Thursday, March 11, 2010

Boomerang: False rape claims sometimes come back to hurt the false accusers

We frequently note that false rape claims often have terrible consequences for the falsely accused. They often have terrible consenquences for the loved ones of the falsely accused, too. And, yes, sometimes they have terrible consequences for false accusers.

Some false accusers are arrested and jailed, and a small percentage are convicted and sent away for a sufficiently lengthy period that they won't forget the ordeal.  This, of course, is not to suggest that false accusers in general are charged, convicted, or sentenced properly for their crimes. Not by a long stretch, and that is probably the most important change that needs to be brought about in the false rape milieu. 

A more common way of punishing false accusers is the trend of news outlets to report their names, which we, of course, applaud. Again, this is not to suggest that false accusers are identified by news outlets with sufficient frequency.  Not by a long stretch.  Too many refuse to identify false accusers; some, inexplicably, insist on calling them "victims."

There is another type of harm to false accusers that is very, very rare, but it happens. Some false accusers are beaten and even murdered by the men they tried to destroy.  While I am certain some of our readers will experience the momentary, unconscious inclination to applaud such acts of violence, we must reign in our passions lest we lower ourselves to the level of those man-hating monstrosities who applaud the imprisonment of males on the basis of rape accuasations without caring if the rape actually occurred. 

While we must never, ever advocate violence against anyone for telling a rape lie, still, we must raise the question that is surely at the forefront of every reader's mind: what did society expect would happen? 

When our justice system abandons an entire class of victim so that often the only "justice" or "mercy" they can hope for is their victimizers' recantations, is it at all surprising that a small percentage of victims would want to lash out at their victimizers?  When the state refuses to do justice for a group of citizens and insists on treating them as collateral damage in the "more important" war on rape, when the state decides that the victimization of one class of citizens is more worthy of protection than another, is it at all surprising that a few of these forgotten, abandoned, ignored victims will take the law into their own hands to mete out the justice that the system refuses to provide?

Which got me to thinking about a strange case from last year.  Mohammed Ali lost his self-control and launched into a frenzied stabbing attack, leaving Yasmina Larbi-Cherif, 22, and her sister Sabrina, 19, dead. He was charged and convicted of murder and was sentenced to prison for life.

But here is Ali's side of the story: Ali had been in an on-off sexual relationship with Yasmina since 2006 and impregnated her twice, but she terminated both pregnancies against his wishes. In February 2008, Ali was arrested after Yasmina made an allegation of rape against him. Ali claimed it was a false accusation. He then spent five months in custody before the case was dropped against him (she didn't want to pursue it).

If, indeed, it was a false claim, for reasons known only to Ali, he resumed his relationship with her. Then one night, Ali claimed he and Yasmina started talking about her pregnancy terminations -- and about the time he spent in prison. According to Ali, Yasmina started laughing. “The more I talked about it she just laughed. I did not know what to do. I just snapped,” he said. According to the news account: "Ali said he then picked up a knife from a sink and stabbed Yasmina in the back. She fell to the floor. He then heard [her sister] Sabrina come into the flat and felt a blow to his head. He then hit Sabrina in the face with his elbow before stabbing her. He said he then dragged both the women’s bodies into the bedroom, stripped them and put them on to the bed."

The judge rejected Ali's story and sentenced him to life in prison.

The thought crosses my mind that Ali's version of the facts might have been just too disturbing, too subversive, for the judge to believe. Regular readers of this blog will understand the rage Ali must have felt if his version of the facts were true.

But I can't help but read this as a cautionary tale. We do not condone violence or vigilante justice for false rape claims. But when women strip men of their liberty, their good names, their finances, and their dignity by falsely accusing them of rape, what more do those men have to live for? Is it a stretch to imagine that some of those men are going to snap and exact a justice that our legal system refuses to provide them?

What is astounding is that there aren't a lot more news stories where this sort of thing happens. The way to prevent it from happening is to start treating the falsely accused with the same respect, the same dignity, that we show to rape victims.