Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Harvard student Michael F. Cotter's Repugant Trivialization of the False Rape Problem

Michael F. Cotter, anticipated Harvard class of 2014, has written an earnest, school boy screed on rape that is singularly unnuanced and callow, and that reduces a serious and complicated issue to caricature. Worse, it trivializes the victimization of the community of the wrongly accused. See here: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/2/28/rape-sexual-assault-campus-law/  Mr. Cotter would do well to educate himself on the subject before he writes another word on it. He can start by studying this case: http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/p/lamb-to-slaughter-hofstra-false-rape.html

The puerility of Michael F. Cotter's piece renders it unworthy of point-by-point refutation -- the tired cliches he posits have been debunked here and elsewhere innumerable times -- but we can't resist noting a few highlights:

MICHAEL F. COTTER: ". . .  one in six American women (and a higher rate of college students) is a survivor of completed or attempted rape. . . . .  The truth is that the cases reported in these statistics consist of unambiguous rapists and rape victims."

FRS: No, the truth is that Michael F. Cotter shockingly overreaches. Most rape claims between acquaintances are in the nature of "he said/she said" swearing contests where the only evidence lies in the conflicting accounts of the parties to the encounter.

For every "he said/she said" claim, Mr. Cotter presumably would credit the word of the woman and discredit the denial of the man. That is precisely what the rape surveys conducted by sexual grievance industry do, and it is one reason why the rape stats Michael F. Cotter cites are not just inflated by Biblical proportions but flat-out wrong. The other principal reasons these rape stats are unworthy of belief are: the rape surveys they come from are often self-selecting; the rape surveys typically engorge the definition of "sexual assault" beyond recognition to include all manner of conduct that is, by any measure, not sexual assault (e.g., sexual coercion; sex where any alcohol was present, etc.); the persons conducting the surveys often recharacterize the experiences described by the respondents to find rape where the respondents didn't; and the surveys typically don't bother to examine the other party's account of what occurred. (The latter point is usually overlooked in discussions debunking inflated rape stats, but it's crucial because rape surveys are premised on the subjective feelings of the respondent -- e.g., "did you engage in unwanted sex?" In contrast, the actual test for rape/sexual assault focuses instead on whether a person in the position of the male would have reasonably understood the woman's words and conduct to manifest consent. In many disputed "he said/she said" rape disputes, especially where some alcohol is present, neither party is lying, there's simply a gap in perceptions about what happened.) 

Michael F. Cotter's audacious statement, "The truth is that the cases reported in these statistics consist of unambiguous rapists and rape victims," is akin to holding the facts up to a funhouse mirror, the misshapen image it creates distorts the reality of sexual assault claims. The fact is, the entire area is marked by ambiguity, but that, obviously doesn't fit Michael F. Cotter's preferred narrative. See here.) 

MICHAEL F. COTTER: "Furthemore, the outsize public attention on false accusals rests on shaky ground. After all, recent research has found than the percentage of rape accusations that are determined false hovers somewhere in single digits."
FRS: Sigh. Here we go again.  Here's the truth. The sexual grievance industry's findings that false rape claims are in the single-digits wrongly classifies every rape claim as a "rape" just because it can't be definitively ruled a false claim. This is dishonest in the extreme. Why? Because there is a vast gray area of claims where we really don't know what happened. A leading feminist legal scholar has acknowledged this irrefutable fact: ". . . the statistics on false rape accusation widely vary and 'as a scientific matter, the frequency of false rape complaints to police or other legal authorities remains unknown.'" A. Gruber, Rape, Feminism, and the War on Crime, 84 Wash. L. Rev. 581, 595-600 (November 2009) (citation omitted).  The irrefutable truth is that if you took a group of rape claims and objectively analyzed the evidence on both sides for each claim, you'd be able to say that a certain relatively small percentage reasonably appear to be rape; a certain relatively small percentage reasonably appear to be false or mischaracterized claims; but the vast majority are too unclear to call. That's the boring, unvarnished truth. Sorry that it doesn't fit Michal F. Cotter's preferred narrative, but that's the nature of rape claims. The encounters that spawn rape claims rarely occur in public. But the sexual grievance industry wants to include all the claims that should fall in the vast gray area as "rape" -- it does this by insisting that "only" 5.9 or 8 or 10 percent of all rape claims are false. What they fail to mention is that "only" a similarly small percentage of claims can also be definitively called "rape." The rest--we just don't know.

Michael F. Cotter's reference to "the outsize public attention on false accusals" is typical radical feminist blather. It is unfortunate that people like him think that it's impossible to support the victims of both rape and false rape claims without trivializing one or the other.

Let's start with this: if the entire universe of false rape victims consisted only of the men and boys we give voice to on this site, that alone would justify both our advocacy and the public attention to the problem. The truth is, the public attention to the problem is minuscule -- there's one blog dedicated to it, but I suppose that's one blog too many for people like Michael F. Cotter -- and the universe of false rape victims is much, much larger than the people we feature here.

False and wrongful rape claims are a fundamental social evil.  But despite the grievous harm often suffered by the falsely accused, their unique needs are rarely acknowledged, much less addressed. The public scorn from false rape claims has caused innocent men and boys to be killed and to kill themselves; to be beaten, to be chased, to be spat upon, and to be looked upon with suspicion long after they are cleared of wrongdoing. They lose not only their good names but often their jobs, their businesses, and their friends. It is often impossible for the falsely accused to ever obtain gainful employment once the lie hits the news: for the rest of his life, a falsely accused man will have prospective employers Googling his name and discovering the horrid accusation.

As a society, we permit the reputations of persons falsely accused of sex crimes to be destroyed by even baseless accusations of a lone accuser; we permit the presumptively innocent, who too often turn out to be falsely accused, to be arrested and jailed on even far-fetched claims, with bail set sufficiently high to insure they won't be released before trial; and we excuse false accusers with little or no punishment, inviting others to falsely accuse with impunity and without deterrent.

The unique needs of the falsely accused are ignored because the entire rape milieu has become unnecessarily gender-politicized, and the persons who dominate the public discourse too often feel the way Michael F. Cotter feels.  By any measure, denigrating the experience of the wrongly accused by dismissing them as a myth or as unworthy of our discussion, and regarding the victimization of our daughters as somehow more worthy of our protection than the victimization of our sons, is not merely dishonest but morally grotesque.

MICHAEL F. COTTER: ". . . the epidemic of sexual violence is, importantly, an issue of failed law enforcement." 

FRS: It is astounding that we are forced to conduct a high school civics lesson for persons who were actually admitted to an Ivy League institution of higher learning, but we are accustomed to it. The "failure" that Mr. Cotter references is actually a product of a silly little thing that people like Mr. Cotter seem to have no use for: due process of law. Our criminal jurisprudence properly insists that no one should be convicted of a crime without proof that is "beyond a reasonable doubt."  Does Mr. Cotter think that every rape claim should be handed over to a jury? Does he assume that district attorneys don't know what they're doing when they decide not to bring cases to trial?  Should they be more like Mike Nifong?  Just roll the dice with a presumptively innocent young man's life?  Seriously?

Enough. Mr. Cotter writes like a lot of sincere young zealots. He sees all black-and-white in a world filled with gray.  He would do well to write with greater balance, like the persons who are most respected in the public discourse on sexual assault. See here.  We, at FRS, respect those people even if we largely disagree with them.