Thursday, July 26, 2012

Student editor gets it right about the wrongly accused, mostly

We applaud Trenton Sperry, the editor-in-chief of The Daily O'Collegian (Oklahoma State University), for having the courage to express alarm about false rape claims (Rape a dangerous issue for men). Such alarm is often greeted with derision and downright disdain, especially on college campuses. Sometimes, the very suggestion that some claims are wrongful is treated as an assault on rape victims, even though it is any but that.

Mr. Sperry's principal points are as follows:

"I’d wager many of us have had a sexual encounter we later wish wouldn’t have happened. That doesn’t mean we were raped, and I know most people understand this quite well.

"It was a conscious decision we made that we regret, just like almost every other decision we’re likely to make at this point in our lives.

"But there are times when a friendship or relationship gets strained after a sexual encounter or when feelings get hurt the next morning.

"We must be careful not to associate these instances or emotions with the sexual act itself."

Mr. Sperry correctly notes: "Men face an enormous stigma when it comes to accusations of rape, especially on college campuses." And: ". . . being accused of raping someone can ruin an innocent person’s life."  Moreover, he tells women who make false rape accusations that "the damage you could do to a man is much more serious than you may know. Aside from jail time, most convicted sex offenders must register with the city, state and nation for the rest of their lives. Their photos and locations are posted on the Internet for all to see at any given moment. They are often fired from their jobs, kicked out of school and become pariahs of society. The label of 'rapist' is nearly impossible to remove."

One of COTWA's missions is to assist in raising the level of discourse about wrongful accusations of serious sex criminality.  We, therefore, must take issue with this statement in the op-ed:  "And anyone who coerces someone into or forces a sexual encounter should be promptly and severely punished. Period."  COTWA shares Mr. Sperry's strong disapproval of "sexual coercion" but we have also demonstrated the legal infirmities that prevent making it a punishable offense:

Mr. Sperry also missteps when he writes: "Judges and juries are rightly inclined to believe a woman’s accusation of rape . . . ."  In fact, judges and juries should examine every rape claim objectively, and no preconception about whether a rape did or did not occur is ever "right."

That aside, good job, Mr. Sperry.