Sunday, August 14, 2011

The prosecution of false rape accusers "must be stopped," says Lisa Longstaff

Lisa Longstaff of the UK's Women Against Rape bemoaned the fact that some women are prosecuted for making false rape claims. "Such prosecutions must be stopped," she declared. "It is a galling diversion for women to be jailed when the vast majority of rapists are not – 90% of rapes are never reported and only 6.7% of those that are reach conviction on a full charge of rape. The prosecution of women and the disproportionate media coverage they get are putting rape victims off reporting and leaving all of us more vulnerable to attack. Is that what they want?"  Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/aug/12/layla-jailed-after-reporting-sexual-assault

Longstaff once said this: "Every prosecution [of false rape claims] puts women who have been raped off reporting it." Another time, she called such efforts "a concerted witchhunt."

Longstaff's is not the advocacy of a serious social reformer; it is the advocacy of ugly gender get-evenism that has no place in the public discourse about a critical issue.  The notion that society can only combat one form of criminality, namely rape, by ignoring other serious criminality, namely false rape reporting, or that society can only wage the "war on rape" by elevating the victimization of one group of our citizens, our daughters, over that of another, our sons, is as puerile as it is patently unjust.

Holding criminals accountable for their crimes is not a zero sum game, and Longstaff's suggestion paints her as an extremist whose pronouncements are not to be taken seriously.

If some women are being unfairly prosecuted for false reporting, such unfairness is as deserving of society's attention as is the unfairness in wrongly prosecuting persons for rape. In fact, women are rarely prosecuted for false reporting, and typically, charges are lodged only where the evidence is clear and manifest. Instances of unjustly charging women for false reporting are extremely rare and receive inordinate media attention. The problem isn't that too many false accusers are being prosecuted but not enough.

In addition, the suggestion that rape victims are put off from reporting because a few women are prosecuted for making false rape claims is posited without any supporting evidence,  and is absurd on its face.

As a general matter, the unfortunate gender politicization of rape renders it impossible to discern whether serious underreporting even exists, much less its extent. See, J. Fennel, Punishment by Another Name: The Inherent Overreaching in Sexually Dangerous Person Commitments, 35 N.E.J. on Crim. & Civ. Con. 37, 49-51 (2009).  Yet, paid sexual assault counselors posit every imaginable percentage of alleged underreporting as if there were a scientific basis for it, and none of those figures can be reconciled with the numbers of women they claim are actually raped.  For an interesting, and even-handed, assessment of the games played when it comes to claims about the prevalence of rape, see Chad Hermann's landmark One-in-One-Thousand-Eight-Hundred-Seventy-Seven.

Beyond this, there is no evidence whatsoever to support the proposition that holding a liar accountable for her lies will significantly deter women from reporting legitimate rapes, any more than prosecuting some people for arson deters people from reporting fires. 

At last year's Specter rape hearing, a feminist writer live-blogged the testimony of Scott Berkowitz, President and Founder of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Berkowitz's testimony cast an interesting light on Longstaff's claims as to why women don't report:

"On reporting [of rape]: More victims may not be reporting their rapes, but the reasoning has changed over the past few decades. 'A generation ago,' the reasons were things like, 'fear of not being believed; fear of being interrogated about and blamed for their own behavior, and what they were wearing. In short, they feared that they would be the one on trial.' Today, 'the perception of many victims has evolved.' Now they don't report for these reasons: 'they don't want their loved ones to know what happened; they're ashamed themselves; they just want to put it all behind them.' Today, 'fear and shame of how the police wil [sic] treat them' has moved down on the list of reasons victims provide for not officially reporting the crime. As much as we need to educate police to take reports seriously, Berkowitz says, we also must 'educate victims on the importance of reporting.'"

Ironically, claims that "only 6.7% of [rape claims] reach conviction on a full charge of rape" may be contributing to whatever underreporting exists. Last year, the Stern Review in the UK said that claims by rape advocates that rape is not being properly prosecuted might actually put women off from reporting. Here is why: in the UK, the Home Office, and politicians seeking to jack up rape convictions, have long cited the attrition rate for rape, which is the number of convictions as a percentage of number of reported crimes. That rate is 6%. But, the Home Office, and everyone, uses the conviction rate (the number of convictions secured against the number of persons brought to trial for that given offence) for all other crimes. In fact, the conviction rate for rape is 58%. The result of such dishonest advocacy has been to make it appear that law enforcement is terribly, and uniquely, ineffective when it comes to rape. The Stern Review noted that use of the attrition rate instead of the conviction rate "may well have discouraged some victims from reporting." Stern Review, see page 45 (emphasis added).

Refusing to prosecute rape lies hurts not just innocent men and boys, but actual rape victims. For every criminal act, our society accepts the notion that punishing the wrongdoer will promote, among other things, deterrence. In false rape case after case after case, judges and law enforcement officials bemoan the harm to actual rape victims done by the lies of false accusers. With every rape lie, the integrity of every rape claim is diminished.  In order for rape to regarded as a serious social malady, the general public, including prospective rape jurors, must be assured that the police are not unfairly prosecuting innocent men and boys and are holding rape liars accountable for their crimes.