Thursday, October 27, 2011

The college student who concocted a terrible rape lie to highlight the problems of safety for women

We dip into the archives today to highlight one of the most peculiar false rape allegations on record.

In 1990, Mariam Kashani, a 19-year-old sophomore and feminist activist at George Washington University, decided she needed to "highlight the problems of safety for women" in a very prominent way, so what do you suppose she did?

She concocted an elaborate false rape hoax, that's what.

Here's how it happened. A reporter for the student newspaper had heard rumors of an alleged rape that supposedly occurred early in the morning of October 31, near Strong Hall, a large dormitory. For reasons lost to the mist of history, the reporter tried to confirm the rape with Margery Mazie, a sophomore who is co-founder of a feminist organization on campus called Women's Issues Now. Mazie directed the reporter to Kashani, who told him she had actually met the victim, a white woman, through a friend at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center.

Kashani told the reporter that the victim had been raped by two black men "with particularly bad body odor."  When the rapists had finished their foul deed, they supposedly laughed, and one of them purportedly told the "victim" that she was "pretty good for a white girl."

A fake policeman who identified himself as "Mark Smith" backed up the story to the reporter by phone. "Mr. Smith" said he had taken the victim to D.C. General Hospital and had filed a report on the rape. Neither the reporter nor his editors ever reached "Mr. Smith" at the Police Department; Ms. Kashani always offered to personally call the officer's beeper, and he called them back.

The reporter worked on the story for a month before publishing it on December 6.

Then the truth came out. Kashani called campus police and confessed: there had been no rape. The New York Times described the reaction: "As news of the fabrication spread around campus, the fear that had rolled over the school like a thick fog [after the alleged rape was reported] was blown away by clear, cold rage."

Kashani offered an apology. "My goal from the beginning was to try to call attention to what I perceived to be a serious safety concern for women," Kashani said in the letter. "From the bottom of my heart, I deeply regret all that has occurred."

What better way to highlight the fact that women are sometimes raped than by citing an alleged incident where no rape occurred?  Kashani wasn't a false accuser as much as she was a herald for the sexual grievance industry that would soon descend on college campuses across America and fabricate a campus rape crisis. It's The Music Man all over again, and only Professor Harold Hill can save River City from the dire dilemma it found itself in -- a dilemma that Professor Hill concocted out of whole cloth.

Kashani said the rape she described "did, in fact, occur but did not take place at the time and location as reported."

Denise Snyder of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, for one, wasn't happy. Sh said that the "incredible fabrication" served to reinforce the "myth" that women lie about rape.

Read that last sentence again and let it sink in. You see, false rape claim after false rape claim after false rape claim is decried -- because, we are told, every false report only serves to reinforce the "myth" that women lie about rape. That's kind of like saying that reporting on all those murders in Detroit only serves to reinforce the myth that Detroit has a crime problem.

The racial element of the lie was especially problematic. Ronnie Thaxton, vice president of the Black People's Union on campus, said: "I was outraged. I think it was just another attempt by some white people to discredit young black males in this country."  Rozelle Moore, a black senior at the university, said: "She definitely owes the campus an apology, and she owes an apology to black males."

The university president said that "our black students, faculty, staff and neighbors" were "special victims of the hoax," adding, "They were stereotyped in a provocative and unfair way."

Columnist Suzanne Fields said there were plenty of goats in the story: the false accuser; the reporter; blacks--and especially black men; and all women.  The one group she left out, because she obviously didn't think of them as a group deserving of protection, was all men -- you know, the group that has a monopoly on being falsely accused accused of rape.  But why bother bringing that up when you can use a crime directed at men as an excuse to claim it victimizes women?

A generic rape lie told about any male, black or white, taps into pretty awful stereotypes -- about gender. There is an insidious, but potent, strain of misandry bubbling just beneath the surface in our culture that automatically credits every rape accusation as true and that regards every male above a certain age as a potential predator.

But the racial animus present when white women falsely accuse black men of rape is particularly repugnant because it taps into a time, not that long ago, of the hanging trees in the Deep South, when a white woman needed only to whisper "rape" and the very word became a death sentence for an innocent man or boy. 

Sadly, the lessons about race from that shameful chapter of our nation's history are rarely remembered. The lessons about gender from false rape claims uttered since the Book of Genesis are rarely acknowledged. We will continue to remind readers of both.