Zara Louise McKenning, aged 21, was imprisoned for two years after making a false rape claim against Darren Holling when friends of her boyfriend caught them together. Mr Holling, 29, was arrested and spent 27 hours in custody where he was strip searched, examined and forced to give DNA samples before being released on bail. When the case was finally dropped, Mr Holling "collapsed on the floor and felt physically sick" with "sheer relief." But the allegation has left him unable to stop worrying, "scared" by what might happen and convinced "everyone was looking at him." In imposing sentence, however, the news account reports that the Judge chided the young woman for the harm she had done – not to Mr. Holling, whose life she had turned upside down -- but to real rape victims: "You are disrespectful and are discrediting those who are genuine victims of that terrible offence. You dishonour their horrendous ordeal."
The Judge’s reaction is typical: Although false reporting of rape is a crime whose victims are almost exclusively male, it has become so embroiled in the feminist sexual assault milieu that discussing it as a potentially significant problem for men is verboten because such view does not conform to the feminist rape metanarrative.
In fact, this crime may be unique among all crimes because virtually the entire public discourse about it is dominated by persons who insist it is not a serious public threat. At least not to men. If it is a threat at all, it’s to women, they insist.
Sexual assault counselors and feminist legal scholars routinely refer to false rape claims as one of the so-called rape “myths.” Some even assert that when a woman recants her rape claim, it is “often” the case that she really was raped but simply wants to avoid the prosecutorial ordeal. It is, of course, impossible to engage in constructive dialogue with persons who purport to refute facts with assertions that cannot be tested.
False claims, in fact, are not a “myth.” The feminist mantra that only two percent of all rape claims are false, which they repeat with cult-like devotion, has been thoroughly debunked. “[E]mpirical data . . . suggest that at least 9 percent and probably closer to half of all rape claims are false . . . ." Stuart Taylor, K.C. Johnson Until Proven Innocent at page 374. Removing false accusations from the public discourse about rape and denigrating wrongly accused men by dismissing their victimization as a "myth” is not merely dishonest but morally grotesque.
In any event, when the crime of false reporting is discussed, as in the McKenning case, it is typically viewed through a gynocentric lens that blinks at the harm it causes innocent men. News reports about false rape claims take on an almost surreal cookie-cutter redundancy. Police typically adopt an indifference to the male victims, instead choosing to chide the false accuser for wasting police time. More disturbing is that news accounts often report a police officer, sexual assault counselor or judge chiding the false accuser for the "real" harm she's caused -- not to the man wrongly accused or to other potential men she might accuse -- but to hypothetical, unknown, even unborn women whose reports of real rapes might be looked upon with suspicion because of the lie. The one thing that a judge is never heard to say in these cases is the following: “I need to make an example out of you so that women will stop falsely accusing men of rape.”
A sampling of news reports from this year alone illustrates that women are viewed as the real victims of a crime that only targets men:
After a judge found a woman’s rape claim incredible, the newspaper report about it made sure to quote a representative of the local rape crisis center – and this is verbatim: “It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a person to go to the police and say they've been raped. Men and women should not be put off by this case.”
When the lies of two women who cried “rape” were exposed, the news report included the following: “National organisation rape crisis today said that the women's actions could put genuine victims off reporting attacks. A spokeswoman said: ‘Every false allegation that is made and reported is not going to do anything for those women who have reported it or who are considering reporting a rape or assault. It is going to put people off reporting even more, if they think there is a potential they won't be believed.’”
After police learned that a woman had lied about being abducted and sexually assaulted, the news account of the incident was substantially devoted to the real problem created by the lie – the fact that false claims are blown out of proportion and the chilling effect this has on legitimate rape victims. This is directly from the article:
While she [Cheryl Regehr, a professor of social work at the University of Toronto] said false rape charges are "exceedingly rare," they usually draw a disproportionate amount of publicity. "They become highly sensationalized and highly publicized, because they're so rare," said Prof. Regehr.
"And usually they're pretty lurid stories."But the effect they can have on real victims of sexual assault can be chilling, she said.
"Since the dawn of time there's been this urban myth about how women make up rapes," she said."Every time a case like this comes out, it feeds that … and it really dissuades the real victims from disclosing."
She said sexual assault is the least reported major crime, because women -- who are almost always the victims -- are afraid that they will not be believed. Cases like this weekend's non-existent abduction and assault in Etobicoke only make those fears worse.
"They think that because this woman was found to be lying then everyone will think that they're lying," she said.
Det. Flis, whose unit deals with the most difficult sex-crime cases, agreed. "There's no doubt that for a victim to come forward in a sexual assault case is a difficult thing," she said."There's a lot of guilt, shame, self-blaming.… It's a heavy burden to go through."
Krtutika Mediwala, a sophomore at Clemson, lied to police that two men knocked her down and assaulted her from behind in a dark parking lot on campus. After her lie was exposed, the news report of the incident zeroed in on the real harm from the fabrication: “[R]ape crisis counselors say lies like that make it bad for real rape victims. ‘Technically it can silence the person to report,’ said Kelly Scurry of the Foothills Alliance. ‘That compels fear which is a greater concern.’"
Even when a judge branded a woman’s false rape claim a “wicked” lie, the judge made clear that the person most victimized wasn’t the man she wrongly accused but rather the hypothetical rape victim whose ordeal might be less likely to be believed because of her lie: “The most serious aspect is that you have done womankind no good at all. Every time a woman makes a false allegation of rape you let down the women that make true allegations and cause suspicion that another person is making it up. That is the evil of what you did - it undermines the whole process.”
After a young woman’s lie that she’d been raped at Duke University was exposed, a school official stated: "Sexual assault is a very serious matter, and I hope this unfortunate incident will not deter anyone who is a victim of such a crime from reporting what happened and seeking assistance."
After a 17-year-old recanted her rape claim, the local sheriff’s office issued a statement: “This girl obviously needs professional help and we hope that is made available to her. The valid claims of sexual assault are not to be diminished by this teenager’s action. She has also done a disservice to this community as a whole.”
After a teen’s lie was exposed that she’d been raped by three masked men, the school used the incident as a teaching lesson – not about the harm in lying about a matter as serious as rape, but rather about rape itself: "Unfortunately, we had to go through this because of a charade, but it did give us a chance to go through this academically rather than in reality," Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Art Johnson said. "In this particular case it didn't happen, but that doesn't mean we don't need to prepare like it did happen." Mr. Johnson apparently saw no utility in preparing for future false claims.
When a jogger’s claim that she had been raped along a trail turned out to be a lie, the news report of the incident used the woman's lie as an occasion for fear-mongering – not about false rape claims, but about rape. The executive director of a local sexual assault service was quoted as saying that this false report “doesn’t mean this could not have occurred . . . . It’s always a good idea to take precautions.”
When a teen’s lie that she had been raped was exposed, the police went out of their way to note the persons most in need of protection: "We need to protect those who have genuine complaints . . ..” Oh, “and we also need to discourage this kind of behaviour in the community," he said.
After a woman recanted her report that she had been raped at a mall, local police made sure to announce that victims of sex crimes should not be afraid to call police and that all claims will be thoroughly investigated.
A 20-year-old woman falsely reported to police on May 2 that she had been raped in an alley. The detective who led the investigation proudly declared: “I am satisfied that no criminal activity took place.” But he made sure to add: “I do not want to discourage genuine reports of this kind . . . .”
After it was revealed that a 14-year-old girl lied when she claimed she was attacked by a group of “foreign man” (scary “foreign” men are a favorite target), a police detective made sure to announce: "I would like to assure people we deal with all allegations of rape very seriously.” And, oh, he added: “We will also deal robustly with any false allegations."
When will a case involving a false rape accusation be used as an occasion to teach women about the harm their lies can cause innocent men?
It won’t happen so long as false rape claims are looked upon as nothing more than an embarrassing aberration to the accepted norm – that women are essentially incapable of lying about rape.
These news accounts ought to be seen as a sort of Rorschach inkblot of a culture in the grip of serious, even hysterical, fear mongering about rape – a fear mongering that insists one out of four college women are raped when, by way of example only, in 2006, University of Pittsburgh Campus Police received one report of sexual assault -- from a campus of roughly 18,000 young women. (If the one-in-four statistic is correct, that is under-reporting of Biblical proportions.)
In fact, women do lie about rape, and often. Men are frequent victims of false claims. But until this fact seeps into the public consciousness, until the public discourse on this issue is not dominated by professionals in the feminist sexual assault industry, this crime will not be treated seriously. And its primary victims – men – will continue to be ignored.