The Daily Cardinal: The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Don’t forget victims of false rape accusations
Although rape victims get the most coverage, people often forget about those falsely accused of rape and the struggles they go through.
By Pierce Harlan and
E. Steven Berkimer
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Unfortunately, much of the “awareness” raised about a crime that victimizes all too many women is unnecessarily politicized and factually incorrect.
For reasons that have nothing to do with aiding rape victims and everything to do with advancing a larger political agenda, too many of the persons who dominate the public discourse about sexual assault feel it is necessary to insist that false rape claims are a myth.
We write for one of the few websites in America devoted exclusively to giving voice to the persons wrongly accused of sexual assault, The False Rape Society.
False rape claims are America’s taboo epidemic, and we chronicle news of false rape claims on a daily basis. We receive heart-wrenching emails, especially from mothers of young men who have been falsely accused. One young man recently told us our website stopped him from committing suicide. That is an awful burden to put on one little website, but these people have nowhere else to turn.
But our efforts aren’t universally applauded, as you can imagine. Our site is often dismissed by some feminists as unnecessary, to put it charitably, because, we are told, women don’t lie about rape. Financially interested sexual assault advocates habitually insist that false rape accusations account for only 2 percent of all reported sexual assaults, which, they say, is no higher than false reports for other crimes, despite both the absence of any evidential support for this claim, and the presence of irrefutable evidence debunking it. Such evidence can be found in Edward Greer’s “The Truth Behind Legal Dominance Feminism’s ‘Two Percent False Rape Claim’ Figure,” Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review from 2000, which traced the 2-percent canard to its baseless origin.
The fact is, every serious and unbiased study ever conducted on the subject shows that false rape claims are a serious problem. The numbers vary from study to study, but they are always multiple times the sacrosanct 2-percent figure. Purdue sociology professor Eugene Kanin studied a mid-size midwestern city over the course of nine years and found that 41 percent of all rape claims were false. Kanin subsequently studied two large state universities and found that in three years, 50 percent of the rapes reported to campus police were determined to be false. In a separate 1985 study of 556 rape allegations, 27 percent of the accusers recanted, and an independent evaluation revealed a false accusation rate of 60 percent.
Police officers sometimes note in a moment of candor that a significant percentage of rape claims are false, but false claims generally are neither publicized nor severely punished, if they are punished at all, for fear of putting off women from reporting actual rapes.
So where does all this leave the men and boys falsely accused of rape? They are invisible collateral damage in the war on rape; virtually no one is looking out for their interests despite the grievous harm many suffer. By tolerating false claims in the interest of not putting off actual rape victims, by not affording the presumed innocent the same anonymity their accusers receive, we have declared open season on the hapless men and boys who come within the crosshairs of women who would lie about rape, often at grave cost. Men and boys falsely accused of rape have been beaten and killed and have killed themselves; they’ve been fired from their jobs and lost their businesses; they’ve suffered from depression; they’ve lost their wives, their girlfriends and have been permanently alienated from their friends. Rarely do they ever come out of it whole, and for many, the ghost of a false rape claim trails them for the rest of their lives.
“It was the most horrible thing I have ever been through in my life ... I thought I wasn’t going to see my kids again,” said Darren Ball, who became so distraught over the lies told about him that he tried to throw himself into traffic. Concerned passers-by pulled him to safety. The stigma of being accused of rape never quite goes away, as Darren explained: “I should have been cleared completely, but I still get funny looks from people. Months after the charges were dropped, people were still saying ‘have you heard, we’ve got a rapist living down the road.’”
Darren’s toll was emotional. Many men suffer horrific physical tolls as well. John Chalmers has to learn everything over again after being attacked by a man who wrongly believed Mr. Chalmers sexually assaulted his sister. It has left John with devastating brain injuries that have forced him to step down from a senior position at his family’s bakery.
But at least Mr. Chalmers has the opportunity to restore himself to a semblance of his former self. Other young men aren’t so lucky. Sumbo Owoiya, 18, was gunned down after Joseph Sullivan’s teenage girlfriend lied and told Sullivan that Mr. Owoiya had raped her. Sullivan and an armed accomplice drove to the apartment where Mr. Owoiya’s family lived and knocked on the door. When Mr. Owoiya looked through the peep-hole, the gunman fired a shot that hit Mr. Owoiya in the stomach and lodged in his spine. He died a short time later.
Rape is a horrific thing, but a false rape accusation can be similarly life-changing and just as terrible. The false rape claim epidemic will only be controlled when we look upon those who levy false accusations with the same disdain that we look upon rapists, and demand that their lies not be tolerated. Let us be brutally frank: As it stands, we are ignoring a significant class of victims because, when it comes to this issue, they were born into a politically incorrect gender. By any measure, denigrating the experience of the wrongly accused by dismissing their victimization as a “myth” or as unworthy of our discussion, much less our protection, is not merely dishonest but morally grotesque.