Sunday, May 18, 2008

The seriousness of false claims is dismissed in the interest of promoting 'Jane Doe' Rape kits

Progress for victims
Colorado rape victims benefit from new law

By Erika Stutzman (Contact)
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Colorado is among several states in the country that require rape victims to report the crime to police before a medical exam. That will change come January, and the change is a good one for future victims.

Some colleges, rape centers and the state of Massachusetts had already offered so-called Jane Doe rape kits. The kits are rape exams that store physical evidence such as semen, skin, blood and hair, and are sealed listed with a number, keeping the victim anonymous. A new federal law requires that states pay for the kits starting in January.

It buys victims a little time to decide whether to file charges. If a victim in Colorado chooses to wait to file charges now, it can be too late to collect physical evidence.

We can't really see a down side. There are some realities about rape that makes it different than other assaults. Some victims are drunk or using drugs and are afraid authorities won't believe them. Most rapes are by people the victims know, which can make victims feel conflicted. Some believe their reputations or lives will be destroyed by a perpetrator who pleads innocent.

Those who believe false reports of rape are epidemic -- which is countered by the U.S. Department of Justice, which reports that rapes are vastly underreported -- say they fear Jane Doe kits will increase false reports. But if someone is intent on making a false report, complete with a medical exam, he or she is intent on going to the police, anyway. The fear is bogus.

It would be nice to live in a world where rape victims weren't filled with shame and fear, along with their other injuries. It would be better to live in a world without rape.

But we live in this one. Which is why we think the Jane Doe kits will benefit future rape victims.

-- Erika Stutzman


The author states that a belief that "false reports of rape are epidemic . . . is countered by the U.S. Department of Justice . . . ."

This dismissal of the prevalence of false accusations of rape is disappointing and inaccurate. 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.) Whatever the exact number, it is significant.

Removing false accusations from the public discourse about rape and blinking at the victimization of falsely accused men is not merely dishonest but morally grotesque. That position not only denigrates the innocent, it substitutes factually incorrect feminist mantras for truth, and is, in fact, as hurtful as the ludicrous assertion that “she asked for it.”

The "Jane Doe" rape kits may, indeed, serve legitimate purposes. But there needs to be a serious two-way dialogue about them. For example, it is troublesome that we allocating state resources to help a woman prepare a possible criminal case against a man who is not being advised that he's been accused of rape. Then we allow her to sit on the evidence for, say, two years -- without giving the man a similar opportunity to preserve evidence, because he is given no notice that he has been accused of rape. This may place the man at a serious evidentiary disadvantage. Every lawyer knows that with the passage of time, memories fade, evidence is lost (e.g., he probably deleted any emails supporting a consensual sexual relationship), alibi witnesses disappear. At trial, the woman might paint a vivid picture of a rape, and even if the man is innocent, the most he might be able to say is, "I would never rape a woman, but I have no strong recollection of that night."

Is that fair to an innocent man? The question scarcely survives its statement.

If the state waits to indict a man in order to obtain a tactical advantage, and if such delay prejudices a man's ability to fairly defend himself, his due process rights are said to be violated. Why would this be any different since we are allowing -- indeed we are paying for -- a woman to do that very thing?

What is needed is a serious dialogue, not a witch hunt to jack up rape conviction rates. When you cast your net too wide, you will snag innocent men. Some of us are very concerned about not convicting the innocent, even though they happen to be men, and even though the crime is rape.

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