed at by patients who aren’t getting what they want. I can imagine details where something happened where she didn’t get what she wanted and maybe this is retaliation. Or maybe she received pain medicine and it made her a little loopy or she hallucinated him … ” Here he trailed off.

Every time. Every single goddamned time.


  1. leerudolph says

    I wouldn’t suppose that either, but depending on precisely what they said, some of them might be liable for defamation of the (actual) victim.

  2. Ragutis says

    Um, I’m not sure how her being doped up, loopy and hallucinating exonerates him in any way. And really, outside of porn and roleplay are there any circumstances under which a doctor’s sperm ending up on a patient’s face is acceptable?

  3. Robert Serrano says

    That would be a resounding no. Regardless of anything the patient might do. At all. And those people contorting themselves to excuse that behavior are just beyond repugnant.

  4. Jazzlet says

    The main difference between a guy like this and an incel is he has the character to have made it to a position where he could indulge in his fantasies of domination, but in both cases they are severely fucked up human beings, and they should be condemned for their view of women as simply objects of their gratification. I get that it’s hard for colleagues taken in by the charm of such a man, they don’t want to admit that they were fooled, who does? However, hard as it is, it is better to admit to being fooled and try to do better in the future than to continue in the fooled state, beecause the con man wins as long as you stay fooled.

  5. ardipithecus says

    If a person treats me well, but treats you shitty, all I can say when asked is that he treated me well. The fallacy of character references is that how he treated me is not evidence that he didn’t treat you shitty. People are complex, and our interactions even more so. Character endorsements don’t mean much. but some people take them seriously. I don’t.

  6. Curious Digressions says

    There is NO CONFLICT to say he is a brilliant, innovative, charming, and talented doctor AND a horrible exploitative and abusive pervert.

    He absolutely can be “literally someone who has changed the ways thousands of other physicians practice medicine and by extension improved the lives of hundreds of thousands if not millions of patients around the world ” AND committed sexual assault against his patients. “Benefit of the doubt” doesn’t mean absolute denial of documented harm.

    Personally, I can see expressing support for someone with whom I have a good rapport if they are accused of wrong-doing. However, I’d also be obliged to retract support if the accusations were plausible. Ejaculate is pretty darned plausible evidence.

  7. rrutis1 says

    There was a local restaurant owner convicted of rape several years ago, of course the apologists came out of the woodwork, one of them a friend of mine. My friend said that he knew this guy and there was no way he could have raped anyone…I asked how he knew this and he said he was a good judge of character. After I joked/jabbed that he should call the judge with this super convincing argument, I think I realized that these stupid endorsements and support for criminals caught or convicted are really about us and not the criminal. We want to believe that we are good judges of character and would never be fooled by someone bad, so we ignore the evidence and replace it with our desired outcome.

  8. methuseus says

    So the people supporting him think she imagined his ejaculate into being all over her body to match his DNA????

  9. Ridana says

    It sounds like they think it was a consensual transaction for sex or drugs or even revenge, none of which would make it ok even if were true, unless there were some established history between them outside the emergency room, which no one seems to be offering. There are lines between doctors and their patients that are not to be crossed, period. This clearly crosses those lines, plus those between normal and rapacious behavior to boot.

  10. Douglas M says

    The problem is that with all the false accusations made by women for anything from financial gain to political kudos (with the wrong sort of political thinking), there is a very reasonable amount of distrust whenever a genuine victim steps up. That is NOT to excuse people making logic pretzels trying to argue someone out of a disgusting practice, whether the assailant is male or female.

    The only way around this situation is to openly treat false accusers with the harshness that would have been metered out to their victim if their victim had been found guilty. In the UK, they don’t even stop a false accuser from being protected under anonymity laws that protect any accuser from publicity (even though the accused is always named). False accusations must be harshly dealt with if genuine victims are to be treated as probably true.

  11. John Morales says

    Douglas, that’s your problem, not the problem.

    (Also, your technique of making an existence claim and then proceeding as if it were a general claim is pretty fucking feeble)

    False accusations must be harshly dealt with if genuine victims are to be treated as probably true.

    You suggesting that false claims are a general thing is itself a false accusation.

    (Just how harshly do you think you deserve to be dealt with?)

  12. kimzsendi says

    Just putting this here as a summary of [sarcasm] “all the false accusations made by women” [/sarcasm]


    This is admittedly a report from the national sexual violence research center – but if you’re looking for peer-reviewed research there is a good list of references at the bottom of the report.

    The take home of the entire thing is:

    Believe the victim. Despite persistent myths, research shows few rape allegations are false. Moreover, decades of crime data prove the majority of incidents of sexual assault go unreported.

  13. jack16 says

    @15 Douglas M

    “with all the false accusations made by women for anything from financial gain to political kudos (with the wrong sort of political thinking)”
    There needs to be supporting evidence for this kind of general remark.

    According to my reading its propaganda.


  14. vucodlak says

    @ Douglas M, #14

    The problem is that with all the false accusations made by women

    A tiny minority of reports are false. 2% to 10% , according to the study linked by kimzsendi @ 16. In what way is it reasonable to reflexively doubt something that is 90% to 98% likely to be true?

    That is NOT to excuse people making logic pretzels trying to argue someone out of a disgusting practice

    Picking your nose and wiping the boogers on the furniture is a disgusting practice.

    Rape is one of the worst violations of one human being that can be committed by another human being. Kindly refrain from minimizing it.

    The only way around this situation is to openly treat false accusers with the harshness that would have been metered out to their victim if their victim had been found guilty.

    Well, we’re in luck- most rapists get off without any punishment at all. So, by your logic, it’s right and proper that most false reports shouldn’t be punished.

    But maybe false reporters should be dealt with harshly. Like, say, as harshly as Brock Turner was dealt with.


    metered out

    Meted. Punishment is meted out.

  15. DanDare says

    All the same bullshit that has surrpunded the conviction of Cardinal Pell here in Oz. “He’s such a good man. Luke at the good works he has done. Oh so many false accusarions exist.”
    The shock jocks like Andrew Bolt are still running public defence and harrassing the victims even after Pell’s appeals have been rejected.

  16. unclefrogy says

    well doug
    I would agree with you there, just one question needs to be answered however
    how or at what point do we conclude any given accusation is false?
    and further are false accusations confined to those coming from women? are they restricted to only crimes of a sexual nature or are there also significant numbers of accusations about other sorts of crimes.
    I am sure you have some ideas you want to share thanks.
    uncle frogy

  17. Roy says

    False accusations are dealt with harshly in the UK. One persistent false accuser has just been sentenced to 18 years in jail.

  18. John Morales says

    Roy, Carl Beech? Really?

    (What do you imagine that has to do with false accusations made by women about transgressors towards them?)

  19. George says

    What’s the difference between a False accusation and one that just isn’t proven? Just because you can’t prove your case in court, doesn’t mean you’re lying. Considering the uphill climb most accusers have, it’s not surprising that lots of accusations come up short. The consequences of not being successful is one of the things that holds a lot of victims back from coming forward and signing complaints. So unless there’s some clear evidence that someone is lying with malicious intent, an obvious pattern of fraud, then penalizing Accusers who don’t “win” in court is a dangerous thing.

  20. chrislawson says

    What does is take to get a victim believed? For a depressingly large segment of the community, the victim never gets believed. Even when the perpetrator has videoed themselves in the process of raping.

  21. says

    An major problem with “false accusation” numbers is that they also include victims who withdraw the complaint because they get pressured to do so or just tire of having to deal with all the bullshit placed on rape victims that other victims of crime don’t have to put up with to anywhere near the same degree.

  22. Kagehi says

    This is what drives me utterly nuts about the law – in the case of harassment/rape its “expected” for lawyers to be as slimy as possible, and even to try to sway the jury by bringing up false claims about how many “false claims” there are, and how nice a character the rapist was, etc. There seems to be absolutely no penalty for “intentionally” selecting people to place on the stand who lie, and doing it repeatedly, while calling themselves experts, and other similar tactics. Sure.. if you want to sue the defense witness later on, maybe you take one of them out, where there are 20 more standing on the side lines, waiting to be called up to repeat the same assertions, or otherwise muddy the waters. Also, no one is held accountable for actively harassing the victim, including the cops, which is what often leads, via questioning, or testimony, to them dropping the case as a lost cause. I had a similar thought today about a few other things. So.. there is trafficking, and we pass mostly worthless laws, which just make it slightly less convenient to do their business. We don’t pass anything to create a legit category of workers, so that the scum is competing with people that are willing to be inspected. If the trafficking involves moving people out of the country we are not a) searching every cargo container, until it stops, b) disallowing suspects back into the country, who have private jets, if they are suspected, or otherwise spending real money on “finding” the people doing it, and stopping them from shipping. Nope – if anything we are probably cutting funding to federal inspection agencies. Oh, and with drugs.. Yeah, also not checking everything shipped in, and… how long would it keep going if the shipping company had to show that a) they where trying to keep it out of the shipments, b) didn’t know it was in their, or c) they where no longer allowed to ship so much as an empty crate into the US ever again? Where is the “zero tolerance” policy that keeps things from entering and leaving the US, which are illegal, and holds the people responsible for doing it accountable for it?

    I would think that, logically, instead of playing stupid assed games, in which you “hope” some other country will get its act together and stop trafficking of either sort, someone would just flat out say, “Enough is enough. We will spend the money necessary to make this so damned problematic for the people doing it that they won’t be able to change their socks without them being inspected to make sure they don’t have something on them before shipping containers, or taking a private flight to some other country, or the like, where the opportunity is currently being allowed, or just outright ignored, for them to commit these crimes.”

    There should be consequences for “gosh, I didn’t know that container had people in it, or drugs, or stuff.”, and there should be for “intentionally” using scum tactics to get a client off, which you, and even the courts, damn well know is bullshit, but which everyone allows, apparently because juries continue to fall for it, so its “useful” to certain people to keep allowing it.

    I mean,. imagine what the trial would look like if a) the cops where actually not just challenges, but legitimately chastised, with actually penalties, for spending 8 hours questioning the witness, when they spent less than half that on the perp, and if lawyers used some of these stupid tactics it was actually deemed contempt. And, on the other subjects, imagine the panic the first time some asshole tried to ship something in/out of the US, and found out, “Shit, these people are serious. They are looking in every freaking container and box, with a fine tooth comb, and there are a dozen of them here doing it!” Instead of, more likely than not, two dudes with a dog, walking around the dock, in hopes it smells something in a sealed container, from the outside (unless they are “tipped off, and how the F often can you rely on that?).

    Lets actually take this seriously, not play an increasingly absurd game of wack-a-mole, in which you just keep changing the shape and size of the hammer, but all the bad guys know that they just have to adapt by changing the shape and size of the moles.

    But, I am sure this would be “somehow” unrealistic…

  23. karmacat says

    I bet there are people in the hospital who do know what this doctor was doing. Even after he was caught, they are probably too afraid to say anything. I bet the nurses there know exactly what this doctor is really like.