Thursday, May 13, 2010

Elon University doesn't want false rape reports to be 'highly publicized'

This is a lengthier than usual post, but an important one because it is a sort a microcosm of the false rape problem.  An article in the May 11, 2010 Pendulum, the student newspaper of Elon University in North Carolina, was offensive to false rape victims and manifested attitudes that are misandric, backward, and dangerous to both the falsely accused and to actual rape victims.

Read it after the jump

Last February, an Elon University student was arrested for filing a false report, apparently involving sexual violence.  Leigh Anne Royster, the Coordinator for Personal Health Programs and Community Well-Being at the University, doesn't think that report, or similar reports of false rape claims, should be "highly publicized."

"Creating a lot of energy and visibility around false reporting can certainly prevent people from reporting, so it's dangerous to do even though the facts of the story may be accurate and there may have been a false report.  To highly publicize that, I think, makes students second-guess themselves." 

The article continues: "[Royster] has been at Elon for nearly 24 years, and this is only the second time someone has been charged with filing a false report."

"'The federal percentage at which crimes are falsely reported is 2 percent," Royster said. 'Things like sexual violence, intimate partner violence, those sort of things have the same sort of rate ... as all other federal crime statistics like breaking and entering.'"

Rape Not A Problem at Elon

At the outset, it is well to note that Elon does not appear to be overrun with rapists. From 2006-2008, there was one report of an alleged forcible or non-forcible sex offense. Link:  We do not know if that one report of an alleged rape was valid.

To put that number in perspective, during that same period of time, there were 76 burglaries at Elon. I cannot recall ever witnessing a "Take Back The Night" rally opposed to burglary, even though burglary is far more rampant than rape at Elon, and at every other college.

There Is No Evidence That Women Fail To Report Legitimate Rapes Due The Publicity Of False Rape Claims

Ms. Royster suggests that women presently are not reporting that they've been raped for fear that they will "second guess" themselves.

It is not clear what Ms. Royster intended by this, but if she meant to say that false rape reports tend to cause women to be more cautious about loosely accusing their male classmates of rape, no sane and rational person would believe such caution is in any sense undesirable.  We respectfully suggest that if women are unsure if a rape occurred, it's because they are being taught wildly incorrect things about rape (see below: the discussion of Elon's Web site), not because some other woman was charged with lying about rape.

If, on the other hand, Ms. Royster meant to say that women are not reporting rape because they fear being charged with the crime of false reporting, there is no evidence for such an epiphany.  While every false rape claim diminishes the credibility of every rape claimant, it is a colossal and absurd leap in logic to conclude that women fear being charged with false reporting merely because they report a legitimate rape.  After all, purported fears of being charged with false rape reporting in no manner deter even false accusers from spinning their lies.  What evidence suggests that actual rape victims are being deterred?  And how many actual rape victims have been unjustly charged with false reporting?  Virtually none.

The fact is, women are charged for false reporting in only the clearest of cases -- cases where the falsehoods are blatant.  Ms. Royster herself said:  "A false report arrest is made when there is significant evidence that a person has intentionally fabricated information . . . ."  This is correct -- unlike other crimes, no charges are made without significant evidence. And even with overwhelming evidence, false reporting of rape often (perhaps usually) is not charged at all.

Refusing to Publicize False Rape Claims Does a Grave Disservice To The Falsely Accused, To Rape Victims, and To The Community

Ms. Royster's comments are disturbing and offensive to those of us who advocate for the falsely accused. By most, if not all, important measures, news coverage of rape and of false rape claims are already unbalanced and skewed in favor of the former.  It is well to note that most false rape claims never make the news.  The vast majority are not charged, much less reported. They are handled at the police level with the goal of disposing of them quietly and expeditiously.  Moreover, when a report that a rape claim turned out to be false or unfounded does make the news, it is never given sensational coverage. When three University of Arkansas players were accused of an alleged rape incident at a fraternity, a local television station broke into the station's regular programming to provide a four-plus minute "breaking news" report about the accusation. Needless to say, when the prosecutor decided not to bring rape charges against them, there was no similar "breaking news" treatment.

There are several critical reasons why false rape claims need to be "highly publicized":  

First, criminal sanctions serve many purposes, but one of the most important is public deterrence. Criminal charges are publicized precisely because this serves the salutary societal function of announcing to the community that the particular misconduct at issue won't be tolerated.  How can we deter false rape reporting if we refuse to publicize it, or if we sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn't happen?  We can't.  Ms. Royster's comments are morally grotesque because they suggest that the victimization of our sons should be ignored in favor of combating the victimization of our daughters.  There is no reason why we shouldn't combat the victimization of both.

Second, when there's been an initial report of a rape, correcting it with equal news coverage that it was, in fact, false or unfounded, is crucial to help correct the reputational harm done to falsely accused males. (I say "help correct" because no amount of publicity can ever undo a public false rape claim.)

Third, correcting the initial report that a "rape" occurred with news that it was false or unfounded is crucial to the community.  The initial report that a "rape" occurred often has the community in a panic, so setting the record straight is a paramount public interest.

Fourth, Ms. Royster's comments not only are offensive to the falsely accused, they do a grave disservice to actual rape victims, many of whom support our work at this site.  Actual rape victims loathe false rape claims because they diminish the credibility of all rape victims.  Calling out the false accusers and punishing them helps true rape victims because it signals that rape lies aren't tolerated, thus enhancing the credibility of rape victims.  Rape victims are not well-served by rape advocates who address the false reporting problem by trying to hush it up.  That tactic can only make the problem worse. As it is, too many young women already feel empowered to falsely cry "rape" to serve all manner of selfish motive, and nothing gives them pause not to do it. To suggest that we should do nothing about the false rape problem except to keep it quiet only gives those who may be predisposed to tell rape lies to lie more readily.

The implicit suggestion underlying Ms. Royster's comments is that false rape reporting does not need to be deterred because it is entirely too rare to be of any consequence.

The Two Percent Canard

Which leads us to Royster's recitation of the two percent canard, and her assertion that rape is not falsely reported any more than any other crime. 

It is remarkable that we are forced to dispel this same argument, over and over and over. The two percent canard was long ago conclusively debunked, yet it is still repeated by sexual assault counselors. 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 baseless origin. 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 KC 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.) 

As reported by "False Rape Allegations" by Eugene Kanin, Archives of Sexual Behavior Feb 1994 v23 n1 p81 (12), Professor Kanin’s major study of a mid-size Midwestern city over the course of nine years found that 41 percent of all rape claims were false. Kanin also studied the police records of two unnamed large state universities (without the use of polygraphs, I might add) and found that in three years, 50 percent of the 64 rapes reported to campus police were determined to be false. 

In addition, a landmark Air Force study in 1985 studied 556 rape allegations. It found that 27% of the accusers recanted, and an independent evaluation revealed a false accusation rate of 60%. McDowell, Charles P., Ph.D. “False Allegations.” Forensic Science Digest, (publication of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations), Vol. 11, No. 4 (December 1985), p. 64.

Need further proof that the two percent canard is dead?  Perhaps the leading feminist legal scholar recently acknowledged: ". . . the statistics on false rape accusation widely vary and 'as a scientific matter, the frequency of false rape complaints to police or other legal authorities remains unknown.'" A. Gruber, Rape, Feminism, and the War on Crime, 84 Wash. L. Rev. 581, 595-600 (November 2009) (citation omitted).  (It is well to note that feminist scholars are often out in front of sexual assault assault counselors, so Ms. Royster should note the "official party line": the two percent canard is officially dead, and she needs to stop citing it.)  Moreover, the UK's Stern Review recently refused to tie itself to any percentage: "The research that is available on false allegations gives a wide range of figures for how many there are . . . ."  (Stern Review at 13.)

Nobody knows for certain what the percentage is, but every impartial, objective study ever conducted on the subject shows false rape claims are a serious problem. Sadly, the entire rape milieu has become so terribly gender-politicized (and paid sexual assault advocates only engender more division) that even good faith efforts to raise awareness about rape often end up denigrating the victimization of countless men, boys, and yes, even some women, by insisting that false accusations of rape are essentially a myth.  That position is just not factual.

Elon's Twisted Notions of Rape: Stardust Radical Feminist Wishfulness

A quick scan of Elon's official web site suggests that, when it comes to rape, it may not be a hospitable place for males.  (See these policies here:

Here is how it defines "consent": "Consent (as it applies to sexual activity) is a verbal agreement by an individual to engage in a specific sexual activity. Other types of communication, such as body language or the absence of  'no' are not consent.  One should assume that they have not received consent in the absence of a comprehensible, unambiguous, verbal, positive and enthusiastic statement of consent. . . . ."

Consent, of course, does not require words, enthusiastic or otherwise.  We've been over that point countless times. Elon's definition is nothing more than stardust radical feminist wishfulness.
The Web site goes on: "If an individual . . . has consumed alcohol or drugs, or is in any other way impaired, she or he cannot give legal consent."

Again, not so. That is a very radical take on the subject. Under this twisted standard, even a drop of alcohol negates valid consent.  If a woman has a drink, the man is a rapist.

And what can men do about rape?  According to Elon's Web site, among other things: "Talk with men... about how it feels to be seen as a potential rapist . . . ."

There you have it.  I had thought that this sort of misandric caricature of males went out with Dworkin.  But then again, I was unaware of Elon University's Web site.