Thursday, June 2, 2011

If On-Line Dating Services Screen For Sex Offenders, They Should Also Screen For False Rape Offenders

Match.com is coming under fire after Carole Markin, a Hollywood producer, said she was raped by a man she met on the online dating site.  Markin filed suit and, among other things, wants Match.com to stop accepting new members until a sexual predator screening system is installed.  See here.

Florida Lawmakers are debating a bill that would require dating Web sites to notify paying visitors whether they perform criminal background checks on their members. The focus is on women's safety. See here.

For its part, Match.com maintains it is not liable for its users’ safety. A provision on its website informs clientele what every rational person already knows: that it is their personal decision to engage in online dating, and that it is done at their own risk. See here

My guess is that it's inevitable -- under the guise of "You can't be too careful, you know!" -- that all major online dating sites, subjected to greater and greater scrutiny, will legally protect themselves by doing background checks for sex offenses.

It's the same concern some airlines harbor about men as potential child molesters, hence the rule that men on at least two airlines (British Airways apparently has rethought its policy after it was successfully sued) aren't allowed to sit next to unaccompanied minors on flights. It's the same concern many colleges harbor about men, and that's why they think it's appropriate to subject all incoming males to rape indoctrination. You know, to curb their, um, natural male tendencies. Yeah. Right.

These measures are largely implemented to curb legal liability in case a man sexually abuses someone. Anytime that happens, the alleged victim is bound to do what Carole Markin did here: sue the airline or the college or the dating service. But if the airline, college, or dating service can show that they have policies in place to protect victims from men, they will be protected from at least some liability.
Which got me thinking.

Men are falsely accused of rape and similar horrors on a regular basis. Men rarely sue their false accusers (one reason is that most false accusers are judgment-proof, and good contingent fee attorneys don't take cases against judgment-proof defendants). Moreover, unlike the rape victim who sues the college, the airline, or the online dating service, except in narrow circumstances, men can't sue the false accusers' enablers -- the criminal justice apparatus. Various laws bar almost every type of suit against police for false rape claims.

But that doesn't mean men aren't at risk.

▲Ask Mark James Tulloch if you don't believe me. Tulloch was a police recruit who met a women through an online dating service. They had a lengthy session of consensual sex that ended before she desired. He made the mistake of saying he didn't like her voice, and she accused him of rape. Finally, a judge ruled her evidence was not credible. Mr. Tulloch said: "It's a big wake-up call. If you have casual sex and you are a male and a police officer, you are a target."  Moreover: "I believe that if a guy gets into this situation, if you are not lucky enough to have a good lawyer and a good private investigator, there's a good chance you'll be found guilty." See here.

▲A woman falsely accused a police officer of rape when he didn't respond to her text messages after consensual sex. The rape claim was made out of spite. The policeman was arrested at work and the charges hung over his head for months. Her excuse: she was under stress. See here.
 
▲Ibrahim Rashada, a freshman from Georgia, met a woman through a telephone dating service but decided not to date her because she did not match the description she gave him on the phone. She called threatening him: "Look, (expletive) . . . you better stop talking (expletive) you (expletive) if you want to stay on that football team. Talk (expletive) to me again (expletive), I sure will get you kicked off that football team and say rape and what." Rashada was frightened by the call and considered it a threat. See here.
 
▲Helen Dalby, 35, falsely accused a man she met through a telephone dating service because she felt guilty cheating on her husband. A different man was arrested and held in custody. Even when Dalby was told someone had been arrested, she stuck to her story. After police targeted her dating service lover, they found things that made them suspicious, and she admitted she lied. Result? Dalby got a suspended sentence. See
here.

▲A 37-year-old woman called North Charleston police to report that a police detective she met through an online dating service pointed a gun at her, forced her to undress, and raped her, keeping the gun aimed at her face. The detective was arrested and remainded in jail for more than two weeks until he could make bail.  The case was dismissed because there was no evidence to prove it, other than her word, and
it wasn't the first time the woman has made allegations of rape, according to police reports. See here.

▲James Liggett was convicted in 1991 of raping a woman he had met through a dating service and he then spent a year in prison. Her rape tale fell apart after it was learned she reported an eerily similar rape by another man from the same dating service, and a private detective found out that she had a history of unstable behavior, including dubious claims of rape. See here.

▲But Melissa Friedrich might be in a class by herself. She was accused of drugging a 73-year-old man she met an online dating service in order to systematically fleece him of $20,000.  "Friedrich served two years in prison for manslaughter after she fed her first husband, Gordon Stewart, a lethal dose of prescription drugs prior to running him over with a car in 1991. She claimed rape by Stewart prompted her lethal assault. At the time, Stewart had 30 convictions for fraud, false pretences and impersonation dating back 15 years." See here.

Yep. Women are at risk. And men are at risk, too. Risk is a part of life, and people need to be vigilant.

But when it comes to gender relations, only when the risk involves male sexuality does vigilance become acceptable hysteria, and acceptable hysteria becomes carefully constructed policies drafted by high-priced legal counsel designed to scrutinize all men, the vast majority of whom are innocent. 

I wonder if this hysteria would subside if men started insisting on protections from women?  If, for example, match.com were forced to check for false rape convictions against all women, would this be a wake-up call -- about how hysteria has gotten the better of us? About how unnecessarily stifling it is to go through life walking on egg shells about the opposite sex? 

Forget it. Women will never be deemed a risk to men, even when they are.