Thursday, August 14, 2008

The falsely accused as collateral damage

A principle so fundamental to our jurisprudence, to our sense of fairness, to our morality as a people -- is sometimes tossed onto a scrapheap of indifference when it comes to those falsely accused of rape. That principle was aptly expressed by William Blackstone: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."

Those who agree with that statement likely will understand what we are attempting to do on this Web site. Those who don't will denigrate this site. Those who deny false rape claims as a "myth" are also among the first to reject this principle when it comes to those falsely accused of rape.

In a multitude of ways we allow the victims of false rape accusations to be treated as nothing more than unfortunate collateral damage in the war on rape. We minimize the extent of false claims; we focus more on the potential injury caused by a false rape claim to hypothetical, phantom, even unborn rape victims than on the injury to the falsely accused who are the direct victims of the lie; we excuse false claims with little or no punishment (and often the falsely accused serve more jail time than their false accusers) in order to encourage more legitimate rape claims, but such leniency also encourages more false claims. In short, the victims of false rape claims are told in bright-line, unmistakable terms that their rights are not as important as the war being waged on real rapists. We have allowed justice to be turned on its head. For no other crime -- even for crimes more rampant -- do we harbor such contempt, such inhumane notions toward the innocent.

We have lost our moral compass as a people when we allow the rights of the innocent to be disregarded in the name of garnering more convictions. Such thinking is common in brutal, backward third-world dictatorships.

Here are some chilling examples of persons who disagree with Mr. Blackstone on this issue, at least when it comes to those falsely accused of rape:

*A comment on a Web site dealing with rape: ". . . how in the world is it 'worse' for a wrongfully accused person to go to jail than it is for a victim to see their rapist go free?"

*From a recent editorial from a Washington state newspaper: "The state Supreme Court ruled recently that school districts in Washington do not have to disclose names of teachers who have been accused of sexual misconduct against students if the allegations have not been substantiated. . . . . Yes, public knowledge of the allegation could lead to the end of a teacher’s career even if it were proven to be false. But we’re not talking about a witch hunt. A few teachers being unjustly accused is far less important in the long run than the outing of a school district that hides evidence of patterns of misbehavior by teachers."

*A comment on a radical Web site, calling for rape to be defined at the whim of the accuser, and for the accused to be castrated: "Victims will decide whether a crime has occurred, and defendants will not. This might frighten men, some of whom will claim that women will use the law to punish men out of vengeance. That might happen once in awhile . . . ." A comment to this suggestion 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.”