Monday, May 11, 2009

A 'must read' article by Brenda Power: No justice for the forgotten victims of women who falsely cry rape

A well written article about false rape accusations. The article first, and then some comments.

At 9%, there are more false allegations of the crime in the Republic than anywhere else in the whole of Europe


A survey tracing the trajectory from complaint to conviction in rape cases turned up an unexpectedly timely statistic last week. Just a day after Michael Feichin Hannon had a 10-year-old conviction for sexual assault quashed, after his supposed victim admitted she’d made the whole thing up, the study of attrition in rape cases found we had the highest rate of false allegations of all the European countries studied.

Some 100 reported rapes in each of 11 different countries were examined. As well as having the highest rate of false complaints, at 9%, we also had one of the lowest rates of convictions for reported rapes, at just 8%, compared with 34% in Hungary. Paul O’Mahony, a criminologist in Trinity College Dublin, said attrition in sexual violence cases is a serious problem across Europe and suggested that the main obstacle to more successful convictions in this country may be “under-prosecution”.

There is, of course, another possible reason why just eight of the 100 men accused in these Irish cases were convicted. Hard though it is to believe, there has to be the chance that some of the other 92 were innocent.

Since the survey seems to take separate account of cases that failed for lack of evidence, or because the main witness withdrew her testimony, these are not counted as “false allegations”. There’s an implied presumption, in other words, that the men implicated were guilty and would have been bang to rights if only the victim had held her nerve or the forensics were a bit stronger. With some more robust “over-prosecution”, then, the weaknesses of the forensic case could have been overcome and a conviction achieved solely on the word of the victim. Which is exactly what happened to Michael Feichin Hannon.

Out of 100 “rapes” reported in Ireland in a specific period, nine were fabricated. Nine men were falsely accused. The cases were dropped because — just as Una Hardester did at the age of 10, when her lies led to Hannon being jailed — a woman invented the “crime”.

The statistic stuck out like a sore thumb in a survey predisposed to decrying the legal systems that set hordes of ruthless rapists free to roam the streets and terrorise blameless women. Yet Jo Lovett, the principal investigator, said the statistic for false allegations was “still considerably lower than you would be led to believe by common discussion in the press”.

I’m perplexed as to this “common discussion” might be. Of all crime victims, women who report rape get the most sympathetic treatment in the media. Their innocent victimhood is presumed, and the guilt of the animals who attacked them a foregone conclusion, until the facts or the verdict suggests otherwise.

Even then, accused men never shake off the taint of an allegation, which is why sex crimes are the only ones in which the defendant is afforded anonymity until conviction. This is an acknowledgement that, even if proved innocent, even if charges are dropped, the accusation is damning in itself.

Contrary to what Lovett believes, media organisations are no less eager than the public to accept the veracity of a victim’s testimony. Vicious rapists stalking dark alleys make for great headlines. Vengeful or drunken women who report assaults that never happened are a messier business altogether. Una Hardester must be the only woman who has ever publicly admitted she invented a sexual assault in this country even though — extrapolating from last week’s crime statistics which show there’s a rape reported every day — at least three do so every month.

They may not all be as deliberately concocted as the graphic evidence given by Hardester against her neighbour, a 22-year-old welder at the time. The state at least owes Hannon the courtesy of talking to that young woman to establish why she said what she said, and whether she was prompted in her testimony. There’s also a duty owed to that 10-year-old to find out why she was able to describe a sexual assault in convincing detail. Just because Hannon didn’t do it does not necessarily mean no crime was committed against her by another party.

This was an exceptional case, primarily because, despite Lovett’s certainty, we’re not conditioned to the notion of alleged victims, and especially child victims, falsely reporting sexual assaults. The process of reporting and pursuing such an assault is wretched for the alleged victim and we tend to assume that the prospects of the humiliating questions and the invasive medical examinations are sufficient to scare off any vindictive fantasists.

Clearly not. For some reason, an unusually high number of Irish women are prepared to report rapes that never happened. To find that reason we might have to look at another statistic thrown up by the EU Daphne II project, some 88% of Irish men and 84% of women in rape cases had alcohol in their system. In Portugal, just 15% of victims been drinking.

A few years ago, the sexual-assault clinic in the Rotunda Hospital reported a worrying number of young women were presenting themselves on a Monday morning with no recollection of what they’d done the previous night. They couldn’t remember having sex, let alone the trauma of a rape, but they couldn’t be sure. In fact, many were found not to have engaged in any sexual activity the night before. Yet the fact that they attended a “sexual assault” clinic suggests they were perfectly prepared to make a criminal allegation, if it turned out they had indeed had sex.

They were not prepared to let a little thing like the fact that they had no recollection of any crime, no attendant distress and no physical injury deter their pursuit of the belief that they had been assaulted. If the clinic hadn’t been able to clear up their drunken suspicions, there’s every chance they would have made an allegation against an innocent, if equally drunken, man that put him at risk of a life sentence and, at best, a tainted reputation.

Hannon was found guilty, even though he had no previous convictions and there was no forensic evidence against him. His job, his good name, his family’s standing in the Galway community where they’d lived for generations were all sacrificed to a lack of scepticism about the curiously precocious evidence of a 10-year-old girl.

Nobody doubts that “under prosecution” of rape, fear and intimidation of victims and forensic shortcomings have all left rapists on the loose. But “over-prosecution” flies in the face of one of the central tenets of our legal system, which is that it is better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man be prosecuted in zealous error. Unless, of course, political correctness decrees that this protection doesn’t extend to men accused of rape.

Comments: Brenda Power gets it. The false rape accusation referenced is the same one that we have recently focused on at this site -- the one by Una Hardester. You will recall that last week we received an email from a woman claiming to be Hardester. Brenda Power hits the nail on the head on several items:

1. Recent U.N. study shows 9% of rape claims in Ireland are false.

2. Since the survey seems to take separate account of cases that failed for lack of evidence, or because the main witness withdrew her testimony, these are not counted as “false allegations”. There’s an implied presumption, in other words, that the men implicated were guilty and would have been bang to rights if only the victim had held her nerve or the forensics were a bit stronger.

This is exactly the problem with the 'rape industry' and the unfounded-not-false issue. Saying that "just because the man wasn't convicted doesn't mean something didn't happen" is both misleading, and as Brenda stated, implies guilt for the presumed innocent who could very well be falsely accused. We've often made the same point: in the UK, a small percentage of rape claims are very quickly dismissed, due usually to recantations. These are easily classified as "false" by any objective measure. On the other extreme, there are a small percentage of rape claims that are prosecuted and that lead to convictions. In between, the vast majority of rape claims are dismissed somewhere along the way because of insufficient evidence (which means there was not enough evidence to make out one or more elements of the crime, even if a trier of fact believed the evidence -- which is hardly a technicality) or the accuser decides not to pursue the claim or the jury just doesn't buy it. To suggest that all of these rape claims that fall in this vast middle section between the obviously false (due primarily to recantation) and those that end in conviction are, by necessity, "rapes," is dishonest in the extreme. Yet that is what the rape industry has done despite the fact that it is only fair to assume that a fair number of these men in that vast middle section did not, in fact, commit rape.

3. For some reason, an unusually high number of Irish women are prepared to report rapes that never happened. To find that reason we might have to look at another statistic thrown up by the EU Daphne II project, some 88% of Irish men and 84% of women in rape cases had alcohol in their system. In Portugal, just 15% of victims been drinking.

So, once again, we see that when both parties have been drinking, only the man is responsible and able to give consent, women aren't. Even though, in this case, more men had been drinking than women. So, shouldn't women be charged more often than men with rape. After all, the 'rape industry' claims that if women are drinking, they can't give consent -- why shouldn't that logic apply to men as well?

4. A few years ago, the sexual-assault clinic in the Rotunda Hospital reported a worrying number of young women were presenting themselves on a Monday morning with no recollection of what they’d done the previous night. They couldn’t remember having sex, let alone the trauma of a rape, but they couldn’t be sure. In fact, many were found not to have engaged in any sexual activity the night before. Yet the fact that they attended a “sexual assault” clinic suggests they were perfectly prepared to make a criminal allegation, if it turned out they had indeed had sex.

They were not prepared to let a little thing like the fact that they had no recollection of any crime, no attendant distress and no physical injury deter their pursuit of the belief that they had been assaulted. If the clinic hadn’t been able to clear up their drunken suspicions, there’s every chance they would have made an allegation against an innocent, if equally drunken, man that put him at risk of a life sentence and, at best, a tainted reputation.

Exactly. So, you don't know for sure what, if anything happened, yet the presumption is that if any sex took place, it was rape. The 'rape industry' has done it's job well of convincing women that drunken sex = rape.

Brenda's final paragraph says it all:

Nobody doubts that “under prosecution” of rape, fear and intimidation of victims and forensic shortcomings have all left rapists on the loose. But “over-prosecution” flies in the face of one of the central tenets of our legal system, which is that it is better that 100 guilty men go free than one innocent man be prosecuted in zealous error. Unless, of course, political correctness decrees that this protection doesn’t extend to men accused of rape.

Please contact Brenda Power at brenda.power@sunday-times.ie and let her know what an excellent job she did on this piece. You can also leave comments here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/article6210671.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1