Thursday, October 8, 2015

A national disgrace: another young man accused of rape commits suicide

This is among the most important posts we've written and, although it will be a difficult post for some to read, no "trigger warnings" here--everyone needs to read this, and we need to act on it.

People who claim to have been victimized by sexual assault are afforded all manner of assistance to deal with their trauma. Tremendous resources are devoted for their mental well-being.

In contrast, people who are wrongly accused are left to fend for themselves, despite the fact that a false or wrongful rape claim is among the most traumatic and life-altering events that can happen to anyone. The insensitivity shown to men and boys wrongly accused of sexual assault is unconscionable.

Jay Cheshire, 17--a kind, funny, talented, hard-working, bright but vulnerable and sensitive young man--was accused of rape this past spring. The alleged female victim dropped the allegation and the police investigation was ended. On July 3, Jay was found hanging in a park in Southampton. He died two days later. At an inquest, it was learned that Jay struggled to cope with the false accusations and was "absolutely distraught." The police dropped the charges but didn't bother to make sure Jay was alright. Jay wasn't alright. See here and here.

The cases are legion where men and boys wrongly accused of rape have not been able to cope with the ordeal and instead made a tragic, irreversible decision.

23-year-old mentally unstable man was very upset and angry that he was accused of sexual assault. The police investigated the claim and interviewed the young man. On June, 4, 2009, police decided to drop the charges. They immediately informed the accuser didn't tell the young man before the young man hanged himself. Under applicable law, "victims" (that is a code word for "accusers") have the right to be told when a case is dropped but there is no such law for informing suspects, even the falsely accused. At a jury inquest, the delay in informing the young man of the decision to drop the case was called a "contributing factor" in his death.

A 27-year-old man was subjected to seven months of "hell" before a jury took just 45 minutes to clear him of a rape charge. Thereafter, the judge did something stunning. He revealed in open court that the Crown Prosecution service was guilty of “a craven abdication of responsibility” in bringing the case against the man. The judge explained to the jurors that the accuser had previously falsely accused another young man of rape. Some jurors broke down in tears when they heard that the 21-year-old woman not only had wrongly accused someone else, but that the wrongful accusation played a role in the suicide of her 21-year-old male victim.

Last year, a 16-year-old schoolboy hanged himself after being falsely accused of sexual assault. Stephen McLaughlin was 23 when he killed himself after being falsely accused of rape. Another 23-year-old man killed himself by drinking poison after a false rape charge was leveled against him. A 53-year-old man facing a rape trial committed suicide days after the complainant reportedly admitted that he had only tried to hold her hand after a fight over money. A 35-year-old man committed suicide after being harassed by a woman, including being threatened with a false rape claim. A police officer committed suicide after a woman accused him of sexual assault. Police confirmed that the woman made false statements during the investigation.

We won't even begin to discuss the cases where men and boys wrongly accused of rape contemplated suicide--that list is practically endless. Former television star John Leslie contemplated suicide after being accused of a rape claim that was subsequently cleared. A 25-year-old falsely accused father of two lost his job due to the rape lie and eventually grew so frustrated by the lie that he tried to throw himself into the path of oncoming traffic. Concerned passers-by pulled him out of the road to safety. Thereafter, his false accuser was sentenced to a twenty month prison sentence. Still, months after the charges were dropped, people were still saying "have you heard, we've got a rapist living down the road."

We need to be like those concerned passers-by who pulled the young father to safety--we need to do something to save men and boys from making a tragic, irreversible decision. Suicide is a national epidemic. Suicide among males is four times higher than among females. Male deaths represent 79% of all US suicides. It is the second leading cause of death for 15-24-year-olds.

Men wrongly accused of sex offenses are usually devastated by the ordeal and are in need of special assistance, yet their needs are ignored. The police may not even bother to tell the accused if the case was closed, and any concern shown will be for the accuser, not the accused. A University of Iowa oboe professor apparently committed suicide after being accused of sexual harassment (the validity of the allegations is not known). Even before a single scrap of evidence was admitted at trial over the alleged harassment, the director of the school's Rape-Victim Advocacy Program said that such apparent suicides could emotionally affect the "victim" who reports harassment. Even in that tragic instance, the emphasis is all about the accuser; the men accused aren't given a thought.

We have received notes from young men telling us that our blog was instrumental in their decisions not to take their own lives. This blog is a very poor substitute for the help young men wrongly accused of rape need, but it underscores the absence of badly needed resources for the wrongly accused. Men wrongly accused of rape face the prospect of years behind prison bars with all its attendant horrors and the loss of jobs and social relationships. They are usually pariahs, sometimes even after they're cleared. (A cringe-worthy example of this: three men falsely accused of rape in the infamous Hofstra false rape case appeared on the Steve Wilkos show after the accuser admitted under oath it didn't happen. They were immediately booed by some members of the audience.)

I plead with anyone in this situation who happens to find this blog post at the worst possible moment of his life: justice usually prevails, all is not lost, and you need to fight. I implore you: don't make an irreversible decision over what is usually just a temporary problem. Many, many other men have been in your situation. If you find yourself thinking of ending your life, DON'T DO IT. Seek help, immediately. Go here to start: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)