Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Double standards: False accusers shouldn't apologize, but teen males convicted of statutory rape for having sex with teen girls must

In a story we'll be reporting on soon, a Florida woman who didn't want her boyfriend to leave her for cheating made up a story she was raped. Police are prepared to ask her to pay for the six hours of investigation instead of jail time.  Beneath the story, readers left typically outraged comments, and one said this: "Jail time PLEASE , someone could have gone to jail for a very long time because of her lie. Fraud is against the law, make her pick up trash along side the road with a sign on her back 'I cried Rape Falsely.'"

This got me thinking that I love the idea of forcing false accusers to wear signs in public places. It would brand them for what they are in a very public way. The element of shame might actually deter young women who assume they retain lifelong anonymity regardless of their fraud merely because the word "rape" passed their lips. 

But somehow I doubt that we'll ever see it.  It's because we have powerful forces who don't think false accusers are real criminals who deserve to be shamed.  There was a case twenty years ago where a judge's sentence required the false accuser to apologize to the man she falsely accused in half-page advertisements in four newspapers and 10 spot announcements on two radio stations.  The judge explained: ". . . the rape charges were all over the papers, but when [the innocent man] was exonerated nobody hears about it. I told [the false accuser] the only way to get it out was to have her do it.''  Yet the ACLU fought it, alleging among other things that an apology constituted cruel and unusual punishment. 

Did you get that?  Cruel and unusual punishment. This, after the woman's rape lie led to the following: an innocent man lost his job; his family was harassed; his children were taunted at school; his one daughter was forced to quit school altogether; his wife got to the point that she hated even going shopping; people in town were buying guns because of this innocent man; and women feared him.

But, you see, it's "cruel and unusual punishment" to require the liar to apologize for the grievous harm she caused.  Heaven forbid she should apologize for destroying a man and his family.

Now compare that to the case from several years ago at Milton Academy, Massachusetts.  A 15-year-old girl engaged in group sex with five teenage boys in the boys' locker room.  They were 16.  We all know what happened: only the boys were expelled and charged with statutory rape, and the court ordered the boys to publicly apologize to the girl and her family, and to do community service.  Alan M. Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and criminal defense lawyer whose daughter attended Milton Academy, said:  ''This represents the most senseless use of prosecutorial discretion I've seen in a long time."  He added: ''The idea that these youngsters should be branded rapists and the girl should be labeled a victim is preposterous." 

Read on only if you want to get your blood boiling.  The 16-year-old boys composed and read their apologies to their statutory rapist -- the girl -- and her family, in open court, as part of their plea bargain. One boy read this: ''Not a day has passed since the incident that I don't wish I had shown more respect for you, myself, and everyone involved.  'I understand that by taking part I put myself in a very dangerous situation with consequences none of us had dreamed of."  Another boy read this: ''Every day I am sorry, so sorry, for what happened. Ad every day I think of how hurt you must be and how upset your family must be. More than anything in the world I wish that I could turn back the clock. . . . All I can do at this point is truly and sincerely apologize for my actions and wish you happiness."

The girl and her family sat there stony-faced as the boys were publicly emasculated. 

And, dear readers, if the double standards here don't sicken you, if they don't stir a loathing within you for the injustice described, I am not sure what will.