Friday, April 23, 2010

Artist seeking to raise awareness about rape instructs: "If someone says ‘I was raped,’ believe them”

A website called Points With Purpose is run by David Ilan, an artist who creates drawings using only dots. He is currently involved in a project that will assign one dot to "a real person who has been raped or sexually abused."  His website invites persons who say they've been raped or sexually abused to share their stories with him. "I add one dot for every person who joins until the drawing is complete. The final drawing will be of a woman looking confident, proud and beautiful. By joining the project, thousands of people with a shared tragic experience will work together to form a work of art meant to show others who go through similar experiences that they too can feel confident, proud and beautiful again."

Raising awareness about rape, and false rape claims, is a laudatory effort.  Mr. Ilan's seeks to raise awareness only about rape (he apparently believes that false rape claims are exceedingly rare), by presenting a startling picture that he obviously hopes will illustrate that rape is a widespread problem. 

While Mr. Ilan's purpose is to make a point with his art, the problem is that accepting, without question, the word of anyone who says she was raped (and assigning that assertion a dot on the picture) is scarcely a reliable or scientific way to present a picture of how widespread the rape problem is.

For every rape claim reported, as we've illustrated on this site time and time again, only a relatively small percentage can be definitively called "rape." This is beyond dispute. We know that some claims reported (the numbers vary depending on the study) are outright false. And between the claims we are reasonably certain were actual rapes, and the ones we are reasonably certain were false claims, is a vast gray area consisting of a group of claims that cannot properly be classified as "rapes" -- because we just don't know.  That's the nature of a rape claim.  The claims in this vast gray middle area often suffer from evidentiary infirmities.  For example, for some such claims, while the claimant herself might think a rape occurred, her outward manifestations of assent did not match her subjective disinclination to engage in sex, so it wasn't rape -- legally, or any other way. Importantly, if we just took the word of the accusers, we would call each of those claims actual "rapes" -- but that wouldn't be accurate, or just. 

There is no reason to believe that claims made to Mr. Ilan in connection with his art project would be any more reliable than the ones made to the police.

It is troublesome that Mr. Ilan not only thinks it's proper to accept the word of the accuser for his art, he publicly advocates it beyond his art.  He spoke at a campus rally supporting women's rights yesterday:  "Ilan also urged spectators to believe someone when they share their violent experience saying that only two percent of accusations are false. 'If someone says ‘I was raped,’ believe them,' Ilan said."

Every human being who claims he or she was raped should be treated with dignity, and the claim should be investigated with objectivity.  But Mr. Ilan's admonition to automatically believe the accuser is unjust, by any measure, because it means that we must automatically believe that the man or boy she accused is a rapist.  That is the only logical outcome of  the knee jerk assumption Mr. Ilan urges.

The knee jerk assumption of guilt based on nothing more than the accusation of a lone accuser has caused disastrous results for countless innocent men and boys throughout history, as detailed on this site.  Persons who advocate an assumption of guilt would do well to study the real life cases, and the objective studies, we cite to on this website because it would give them a greater appreciation about how their assumptions victimize innocent people.  Rape lies have caused innocent men and boys to be killed and to kill themselves (from The Scottsboro Boys to modern day, even a story we reported last week); to be incarcerated often longer than their false accusers are legally permitted to be imprisoned when their lies are finally brought to light; to lose their good names, their jobs, their businesses, their life's savings, their wives, and their girlfriends; to be beaten, to be chased, to be spat upon, and to be looked upon with suspicion long after they are cleared of wrongdoing. It is often impossible for the falsely accused to ever obtain good employment once the lie hits the news: for the rest of his life, a falsely accused man will have prospective employers Googling his name and finding the horrid accusation. Virtually every falsely accused male will be affected by his ordeal. Many develop emotional problems that will plague them for the rest oft their lives; most will not be able to trust women, for at least a time and sometimes forever.

If you'd like examples of any of the above, spend a couple of weeks scrolling through this site -- you'll find plenty.  Everything mentioned in the paragraph above is from a recent false rape case.

As for Mr. Ilan's assertion that only two percent of accusations are false, this canard was long ago debunked, and it is astounding that it is still repeated by sexual assault counselors and others.  See, e.g., E. Greer, The Truth Behind Legal Dominance Feminism's 'Two Percent False Rape Claim' Figure, 33 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 947, a scholarly law review article that painstakingly traced the two percent canard to its unreliable source.  See also, "Until Proven Innocent," the widely praised (praised even by the New York Times, which the book skewers -- as well as almost every other major U.S. news source) and painstaking study of the Duke Lacrosse non-rape case. Authors Stuart Taylor and Professor K.C. Johnson explain that "[t]he standard assertion by feminists that only 2 percent" or sexual assault claims "are false, which traces to Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book 'Against Our Will,' is without empirical foundation and belied by a wealth of empirical data." (Page 374.) 

The fact is, every impartial, objective study ever conducted on the subject shows false rape claims are a significant problem.  We've detailed these studies time and time again on this site. 

The entire rape milieu has become so terribly gender-politicized that even good faith efforts to raise awareness about rape often unwittingly denigrate the victimization of countless men, boys, and yes, even some women, by insisting that false accusations of rape are essentially a myth.  In seeking to raise awareness about rape, it is wholly unnecessary to insist false rape claims are a myth.  We can all work to eradicate both rape and false rape claims. 

But those who insist that we should automatically believe the accuser foment the same kind of rape hysteria that has been responsible for innumerable lynchings and other horrors note above.  We implore Mr. Ilan and others like him to show sensitivity to the presumed innocent and their families, by not suggesting that the trial should be over even before it has begun.