Friday, July 11, 2008

When should a false accuser be prosecuted?

One of the many unjustified double-standards about rape is that "prosecutors almost never go after false accusers." Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, S. Taylor, K.C. Johnson at 381 (2007). Remember the young liar who sent Cleveland Kennedy to jail for 75 days? While Mr. Kennedy endured that "terrifying ordeal," according to the news report, "as a 'treat', his accuser was taken abroad on holiday to get over her 'ordeal.' But then she agreed she had made it all up." Oh, and she wasn't even prosecuted for her crime. You see, it was not deemed to be in the "public interest" to prosecute her, and she escaped with a warning.

The fact that false accusers generally are not charged is painful for men who have been falsely accused and whose lives have been damaged, sometimes destroyed, as thoroughly as any physical assault could do to a person. Many of us who are aware of the dangers and prevalence of false claims find this double-standard unpardonably unjust. This Web site is replete with news accounts of men falsely accused who served more time behind bars than the liars who put them there.

I hear no feminist discussion, much less outcry, over these patent injustices, and one would expect that if confronted with them, the feminists would fall back on the purported under-reporting of rape claims as a way of saying that women are victimized by rape far more than men are victimized by false claims. It is, of course, impossible to engage in reasonable discourse with persons who assert "facts" with no authority beyond their serene ipse dixit. By decrying false claims, we do not condone rape -- period. Real rapists deserve to be punished, and false accusers need to be punished. We've previously dealt with the "under-reporting" of rape canard on this Web site. (It is also well to note that there is some basis to believe that more men may be victimized by rape than women because of prison rape, but why let facts stand in the way of a good radical feminist metanarrative?)

While by any fair and objective measure false accusers generally should be charged with filing a false report, as with any crime there are gradations to wrongdoing that should be taken into account in deciding to charge or in deciding an appropriate sentence. A false claim that is recanted quickly before any innocent man is targeted is, of course, far less serious than a lie that sends a man to jail or prison.

Consider the case of false accuser Jill Ajao, the St. Paul psychologist who lied about rape to conceal an extramarital affair and to "protect herself and her family."

According to the news account:

"The false report prompted a detailed police investigation, the release of a suspect sketch and surveillance photo and the sifting through of hundreds of tips, according to the criminal complaint filed last week.

"Police spokesman Tom Walsh said Tuesday that it was unusual for his department to seek the charges against a woman who claimed to be a victim and police did so only after a thorough investigation.

"'It's extremely rare. It's rare because we don't want victims not to report' a crime, he said. 'But it's very clear that this young woman was not sexually assaulted. And given the fear that she created in our community, we felt that this action was necessary.'"

The news account makes this important point:

"A factor in seeking charges, Walsh said, was that the man she said raped her had been subjected to public attention when his photo was shown in the media to help police solve an alleged rape."

When will we, as a society, understand that we can treat real rapes seriously but that innocent men must never be collateral damage in a war on rape? Fundamental notions of fairness dictate that when an innocent person is damaged by a liar who uses the police apparatus as a tool to effectuate her lie, the liar needs to be charged and convicted, period. The false accuser whose lie causes police to target a man as a suspect or a "person of interest" should always be charged. The fact that charges are often not lodged in this situation speaks volumes about how we, as a society, regard the crime of false reporting. While women should always be encouraged to report legitimate rapes, this has nothing to do with whether a woman who lies about rape should be held responsible for her lie.

The statutory limitations on sentences for false accusers is another double standard that will be examined in an upcoming post on this Web site.