Friday, May 16, 2008

Morally grotesque: The denigration of the falsely accused by insisting their victimization is a 'myth' or a 'bugaboo'

A writer named Lynn Harris recently characterized false rape reports as a "bugaboo" -- which is simply a more flippant term for "myth." Use of this term is straight out of the sexual assault counselors' playbook. They routinely discount the possibility of false reports by characterizing them as a "myth."

Could it be correct that men’s fears about false accusations are, indeed, exaggerated and that the only significant harm from false accusations is to innocent women who might be deterred from making legitimate rape claims?

Such a view denigrates the men who have been falsely accused. Consider some of the news reports from the mainstream news media over the past several months. Devin LaSalle wouldn’t think false accusations are a myth. He’s the 32-year-old man who, on December 11, 2006, was having consensual sex with his lover Mrs. Tracy Roberson when Mrs. Roberson’s husband interrupted them. Mrs. Roberson told her husband that Mr. LaSalle was raping her so the husband shot Mr. LaSalle dead. On May 2, 2008, Mrs. Roberson was convicted of manslaughter. Armand Villasana wouldn’t think it’s a myth, either. He served 21 months in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, and for which his false accuser’s perjury couldn’t be punished because the statute of limitations had expired. Cleveland Kennedy wouldn’t think it’s a myth. He spent 75 days in jail for a rape he didn’t commit while his young accuser was treated to a holiday abroad to get over her “ordeal.” After the girl’s lie was finally exposed, she served no time for it. The Stockholm man who was apprehended after 14 police cars surrounded his apartment for a rape he didn’t commit wouldn’t think it’s a myth. His accuser spent no time in jail for her lie. The college professor who spent nine days in jail and was suspended from his job wouldn’t think it’s a myth. His accuser served all of eight days in jail for her lie. The man who was hauled into custody within just 30 minutes after Kara Dison fabricated a tale that he raped her wouldn’t think it’s a myth. The two men arrested because of serial false accuser Tracy Brooks’ false accusations wouldn’t think so, either. What happened to Ms. Brooks? Suspended sentence – no jail time. Timothy Wagner wouldn’t think it’s a myth. He spent 97 days in jail based on a rape charge that was neither reliable nor credible. No charges were lodged against his incredible accuser. Andrew Honeywell wouldn’t think it’s a myth, either. He was jailed for 12 hours based on his wife’s lie that he raped her. John Mullholland, the 27-year-old father of two who was arrested for rape based on a woman’s lie, wouldn’t think it’s a myth. The step-father jailed for four days based on his step-daughter’s false rape allegation wouldn’t think it’s a myth, either.

Two percent – or closer to 50%?

Clearly false accusations of rape happen, but how prevalent are they? The crime has become so embroiled in the gender-politicized sexual assault milieu, where serious dialogue grounded in fact is displaced by vituperative rants and politically motivated misstatements of fact, that most reports about the prevalence of such false claims are inherently untrustworthy.

This gender-politicization stems from the era when rape-shield laws, which do serve a legitimate purpose, were enacted. In days gone by, it was not uncommon for rape trials to dissolve into a de facto trial of the accuser’s sexual proclivities. Starting in the 1970s, feminist legal scholars began to successfully advocate for changes in rape laws to insure that victims not be blamed and to make it easier to convict men accused of rape. As a result, rape laws were amended to exclude evidence of the accuser’s past sexual conduct; a conviction for rape no longer required a showing that the accused used force to resist; married men could be convicted of raping their wives; and a man could be convicted of rape with no evidence beyond the testimony of the accuser.

In advocating for these changes, however, some feminist legal scholars engaged in a sort of disingenuous scholarly overkill by sprinkling their rationales with shibboleths about how women don’t or hardly ever lie about rape. As a result, the legal literature is replete with references to the “fact” that only two percent of all rape clams are false, consistent with the purported average for other crimes. It is not uncommon in this literature for men’s fears about false accusations to be dismissed as a rape “myth,” with almost derisive references to Potiphar’s wife, who, according to the Bible’s Book of Genesis, wrongly accused Joseph (of “coat-of-many-colors” fame) of rape.

In Until Proven Innocent, the widely praised (praised even by the New York Times, which the book skewers) and painstaking study of the Duke Lacrosse non-rape case, Stuart Taylor and Professor K.C. Johnson explain that the exact number of false claims is elusive but "[t]he standard assertion by feminists that only 2 percent of rape claims are false, which traces to Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book Against Our Will, is without empirical foundation and belied by a wealth of empirical data. These data suggest that at least 9 percent and probably closer to half of all rape claims are false . . . ." (Page 374.) The authors’ conclusion seems credible because, among other things, it doesn’t hide from the uncertainty as most persons writing in this area do. Yet the two percent mantra is repeated in the feminist rape milieu with cult-like devotion. As explained in an earlier post on this Web site, the two percent claim has been thorougly debunked.

Whatever the exact figure, it is reasonable to conclude it is significant, and that false accusations are not a “myth.” This is supported by common sense. People lie about everything under the sun for all manner of reasons, good, bad and indifferent -- except, according to some radical feminists, when it comes to rape. In that singular instance, mirabile dictu, one gender essentially is incapable of telling a lie while the other is comprised of pathological liars. The very discussion of rape becomes a sort of truth serum for women, they would have us believe, which forces anyone not possessing a Y-chromosome to utter incontrovertible fact. Is this in any sense plausible to a fair-minded person? The question scarcely survives its statement.

In fact, accounts from the mainstream news outlets as set forth in this Web site routinely recount motives for false accusations that ring true – often the recanting false accuser was motivated to lie by a desire to provide a husband, a parent or boyfriend a plausible explanation for an illicit sexual relationship.

Branding false claims a “myth” seems more insidiously dangerous than the position of some radical feminists who assert that they don’t care if men are falsely accused. At least these fanatics are up front with their bigotry. On one radical feminist blog, the hostess proposed to make all heterosexual sex criminal if the woman decided, even retroactively, that it was rape. One especially vile commentator to this proposal chimed in: “I think the central point that the dudes ‘don’t get’ is that the majority of [advocates of this bizarre proposal] genuinely don’t care if [the] proposal is ‘not fair’ to the hypothetical falsely accused rapist of the post-revolution future.” No commentary is necessary to underscore both the evil and inanity at work there, where innocent men convicted of rape are deemed acceptable collateral damage in some twisted gender war with fanatics bent on overthrowing the “patriarchy.”

A call for balance

What is woefully lacking from the public discourse about rape and false accusations is balance. Somewhere in the midst of the smoke generated by the invective, the truth – far too nuanced to appeal to fanatics – has been discarded. Two propositions are eminently reasonable and are not inconsistent: First, it is imperative to appreciate the concern that false accusations not dominate the discourse at the expense of dismissing prejudices true rape victims still face in certain respects. Second, removing false accusations from the discourse and dismissing the victimization of falsely accused men as a "myth" is not merely dishonest but morally grotesque. That position denigrates innocent men, substitutes factually incorrect feminist mantras for truth, and is, in fact, as hurtful as the ludicrous assertion that “she asked for it.”