Friday, August 5, 2011

Man kills self after being falsely accused of rape

In the news this week, a neighbor falsely accused a 30-year-old married man of rape as a result of a "minor altercation" between families. The man couldn't bear the thought of what might happen to him, so he consumed several tablets of Sulphos. He was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.  Charges were filed against both the woman and, for reasons not explained, her husband.  Story is here.

We have reported a fair number of stories here in which young men either contemplated or committed suicide following claims that they committed sexual misconduct.  A few of these stories stand out, either because of their tragic quality or the way they were reported:

▲A 23-year-old mentally unstable man was very upset and angry that he was apparently falsely accused of sexual assault. The police investigated the claim and interviewed the young man. On June, 4, 2009,  police decided to drop the charges. They immediately informed the accuser but planned to wait until June 7 to tell the young man. Before they met with him, the young man hanged himself.  Under applicable law, "victims" (that is, accusers) have the right to be told when a case is dropped but there is no such law for informing suspects, even the falsely accused.  At a jury inquest, the delay in informing the young man of the decision to drop the case was called a "contributing factor" in his death.

▲In the UK, a man was subjected to seven months of "hell" before a jury took just 45 minutes to clear him of a rape charge. Thereafter, the judge did something stunning. He revealed in open court that the Crown Prosecution service was guilty of “a craven abdication of responsibility” in bringing the case at all.  The judge explained to the jurors that the accuser had previously falsely accused another young man of rape. Some jurors broke down in tears when they heard that the 21-year-old woman not only had wrongly accused someone else, but that such wrongful accusation played a role in the suicide of her 21-year-old male victim.

▲In 2008, a University of Iowa oboe professor accused of sexual harassment apparently committed suicide as a result of the charge. It was not clear if the sex charges were legitimate or false. A news story that reported the tragedy sought out comment from the university's director of the Rape-Victim Advocacy Program, who noted that after such apparent suicides, it could emotionally affect the "victim" who reported the harassment.  "Unfortunately, what can happen is the response that some people make is to blame the victims, and that's inappropriate.  The victims are never to blame." 

▲Some of the stories have happier endings. A 25-year-old falsely accused father of two lost his job due to the rape lie and eventually grew so frustrated by the lie that he tried to throw himself into the path of oncoming traffic. Concerned passers-by pulled him out of the road to safety. Thereafter, his false accuser was sentenced to a twenty month prison sentence.  Still, months after the charges were dropped, people were still saying "have you heard, we've got a rapist living down the road."
At FRS we have received notes from several people who have told us that our blog was instrumental in their decision not to take their own lives. That should be a clarion call to action. There are so few aids available to the community of the wrongly accused that its members are forced to seek solace in a humble blog. We are happy we are there for them, and hope that in the years ahead, their unique needs will receive greater recognition and the attention it deserves.

It is an unpleasant fact that victims of false rape claims often become despondent over the possibility of years in prison and the stigma associated with the claim, and sometimes these feelings result in, or contribute to, suicidal thoughts and actions. Fortunately, most victims of false rape claims are able to cope and do not resort to the permanent and terrible solution of suicide. Anyone having such thoughts needs to be strongly urged to seek immediate help. Most false rape claims do not result in conviction, and most victims of false rape claims are able to move on with their lives, sometimes with a strength they hadn't even known they possessed.