Thursday, August 15, 2013

Woman makes false rape claim, cop: 'We run into that all the time'

A news report out of Rexburg, Idaho states that a 20-year-old woman lied about being raped after "an attack of conscience" following consensual sex. (That is certainly a bizarre way to put it: we assume it means that the woman experienced regret after having consensual sex and that she then made up a rape claim to explain it.)

According to the news report: "After interviews of the woman and roommates, it was revealed that she wasn’t truthful, said Capt. Randy Lewis."

In addition: "Lewis said this is not an uncommon occurrence in Rexburg. 'We run into that all the time,' he said."  The woman won’t face any charges for making any false claims, and police consider the matter closed.

Two important about this case:

Regret: The false claim was driven by regret. A perceived need to cover up an illicit sexual encounter is a primary motivation for false rape claims, and it's the one kind of "false rape claim" that is preventable. One of the common motives cited by experts for false rape claims is "remorse after an impulsive sexual fling . . . ." Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, S. Taylor, K.C. Johnson at 375 (2007).

An unlikely source, feminist gadfly Amanda Marcotte, once wrote that "the idea that it's shameful to just have sex because you want to" is "the reason that you have false rape accusations in the first place." Marcotte noted that "women who aren't ashamed of having sexual adventures like group sex-even ones that go bad-don't use rape accusations to cover up their choices. It's the women who are afraid they'll be called sluts if it gets out that make up these rape stories." Amanda Hess similarly talked about women who make false claims to defend their "femininity." There is much truth in what they say. Without excusing the false accuser (who, like the rapist, must be held accountable for her actions), false rape claims are largely culturally induced.

Men and women view casual sex differently, and women feel remorse more than men following one-night stands. A study shows how common remorse is for women following one-night stands: "Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s [about one-night stand casual sex]. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women. . . . . The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been 'used'. Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out. Women found the experience less sexually satisfying and, contrary to popular belief, they did not seem to view taking part in casual sex as a prelude to long-term relationships."

A recent study shows that women lie about having sex to meet societal expectations. When women believe they can lie and get away with it, they understate the number of their sexual partners. When they were hooked up to a lie detector and thought they had to be truthful, they reported more sexual partners than when they felt no such compulsion to be honest. For men, the result was exactly the opposite: when men thought they could lie and get away with it, they reported more sexual partners than they reported when they thought they had to be truthful. Researcher Terri Fisher, an Ohio State University professor of psychology, explained: "Sexuality seemed to be the one area where people felt some concern if they didn't meet the stereotypes of a typical man or a typical woman."

Similarly, last year in Ohio State University's student newspaper The Lantern, Amy Bonomi, a professor of human sexuality at OSU specializing in domestic violence and assault, said: "Women tend to feel bad after having a random hook up," she said. Typically men are not upset by these occurrences. Bonomi attributed this situation to society's "gender double standard" that men are expected to be more sexually forward than women.

The fact that only women can get pregnant should not be discounted as the primary reason why women seem hard-wired to have greater ex post facto regret than men.

Police Officer's Comment: Police officers sometimes note, in a moment of either candor or frustration, that a significant percentage of rape claims are false. Police officers generally are careful not to make statements that might put off women from reporting their rapes, and such a comment probably isn't necessary even if the police officer believed it.

A police officer must not only be fair but must have the appearance of being fair.  In any given case, it is not at all important about what happens in other cases. Women who cry rape should not be automatically believed (as some advocates suggest -- because they insist women don't lie about rape) nor disbelieved (some people believe women routinely lie about rape). Regardless of a police officer's views about other cases, he is supposed to be investigating this case. Justice is fact-specific, and police should have no preconceived notions going into a case about whether a claim is true or false -- the goal should always be to do justice by getting at the truth in the case at hand.