Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lies, Damned Lies, and Dr. Phil

I read a startlingly inaccurate assertion that is repeated, in one form or other, in many places:

"There is no empirical data to prove that there are more false charges of rape than of any other violent crime. Estimates indicate that only 2 percent of all rape reports prove to be false, a rate comparable to the false report rate for other crimes." M. Torrey, "When Will We Be Believed? Rape Myths and the Idea of a Fair Trail in Rape Prosecutions" (forthcoming 24 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1013 (1991)); Parrot and Bechholder, eds., "Acquaintance Rape" at 28 (1991) ("(A)ccording to police records, false reports are no more likely for rape than they are for other serious crimes.")

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Anyone who advocates for persons falsely accused of rape and similar offenses encounters it routinely.  It is as offensive as it is dishonest, and even though it was debunked long ago, it is repeatedly trotted as fact. 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 (2000), a scholarly law review article that painstakingly traced the two percent canard to its baseless origin.

No, I didn't copy the above quote from the literature of a college's women's center.

It's from the Congressional Record. It was introduced during the first wave of hearings over VAWA.

Specifically, it was in a Report by the Committee on the Judiciary in connection with the Violence Against Women Act. Senate Report 102-197 (102 S. Rpt. 197), Pub. L. 102-197 n. 48 (Oct. 29, 1991). Even though it was as wrong as can be, it was accepted as evidence to justify passage of VAWA.

Why is this important today? Because we are in danger of having history repeat itself. 

Dr. Phillip McGraw, a/k/a Dr. Phil, made claims at a recent Senate committee hearing that some are calling "reckless and false."

"During his testimony, Dr. McGraw made repeated statements about violence against women, but glossed over the widespread problem of abuse against men. McGraw made a number of claims that were flatly wrong, SAVE alleges."

"Dr. McGraw asserted that 'Domestic violence is now the most common cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44.' But the actual leading causes of injury to women are falls, overexertion, and car accidents. McGraw told the senators that 'In too many situations violence against women, young and old, is almost treated as an 'acceptable crime.'"' But that statement ignores research showing over 90% of Americans abhor domestic violence."


If this is correct, then we're about to see more lies about men and women find their way into the Congressional Record. 

Will things be different this time?

Incidentally, I found something else in that same Senate report, a tidbit dripping with irony:

Testimony before the committee reported that "(m)ost of the NCS (National Crime Survey) crime screening questions are very concrete." For example, victims are asked, "Were you knifed, shot at, or attacked with some other weapon * * *?" For rape, the person is asked, "Did someone try to attack you in some other way?" As the National Crime Survey itself puts it, "No one in the survey is ever asked directly if she has been raped." "Women and Violence," hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 101st Cong., 2d sess. 29 (Aug. 29, 1990) (testimony of Dr. Mary Koss) (quoting National Crime Survey).

Why is this ironic? Because in the infamous Ms. Magazine/Koss study, where Mary Koss that found 25% of women are raped, "rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had experienced actions that she then classified as rape." See here. It turns out that only 27 percent of the women Koss said had been rape actually believed they had been raped. See here. As Heather MacDonald put it: "In short, believing in the campus rape epidemic depends on ignoring women’s own interpretations of their experiences—supposedly the most grievous sin in the feminist political code."

That did not find its way into the Congressional Record.