Monday, September 27, 2010

Once unleashed, a false rape claim often is impossible to control

Last Thursday, we ran a provocative short post here where we took Catherine Comins' infamous quotation about false rape claims -- Men who are unjustly accused of rape "have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them" -- and we asked if Ms. Comins meant something like this picture.

A good friend emailed me and said: "Wow.  That sent chills coursing through my whole body."  Others also "got" it.  The point was to underscore the potential brutality of a false rape claim.

But some of our readers seemed to be offended and suggested we overreached.  One said this: ". . . you tied [the Comins quote] to a picture that is clearly not the type of consequence she was referring to."

Really?  That comment has had me shaking my head ever since I saw it because, for the life of me, I can't fathom what "consequence" Ms. Comins might have been referring to that doesn't include something awful -- yes, up to and including a lynching.  The more I think about it, the more offensive that comment is.

What, pray tell, do people like Ms. Comins and the misguided person who posted that comment think happens when a man or a boy is falsely accused of rape?  Maybe they think it's like this: the police come to the man's door, take off their hats, politely ask if they can come in to ask the man a few questions.  The man gets them a cup of coffee, and they all sit down while the police courteously ask if he has raped anyone lately.  The man denies it. The police stand up, thank him, shake his hand, and leave. 

Sorry to disillusion them.  The real world doesn't play out like that.  Once unleashed, a rape lie can destroy lives with a stunning, tragic swiftness. And, no, dear readers, these stories aren't confined to the hanging trees in the Old South. They are ripped from the recent news files of FRS.

In the real world, the ordeal typically isn't over in a matter of minutes.  It usually stretches for days or weeks, even months or years. Sometimes, it never ends. 

First, the police often don't come to the door in the civilized manner of the scenario recounted above. Remember the news report of the poor guy who spent two months in jail after the mother of his daughter falsely accused him of rape?  You see, they had consensual sex, but she was angry at him, so not only did she lie to police about the rape, for good measure she told them he was armed and dangerous. So 12-15 police cars came for him. His neighbors must have thought he had been implicated in the World Trade Center attacks. (When the police discovered she was lying, what sort of police response do you suppose they gave that?)

Lots of falsely accused men are dragged out of their places of employment in full view of their bosses and colleagues, no doubt giving their false accusers that extra sexual thrill of knowing they've thoroughly stripped their prey of the last vestiges of their dignity.  Some young men are dragged from their bedrooms in their parents' homes half dressed, carted away without any explanation to their terrified parents. 

Once the innocents are hauled to the police station, the fun really begins. They are subjected to grueling questioning on and off over the course of hours or days, often by surly law enforcement personnel who couldn't care less that the men or boys they are berating are human beings.  They are looking for evidence of a conviction, and if they can convince the male to confess, that makes their jobs all that much easier. Their attitude is often to treat the presumptively innocent male as a vile rapist.

And then there's the physical examination.  If an innocent woman or girl were subjected to something akin to the following, do you suppose there'd be an outcry about it? "I was taken to a doctor's waiting room, I was told to completely strip naked. While I was naked the CID agent took pictures of every part of me. The doctor then swabbed my penis 2-3 times, then pulled hair from every part of my body."  That was from a first person account on this blog of a soldier recounting his false rape nightmare. It is typical of many stories we've run. 

Once locked up, the men or boys too often are subjected to cruel and offensive batteries and verbal assaults by jail personnel and other prisoners.

And, yes, dear readers, sometimes men and boys are wrongly convicted of rapes they didn't commit. The young ones, who have no experience in the prison system, are too often routinely victimized by the same crime they were wrongly convicted of. Sometimes, they serve decades in prison before they are released. The news is filled with men who've served many years before their innocence can be proven. Think how many others rot away in prison today because the evidence of their innocence was long ago destroyed.

Too often, the awful consequences of a false rape claim are even less predictable. Remember this story we wrote about at Glenn Sacks' blog?  Two young lives destroyed -- one of the boys was killed -- because of a girl's rape lie. She, of course, served no jail time.  Go read it. It will make you sick.

Or how about this story -- I'll reprint our opening paragraph: "Clifford Martin, 19, is heading to prison for accepting the word of two teenage girls that one of them had been sexually assaulted by another 19-year-old man named Cory Headen. Mr. Martin broke into Mr. Headen's home and beat him to death while he was sleeping."

Remember the serial rape liar whose lie caused one of her young victims to kill himself?  Despite that, she was allowed to falsely accuse another young men -- and he was forced to undergo a grueling trial before he was acquitted.  The liar?  She retains her anonymity, of course.

Or how about mentally unstable man who was charged with rape, then took his own life after the police delayed in telling him he had been falsely accused?

Or the innocent man who suffered months of abuse in his community after being falsely accused of being a paedophile before his heart couldn't take any more?

Or the falsely accused young men who were attacked by thirty inmates?  Or the man who was brutally attacked and suffered devastating brain injuries when he was falsely accused or rape?  Or the man who was beaten because he was mistaken for a rapist?

I wonder if the misguided person who made the comment about the Comins quote is aware of America's painful history of overreacting to rape claims?  It was such a problem at one time that one American President focused on it during his State of the Union Address. The fact is, the public scorn from false rape claims has caused many, many innocent men and boys to be killed and to kill themselves; to be beaten, to be chased, to be spat upon, and to be looked upon with suspicion long after they are cleared of wrongdoing. They lose not only their good names but often their jobs, their businesses, their spouses, and their friends. It is often impossible for the falsely accused to ever obtain gainful 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 discovering the horrid accusation.

So, when Catherine Comins said that men falsely accused of rape "have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them," it needs to be viewed as a barbaric, hateful, dehumanizing sentiment -- misandry in full bloom. It is not to be excused on the basis that she "wasn't talking about" the truly awful things that follow from false rape claims, because truly awful things typically do follow from false rape claims.  To pretend they don't is to trivialize the false rape phenomenon.

Those who would pooh-pooh that Comins' comment is years old and does not represent current mainstream thought need to have cold water splashed on their faces.  Sadly, Comins' sentiment is alive and well and it manifests itself in innumerable ways.  You see, Comins merely had the audacity to come out and say what our culture practiced then and still practices today.  The ugly fact of the matter is, ours is a culture that not only tolerates but tacitly encourages rape lies as the price of battling rape, without regard for the terrible harm to the men and boys falsely accused.  And if you don't believe that, go read "Lambs to the Slaughter: The Hofstra False Rape Case."