Thursday, July 24, 2008

I am a rape 'denialist' because I insist men accused of rape be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Come again?

This Web site does not link to hate sites. An apparently radical feminist took issue with a comment I posted on her Web site and devoted an entire post to attacking me and my position. I discuss it briefly because it illustrates some gross misconceptions about our Web site.

First, she accuses me of having a preconceived bias and a political agenda because, she asserts -- and you may need to squint hard and read this twice: "Unspoken but clear from his comment is that rapists are assumed innocent . . . ."

I am, of course, confused by her terminology. If she means convicted rapists, no, I don't assume they are innocent. They are guilty.

If she means men accused of rape -- do I assume they are innocent until their guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, just as every court in the United States does for every person accused of every crime listed in every criminal code of every state? Just as I would assume the innocence of the author of the hate post about me if she were accused of theft or prostitution or anything else?

The question scarcely survives its statement.

You can call it my left wing-right wing political agenda -- I insist that persons accused of crimes be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Like the ACLU does. You know, Coffin v. United States and all that nonsense that emanates from the silly old Constitution.

Should police investigating a claim of rape treat accused men as if they were guilty, or should they objectively try to discover the truth? Should they berate women who made the accusation and assume it's a lie, or should they objectively try to discover the truth? How is this in any sense controversial? It is not. In the real world, among rational people, that is.

Second, the writer also beats the radical feminist tom-tom and suggests that anyone concerned about false rape claims must be a rape "denialist." No comment is necessary to underscore the breathtaking naiveté of this assertion, or the misandry at work here. Sadly, it is de rigueur for radical feminism.

Accusing me of being a rape "denialist" merely because I believe it is appropriate to inject the verboten subject of false claims into the public discourse about rape suggests that the writer thinks we should be morally precluded from talking about false claims other than to declare them a "myth." This position, of course, denigrates the victimization of countless innocent men falsely accused of rape -- many of whom, incidentally, read this blog because they write to me, at times with gut wrenching accounts. Their stories are not being told in many places. In contrast, there are innumerable Web sites that focus on the suffering of rape victims, and no one here would ever question the suffering or victimization of women who have been raped.

By the same token, I know of cases where men falsely accused of rape have killed themselves, were beaten by other men, spent decades wallowing in prison for a crime they didn't commit, were raped while serving time for a rape they didn't commit, lost their jobs and were suspended from school, among many other atrocities. Most have experienced psychological torture that is almost unimaginable. This is because the very whiff of an accusation of rape can be as bad as anything that can happen to an innocent man. He faces the prospect of years and possibly decades behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, where there is often a good chance he will fall victim to the crime of which he was falsely accused; moreover, his reputation, his good name, all that he's worked for -- his business even -- are often destroyed by a lie. Even when the charges are dropped, many people still suspect that "something" must have happened.

It is most unfortunate that the person who made the disparaging comments about me is incapable of recognizing that, like true rape victims, men who truly are innocent of rape claims are victims, too. Even though innumerable women suffer as rape victims; even though many women are afraid to come forward to report rapes because of the social stigma; even though bad men too often get away with rape unpunished. None of that changes the fact that the falsely accused are victims, too. It is astounding to me that people feel a need to deny that indisputable fact. As if by acknowledging that, you will hurt the cause of raising awareness about rape.

Reading between the lines of her statement, I suspect she doesn't think false claims are an especially important problem. I hope I am wrong. But many in the sexual assault counseling industry contend that false claims are a "myth," a "bugaboo" or the product of misogynists' imaginations. That simply is not true, and denigrating the experience of the falsely accused by dismissing their victimization as a myth is not merely dishonest but morally grotesque.

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.) I find the authors' refusal to be pinned down to an exact number refreshingly honest (as opposed to almost everything else I've seen on the subject) -- whatever the exact number, it's real, and it's significant.

I don't really care if the haters believe this but our goal in this blog is not to denigrate rape victims or to deny that far too many rapes occur or to insist that false claims dominate the public discourse about rape at the expense of dismissing prejudices true rape victims still face. Our goal is simply to insist that false claims be fairly included in the public discourse about rape.

Given the level of animosity directed our way, I suspect we are doing our job.