Tuesday, November 10, 2009

At what point are the victims of FRA justified in taking the law in their own hands?

The laws in the U.S., the UK, New Zealand, and pretty much everywhere else, do not adequately protect men and boys falsely accused of rape. Of this I have no doubt. While we are trying to change the laws to correct injustice, see, e.g., here, the process is an uphill battle, and it is legitimate to ask, at what point are men and boys justified in taking the law into their own hands to correct injustice -- to do what the laws won't? At what point must the technical letter of the law give way to a man's greater need to protect his liberty or his reputation?

For example, is a man justified in breaking the law that exists in various states by secretly videotaping a sexual encounter in order to have proof of consent in case he is arrested on a false rape charge?

Is a man justified in lying on an employment or other application, made under penalty of perjury, to cover up a false rape charge if he has reason to believe it will hurt him?

If a man is falsely accused of rape by his ex-girlfriend, is he justified in going into her email account without permission, or even gaining entry to her apartment when he knows she won't be there, to retrieve crucial evidence that would exonerate him?

Or how about this item in the news this week: if a college newspaper printed a "news" item asserting that a frat house was the scene of a rape that did not occur, would the frat members be justified in grabbing up all of the student newspapers (which are presumably free) so that the lie would not be spread? Is their collective reputation more valuable than the student newspapers' need to circulate the lie? See this item, where Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Minnesota apparently was involved in the theft of more than 10,000 newspapers last month, costing Arizona Student Media an estimated $8,500 in advertising revenue, printing costs and salaries. A student explained that the theft "was an effort to contain the spread of what Phi Kappa Psi members believe to be a false accusation of rape or attempted rape on Phi Kappa Psi property.” You see, a "Police Beat item in the stolen issue contained a police report in which a woman said she thought she may have been drugged at a Phi Kappa Psi party."

I don't condone this particular misconduct. I don't even need to reach the issue about the morality of snatching up free newspapers because it suffices to say that the young mens' plan was destined to backfire from the outset (and it did). The ensuing publicity probably gave the "news" story about the alleged rape more publicity than it otherwise would have received.

But the larger question -- when should men take the law into their own hands to protect themselves, and to what degree? -- is one that arises here from time to time, and its one that's worth pondering.

One postscript: I have heard a couple of fringe men's rights advocates say -- most likely out of extreme frustration with the inadequacy of our laws -- that if a man is falsely accused of rape, he should be allowed one free rape of his accuser. That sort of barbarism is not what I am talking about when I ponder when men might be justified in taking the law into their own hands. But if you think it is awful that a couple of men's rights advocates have made that suggestion out of extreme frustration, please consider that I have heard many feminists note with glee the fact that men and boys convicted of rape likely will be raped themselves in prison. To them, that is not barbaric, it is perfectly justified.