Thursday, July 11, 2013

Salon: False rape claims do happen, but the Edmonton posters are not the appropriate vehicle to talk about them. (Okay, so tell us WHEN we can talk about false claims without being vilified)

The "Don't Be That Girl" posters in Edmonton have sparked great controversy and deserve this blog's attention. I preface my remarks with this: I would like to see a serious discussion about rape, consent, assuming the guilt of anyone who happens to be accused of rape (man or woman), and regret. These are issues that can't be reduced to poster slogans. What's needed is education about rape. Women lie in acquaintance rape settings often to defend their "femininity," their assigned gender role -- they are lying to cover up having sex because, the consensus goes, women aren't supposed to have sex. (Men defend their "masculinity" by lying that they have sex more than they actually do -- but those sorts of lies usually don't hurt people.) Young women, and young men, need to be taught that young women experience regret following casual hook-ups at rates much higher than their male peers, and that this can lead to false rape claims.  It's all fairly complicated, and doesn't lend itself to poster-sized slogans.

While I didn't create the "Don't Be That Girl" posters, it has injected false rape claims into the public discourse, and that is a good thing.

A writer at Salon is not happy about the posters. She trivialized the false rape problem, but offhandedly and grudgingly acknowledged that false rape claims do happen. Her remarks are telling: "It’s not that false accusations don’t happen, or that the havoc they wreak isn’t real. The problem is the idiotic defensive assumption that a campaign expressly created to educate men and women about consent merits a hateful, finger-pointing response." The headline called supporters of the posters "dopes."

In my experience, it is almost impossible to inject the topic of "false rape claim" into the public discourse without something like this being the standard response: "Well, yes, false rape claims do suck for the people they happen to, but it's not appropriate to talk about them in this instance."

Okay, so tell me: when can we talk about them? 

Tell me what's an appropriate occasion to raise the subject without being insulted or libeled?

Duke lacrosse? I recall a very prominent feminist blogger wrote the following when the case was collapsing on the prosecution: "I had to listen to how the poor dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and fucked her against her will—not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair."

Hofstra? A writer for a major US daily wrote this about the falsely accused, innocent men after their false accuser confessed: "The five were freed after getting the good scare that they well deserved."  A prominent television host told the young men to their face: "Maybe if you held yourself to a higher level of conduct," this would not have happened to you.

How about the recent atrocity visited on Matt Folino in Pittsburgh?  KDKA-TV was criticized by a reader for even airing the story. She wrote the following: "While I sympathize with this young man's plight, I find it disturbing that KDKA chose to run with this story in light of the recent events in nearby Steubenville.”

Frankly, I am not sure that there is ever a good time to talk about our issue without someone trivializing the plight of the wrongly accused, or worse, ridiculing and insulting them. The only time it is politically correct to raise the subject is after a man has served years in prison and DNA evidence exonerates him. Those of us who want to talk about keeping the innocent from suffering unjust ordeals (e.g., the erosion of due process rights for college men accused of sex offenses) are branded "rape apologists" and "misogynists."

You think I'm joking? When will a progressive blog talk about this site without assuming we regard unfounded rape claims as false rape claims?

The reactions to the "Don't Be That Girl" posters are offensive. Here are some that appear to be typical:

*There is a "fear it could deter victims of sexual assault from reporting their incidents to police."

There is no evidence to support this. Rape victims know they aren't lying about rape, and they know these posters aren't addressed to them. But rape victims invariably express disdain for false rape claimants. The sexual grievance industry does no favors to rape victims when it excuses false claims by pretending they are a myth when everyone knows they aren't a myth. It is critical -- not just for innocent men who might be wrongly accused but also for rape victims, too -- that a woman's cry of "rape" be reserved for those times when rape happens. Every rape lie diminishes the perceived integrity of every rape victim. It is sadly ironic that the sexual grievance industry has no interest in addressing this problem given that, in almost every false rape case, a judge admonishes the rape liar about the harm she's done to rape victims.

*The Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, Karen Smith, said: “I’m really disappointed that these people would decide to not recognize that there’s a significant problem of sexual assault in our community.”

Smith's purported concern is the epitome of a non sequitur. It does not follow that telling women not to make false rape claims implies a belief that rape is not a problem. This is the leading blog in the United States dedicated to giving voice to false rape claim victims, and any suggestion that rape is not a problem is not tolerated here. Rape is a problem; false rape claims are also a problem. It is not a zero sum game, and society is sufficiently mature to have concern for victims of both.

*Telling women not to make false rape claims is "rape apology," according to Lise Gotell, chair of the University of Alberta's department of women’s and gender studies.

Gotell's name-calling is nothing short of morally grotesque and an affront to the community of the wrongly accused. Her attempt to trivialize the victimization of the wrongly accused is designed to silence any advocacy for them, and she ought to be sanctioned for it. Sadly, the academy's fealty to group identity politics and political correctness suggests that won't happen.

*Rape is a more serious problem than false rape claims, so the posters are offensive.

Cancer is worse is than emphysema. That doesn't justify silencing any discussion about the latter.

It is time to have a mature discussion about these issues without reducing advocates for the wrongly accused to caricature.

The sexual grievance industry is justified in taking issue with anyone who insists every unfounded rape claim was a lie, or who tries to change every discussion about rape into a discourse about false rape claims.

But the community of the wrongly accused is justifiably unhappy that even suggesting that false claims are a problem elicits over-the-top outrage and name-calling.