Friday, October 24, 2008

Another rape "expert" minimizes false rape claims without citing supporting evidence

Here is another article on the Palos Heights rape hoax where yet another so-called authority on sexual assault makes unsupported statements that minimize the false rape problem in America. Among other things, this "expert" says that the public perception is that" false claims of sexual assault "are far more common than they actually are."

Here we go again. We are so weary of these "experts" who pontificate on rape without reliable, objective data. Shame on the Southtown Star for its irresponsibility.

First, here is the comment I left under the article:

Your article states that sexual assault "is one of the most underreported felonies, but studies show that the public perception is that" false claims of sexual assault "are far more common than they actually are."

Where is your support for this comment? It is misleading for the reasons set forth below. My Web site is devoted to injecting objectivity into the epidemic of false claims of sexual assault: In fact, it is sexual assault counselors, with the media's complicity, not the general public, who practice self-delusion when it comes to false accusations of sexual assault.

Here are the facts: 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 case, Stuart Taylor and Professor K.C. Johnson examined all of the major studies dealing with false claims of sexual assault and explained that the exact number of false claims is elusive but "[t]he standard assertion by feminists that only 2 percent" or sexual assault 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 sexual assault claims "are false . . . ." (Page 374.)

In addition, FBI statistics show that false reporting of sexual assault is fourfold greater than the average for all crimes. The Politics of Sexuality, Barry M. Dank, Editor in Chief, Vol. 3 at 36, n. 8.As one example of how sexual assault counselors, with the news media's complicity, hide the facts in this area: This very newspaper recently relied on sexual assault counselors when it reported that sexual assault claimants "almost always" tell the truth about sexual assault.,101208rapeadvocates.article

What is interesting about that article is that it cited Prof. Eugene Kanin's landmark study on false sexual assault claims as authoritative -- but guess what? The article somehow forgot to mention that Kanin's study found that 41% of the claims he examined were not just false but actually recanted. The number of false claims may been higher. Here is the study:

I suppose the 41% didn't fit the story your newspaper set out to tell. And that is very, very disturbing to those of us who tire of seeing innocent men and boys denigrated by false claims of sexual assault. A lie about sexual assault is very easy to make, and once made, the life of a man or boy accused is often destroyed. I do wish this newspaper would exercise greater responsibility in this area.


Girl behind hoax still has anonymity

By KIM JANSSEN, Staff Writer


Everybody knows who she is.

Nobody wants to say her name out loud.

That, more or less, is the situation the 17-year-old girl who cried rape in Palos Heights Sept. 16 finds herself in today, five days after she admitted she made the whole thing up.

The media has a longstanding policy of not naming rape victims in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

News organizations - like the police - don't want to unnecessarily add to the stress of a traumatic sexual experience or to discourage other victims from coming forward.

But when it turns out there wasn't a rape in the first place, the question gets more complicated, media ethics experts say.

"I'd name her," said professor Jack Doppelt, who teaches ethics classes at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

"The question which most people don't ask is, 'Why do we name anyone in any situation?' and the answer is for accountability, so that readers can trust what they're reading and weigh the reliability of the person involved," he said.

"That rule is suspended for people who are the victims of rape or minors, but since that no longer applies in this case, I think she should be named, even if she is only 17."

The SouthtownStar, which does not normally name suspects who have not been charged - as the 17-year-old has not - has decided not to name the girl.

That was probably the right decision, according to Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute.

"It's a fine balance," McBride said. "I wouldn't name her, but I also wouldn't fault an editor who chose to name her.

"Rape is one of the most underreported felonies, but studies show that the public perception is that false rape reports are far more common than they actually are.

"Journalists have to be careful that they don't discourage victims with legitimate complaints from coming forward, and that they don't reinforce the impression that most rape claims are false."

While police say there is no doubt the girl in the Palos Heights case made up her story, many victims retract true rape allegations under pressure from investigators - another factor that should be considered before alleged hoaxers are named - McBride said.

The girl's young age and apparently fragile mental state also should be taken into account, McBride said.

"You have to ask what you're trying to achieve and see if there's another way of doing it," she said.

But some argue shielding the names of rape victims stigmatizes them while giving license to those who make false accusations.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Maroc said, "It comes from the old-fashioned and obviously wrong notion that 'good girls don't get raped.'

"Robbery victims and murder victims are named, and nobody thinks they are to blame for what happened to them."

Maroc said he has overseen several trials where men were falsely accused of child abuse or rape.
"They were found not guilty, but once their name had been on page one, it didn't matter - their lives were ruined."

Maroc cited the work of the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, which caused a stir in 1991 when it ran an editorial arguing that rape victims should be named.

The article prompted rape victim Nancy Ziegenmeyer to come forward and led to a series that won a Pulitzer Prize.

In the vast majority of cases, however, unless the victim volunteers to be named, they won't be.
"Rape is different," McBride said. "It's a violation of a victim's body and privacy, and I think it has to be treated differently."

Kim Janssen can be reached at or (708) 633-5998.