It is sometimes tempting to measure the severity of a false rape claim based solely on the length of time criminal charges are permitted to hang over the head of an innocent man or boy. It can scarcely be denied that, generally, the longer charges are permitted to linger, the more serious the harm. But that doesn't mean that a claim that is quickly disposed of is necessarily only minimally harmful.
The following headline in the news today in a very subtle way trivializes false rape claims where the charges are quickly dropped: "False rape claim haunts WikiLeaks boss – for a few hours" (read the entire story here)
The headline seems to suggest that the harm to the falsely accused man only lasted just a short time. And I suppose we can all have a good laugh now that it's over, right?
Often, that's wrong. A false rape claim can be so terribly traumatic that even if charges only hung over the affected male's head for a few hours, the trauma, not to mention the stain of the falsehood on the man's reputation, lasts forever.
It is also well to remember that once unleashed, a false rape claim is akin to a tornado. It is capable of doing terribly destructive harm with incredible rapidity. Men and boys have been killed and have killed themselves over brand new false rape claims.
And since we see fit to measure a false rape claim's severity based on how long charges are permitted to linger, tell me, why don't we use a similar measure when we're talking about actual rape? You can bet your left testicle we will never see a headline that says the following: "Rape haunts woman -- for just a couple of minutes."