Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Writer has no compunction about calling a presumptively innocent man a 'rapist'

Shame on you, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux.  You have given new meaning to the terms "irresponsible," "reckless," and "rash."

Not to mention "misandry."

Thomson-DeVeaux wrote a piece about the woman who was jailed for retracting rape charges against her husband.  (And, of course, she apes the angry bow wow of the feminist sexual grievance industry in bemoaning the fact that this woman -- heaven forbid -- was actually punished for committing a crime.  But that particular inanity is the subject of another post on this blog: see here

But watch what Thomson-DeVeaux does when she refers to the man accused of raping his wife: she concedes that he "apparently pleaded not guilty to rape."  Moreover, there is no indication in her piece -- or elsewhere, that I can find -- that the man was ever tried for, much less convicted of, rape. (I suspect that if Thomson-DeVeaux knew he had been convicted of rape, that news would have been prominently trumpeted in her piece.)

Yet, to Thomson-DeVeaux, that man is a rapist. 

Yep. A presumptively innocent man is a "rapist" merely by virtue of the charges against him.

Here's what Thomson-DeVeaux writes:

"What astonishes me here is the absence of the rapist, who apparently pleaded not guilty to rape in an earlier hearing. The fact that this woman was first assaulted (multiple times!) and then subjected to extreme emotional trauma by her family more than excuses any resources she may have "wasted," and the whole case sends a horrifying message to rape victims, who are often subjected to these kinds of pressures by their families and perpetrators."  And: "The worst part of the case is that the woman was willing to cover for her rapist by going to jail."

Read it again. Let it sink in:  The husband is "the rapist" and "her rapist." To Thomson-DeVeaux, it is a "fact" that the woman was assaulted "multiple times!" (Sic: exclamation point in original.)

Except it is not a "fact."  Neither Thomson-DeVeaux nor I, nor anyone else aside from the two people in question, knows for a "fact" if the husband is a "rapist." 

Let's establish something that cannot plausibly be disputed: the husband is not a stand-in for every male who has ever gotten away with rape. And the wife is not a stand-in for every woman who has ever been raped.  Unfortunately, that is often how these cases are treated in feminist screeds.  Rather, the parties at issue are flesh-and-blood people who were involved in a fact-specific scenario that persons other than Thomson-DeVeaux need to sort out. (It is well to note, if we insist on making every case of this nature a microcosm of the imaginary rape culture, that false rape claims are a significant problem.  See here.)

To label a presumptively innocent man a "rapist" in these circumstances is premised on the morally grotesque worldview that women don't lie about rape and that a man deserves to have his name blackened, his reputation besmirched, his life destroyed, solely on the basis of a woman's charge.

We have returned to Salem, Massachusetts, 1692.

Not only has Thomson-DeVeaux done a grave disservice to the presumptively innocent -- who, yes, too often turn out to have been falsely accused -- but also to actual rape victims, because she trivializes rape when she includes among its victims women who might only be false accusers.

But, what can we expect from a writer who starts off her piece with this:  "We hear a lot (probably more than we should) about false rape cases . . . ."

I love the off-hand casualness of the assertion, which is posited with no authority beyond Thomson-DeVeaux's serene ipse dixit.  Let's debunk this pronouncement in short order, shall we?

By most, if not all, important measures, news coverage of rape and false rape claims are not balanced but are skewed in favor of the former. This unbalanced coverage foments rape hysteria and creates the unmistakable impression that rape is rampant.  This, of course, masks the false rape problem. The vast majority of false rape claims are not charged, much less reported. They are handled at the police level with the goal of disposing of them quietly and expeditiously, often with a stern warning to the false accuser that if the matter were pursued, she would be exposed to criminal charges. Those stories never make the news. This is not my opinion, this is what police officers -- the persons in the trenches handling these claims -- tell us.

The false rape stories that do make the news are typically stories where the news media has already reported on the initial rape claim. Initial rape reports are ground-zero for the type of story the news media craves: scary. Hysterical news reporters, anxious to jack up ratings, pass off accusations by lone women or girls as fact, regardless of how troubled the accuser is or how far-fetched her claim turns out to be. You remember the Hofstra case, don't you?  Read about it.  It is a chilling example of how the news media is content to foment rape hysteria and then, when the story turns out to be false, give it short shrift.

When three University of Arkansas players were accused of an alleged rape incident at a fraternity, a local television station actually 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 sensational coverage.

Would people like Thomson-DeVeaux have the news media fail to correct their earlier news reports that a rape had occurred after it turned out it hadn't?  Would they have the news media not report -- you know -- the news?

But false rape claims are news, and they need to be reported as such, more than they currently are.  Why?

First, the initial report often has the entire community in a panic, so setting the record straight is vitally important..

Second, false rape claims are a serious crime. In the Hofstra case, for example, four young men faced decades in prison for a crime they didn't commit. That is typical of story after story that we report.  False rape claims need to reported because our citizens need to know that criminality is not tolerated. The news media should not cover up a crime merely because it almost exclusively affects members of one gender, even when that gender happens to be male.

Third, and most important, to correct the reputational harm to falsely accused males, the news media owes it to them to report on the false claim with coverage at least equal to that given the initial lie. The fact of the matter is that no amount of publicity can ever undo a malicious false rape claim, and that is the least the news media should do.

Finally, isn't it ironic that the persons who parrot this canard that false rape claims get too much publicity do so in one blog after the next devoted to raising awareness about rape? The blogosphere is a treasure trove of aids for rape victims. In contrast, ours is among the only blogs devoted exclusively to giving voice to the interests of the falsely accused. That the feminist sexual grievance industry thinks ours is one voice too many tells you everything you need to know about them. And none of it is good.