Friday, September 23, 2011

Ten shades of "false rape accusations."



[TRIGGER WARNING for rape and post-rape legal/social mess]

There's a lot of talk out there about "false rape accusations," which tends to come up in every discussion of a rape that did not involve a virgin in a prairie dress screaming "NOOOO" while being beaten on videotape in front of thirty-eight witnesses who were all members of the clergy and decorated war heroes.  The statistics on how many rape accusations are false range from above 40% to under 2%, and (as is usually the case) which number someone chooses to use in their argument tells you more than the number itself.

In the middle of this mess, of hearing that Julian Assange and Dominique Strauss-Kahn and whoever the fuck it is this week are victims of our Giant National Epidemic Of False Rape Accusations, I want to offer a point of clarification.  When someone says "false rape accusation," it can mean any of the following scenarios.

1. Alice goes to the police and falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is arrested, tried, and convicted.
This one's the boogeyman.  And for good cause; it is horrible.  I'm sure it has happened.  Unfortunately, by its nature we can almost never know when it's happened--which should make you very suspicious of someone who claims it happens constantly.  A handful of people have been cleared by new evidence, but only a handful--nowhere near a significant proportion of the people in prison for rape.  Obviously there are people who are innocent and we don't know it, but you can't get statistics on a thing nobody knows.

Therefore, when people talk about the prevalence of "false rape accusations," it never ends there.  Here's some other things that phrase can mean:

2. Alice goes to the police and falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is arrested but the charges are dropped.
3. Alice goes to the police and falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is arrested, tried, and acquitted.
In these cases, the justice system is working exactly as it should. An innocent person is found to be innocent, and the horrifying possibility of a man thrown away for a crime he didn't commit is averted.  If there's an epidemic of these, then there's also an epidemic of them being appropriately dealt with.

Does Bob's good name get besmirched anyway?  Sometimes it does, and that sucks.  But it's no excuse for not taking rape accusations seriously--you don't know they're false until after they're investigated.

4. Alice does not go to the police, but falsely tells all her friends that Bob raped her.
This is the only one that's happened to anyone I know.  Again, it sucks and it really can fuck up Bob's life.  But since it doesn't involve the legal system in the first place, changes to rape law would do nothing to prevent this.  This is slander, but it's not exactly an "accusation."

5. Alice falsely tells the police that someone raped her, but does not name names.
6. Alice falsely tells all her friends that someone raped her, but does not name names.
It's fucked up, but it's a victimless fucked up.  Believing Alice wastes police time and friend sympathy, but no one is seriously harmed.  A lot of cases touted in the media as "false rape reports" are actually Type 5, and while that's a wrong thing to do, it's definitely not "innocent man thrown in prison as a rapist" wrong.

7. Chuck rapes Alice. Alice tells the police that Bob raped her.
This is usually an innocent mistake, and often one that has more to do with bad police work than with Alice being dishonest.  And Alice really was raped, so any solution to this problem that comes down to "just ignore her" is inappropriate.

Note that this is the case in almost every situation where someone was cleared by DNA evidence.  If there was DNA to test, then it's very likely that someone raped Alice, and calling her a "false rape accuser" is wrong.

8. Alice and Bob have sex that Bob thinks is consensual. Alice does not. Alice accuses Bob of rape.
I think a surprising proportion of rapists are in such severe denial about what it means to have sex with a deeply drugged person, or a person who said "no" until they were cornered and held by their wrists and then they said "yes," that they honestly believe they're victims of false accusal.  All they did was have sex with someone who didn't want it, and here they are, being falsely accused of rape!  The injustice!

9. Bob rapes Alice. Alice goes to the police and Bob is arrested, but the charges are dropped or he is acquitted.
When you see the wildly huge statistics claiming 40% or more of rape accusations are false, this is almost always what they mean--40% or more of rape accusations are not proven true. However, if you think that means they were proven untrue... um, I don't have a witty simile here but you're wrong.  Guilty people are released all the time and sometimes for terrible reasons.

10. Bob rapes Alice. Alice goes to the police and Bob is arrested, proven guilty, and convicted. But some people still think Bob is innocent.
And this is where all this talk of false rape accusations ends up.  It ends in a place where rape can never be discussed, under any circumstances, even in the most clear-cut cases, without people crying "false rape accusations are everywhere!"  It ends with "innocent until proven guilty"reinterpreted as "the accuser is guilty until proven innocent."  It ends with "a court of law should not convict on this evidence" being confused with "we should not show the victim any sympathy on this evidence."

Ultimately, all too often, it ends with a huge number of rapes going unreported, because sometimes it's easier for a survivor to live with the knowledge that their rapist is free than it is for them to go through years of being under constant suspicion of being an evil false accuser.  It ends with misogyny justifying and reinforcing itself, as the concept "women lie about rape" becomes both proof of and proven by "women are untrustworthy, manipulative, and malicious."  It ends with rapists who tell their victims "no one will ever believe you" being right, with society standing behind them.

Every time we reinforce the common wisdom that "women lie about rape all the time," rape gets a little easier to commit.


Do I have an awesome, pat solution for this whole mess, an idea that would totally fix our judicial system and society to ensure justice for all?  Fuck no!  I'm not Professor Fucking X. Nothing short of psychic powers will ensure that the guilty are always punished and the innocent never are.

But I do have this to say: if someone tells you they've been raped, and you are not acting in official capacity as a judge or juror, just go ahead and believe them.  The odds they're lying are a pretty small minority, and the odds they're lying in a way that hurts someone are even smaller.  Just go ahead and take that risk.

I'd rather live in a world where a hundred false accusers are told* "I believe you, I care about you, and I'll stand up for you," than where one rape survivor is told "gosh, this story has two sides and I really need to consider him innocent until proven guilty."


*not in court, but by their friends, families, and people who figure they have a right to comment because they read about it on the Internet and everything

182 comments:

  1. Holy god, the comments are going to EXPLODE.

    also i agree with everything and find this awesome.

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  2. I'm going to moderate the comments. Dissent is fine, but if it starts turning into a bottomless pit of "but bitches lie," a whole lot of "comment removed by blog administrator"s are going to start popping up.

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  3. I was raped. I know this to be a fact. I've also had a non-rape sex crime committed against me. I've never reported, though, and probably never will. Not because I don't think I deserve to (I definitely doubt myself, a lot, but ultimately I know that I'm right,) but because in at least one of my cases, there's no clear physical evidence, and I absolutely do not want to deal with what I know I would have to go through in the legal system and through other people.

    Sometimes the justice system, and just people in general, make me fucking sick.

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  4. I think there needs to be one more - Bob rapes Alice. Alice does not go to the police because no one in her friend circle believes her. Bob gets defended and Alice persecuted for being a liar whenever the truth is brought up. (This happened to me.)

    Thank you for this. Hopefully it will encourage more people to face the truth.

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  5. This needed to be said. So badly. Thank you for always clear cutting through misogyny shit storms with sense like this. I can stand behind a point that says asks "What hurts the fewest innocent people (with no negative impact on the justice system's workings)?" And I know I'm not alone in that. Good for you, Holly.

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  6. Alphafemmeconfessions - Yeah, that's a good point. Scenarios that look like 2,3,4,5, and 6 can all happen when someone actually was raped, and there's often no way for an outside observer to tell the difference.

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  7. "9. Bob rapes Alice. Alice goes to the police and Bob is arrested, but the charges are dropped or he is acquitted.
    When you see the wildly huge statistics claiming 40% or more of rape accusations are false, this is almost always what they mean--40% or more of rape accusations are not proven true."

    Huh, I never knew that accusations that weren't proven true were assumed to be false and lumped in with accusations that were actually proven false, such as example 7. Chuck rapes Alice. Alice tells the police that Bob raped her. Assuming that the police end up proving Chuck did it, of course.

    "I'd rather live in a world where a hundred false accusers are told* "I believe you, I care about you, and I'll stand up for you," than where one rape survivor is told "gosh, this story has two sides and I really need to consider him innocent until proven guilty.""

    Me too! Honestly, what harm can it do to assume that a woman who says she was raped might actually have been raped? Wouldn't we do exactly that if a friend said she'd been mugged, or her car had been broken into?

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  8. Stabbity - Huh, I never knew that accusations that weren't proven true were assumed to be false and lumped in with accusations that were actually proven false,

    There is, to put it mildly, no one agreed-upon set of statistics for this. The only statistics that would be meaningful are impossible to get--how many times does Scenario 1 happen?--and so all kinds of other scenarios are lumped in or used for "estimates." And how much various sources lump and how they do that estimating seems to be heavily correlated with what point they're trying to prove.

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  9. I am male-bodied and pansexual. In high school, there was one particularly popular guy who was very uncomfortable with my sexuality. He sexually harassed me on many occasions. At one point, when I was unfortunately alone with him and his buddies, he threatened rape and started getting violent. I defended myself and got away, but didn't report him. He was popular and heterosexual and I was afraid his word was worth more than mine. For years, I made excuses for him; what if he was having a little joke? Then, a few years after graduation, in the local paper, I read that he was arrested for child molestation...

    I believe that he did it.

    There are plenty of people like me, who didn't speak up, who weren't so lucky. We need to change the way we discuss these things and remember that we're all in this together, so we're neither skeptical or silent, and those who need it can get the support they deserve.

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  10. I'm really not big on adopting blanket policies of believing anyone. If someone I knew claimed that they had been raped then my willingness to believe them would be directly proportional to how trustworthy I thought the person was and any physical evidence. I am perfectly happy staying neutral if I do not have enough information to make an informed decision.

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  11. Keith - If someone you knew told you that their tire blew out on the highway, would you demand tow truck receipts and photographs, or would you say "wow, that must have been scary, I'm glad you're okay."?

    You're not Chief Investigator here. You're just someone they know.

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  12. What I also think is interesting is the ways in which other aspects of kyriarchy intersect with "false rape accusations" - by which I mean specifically, "Alice goes to the police and (falsely or not) states that she has been raped; someone who did not rape her is imprisoned". This is a scenario that can easily get interpreted as "that lying bitch"... but why aren't we faulting the judicial system that prosecutes the wrong person out of racism/classism/other faults? Alice says, "A black man raped me", the wrong black man gets put in jail, and the "false rape accusations/convictions" statistic gets inflated, at no fault of Alice's.

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  13. There are a number of people I work with that if they told me that their tire blew out on the highway I would nto believe them without tow truck receipts and photographs. Like I said, it's based on how trustworthy I think the person is. I am willing to give strangers the benifit of the doubt to a point though.

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  14. I can't imagine why any woman would want to falsely accuse someone of rape, considering how shabbily they can expect to be treated. Surely there are less risky ways to get attention/revenge oneself on a man/whatever misogynists think those Lyin' Bitches are up to this week.

    (Lyin' Bitches would be a great name for a rock band.)

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  15. Yes. Yessssss. Thank you :)

    To this day I am still appalled that I was not believed by the vast majority of my friends and my entire family. What could I possibly have gained??? I didn't want to report it; I wanted it to die. I just wanted someone to give me a hug and tell me it was going to be okay. What the fuck is wrong with people?

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  16. Innocent until proven guilty is a *legal* standard to which the *government* must be held. I got fired from working @ a 24 hour convenience store once because - you ready for this? - my employer thought that since I was going to school during the day while working full time at night AND acting in a play, that I must be doing drugs to stay awake Anddd..... I know I'm gonna sound like a peal-clutcher, but I have not ever once *touched* an illegal drug beyond, touching a plastic bag with some pot in it when I was a young teen and was in a car with a friend's older brother who bought some pot and then passed it to me to pass it to someone else.

    NO ONE has to respect innocent until proven guilty except A) as someone working in a governmental capacity...and B) WHILE they are working in that capacity. Even judges often decide on guilt or innocence before a trial is over. And as long as the jury is making that determination, that's okay.

    I say all this because I want to propose a heresy: I think it's okay not to believe rape victims, if you want. part 2 coming up....

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    1. Pearl clutcher, as in being proper and clutching your necklace in shock, not peal clutcher.

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  17. But I do think that people who discuss having been raped - either making an official accusation to the cops or not - are treated *horribly* many times. If there's someone who I know tells tall tales and I hear them tell about being raped, and as someone who has worked for more than a decade with rape survivors in various capacities I feel that their story lacks credibility, I'm going to feel free to no believe them without corroboration.

    And I won't feel guilty almost at all.

    But here's the thing. I'm not going to tell them I don't believe them Unless I have some reasonably good proof. Even if I have videotape of them being somewhere else on the day it happened, they might have confused the day. I've been raped, and different times I responded differently. Every time I was stressed and freaked out - even the one that happened when I was a kid and I didn't *know* it was rape and, although I was hurt, I was never afraid of death, nor was I being beaten on. It was the sex that hurt.

    Things like that mess with your head.

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  18. Della - I thought I was going to disagree with you, but, you know, the inside of your head is yours. I'm not sure it's possible to choose to believe something, anyway.

    If no one can tell what you think, and you don't let it influence your actions at all, then I suppose it doesn't matter what you think.

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  19. and people use confusing days of the week and other normal mental freak-outs as reasons to think that someone is lying even in the rare cases a perpetrator is convicted.

    I hate this cr@p. Being kind and considerate costs you nothing in most circumstances. Especially when both the person alleging rape and the person accused/convicted of rape are entirely unknown, I simply see no reason for the intensity of the backlash against people who talk about rape. And make no mistake, it's even people who *talk* about rape without naming themselves a survivor.

    This dynamic is so foul I have trouble understanding it. People are wrongly convicted of murder - quite often, actually. And yet the same people who go off about how women are always lying about rape often support capital punishment. If you believe that the justice system is so broken it cannot be trusted with a man's reputation, how can it be trusted with a human life?

    so I go a couple inches less far than Holly. I don't even say "believe them". I don't want to be thought police and ordering someone to believe something is silly.

    Even recommending someone believe something they don't is silly. If it's important that the answer is known, show some evidence. But the thing is that in most circumstances, the answer does not need to be known. We can show human kindness without knowing in an existential sense that what someone says is certainly true or even believing in a practical sense that it's true.

    But we can do this: We can treat people who discuss rape - trans people, women, men, all human beings - we can treat people who discuss rape with respect and compassion.

    That some significant fraction of MRA's and other people can't do this is absurd - and it certainly doesn't help advance the rights of anyone.

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  20. Yes - Holly, that's exactly right.

    Sorry I had to post in chunks. I didn't know you were making the same point as I was writing the last chunk or I would have written it shorter.

    Thanks for creating this space to discuss this.

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  21. By linking Julian Assange and Dominique Strauss-Khan here as 'rape deniers' you are doing the work of The Global Corporate State, which is certainly no friend of women or of most humans in general. They are using the pain and suffering of actual rape victims as weapons to attack a political enemy.

    Dominique Strauss-Khan is a member of The Ruling Class and almost certainly serial rapist. That is fairly clear.

    Julian Assange is an Enemy of The Ruling Class and, at worst, a 'womanizer'. That could be a product of his ego. It could also be a result of knowing that what he does is going to get him killed. But womanizing is not rape.

    But The Powers That Be know full that even a specious rape charge could fatally wound him.

    If you think I'm making excuses for Assange, let's look at his situation compared to DSK.

    The 'charges' against Assange are for 'not using a condom' during a consensual sexual act or for not revealing that a condom broke. The details are somewhat vague at this point. The 'charges' were filed days later, then withdrawn, then sort of reinstated. In fact, he is not now formally charged with anything, merely 'wanted for questioning'.

    DSK was clearly and directly accused of forcible oral rape and was apprehended trying to flee the jurisdiction within hours of the act

    Assange has been under house arrest in the UK for over eight months now, without any formal charges being made and with neither complainant every saying consent was ever removed.

    DSK was released, charges dropped, after three months, even with another woman coming forward to claim he attempted to rape her. Not some 'immigrant maid' who can be crushed in the media [or a political groupie who can be pressured into false statements], but the daughter of a powerful member of his own party.

    Yet DSK is as free as a lark, while Assange is still confined and under daily attack.

    And you have just become part of that attack. I'm neither blaming not shaming you for that. Rape denial has a long and pernicious history. And The Powers That Be are using that double edged sword in an attempt to destroy someone who is really your ally, even if you may not like him personally.

    All I am asking is that you rigorously re-examine both the facts and the context.

    Speaking of 'context', I note that while DSK is largely forgotten upon these shores, Casey Anthony is still America's Most Hated. I think that says a lot about our sexual landscape.

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  22. Nebris - Just because Julian Assange is a geek folk hero doesn't mean he's incapable of rape.

    He's been accused of holding a woman down to have sex with her and of initiating sex without a condom while his partner was asleep.

    That's a hell of a lot more than just not saying a condom broke.

    Assange started an important, Evil-Illuminati-Forces combating website and probably raped some women.

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  23. I spoke a lot and wasn't going to any more, but you said something important just now Holly -

    This demonization of rapists (especially but not only rapists of children and stranger-rapists) ***does not help victims/survivors or other people***. When rapists are portrayed as so thoroughly evil as to be inhuman, then it seems like no human could rape. This is part of what causes victims/survivors to be disbelieved.

    "Bob? But Bob gave a dollar to a homeless guy once!!! He's obviously not completely, 100% demonic, thus you must be lying!"

    It also makes it impossible to get any money spent on reforming rapists. If there really are people who are in denial that they rape just because they got lucky with someone unconscious...and, yes, there are way too many people who think exactly in those terms regardless of the absolute number....then it seems like education & therapy has a chance of preventing rapes in the future.

    But if rape is only done by people who would never think a decent thought of another person, ever, because they have no conscience, no love, no respect for others, they're a living demon with no heart, well therapy doesn't work on *demons*, duh!! Who wants to go soft on demons??? Heck, they might be trying to help Glory use the Key to open the dimensions and make the surface of earth into a new demon-realm! You wanna give 'em therapy?

    And, worse, giving practical, timely advice on consent to teens and pre-teens is seen as treating little boys as demons right when they're trying to figure out what is acceptable in love and romance and sex. So we don't give good info because humans don't need it and demon-children won't benefit from it. This demonization has killed off good sex-education programs at least twice that I know of, and probably much more often than that. And, to come full circle, those rapists that think they didn't rape because they aren't a demon get to justify virtually anything to themselves, because they know inside that they experience love and other human emotions, so that stuff about rapists can't have anything to do with them.

    Rape is awful, but it is perpetrated by people. We have to get a handle on that. Thank you for being willing to say that it is possible that Assange did good AND did rape.

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  25. I was once a juror for a rape trial. I felt awful for the alleged victim as I was quite sure something bad had happened to her. Unfortunately, there was zero physical evidence as she didn't report it until months later. The prosecution's case was sufficient to convince me that the alleged perpetrator was a creep and that *something* happened, but not to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a rape had occurred. The system worked as designed, but whether justice was served, we'll never know.

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  26. zeeke42 - Unfortunately, beyond Professor X powers, that's all you can do.

    And I'm okay with that, in a legal sense. I'm just bothered when people try to take it out into the social realm and turn "you can't convict without proof" into "you can't extend sympathy or emotional support without proof."

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  28. To be nice and fair, both sides of the drama were just deleted. Let us speak no more of it.

    How 'bout those false rape accusations, eh, guys?

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  29. @Holly: "An arrest warrant, issued on 20 August, was withdrawn the following day, when one of Sweden's chief prosecutors, Eva Finné, said she did not think there was "reason to suspect that he has committed rape". On 1 September, Marianne Ny, the Swedish director of prosecutions, overturned Finné's judgment. "Considering information available at present, my judgment is that the classification of the crime is rape," said Ny."

    That sounds like political pressure to me. And while UK won't allow him to Renditioned into US custody, there are strong indications that Sweden will. And THAT is the entire point of this exercise.

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  30. I think this is a really important post. I have personally faced so much doubt when telling my story and much of it seems to stem from a belief that guys who seem otherwise decent just dont do that sort of thing. They do and as soon as we accept that as a society and stop automatically questioning the stories of survivors things will begin to get better,

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  31. Nebris - I don't have proof Julian Assange committed rape. In the end, I don't know and neither do you.

    But I'm not willing to bend over backward into nano-thermite levels of conspiracy theorizing in attempts to excuse him.

    All high-profile criminal cases are complicated and involve contradicting stories and conflicting actions, and this neither proves nor disproves the charges.

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  32. There are a number of people I work with that if they told me that their tire blew out on the highway I would nto believe them without tow truck receipts and photographs

    Jesus, really? Why? How does it detract from your life to believe someone who says they blew out a tire?

    I mean, I don't even actually believe you feel this way, I think you just dimly realize that admitting you believe people who say they lost a tire but not people who say they were raped makes you look like an asshole.

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  33. I am a boy who was once falsely accused of rape. My male friend and I had a group thing with two girls. One of whom, less than eight hours after the encounter, called the police and accused us of raping her. Luckily, the other girl involved corroborated our story with the police, describing a friendly, substance-free, non-coercive situation.

    I was kicked out of school, lost my job, spent about five thousand dollars in legal fees, and was ostracized from a good number of my friends who just figured I did it.

    Later on, we found out that the girl had done something similar a few years prior in her hometown. Her boyfriend caught her cheating and she used rape as an out.

    There were never any charges pressed.

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  34. Anon who was falsely accused: i'm sorry that happened to you.

    At the same time I am glad that situations like that are extremely rare.

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  35. Did you had to bring up Assange and not Chad or something? I had almost forgot the sheer insanity involved in that case as well as the awfully convenient timing and the also awfully convenient nature of the case itself. You mean that guy who's organization is trying and succeeding in bringing transparency to government just happened to have allegedly raped a hardcore radical feminist/misandrist? Thank god for those male hormones. Now we don't have to hope something less convenient were to happen like Assage just happen to up and die in a car crash. /tangent

    Anyway, I prefer to live in reality and unfortunately reality isn't necessarily lined up with what people tell me reality is. As such, when what is reality is not discernible, I default to what is most likely to keep me in the realm of reality.

    To relate to this topic, I've been fortunate enough to be in a position where I've never had to deal with the subject in a way that effects me personally... depending on one's definition of rape is anyway. The only experience I've had with rape has been television, porn (don't judge me), and the internet and I must say, when accusations of rape are right next to penis enlargement advertisements, it's second nature to treat both as suspect.

    Anyway, to sum up a long winded post, I'm with Keith. When it comes to serious accusations such as rape, I'm not going to take people at their word. I'll be kind to them but I won't believe them solely at their word because I'd want people to do the same if I were in the accused shoes and because I do not want to live in the world where people believe X raped Y because Y said so.

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  36. Hershele I can assure you that I am dead serious about what I said. These are people who routinely weave tales to either hide their failings or otherwise make themselves look better. One of these guys was eventually fired after he continually made up relatives deaths so he could get time off. Now this does not mean that I would argue with them or even necessarily call them on it, but if these guys told me the sky was blue I would go outside to check. To be fair there are plenty of people on the other side of this too, people who if they told me they were raped or blew a tire I would believe without a second thought.

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  37. "...I'm not willing to bend over backward into nano-thermite levels of conspiracy theorizing in attempts to excuse him." ~Holly

    "But The Powers That Be know full that even a specious rape charge could fatally wound him." ~Nebris

    See? The task is already accomplished here.

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  38. Nebris, what task has been accomplished? All Holly said is that she is unwilling to accept "but he says controversial and important things" as some kind of proof that he couldnt also be a rapist

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  39. Anon @ 12:21 - please provide me some kind of proof that the accuser in the Assange case was a "misandist"

    Bonus points for proving misandy even exists as a widespread problem.

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  40. Anon 12:21 - Oh, those "hardcore radical feminist/misandrists," always hiding in your closet and under your bed.

    Misandry is the hatred of men. Misandry is not the belief that rape exists.

    And I am getting REALLY FUCKING SICK of the whole "Assange did a good thing so he couldn't possibly have done a bad thing" logic, especially when it's mixed with "look mom, I'm Carl Fucking Bernstein" armchair-conspiracy-theorizing.

    I must say, when accusations of rape are right next to penis enlargement advertisements, it's second nature to treat both as suspect.
    What in the name of ass does this mean?

    Have you been getting spam entitled "ENLARGE YOUR SUPPORT FOR MY RAPE PROSECUTION NOWWW!!!! CHEAP!!!!"?

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  41. This certianly went to an intresting place, perhaps Kobe Bryant would have been a better example.

    Another thought: Once an accusation of rape is leveled the reputations of both alleged victim and perpertrator are almost irrevocably sullied. Perhaps that is one reason why so many rapes go unreported. The victims think that it is simply not worth it. Hell if I know what to do about it though.

    Holly What I think he/she means is that the juxtaposition of news rape stories and penis enlargement advertisements is damaging for the more serious of the two.

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  42. Keith - I know what they meant, it's just ridiculous. I have a stuffed tyrannosaurus on my desk, so if I put legal documents on my desk, they won't be credible?

    Or something.

    Once an accusation of rape is leveled the reputations of both alleged victim and perpertrator are almost irrevocably sullied. Perhaps that is one reason why so many rapes go unreported. The victims think that it is simply not worth it.
    "Irrevocably sullied" is a bit of an overstatement, but yeah.

    As I said, I don't have a great solution, but I think a lot of what we can do about it is to not act as judge and jury ourselves--on either side. I think it's possible to support a victim without calling for extrajudicial revenge on their alleged rapist. It's not going to work out perfectly and I'll freely admit I'm biased on the victim's side (even by the harshest statistics, it is more likely that they're telling the truth), but it's better than turning into either Amateur Investigator or Amateur Vengeance Squad.

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  43. I knew a girl in University who had consensual sex with a boy at a party, but got scared of the consequences and accused him of rape. When it turned out she didn't have any STD's and wasn't pregnant, she herself dropped the charges and voluntarily apologized. Months later, she was actually raped in a senseless violent act that targeted her and a friend, but because she had already made a false accusation the police immediately dismissed her.

    I agree and I think it is important to know that people who make these false accusations are an extremely small minority. However, if more people knew the consequences of their actions you'd see a decrease in false accusations.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said: "Every time we reinforce the common wisdom that "women lie about rape all the time," rape gets a little easier to commit." and as a woman I'm offended that there are some women out there that are also doing their part to reinforce this!

    Rape is a very serious crime that, quite frankly, needs to be taken more seriously. I mean by everybody. Women, men, the justice system.

    Things will never get better if rape is flung around like a joke.

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  44. I don't see how 8,9, and 10 are false accusations. It sounds like Bob got off for no good reason.

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  45. Anon 1:07 - That's a... very tidy little fable you've got there.

    Also, "we women need to prevent rape by not lying about rape" is definitely a new angle on the situation, fellow woman who is definitely a woman.

    (I apologize if this is all true. But you sound exactly like someone who's trying desperately to come up with ways that everything is women's fault, in a way that I generally associate with male trolls.)

    Anon 1:09 - They're not (neither is anything except 1-3), but they're often counted in "false accusation" statistics and held up as examples of false accusations.

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  46. "I was kicked out of school, lost my job, spent about five thousand dollars in legal fees, and was ostracized from a good number of my friends who just figured I did it."


    I just wanted to touch on this.

    The current system of treating people accused of felonies in the United States is abhorrent. Even before an investigation is properly commenced, actions are taken and statements are issued that can ruin someone's reputation who might not even get to a hearing.

    So as a complete tangent to the very real 10 shades' issues you brought up, I'd like to propose the following, to be enacted through Holly's powers of Emperor Of All Humankind (when she ascends, not if!):

    Felony accusations and investigations stay under wraps until the hearing unless all parties involved acquiesce to otherwise.

    This would protect not only men and women falsely accused of rape (if an investigation dismisses the charges) but also protect men and women who are bringing complaints of rape before the police. If you knew that any rape accusation you brought would remain under wraps until you knew it would at least go before a judge, wouldn't you be more willing to bring forth a true accusation of rape... and less willing to, in the fucked-up hypothetical, bring forth a false one?

    I know I would.


    (Of course there are problems with the proposed system. There are tweaks that would have to be made and adjustments so that cases didn't just get buried, as one example, with the very burying robbing them of legitimacy. It'd still be a step forward.)

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  48. Holly please forgive my fauxlosophic monologuing.

    As for your desk objects yes! The document will loose all credibility if there next to a dinosaur! That's why lawyers have those big fancy desks with fancy gold writing implements on them!

    Seriously though I can see why someone would find a rape article and penis enlargement adds juxtaposition a bit unsettling but that's why I have Firefox.

    Flag on the moon. How did it get there.

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  49. I thought I'd chime in as a victim of #4.

    Back when I was in high school, I dated a girl who was genuinely mentally unstable. Not "Bitches be crazy, yo", or something like that. Constantly lied to everyone, tried to cause drama all around her, emotionally manipulative...It was generally a bad situation. Eventually I worked up the guts to break up with her, and felt a thousand times better for it.

    However, the next day, I hear a rather unsettling rumor: Apparently, she's telling people that when I broke up with her, I punched her, and that I had raped her during the relationship. Given that we'd never even had sex, I was naturally angry.

    Thankfully, I'm a nice guy so the general response around the school was "Wait, [Hermetic]? That passive friendly dude who hangs out in the computer lab?" (Which tended to get followed up with "...Isn't he gay?", much to my chagrin at the time.) It pretty much seemed that the only people who believed her were her close circle of drama-loving friends who probably would have believed her if she'd said I was a werewolf. (I'm not. Figured out I AM gay, though.)

    The school administration listened to her accusation, then later I was quietly taken off to an empty lunchroom and questioned by the school psychiatrist. He asked me a few questions, about my relationship and the accusations, then sent me back to class.

    They believed me, so thankfully the cops never got involved. Also, the girl never received an ounce of punishment to my knowledge. Surprisingly, I'm very happy about that.

    Was it a malicious lie? Yes. Could it have damaged my life? Of course it could have. That said, if she was punished for her fake accusation, it could have dissuaded a girl who had been legitimately raped from coming forward, for fear of punishment if she wasn't believed. My petty revenge isn't worth even the potential for that happening.

    In short, thankfully rape accusations don't always turn into victim-blame-athons OR accused-lynchings. That said, As much as I agree with 99% of what you said, Holly, I hope that this shows that it's not always good to deal in absolutes. If the person is legitimately unbalanced, maybe a no-questions-belief policy isn't the best one...Just my personal view.



    Also, on a slightly related post-script, there are posters up all over my campus that always make me think of this blog. They simply read "Consensual Sex is Sexy".

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  50. There's a few possibilities that you've overlooked. Suppose that Alice does not go to the police, but she does go to their mutual employer and tells them that Bob raped her, and says that if she's forced to continue working with Bob that she'll sue the company for creating a hostile environment. Or suppose that Alice and Bob are college students and she goes to campus administrators and asks that Bob be kicked out of school under their sexual harassment policy. The latter possibility is particularly troubling, since right now the standard of proof mandated under title IX for adjudicating such claims is preponderance of the evidence. See here: http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2011/09/18/new-campus-sexual-misconduct-policy-threatens-civil-liberties-noh/

    This policy is even worse than Hugh's summary would indicate. After all, preponderance of the evidence means only that the accusation is more likely to be true than not. But at the beginning of a trial (or in this case, disciplinary hearing), the only evidence that the tribunal has is the existence of the accusation itself. Which means that as long as the tribunal believes that strictly less than 50% of all rape accusations are fabricated THEY ARE OBLIGATED TO FIND THE DEFENDANT GUILTY UNLESS HE PRODUCES EVIDENCE OF HIS INNOCENCE! Needless to say, a policy that means that any man may be forced out of college by any woman on just her say so unless he can provide evidence of his innocence is not even remotely just. And this IS a case where changes to the law would make a difference.

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  51. Holly, I just have to give you mad props for braving the crazy that this issue brings. I'm so happy to read something that is well considered, interesting, and compassionate on this subject. Especially on the internet! Who would have thought.

    @Aaron, I see what you're getting at, but I think transparency is important. While trial theater can be damaging, secret trials are, IMHO, much creepier and more likely to lead to unfair judgements. *trying and failing not to derail about Troy Davis*

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  52. @Anon 2:32

    So... I went to college. During my four years there, no one got kicked out for rape - clear or unclear evidence. I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but I just don't think this is a common problem.

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  53. As usual, great article.
    On the Assange subject, I would say I think what he did with wikileaks is pretty awesome, that he is possibly a rapist (if he is, and if there enough proofs, he should be condemned for it) but what happened is a very obvious case of political manipulation, which in itself is very wrong too.

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  54. I'm in the uncomfortable position of believing that since most people who are raped and sexually assaulted never tell anybody, let alone go to the police, the ratio of false reports to true ones is artificially, but unacceptably high.

    Having dug into it a bunch lately (must be in the air) I agree pretty much 100% with Della Street. Despite the waxing hysterical with the "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" approach various rape apologists and "slut" blamers seem to prefer there really do appear to be some fairly consistent patterns to false vs. true reporting. And as such there's really no reason not to use different corroboration strategies based on patterns of evidence.

    But also like Della Street I agree you never say "you're a liar, aren't you?" Because details really can be fuzzy, and dates and times really can be wrong, and attackers can sometimes be astonishingly meticulous. And consequently there's a non-zero chance that even someone who's grilled till she "confesses" to having filed a false report turns out to really have been telling the truth!

    Anyway, like a seemingly-small group of other people I feel strongly that false accusations are a feminist issue. First, because the hysterical "told you so" reaction to one false report discourages another five or ten real victims from coming forward. Second, because the motivations that tend to drive false accusations (fear, anger, and occasionally guilt, shame, or self-aggrandizement) are almost intrinsically both gendered and anti-feminist. And finally because, Jezuw but the victims of actual false accusations tend to get put through the wringer.

    A relative was accused of sexually assaulting a child -- by a fucking hillbilly pharmacy photo-developer who decided since it never occurred to him that a father would be a primary caregiver any evidence of him giving his child a bath had to be about pedophilia. Let's call that scenario #11 (where a concerned, not necessarily female 3rd-party files the confused or false complaint.)

    As in your sort of cheery cases #2 and #3, he was never convicted of anything. But part of not being convicted involved legal fees in the $50,000-$75,000 range. So yeah, the system worked as advertised, sort of. But he'll be paying off his legal bills for the rest of his life.

    Anyway. #2 and #3 only come out no-harm/no-foul if the defendant spends no time in jail awaiting trial and is obliged to pay no legal fees.

    And also, melding #11 with #2 and #3, there's a disquieting tendency among at least some categories of false reporters (either first- or third-party ones) to build on disquieting racial and ethnic stereotypes. Which wouldn't necessarily be a problem if police and mob zeal didn't sometimes lead to racial targeting. (See the Scottsboro Boys, Susan Smith, or more recently the Heidi Jones business.)

    Coming from a feminist perspective I do think the answer to false reporting isn't more and more draconian punishments. For one thing the kind of people who file false reports appear to do so in circumstances where they're not likely to be considering the legal consequences. So extra punishment isn't likely to make much of a dent in false reports.

    On the other hand, by increasing the sense of risk (that Lynnwood conviction is fucking chilling) such laws are likely to discourage or demoralize even more real victims and make them even less likely to come forward than they already are.

    Not quite sure what to do about it (yet.) But a) I do think something should be done and b) I think MRAs are probably the wrong people to help form policies that address it.

    Like I say, an uncomfortable position to be in.

    figleaf

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  55. Also, one's witness testimony isn't always translated well into police reports. I was recently a witness to my friend's beating/mugging*, and my statement was completely useless. All I could tell the cop who came by was that he had been hit by two black guys wearing t-shirts. At the time, I was focused on finding my phone to call 911, and the copious blood coming out of my friend's face. I wasn't paying attention to anyone's identifying characteristics!

    The police officer wrote down, "20-21 year old Black Male."

    It didn't come to anything, but I would have hated to be a trial witness. What would I say - "They were definitely wearing t-shirts!"

    *We are both fine! It turns out a lot of blood comes out of people's heads, even without significant injury.

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  56. @Hermetic - I don't know why, but it really makes me feel good to hear your story - not good that it happened, but good that there are guys around who can deal so gracefully with a horrible situation like that. I wish all guys could be like you.

    Anyway, I love this post - really, really, neccessary - but it strikes me that there's a really big missing scenario that belongs between 8 and 9:

    8.5: Bob rapes Alice. Alice goes to the police, but they ignore or belittle her, and bully her into dropping the charges, or flat-out refuse to do anything about it.

    That's what happened to me. I believe (but can't neccessarily prove, and I didn't have the energy to make an official complaint at the time) that the reasons they didn't believe me were pretty much equal parts that it was a guy I'd slept with before who didn't actually beat me up, and my history of mental illness (which the detective actually brought up in the interview). And what do you know, in something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I was so shaken up by the experience I ended up spending the night in a psych ward.

    It still pisses me off that they probably have this filed somewhere as 'crazy bitch makes false rape accusation'.

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  57. I'd add that, following @Loki, there's the case, call it 8.5.5, where at least one of the local "hot talk" radio pundits has been enthusiastically plastering the airwaves about cracking down on women who "cry rape" right around the time that a bewildered 18-year-old who'd been aggressively assaulted by a perpetrator who was meticulous about erasing evidence and threatening victims finally summoned the nerve to go to a police station in Lynnwood, WA. With the result that, in an unusual move, her story doesn't pass muster, the cops decide not to analyze the evidence they collected but instead pressure her into "admitting" she'd filed a false report. And then charging her with it. (It's highly unusual to charge victims.)

    #%!#%$!

    figleaf

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  58. "@Aaron, I see what you're getting at, but I think transparency is important. While trial theater can be damaging, secret trials are, IMHO, much creepier and more likely to lead to unfair judgements. *trying and failing not to derail about Troy Davis*"

    I would never, ever suggest mandating secret trials, or even closed-books pre-trial hearings. But part of the purpose of a pre-trial hearing is to sort out which charges are bogus, which charges are going to stick, and whether any plea bargains are going to happen.


    Also, @figleaf, that shit should be felonious. But in the United States, the police do not have an individual duty; that is to say, it is not the case that the police are legally required to do their duty in any specific case, or have due diligence with regards to any given person. Which is idiotic.

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  59. I actually would agree with keeping the names of people accused of rape private to the same degree that victims' names are kept private. (Obviously, not once they're convicted.) I don't think that makes it a "secret trial" exactly, just one between John Doe and the state.

    I also think sex offender registries are a terrible idea, because they make it almost impossible for someone to genuinely reform, and probably encourage people to reoffend more than they prevent it.

    However, I don't think there should be punishment for making a false report or accusation except maybe in the most egregious of "we are absolutely 100% certain it was both false and malicious" cases. I'd hate for making a rape accusation to be even more of a gamble for the victim than it is, and some proposals I've heard would practically make it into a "whoever loses this case goes to jail" proposition.

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  60. Anon at 2:32, and several other people commenting on how justice systems work - you appear to be confused. A preponderance of evidence is indeed the standard for civil claims, meaning that the plaintiff needs to make the judge or jury "50+1" percent sure that he or she is correct.

    This does NOT mean that the judge or jury, or educational tribunal or what-have-you, is obligated to accept whatever evidence is produced at face value. When someone tells the court what happened to them, the trier of fact is going to determine their credibility based on any number of factors - including but not limited to whether the other side has produced contradictory evidence. A witness may not be believed simply because he or she isn't too sure of all the facts, or seems hesitant, or forgets something that was written in a police statement months before.

    Therefore, even when the only evidence submitted is evidence of the accused's guilt, that person will not necessarily be convicted. The evidence has to be believed. Yes, only at a standard of 'probably true' if it isn't in a criminal court.

    This bring me to my next point: it is appropriate that the standard of proof is much higher in a criminal justice context because the consequences to a convicted criminal are much more serious. The principles underlying our system are "innocent until proven guilty" and, more importantly for this discussion, that "it is better to let 10 guilty people go free than to convict 1 innocent person." Those principles, together with the consequences of a conviction (potential jail time, a criminal record which affects work, travel, etc, and considerable social stigma) are why we adopted the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And to continue, it is totally inappropriate to apply that standard outside of that context.

    Also, it is not the place of any individual in the course of their daily lives to decide whether a person ought to be held legally responsible for something they may have done. I completely agree with Holly that it is much more important to support your friends and family when they're going through difficult times than it is to "be right".

    I hope it's clear from what I and others have written that an acquittal or a stay of proceedings, particularly in a criminal court, may have very little to do with what actually happened. Depending on the circumstances of the case and how it was handled by police, prosecutors, defence, witnesses, judge and jury, it could mean anything from "the complainant was lying" to "the defence raised a reasonable doubt about how the DNA evidence was analysed" to "the police infringed on the accused's rights when they made the arrest, so the case has to be dropped."

    tl;dr: please familiarise yourself with how the criminal justice system actually works before you attempt to talk about it. Thank you.

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  61. @Loki Thanks! I like to think it shows a lot of things people need to remember about this idea of false rape accusations:

    1) Sane people don't do that sort of crap, and the type of crazy that DOES do it is pretty easy to spot. People that desperate for drama/attention probably don't go to rape accusations for their first attempt to get that drama/attention. They probably have a long string of those sorts of shenanigans on file.

    2) If people who know you don't see you as violent or misogynistic, a rape accusation probably won't instantly change their minds and make them hate you.

    3) Authority figures don't want to be humiliated after the fact if it comes to light that you're innocent. Also, I doubt they're all crouched in the dark, cackling and sharpening their knives at the thought of prosecuting someone based on any accusation, no mater how flimsy. They have just as much stake in determining the truth as you do in most cases.

    BONUS FUNNY ITEM: It helps if you're flamingly gay, but totally oblivious/not willing to own up to the fact. I had, in fact, literally run away from an offer of sex by a girl about a year before. Assuming said girl didn't keep that hilarious fact to herself, I'm guessing that helped the "probably not a rapist" assumption of the people around me.

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  62. You know, I'm not actually worried about being falsely accused of rape. In addition, I'd rather be falsely accused of raping/abusing someone than actually being a rapist/abuser.

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  64. Sometimes I wonder about people. Some of this discussion reminds me of people who react to hearing about someone cutting or attempting suicide with "they're just doing it for attention!" What do you lose, seriously, by giving them comfort and believing them? "Oh, haha, got ya! I caught you being a human being and being nice and caring!" What do you lose in giving them attention? If someone is going to those lengths to get noticed then they need to be noticed. After you find out that they did it specifically to get attention they need a different kind of attention, but they still need it.

    I know someone who's done #5. The police looked on the video tape of it and found that there was no way anything happened. They did it in order to get out of a bad situation because if they told the truth then they would've gotten in trouble as well. The thing is, this hasn't shaken my faith that the majority of rape accusations aren't false; they are currently defending a potential rapist, wearing shirts that say "free [person]". I wonder that when people claim false rape it says more about them than it does about the situation. Also tied into the whole "they mowed my lawn once so they're a good person. Good people can't possibly have raped someone."

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  65. I think there's also another one:

    11. Bob rapes Alice, but since Alice is disabled, nobody believes her.

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  66. This is a great great great post Holly :)

    It's surprisingly to me how some ppl treat rape so much differently than they would if their friend told them that they'd been carjacked, or mugged. :\ Like you said, we're not talking about a justice system... I had this first hand... when I started to write what happened to me in my locked live journal post (it was shortly after it happened... I was trying to put on a brief and happy face for a little while, but when I couldn't sleep in the dark, and every single person near me was triggering me, and I was crying in the shower... I finally broke down and started to write it out to figure it out)... I had a lot of friends play internet detective about it :\ And they didn't know the guy. I never named the guy. It's a locked private post that only my friends can see... and still, it's necessary to take apart my story and say "well I didn't notice you fought" "well you didn't write how HARD he squeezed your neck, maybe you overreacted" "maybe he didn't know you didn't consent" "nowhere did you say you tried to run" etc etc etc

    And one of the comments above said that we dun treat friends talking about other things that have happened to them like that. And that's so true :\ And the same argument can be made "you're tarring some poor anonymous person's good name!" But nobody thinks this. When I say my dad was abusive to my mom, none of these ppl demanded proof. When I talk about transphobia I've experienced, nobody demanded proof. Or if I say somebody tried to grab my purse.

    But somehow, when I talk about being raped, it's different, ppl must FIND THE TRUTH, they must make sure this poor beset upon accused person isn't viciously slandered by somebody on a locked LJ post that didn't even mention his name! We must make sure Ami isn't lying, so my sympathy for her isn't used to fund terrorists in a far off country! It's just... ridiculous :(

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  67. Calistair: That's creepy for a variety of reasons. If Alice is physically disabled, that could easily have interfered with her ability to escape/call for help/fight off the rapist, making her more likely to be seen as an "easy target" in the first place. And if Alice is mentally disabled, then depending on the nature of the disability, she might not even fully understand the various implications and potential consequences of sex, making even a "Yes," by definition, coerced.

    Why would someone be LESS likely to believe a disabled person about this? I'd be MORE sympathetic, if anything.

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  68. People often don't believe disabled people when try to report abuse because there's an ableist cultural meme that dealing with disabled people is so difficult that abusing them is just a natural consequence.

    In addition, a lot of disabled people end up being abused and bullied into being so submissive that they wouldn't even be angry about it. An example is here: http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com/2007/01/good-girl.html

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  69. Knowing a third party who also claims that Assange raped her, and years before the Wikileaks incident, but didn't report it then (and certainly isn't interested in doing so now, given the public scorn being heaped on his accusers), I absolutely believe Assange is perfectly capable of having committed the acts he is accused of having committed in Sweden.

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    1. Hi, just letting you know that depending on the jurisdiction that she's in, for exactly the reason you described above, it is likely that it is a criminal offence to publicly identify the victim. Obviously it would still be unpleasant to read that about yourself even if you were unidentified, but there are protections in place for this kind of scenario. Just something to think about. I am sure that two women are not separately lying about separate incidents with regards to the same guy- it sounds a little far fetched!

      I hope your friend is ok

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  70. goth-is-not-emo: if someone is mentally disabled, people may assume they're too confused to know what they're talking about. If someone is physically disabled, well, the stereotype is that disabled people are unsexy and unsexual, so people who believe that rape is about sex will experience cognitive dissonance.

    Statistically, I believe disabled people are more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than able-bodied or neurotypical people, and yet less likely to be believed when they come forward. Horrifying, but true.

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  71. "I think there's also another one:

    11. Bob rapes Alice, but since Alice is disabled, nobody believes her."

    Just to add here one twist this and get a number of different permutations such as "Alice falsely accuses bob of rape, and since bob is disabled, everyone believes her."

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  72. Keith: Yeah, depending on the disability, but what's more likely is:

    "Alice accuses Bob of rape. Since Bob is disabled and disabled people are really just children, he couldn't possibly have done it."

    In addition, false accusations of rape are not really a common problem for disabled people. Rape happens far more often.

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  73. Also, perversecowgirl: yeah, that's a good point. "You'd be lucky if someone wants to fuck you/you could make someone lose control like that"

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  74. Are there any solid stats on any of this anywhere? The numbers Holly mentions early on seem to suggest the the numbers are all over the place. I have heard "1 in 7 women are raped at least once in their lives" but have no idea how this number was derived. As statics play a rather major role in my own political hobby horse I am aware that how the numbers are collected are just as important as what the numbers are. I am also just as aware that numbers are often used as a sort of mathematical smokescreen to confuse the issue.

    Also just to be clear earlier I was thinking more along the lines of mentally disables than physically. Think Lennie Smalls kinda thing.

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  75. I'd say that the vast majority of disabled people (ESPECIALLY mentally/cognitively/emotionally disabled people) really are thought of as such. I mean, anyone who has sex with a disabled person is thought of as automatically being a pedophile. I remember when Brittany had sex with Artie (Artie is paraplegic) on Glee and a bunch of ableist feminists started screaming about how it was rape because well, everyone knows that paralyzed people can't consent to sex! Some even called Artie a pedophile because Brittany is supposedly childish. /rant

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  76. @Keith - There are so many fundamental problems with trying to do a thorough analysis of false rape statistics that the closest that's been done which meets standards of rigor would probably be the Kelly, Lovett, and Regan, 2005 study.

    And even that study is flawed.

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  77. I actually would agree with keeping the names of people accused of rape private to the same degree that victims' names are kept private. (Obviously, not once they're convicted.) I don't think that makes it a "secret trial" exactly, just one between John Doe and the state.

    In a country in which the government cannot legally keep members of the public from publishing information they've obtained -- ostensibly including the one you and I live in -- there is no way to have non-secret trials without (the risk of) the name of the accused becoming public knowledge. I trust you see the problem with the government being able to file charges against you and not tell anyone about it, which is the only real way to keep the name of the accused totally secret.

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  78. "Does Bob's good name get besmirched anyway? Sometimes it does, and that sucks. But it's no excuse for not taking rape accusations seriously--you don't know they're false until after they're investigated."

    According to the United States Supreme Court, the state (or, the government, if you prefer) has a legitimate interest in protecting the reputation of the defendant from an accusation until the accusation is proven. In civil courts, this is handled by a simple punishment system: if you lose a civil case, you have to pay the legal fees of the defendant, etc. In a criminal case; however, this is obviously not feasible because the state has a legitimate interest in defending BOTH parties... and an equally legitimate interest in defending both, at that.

    Bob's good name will always be besmirched in this case as long as the case goes public, and more than anything I believe *that* needs to be fixed. And I believe it *can* be fixed! NDAs and confidentiality can be required by law, contrary to what Hershele says.

    In fact, if the standards were high enough, there could be legitimate reprocutions. For example, police are generally required to not comment on ongoing investigations.

    So the solution of the name becoming public knowledge is to be very strict: if CBS publishes the name of the defendant in a sexual assault trial before a conviction is reached, CBS has to pay out the butt for damages to the defendant's reputation. Oh, and they still have to pay even if the defendant is convicted (just to prevent the stupid hedge-games).

    See, here's the thing: if someone is accused of rape and the state finds them not guilty, I am going to assume that person is not a rapist. There was no evidence and while I'm not accusing anyone of lying, I am saying that if there was no evidence of this person doing this act, I'm going to assume this person did not do this act. I do not apologize for holding this ideal of the world.

    The other thing is, if person A accuses person B of raping them, I'm not going to assume person B is a rapist. Nor am I going to assume person B is not a rapist. I'm going to assume person A has a reason for accusing person B of raping them and wait for proof and to hear both sides of the story and to generally wait before I can judge the situation before I judge a person. but that's because I try to not rush to judgment.

    Also of all the false rape accusations, I believe #7 is probably far and away the most common one and that no one is at fault for that one really. it is *because* of #7, in fact, that I am becoming increasingly distressed by the assertion that due process should not apply to rape (an assertion that you are not making, but that many colleges around the country are beginning to enforce). Even the accused have rights, no matter how vicious or violent the crime they are accused of committing.

    I think the worst is the variant of #1 that occurs as an actual attack. So, Alice meets Bob. Bob does something to piss off Alice, Alice retaliates by accusing Bob of rape, fabricating evidence, and getting a conviction. It's important to understand that this is *extraordinarily rare* and that it's also perjury plus a few other kinds of felony and if it can be proven that Alice did this, she will be living a nice life in prison.

    So you know, false accusations of rape happen. There are ways to protect people from false accusations of crimes without demonizing or accusing the victims. I just wish we'd USE them rather than arguing about whether or not false accusations happen (they, um, do) or whether or not they're relevant (this is actually the most upsetting part: I can't take a lot of feminists seriously when they, on the one hand, talk about how false accusations of rape aren't relevant, but on the other hand talk about Troy Davis. I mean REALLY?)... but what we can do to make them as undamaging as possible.

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  79. superglucose:

    Troy Davis is REALLY FUCKING DIFFERENT than people falsely accused of rape. The vast majority of people accused of rape don't get MURDERED, they don't even get actual legal consequences. Troy Davis was ONE example of racist legal lynching in America, whereas there simply isn't a similar social situation for people falsely accused of rape. There just isn't, and comparing the two is fucking wrong.

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  80. So the solution of the name becoming public knowledge is to be very strict: if CBS publishes the name of the defendant in a sexual assault trial before a conviction is reached, CBS has to pay out the butt for damages to the defendant's reputation. Oh, and they still have to pay even if the defendant is convicted (just to prevent the stupid hedge-games).

    I hate to burst your bubble, but there is case law on this stuff. Not only does the government have no right to stop the press from publishing anything they hear in open court, but stuff that comes out of police and court records is considered "privileged" under libel law and a media outlet is absolutely protected from any damages for publishing that information, no matter how false it later turns out to be. Got a problem with it? Take it up with the Supreme Court.

    A number of people on this thread seem to be confused about the criminal process or are using "investigation" in different ways. It is extremely unusual for a sex assault suspect's name to become public during an investigation, and most police departments, if asked if they are investigating so-and-so, will neither confirm nor deny any active investigations. Once someone has been arrested and charged, the "investigation" stage is over and the name becomes public. This sucks for the falsely accused. It sucks for them no matter the crime for which they are accused. Getting accused of rape that you didn't commit is pretty damn bad, but is it worse than being accused of a murder you didn't commit? Why not shield all names of all defendants? Oh ... wait ... I trust you see the problem with the government being able to file charges against you and not tell anyone about it, which is the only real way to keep the name of the accused totally secret.

    Victims' names are usually redacted in police reports that are released to the media, but the names are usually used at trial. It's a social convention not to use the victim's name in the media. You could lobby newspapers and television stations not to publish names of people until they're convicted, but again, why let accused rapists stay anonymous but publish the names of accused murderers?

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    1.      It's not just social convention not to use the victim's name in the media. It is illegal for members of the press to release it (without the permission of said accuser.) They can get huge fines and/or jail time. Let's take the Strauss-Kahn case that was mentioned. For a considerable period of time, the reporters specifically stated that they knew who the accuser was but could not legally release the information. An identical law can protect the name of the accused. (Incidentally, I never believed the "trying to flee the jurisdiction" line. He didn't make an emergency flight schedule at the last minute. He had the plane trip set up weeks in advance to go back home. Lots of innocent people do that. At best someone might think that he took an opportunity because he was going to be leaving the jurisdiction anyway.)

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  81. As a survivor, I want to say when I want ppl to believe me, it just means that I want ppl to believe me (and sometimes to respect and understand that I might be triggered sometimes). I'm not asking for ppl to go beat the guy up, give me free things, give me affection out of pity, or etc etc -_-

    And that's what Holly's talking about. A lot of ppl here seem to think that believing a victim of rape means that you're obligated to do certain things, or that therefore they are expecting things from you they don't deserve or something. (And if they are, then you obv don't have to do it) I know ppl will bring up situations where ppl have been fired, or somebody got beaten up, or lost friends, or etc... But Holly isn't telling nebody to shun nebody, or beat ppl up, or fire an employee... she's merely talking about not automatically doubting survivors... :\

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  82. Holly - I think you did a great job of giving clear examples of why it's dangerous to conflate everything that could possibly be viewed as a false rape accusation with situation number one. It's not an exhaustive list, but it does a great job of highlighting the general issue.

    As far as the Assange case goes I'm going to straddle conspiracy theory middle ground and say that perhaps the best explanation is that - while I don't think anyone can argue with a straight face that random non-political guy would be facing the same level of legal fallout from this case - I don't think it inherently follows that the accuser is making it all up. Honestly, if someone was going to go to the trouble of having some agent of the conspiracy seduce him to create a rape accusation... wouldn't they do a better job of framing the guy? Believing that the accusation existed separate from the transparently political handling of it just takes fewer assumptions.

    I do think that the case is a good example of why demonizing rapists is a big part of the problem. If we assume for a moment that the victim's version is the 100% objective truth, I still find it not just plausible but likely that he didn't view his actions as rape. Because we all "know" that rapists are monsters who jump out of bushes and threaten violence. And I think that knee-jerk response is part of why for some people the violations of consent in this case don't read as rape.

    I also think that sometimes it can be helpful to remember that it's possible to - when in real doubt - extend support to the victim without requiring proof, but let the doubt temper your reaction to the possible rapist. By nature this is going to apply more in personal interactions than in institutional or legal situations. (although it is somewhat analogous to treating the defendant as "innocent until proven guilty" but not prosecuting the victim just because the case didn't result in conviction) In general I think most of the situations in which most people are going to be responding to someone saying they've been raped are likely to be personal. And in situations where the person isn't naming names or where you otherwise are never going to be required to figure out how to handle interacting with the possible rapist involved, just extend support.

    And yes, I'd argue this applies even if the victim is a huge drama-pot-stirrer. In this case they will give you plenty of other battles to pick/reasons to stop being their source for sucking down emotional energy. People who aren't very credible can be easy targets, and I think the harm done by feeding the drama cycle 99 times is less than the harm done by blowing off the time it's true.

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  83. And in situations where the person isn't naming names or where you otherwise are never going to be required to figure out how to handle interacting with the possible rapist involved, just extend support.

    This :) Ty for articulating that. :]

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  84. I agree with what some others have said here (who I can't remember because that was a lot of comments, sorry!)

    But basically -- people have commented about how demonizing rapists is a problem. But demonizing false accusers of rape is a problem, too. The false accusers are also just people who made a particularly egregious choice.

    Therefore if someone comes to you and says "I was raped and so-and-so raped me", just try being supportive instead of immediately picking their story apart. If someone said "My boss was a total asshole to me" would you pick it apart? Or would you just smile and nod and support your friend, even if you don't think their boss is an asshole at all? In the worst case scenario, if they are making it up, your prying is just going to make them defensive and angry. If you truly believe that they are lying, then just smile and nod and offer support and *keep it to yourself*. You're not going to hurt anyone that way, including the accuser or the accused, and obviously that person had *some* reason, real or otherwise, of making the accusation so maybe they *do* need your attention. Or maybe they are just honestly misunderstanding what it means to be raped. Maybe, in their mind "I regretted it later" means it was rape.

    And if they *were* in fact raped -- well, then you've lost their trust forever and made the situation ten times worse for them, and basically sided with the person who raped them.

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  85. superglucose:

    The other thing is, if person A accuses person B of raping them, I'm not going to assume person B is a rapist. Nor am I going to assume person B is not a rapist. I'm going to assume person A has a reason for accusing person B of raping them and wait for proof and to hear both sides of the story and to generally wait before I can judge the situation before I judge a person. but that's because I try to not rush to judgment.

    I can't tell you what to believe, but I think it would be good to take this part from Holly's post to heart:
    But I do have this to say: if someone tells you they've been raped, and you are not acting in official capacity as a judge or juror, just go ahead and believe them. The odds they're lying are a pretty small minority, and the odds they're lying in a way that hurts someone are even smaller. Just go ahead and take that risk.


    Usually, people who would tell you that they were raped are telling you about it because they trust you, and hope that you will support them. I'd assume that, generally, they don't tell you about it because they want you to investigate, gather evidence, or listen to the rapist's side.
    This is because when they tell you about, they are usually very sure that they were, in fact, raped. They don't need or want you to prove them right or wrong.

    You said you don't want to rush to conclusions, yet you still see this as a 50/50 deal.
    But the probability of them telling the truth is a lot higher than the probability of them lying about it.

    I'm sorry if I seem antagonistic, but you said
    if someone is accused of rape and the state finds them not guilty, I am going to assume that person is not a rapist. There was no evidence and while I'm not accusing anyone of lying, I am saying that if there was no evidence of this person doing this act, I'm going to assume this person did not do this act. I do not apologize for holding this ideal of the world.

    My rapist wasn't found guilty. If you think he didn't do it, that is okay. I can't force you to believe it. I had friends who were similar to you in their views. When I told them about what happened to me, they were also trying not to "rush to judgement" and demanded proof.
    We aren't friends anymore.
    They did a good job at making me feel that it was my fault, though.

    Again, please take Holly's words to heart and just believe a friend if they trust you enough to tell you that they've been raped (or at least tell them that you believe them, even if you don't).

    They want to be supported, not to be put on trial.

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  86. I think the "secret trials" bit can be overcome by just allowing the accused to publish their name if they so choose, but not the victim's, and vice versa.

    The place where this gets tricky is in talking to friends. My college's code means you're not allowed to talk about an in-progress judicial case to more than one person, and it's come under fire for drastically reducing the support available to the involved parties.

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  87. I had a family member accused of statutory rape 10 years ago. He was acquitted and it came out at the trial that it was an entrapment/blackmail scheme the parents had used their 14 year old daughter for in the past.

    The part kept very quiet by my family was that this family member had made sexual advances on at least three of his teenage nieces. I was one of them. I and the other girls were not informed of the trial and the whole incident until after it was all over and he had been acquitted.

    I assume this was because we did not keep our mouths shut to the rest of the family and to his wife when the incidents happened a few years earlier. He got in serious shit, but it was handled quietly in the family.

    I won't call him a rapist, because I don't know what he may or may not have done to others, he backed off when I told him to, but I can tell you as a fact that he's stupid enough to find 14-15 year olds appealing.

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  88. I have found in my personal experience the biggest problem to be the following:
    Bob rapes Alice, Alice tells their mutual friends. Said mutual friends like Bob and think he is a "good person" so "obviously" couldn't be a rapist...

    People above have commented that there is no "cost" to believing and sympathizing with Alice - but if you like and respect Bob then there is a cost to you of loosing his friendship; there are many people who say "it's nasty to ask people to choose Alice or Bob when you split up" and who will always choose Bob when Alice says "he raped me" because, well, isn't that so MEAN of Alice to accuse him and ask them to support her over him.

    Problem is, we are none of us Professor X so we can't tell if it's true. It would be horrid for Bob to loose all his friends because Alice lied about him; but it is also horrid for Alice to loose all her friends because she told the truth about being raped. I'm really not sure how people manage the double-think of remaining friends with both although some do.

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  89. "A number of people on this thread seem to be confused about the criminal process or are using "investigation" in different ways. It is extremely unusual for a sex assault suspect's name to become public during an investigation, and most police departments, if asked if they are investigating so-and-so, will neither confirm nor deny any active investigations. Once someone has been arrested and charged, the "investigation" stage is over and the name becomes public. This sucks for the falsely accused. It sucks for them no matter the crime for which they are accused. Getting accused of rape that you didn't commit is pretty damn bad, but is it worse than being accused of a murder you didn't commit? Why not shield all names of all defendants? Oh ... wait ... "

    Actually, I think that all felony charges should default to "kept under wraps" with regards to the public until they've been through a hearing (which happens after an arrest but before the trial, natch). If the defendant doesn't want to keep them secret, sure, whatever, but I see no particular reason for a criminal case to go public with its charges until after the counsel for the defense has had a chance to argue the validity of the charges / enter a plea.

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  90. Which "hearing"? The first appearance? The arraignment? The preliminary hearing? Do you understand that all of these events take place in open court? Do you understand that a judge at a preliminary hearing is required by law to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution? Such that it is extremely rare for a case to get tossed at prelim. A rape case that gets charged at all (lots of rape cases don't get charged) is going to make it through the preliminary hearing 99 percent of the time.

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  91. Well, a rape case where the complainant actually shows up to testify at the preliminary hearing, certainly, that will almost definitely go to trial. Of course if the prosecution's main witness refuses to testify, the case wouldn't get that far. What I would like to see are stats on how many rape cases are stayed for that reason, because I know from my work that women almost invariably refuse to testify when they've been victims of domestic violence. Obviously there are rape cases that fall outside that category, but I understand there ARE stats that show that the majority of rapes are committed by people known to the victim.

    Also, for the sake of clarity, the purpose of a preliminary hearing is to ensure that there's enough evidence to go to trial. The judge is ruling on whether there is enough evidence to convict IF BELIEVED by a jury. The point is to avoid wasting court time and taxpayer money. It's important to understand that the outcome of a preliminary hearing has NOTHING to do with guilt or innocence. (That isn't aimed at you, chingona, because it sounds like you know what you're talking about. A few other people here still seem a little fuzzy on court processes though.)

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  92. Most of the prelims that I've been at have featured testimony from detectives/police officers. It seems like it's rare for the actual victims and/or witnesses to be there (maybe because it's hard to make sure you can get them there? I'm guessing prosecutors also don't want them on the record before the trial because any inconsistencies, even minor ones, can be used later to impeach their credibility). So a detective will get on the stand and say that he interviewed so-and-so and she said such-and-such, and when they went to the apartment where she said it occurred, they saw X and the suspect said Y, and the result of the rape kit was Z. And defense attorneys get to ask questions, put on their own witnesses, try to put holes in their case. But it would be borderline malpractice to put the defendant on the stand at a prelim, so the defense usually doesn't put on much in the way of witnesses. And because the judge has to consider the evidence in the light most favorable to prosecution, if there is any evidence at all, it goes on to arraignment. The only case I've seen that got tossed at prelim was a cold-case homicide in which the body was so deteriorated by the time it was found that the coroner couldn't even conclusively rule it a homicide. For 99 percent of defendants, keeping the name secret until prelim just moves the big reveal down the road a few months. In fact, prelims have so little to do with guilt or innocence and are such a foregone conclusion, that lots of defendants simply waive their right to a prelim, enter a not guilty plea and get on with it.

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  93. What I would like to see are stats on how many rape cases are stayed for that reason, because I know from my work that women almost invariably refuse to testify when they've been victims of domestic violence. Obviously there are rape cases that fall outside that category, but I understand there ARE stats that show that the majority of rapes are committed by people known to the victim.

    I have never sat down and done the math on this, but if I compare the number of sexual assaults that I hear called on the scanner to the number of sexual assaults I see booked into the jail, I think that in my jurisdiction, they are not charging any of the sexual assaults in which the victim decides she doesn't want to testify. The vast majority of these cases, when I call on them, the police tell me there is "no danger to the public." That means the rapist is known to the victim. Of the cases that have gone to trial, I cannot think of any that were true stranger rapes, though in at least one recent case, the victim and the defendant had met for the first time that night. In fact, most of the cases have been within families (father on daughter, stepfather on stepdaughter, uncle on niece) and one other prominent case involved a high school teacher accused of statutory rape. In that case, it later came out that it was well known that he "dated" students. Had been known for years. If people had been less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt all that time, he might have lost his job and suffered damage to his reputation, but he wouldn't be serving eight years to life in a state prison. Just saying.

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  94. @Kollege, I hate to say this because it should be plain and obvious, but there's a very strong line between "This man was found not guilty in a court of law so I am not going to treat him as if he is a rapist" and "blaming you for your rape." You don't cross the California border and suddenly you're in New York... there's a whole country in between.

    But if you think I should just assume people have committed heinous crimes because one person said they did, well, I'm not doing that. And that doesn't mean I'm not going to be supportive... it just means I'm not jumping to a conclusion because one person said one thing.

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  95. @Calistair: a failing of justice is a failing of justice. When the system fails to carry out justice, it is a sign that the *system is fallible* and as long as the system is fallible we must account for the system being fallible.

    In short, drop the emotional pretense behind Mr. Davis and look at the facts: the justice system done goofed, which means that occasionally the justice system goofs. Which part of this are you disagreeing with?

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  96. Problem is, we are none of us Professor X so we can't tell if it's true.


    We can often make a pretty educated guess, though.

    If Alice is telling us that Bob raped her last night and we know for a fact that Bob was on the red-eye back from Miami at that time, we might doubt that Alice was raped, or wonder whether she was raped but misidentified the rapist. If Alice says that Bob raped her and Bob says "She's lying, she totally wanted it and now she's just trying not to look like the whore she is," well, you know, I'm going to be a little suspicious of Bob's story there.

    As for superglucose, I think it's pretty hilarious that anyone believes a document generally used in the tech industry (an NDA) has any application to the criminal justice system.

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  97. Listening to, supporting and trying to help those who Say that they were Assaulted is Important - period. Where one really focuses upon the Survivor, I would imagine that in the unlikely scenario that they weren't telling the truth both finding this out and getting through to the person so such a scenario would Not happen again would seem more likely.

    It is also important to recognize that while Perpetrators are much more likely to be Male than Female, that there are plenty of Male Survivors of Assault (Childhood or Adult) - and that oft times they are More Hidden and More Silent - because we Men are Not supposed to be "victims". (This needn't detract from nor compete with the issues relating to Female Victims.) Thanks!

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  98. Holly, the women I know, when they have felt like telling me, have all stories of assault and harassment. I have no doubt that there are stories that thye do not feel comfortable telling me.

    Actually, my wife has as much as let me know that there are at least two of her friends that have been raped, and I respect their privacy enough accept her word on this.

    I am most dismayed, however, by a recent Facebook post by my son's ex-girlfriend, talking about one of her friend who got no less than three catcall-assaults, and one groping, in one day. At high school.

    I respect you for putting this out there. It does invite the bullies and deniers.

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  100. Another scenario which I haven't seen discussed yet is witness statements which initially contradict the victim's statement.

    Example: Alice says Bob raped her a car at Makeout Point last weekend. Witness who was in the next car over comes forward to say it wasn't Bob because the man had brown hair and a green car while Bob is blond and has a red car. Police believe the witness due to age/gender/social standing/race and Alice drops the charges (due to pressuring or lack of support because the witness is seen as more believable). Later the witness comes forward to the police to say that the clock in the car was off by an hour so they weren't really there at the time of the rape. The police don't reinstate the charges (due to pick-your-own reason) and the accusation is listed as a false accusation.

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  102. Perhaps someone in the previous 99 comments has pointed this out, but you're missing a big part of the negative consequences of false rape reports, especially scenarios 5 & 6. Making false reports where no-one is named is not victimless. Sometimes the police will arrest guys off the street and charge them, even with no evidence, and especially if they are young and black. And each of these false reports lowers the credibility of subsequent victims in the eyes of police, prosecutors, and the general public.

    You said "Every time we reinforce the common wisdom that "women lie about rape all the time," rape gets a little easier to commit." But each time a woman really lies, rape gets a little easier to commit too.

    Here's another false rape scenario that is commonly alleged to occur in some forums:
    Alice and Bob have consensual sex. Alice regrets it the next morning and accuses Bob of rape.

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  103. @wavevector - the vanishingly unlikely scenario you describe would be covered under scenarios 1-4, surely. Nowhere does it specify that Alice and Bob did not have consenual sex.

    And, basically, in order to have sex you regret and to think that it would be easier to deal with the ramifacations of pushing forward a rape charge in this culture - not to mention the moral and legal implications of lying to the police, accusing an innocent, etc - you would have to be one of two things:
    1 - mentally or handicapped
    2 - from a rare, specific background that demonizes casual or extramaritial sex enough that making the accusation is worth it, versus the fallout should it be discovered that consensual sex was had.

    Basically, neither of those vanishingly rare scenarios are *really* about rape: in the first case, it's crazy people do crazy things (we do, I have scars), and inj the second its the society or subculture of the girl that is to blame for demonizing consensual sex.

    As for 5&6... well, firstly exactky how common do you think they are (clue: you're wrong), and secondly, all the reasons why someone might lie about that are the same as for 1-4.

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  104. superglucose:
    I hate to say this because it should be plain and obvious, but there's a very strong line between "This man was found not guilty in a court of law so I am not going to treat him as if he is a rapist" and "blaming you for your rape." You don't cross the California border and suddenly you're in New York... there's a whole country in between.

    It is not about the way you treat the rapist, but the way you treat the person who told you they were raped. Nowhere did I, or anyone here, talk about how you should treat the alleged rapist. Sometimes you don't even know the rapist, so no harm done in believing the person who just trusted you with their story, right?

    If you are so keen on treating the accused person like they are innocent, why aren't you
    also treating the accuser like they are telling you the truth?

    But if you think I should just assume people have committed heinous crimes because one person said they did, well, I'm not doing that. And that doesn't mean I'm not going to be supportive... it just means I'm not jumping to a conclusion because one person said one thing.

    But if you doubt them, aren't you suspecting them of the crime of a false accusation?
    Are you treating people who told you they were mugged the same way?

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  105. Loki:
    I completely agree if everything you said, especially:
    Basically, neither of those vanishingly rare scenarios are *really* about rape: in the first case, it's crazy people do crazy things (we do, I have scars), and inj the second its the society or subculture of the girl that is to blame for demonizing consensual sex.

    Thank you for putting it so eloquently!

    If there wasn't so much slut-shaming around, why would a woman regret consensual sex anyway?
    Changing the culture would help a lot in reducing cases like this.

    I also noticed that often, the people who go on and on about false accusations also like to slut-shame like there is no tomorrow.

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  106. NOTE TO COMMENTERS: THE FOLLOWING COMMENTS WILL GO BYE-BYE:

    1) Comments that are nothing but "what about Scenario 1, except Alice is a real bitch"
    2) Comments that imply I think all alleged rapists are guilty
    3) Comments that imply no alleged rapists are guilty
    4) Comments that, in my unilateral and completely biased opinion, are hateful, obnoxious, in bad faith, or otherwise a pain in the ass

    Clear?

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  108. Ami - No, he didn't capitalize or keyboard-mash.

    Just someone expressing the view "I feel that your plan is unworkable and may disfavor the interests of men accused of rape, which is upsetting to me." In the most charming manner.

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  109. wavevector, what you're missing with your assumptions that rape would be taken much more seriously if no women would ever lie, is that people of all sexes lie in all kinds of situations. There are tons of false accusations of theft, robbery and general violence too. What you're basically saying is that if only women as a sex would stop acting human, and if only no women had any flaws whatsoever, then individual would be taken more seriously if they reported a rape.

    That's not exactly news, if people were known to never lie then everybody who reported anything would be believed. But I don't see you making a big deal out of how accusations of robbery and assault can also turn out to be false, or saying that if victims of these are afraid of stepping forth the blame lies on those who made false accusations before.

    I think this ties into what Ami Angelwings said, that rape is assumed to be special. A person who is normally considered credible can instantly be assumed to be lying (even with no evidence of a lie, such as in Ami's case) when they tell they have been raped. A person who lies about being assaulted by skinheads is not used to discredit all people who report assault, but when someone lies about being raped, it's suddenly a blemish on all potential rape victims. When someone is acquitted on a trial for something other than rape, people understand that it is usually a case of lack of evidence, but when an accused rapist is acquitted, suddenly people find it fair to conclude the accuser must be guilty of fraud and perjury, even without a trial. And I could go on and on....

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  110. wavevector said...
    Perhaps someone in the previous 99 comments has pointed this out, but you're missing a big part of the negative consequences of false rape reports, especially scenarios 5 & 6. Making false reports where no-one is named is not victimless. Sometimes the police will arrest guys off the street and charge them, even with no evidence, and especially if they are young and black. And each of these false reports lowers the credibility of subsequent victims in the eyes of police, prosecutors, and the general public.


    She is not talking about law enforcement >_> She's saying that if somebody doesn't name somebody, you can't even say somebody's reputation is being harmed by believing that they've been raped (like me, I have never mentioned the name of my rapist).

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  111. Holly: here in the UK, supporting anonymity for suspected rapists is pretty much politically equivalent to supporting rape. The current government actually ended up dropping plans to prevent the media reporting the names of arrested rape suspects prior to them being charged - not even until they were convicted, just until charges were pressed - for this reason, and they're not exactly scared of doing things that are politically unpopular.

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  113. Alice falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is eventually cleared, but he's lost his job, spent thousands in legal fees, and everyone around him knows him as "that guy who got accused of raping someone".

    That's the type of case most guys fear, and the one that's usually minimized or handwaved away by feminists.

    Unfortunately I don't know what changes to rape law could be made to prevent this, but I would oppose some of the proposed changes which (to my understanding) put the burden of defense on the accused (aka he has to prove he didn't do it), shield the accuser's identity, etc.

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  114. @Scott

    Except that Holly didn't tell nebody to beat nebody up. She didn't advocate for vigilante justice. Ppl shouldn't be beating people up regardless. Even if it was a true rape claim, does that give nebody the right to be a vigilante and assault somebody? o_O I think people should support victims of all crimes. That doesn't mean I'm advocating wholesale violence against the alleged criminals... and neither is Holly. One doesn't follow from the other, and believing a victim doesn't mean that you're suddenly, magically, compelled to go and beat people up. :\

    Just like I do not doubt your story, and I believe what you wrote happened :( And I'm sorry that it did :\ But if I go find that woman and beat her up, then that's wrong. But believing you is NOT wrong, and it doesn't follow that I will go and beat her up because I believed you. :)

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  115. I am a survivor of rape. I now work with youth who are victims of rape and sexual trafficking. Many of the (predominantly)young women spoke out about (often their first time) being raped, and were not believed.

    Many have told me that it was the aftermath of rape, particularly when family members refused to believe them, compounded with the rape itself that ended up pushing them to cut themselves or attempt suicide, or in some other way physically hurt themselves because they were overwhelmed with emotional pain.

    I'm not saying a false accusation wouldn't cause a person emotional pain, depression, grief, in addition to the above mentioned loss of reputation, job, friends. And I'm hoping I'm not about to start a number of posts about how "so-and-so was false accused and went on to kill himself." If a false accusation is actually false, I'm sure any normal human being would feel pain of some sort at being accused of hurting another human being in such a way, in addition to the pain of lost friends and reputation. And I also don't want to argue which is worse, physical or emotional pain.

    I'm just saying that if someone confesses to you that they were raped, support them. It could save their life, literally.

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  116. It's worth noticing that accusing others of lying, and claiming they only say what they say in order to get attention or to ruin some poor guy's life out of spite, is in itself an accusation – and possibly a false one too. Most of the time, we focus on the injustice of the disbelieved victim not getting help and support, but I don't believe the aspect of falsely accusing them of lying and ruining their reputation is insignificant either.

    And this is NOT saying that everybody who says they've been raped are telling the truth (though most of them probably are, even in many cases of false accusation as Holly pointed out), just that if you're so very concerned about not condemning the innocent, you should also be critical of lightly branding others liars without proof.

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  117. Alice falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is eventually cleared, but he's lost his job, spent thousands in legal fees, and everyone around him knows him as "that guy who got accused of raping someone".

    That's the type of case most guys fear, and the one that's usually minimized or handwaved away by feminists.


    Yeah, but why do so many guys seem to fear this so much? There are all kinds of crazy and vindictive people in the world, of all sexes. There are all kinds of crimes that a person could be accused of, and many of them would boil down to the other person's word against yours.

    Think about it: any person, at any moment, could falsely accuse you of stalking them or stealing from them or slashing their tires or running over their dog or any of a host of other bad things. We all live with the threat of possible bogus lawsuits constantly, every single day, and yet I never ever hear anyone express anxiety about this. I never see anyone focusing obsessively on the fact that OMG being falsely accused of stealing could ruin a person's life FOREVER!!!1! It's always, and only, about rape.

    So what is it about women, specifically, and the idea of nonconsensual sex, specifically, that keeps men up at night in paroxysms of fear?

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  118. My theory, btw, is that guys aren't worried that some random woman will accuse them of rape; they're worried that someone they've slept with will accuse them of rape. And they worry about it because either

    a) they don't understand consent issues very well, or know damn well they've had sex without receiving clear and enthusiastic consent ("What if I see an encounter as consensual but she doesn't?") or

    b) they don't trust themselves to avoid the kind of unbalanced drama queens who might stir up shit. Maybe guys think drama queens are capable of hiding their nature and seeming all reasonable and normal, and therefore any woman at all might be a threat (in my experience, this is not the case; the unbalanced drama queen personality is easily identifiable and cannot be suppressed into any semblance of normalcy).

    So yeah. That's my feeling. But I'm interested to hear other people's takes.

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  119. Actually, I think that all felony charges should default to "kept under wraps" with regards to the public until they've been through a hearing (which happens after an arrest but before the trial, natch)

    If the cops are going to come to my house and take me away in cuffs, it had damn well better be written down somewhere that they can do that, and for what. If that means the New York Post can see where it's written down, I'm ok with that.

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  120. @perversecowgirl:

    “Yeah, but why do so many guys seem to fear this so much? There are all kinds of crazy and vindictive people in the world, of all sexes. There are all kinds of crimes that a person could be accused of, and many of them would boil down to the other person's word against yours.”

    I've been wondering about this too. Even the most conservative estimates usually say that a man has a bigger risk of being raped than of being false accused of rape, and yet men's rights groups tend to focus exclusively on the latter. It's almost like it's more important for them to make jabs at feminism than getting actual justice for men.

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  121. @Calistair: a failing of justice is a failing of justice. When the system fails to carry out justice, it is a sign that the *system is fallible* and as long as the system is fallible we must account for the system being fallible.

    In short, drop the emotional pretense behind Mr. Davis and look at the facts: the justice system done goofed, which means that occasionally the justice system goofs. Which part of this are you disagreeing with?


    Look, here's the thing. Any justice system will fuck up sooner or later.

    But the fuckup of a justice system accidentally convicting someone as a rapist when there was enough evidence to convince a jury, and the fuckup of a justice system killing someone who had been convicted by a jury, 7 of 9 of which later stated that they had done so because they were threatened by the police, and who had recieved a huge outpouring of support from students to prison wardens is not the same.

    An honest mistake and a racist hate crime are not the same thing. They don't happen anywhere near the rate high enough for worrying about being falsely accused of rape to be rational, and they don't carry the same amount of damage.

    And, uh, I wasn't actually faking being angry. I was.

    @ AB: I've been wondering about this too. Even the most conservative estimates usually say that a man has a bigger risk of being raped than of being false accused of rape, and yet men's rights groups tend to focus exclusively on the latter. It's almost like it's more important for them to make jabs at feminism than getting actual justice for men.

    What's also disturbing is that these are the same ultra-machismo guys who will deride male rape victims for being wimpy.

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  122. I'm not sure if this has been said in the 125 above comments, but it bears noting that a lot of dudes get raped as well, and due to the social pressure on them not to act "womanly" they also never report it. I am fully supportive of all rape victims and I think that the amount of unreported rapes is shocking-- and I think it is actually higher for men than most suppose.

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  123. I do wonder. Do many men really fear rape accusations? Or is it some subconscious half-hearted attempt to minimise women's fear of rape by inventing an "equal and opposite" threat that men face? Without having to accept the truth men get raped too? Were false rape accusations always a thing? Before feminism? Before strong and clear pro-consent cultural messages?

    Also, if it IS a sincere fear, are there (inevitably useless and obnoxiously heterosexist) "Rape Accusation Prevention Tips"? Make sure to always have reliable witnesses when a girl asks you out! Don't drink alcohol before a date! Always check ask around about her reputation!

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  124. Anonymous:

    “Were false rape accusations always a thing? Before feminism? Before strong and clear pro-consent cultural messages?”

    It's old, that's for sure:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potiphar

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  125. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  126. Good thing, Anonymous 7:49, that NO ONE HERE THINKS OR SAID 'FALSE RAPE ACCUSATIONS DON'T HAPPEN'.

    I do wonder, as a couple of others have in this thread, about the origins of the 'false accusations' hysteria. Partly anti-feminist backlash, yes, but the cynical part of me does think it's because our cultural paradigm for heterosexual sex is so rapey, and most guys just don't want to be think about all the rape they've been allowed to commit, or known their friends to commit, now that consent has become a popular concept. It just feels to me like so much ass-covering.

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  127. I've reversed my opinion on the anonymity thing. I think I'm convinced that accusations of rape should be treated like any other crime. Being accused of, say, car theft can really ruin your life and it can be completely untrue. There's no reason to privilege accused rapists above accused car thieves--and the idea of hiding every defendant's identity goes to some really scary places.

    I'd also like to say again really really loudly that when I say to believe people, I AM NOT TALKING FROM A LEGAL STANDPOINT. I'm saying as a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, a participant in a discussion. These are scenarios where seeking out The Objective Truth is both impossible, and, frankly, unnecessary. I'm not talking about going on a witch hunt for the rapist--I'm not talking about interacting with them at all--I'm talking about extending sympathy to the victim.

    You don't need to take someone's temperature and culture their blood before telling them "feel better soon" when they say they're sick, and you don't need to conduct an independent investigation before telling them "I'm here for you" when they say they've been raped.

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  128. @Hershele exactly... a lot of the ppl talking about their fear of false accusations also seem to distrust the state and the justice system to handle things fairly, but yet they trust the government enough to have them conduct secret arrests and trials? There might be fallout from the whole "reputation" thing (as there would be for any crime) but it beats, as you say, the police able to arrest you without having to tell anybody who you are, that they have you, and why they have you.

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  129. Also, I think it would be worse for your reputation if ppl who know you, live near you, work w/ you, etc saw you being arrested, or knew you had been, but can't find out why. Ppl might just start assuming it's for the worst possible reasons, and even after will be wondering what you were accused of doing, and what happened that you are free.

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  130. I think you missed one,or at least a variant, which I shall propose calling 2a:

    (2)(a) Alice goes to the police and falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is arrested but Alice later withdraws the accusation.

    A substantial amount of the internet-based rantage from UK law enforcement is about some of the less pleasant members of our society using this one as a means of attempting to punish their partner after a particularly nasty argument.

    I consider it worth separating out because it's not only a rather depressing example (in that the accusation gets withdrawn once the couple make up), but also because it's also substantially indistinguishable from the accusation being true but then being withdrawn once the couple make up, which is an extremely depressing case of a true-but-never-prosecuted allegation.

    It's enough to make you wish the Firvulag from Julian May's books had inherited the earth rather than Homo Sapiens. Ah well.

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  131. To preface: I realize, Holly, that the legal issues are a tangent. I agree with you on everything you've said, pretty much; I find all of your points utterly reasonable and your conclusions practically integral to being a decent human being. So I know this is a tangent, but to me it's an interesting tangent and, uh, otherwise I could just post "Yeah, I agree!" and then I wouldn't have an interesting conversation? :)


    "If the cops are going to come to my house and take me away in cuffs, it had damn well better be written down somewhere that they can do that, and for what. If that means the New York Post can see where it's written down, I'm ok with that."

    "but yet they trust the government enough to have them conduct secret arrests and trials?"

    "I think I'm convinced that accusations of rape should be treated like any other crime."


    Again, I'm of the opinion that in the cases of *all* felonies, all parties involved should default to "not having their names being published". This is a statement of principle: I think that the accusation of a felony is injurious in and of itself in our society, and from there the principle, for me, follows.

    There are a *lot* of cases in Baltimore City where the defendant will cop a plea to a charge or series of minor charges (often misdemeanors) after an arrest for a felony or series of felonies. They will do this at the first available hearing, after nonsensical charges are dropped.

    I can't speak for any other jurisdiction, but in Baltimore City, there are a lot of nonsensical charges. It's ... maneuvering, if that makes sense?

    I don't think trials should be kept secret, and Ami, I don't know why you think I said otherwise. Arrests, though? I'm okay with keeping the charges from being published against the will of the people involved, and I'm not talking about the police here.

    Broad strokes, right? Do we need to go into the nitty-gritty of "Well it could be coerced" and "So require him to have seen a lawyer, and throw the case out if" etc.

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  132. (2)(a)(i) Alice goes to the police and falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is arrested but Alice faces such pressure from the community in general and Bob's pals in particular that she later withdraws the accusation just to make the whole thing go away.

    Substantially indistinguishable indeed.

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  133. I don't think trials should be kept secret, and Ami, I don't know why you think I said otherwise. Arrests, though? I'm okay with keeping the charges from being published against the will of the people involved, and I'm not talking about the police here.

    Either that will all come out at the beginning of the trial -- in other words, before it has been stablished whether the person did it -- or we're back to secret trials.

    And again, how do we make it possible for me and my lawyer to know what the charges against me are (to mount an effective defense) while making it impossible for anyone else to?

    I suspect you have an oversimplified idea of how trials work.

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  134. I know this is a bit off topic and I don't want to encourage the whole "BUT RAPE ACCUSATIONS LEAD TO THE NATURAL CONCLUSION OF WHITE KNIGHTS KILLING THE POOR GUY" but... I kinda want to get this out there...

    As a rape survivor, I REALLY hate when guys make what happened to ME, all about THEIR heroic fantasies -_- I HATE when a guy finds out I'm a survivor and says "if I was there I'd have saved you!" or "I wish I could seek him out and beat him up!" or w/e... that's not SUPPORT, that's certainly not the support Holly's talking about and that's not F-ING SUPPORT AT ALL... esp since often they think this means they don't have to care about ME, or my triggers or nething.. they alrdy declared rape is bad! They alrdy declared that if they found my rapist they'd punch him in the nose, and fight him atop the CN tower! And they tend to just ignore nething else I say, and just reiterate how heroic and awesome they are. It also takes the rape out of it being something that happened to ME and becomes me as just a damsel in distress in their stupid fantasy of being the big hero... and yeah... supporting a rape victim... UM NO IT IS NOT! >:O

    I get SO ANGRY whenever ppl say it and I always tell them to shut up and that I don't want ppl to get hurt.

    I would LIKE justice (which I'll never get) or closure (which I'll never get), I DO NOT want another crime committed, I do NOT want another assault on a person's body, I DO NOT want somebody turning a serious trauma I had to suffer through into a heroic fantasy, and I DO NOT want vigilante vengeance. -_-

    None of that is supporting a rape survivor. And I just wanted to say that. >:O

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  135. By the way, my exp has been that guys like that only ever say it if they KNOW there's no chance they'd ever be able to do it (because they have no idea who he is)... cuz they're not actually serious about it... >:\

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  136. Another horrible aspect of the white knighting Ami mentioned is that it's, once again, setting off people doing something you don't want them to do, because apparently they can't help themselves. They just HAVE to beat the fucker up, HAVE to kill him in graphic ways. And it's kinda indirectly your fault.

    And, sure, it's all talk (thank god it's all talk), but it's still obnoxious, and it makes it seem like bad things actually happen to rapists, whereas in reality... well, sometimes. But mostly not.

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  137. "Either that will all come out at the beginning of the trial -- in other words, before it has been stablished whether the person did it -- or we're back to secret trials."

    All I want is to give the defendant a chance before a judge to assert that certain charges are totally implausible before they're published.


    "And again, how do we make it possible for me and my lawyer to know what the charges against me are (to mount an effective defense) while making it impossible for anyone else to?"

    I haven't suggested making it impossible for anyone else to; I want you and your lawyer to have the option (whether the other accuser and defendant would have to agree, I don't know) to keep the charges under seal until the first hearing.

    As to keeping them that way and preventing the police from using the charges as a method of pre-hearing deliberate injury... well, cases get thrown out for Miranda violations, and that used to be thought insane.

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  138. Think about it: any person, at any moment, could falsely accuse you of stalking them or stealing from them or slashing their tires or running over their dog or any of a host of other bad things. We all live with the threat of possible bogus lawsuits constantly, every single day, and yet I never ever hear anyone express anxiety about this. I never see anyone focusing obsessively on the fact that OMG being falsely accused of stealing could ruin a person's life FOREVER!!!1! It's always, and only, about rape.

    So what is it about women, specifically, and the idea of nonconsensual sex, specifically, that keeps men up at night in paroxysms of fear?


    If I may answer this, at least for myself. I think it's because for many men who were raised in the "good" side of this culture, rape is a particularly horrible crime. Yes, it's all patriarchal and tied up in seeing women as pure and virginity as important and a lot of other bullshit, often, but it's still there. Running over someone's dog or slashing their tires makes you a criminal, but raping someone makes you a monster.

    And so, these guys don't want to have the reputation of being a monster. I think that's why a lot of people fear being accused of rape.

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  139. I would LIKE justice (which I'll never get) or closure (which I'll never get), I DO NOT want another crime committed, I do NOT want another assault on a person's body, I DO NOT want somebody turning a serious trauma I had to suffer through into a heroic fantasy, and I DO NOT want vigilante vengeance. -_-

    Yeah, that kind of reaction from people you just told what happened to you is just way too common. And, as you said, NOT supportive in any way or form.

    It also can happen that after you tell them you don't want anyone to get hurt and ask them to stop their vigilante vengeance fantasies, they start guilt tripping you. Like "if you were ~really~ raped, wouldn't you want me to beat that guy up?"
    So they are, again, making it all about them without any regard for the person who just told them they were raped, and who are asking them to respect their wishes.

    They don't seem to understand how fucked up it is to have one's "no" ignored once again.

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  140. In only one case I've ever personally come across did I simply openly not believe somebody claiming they were raped(or at least, not by the person they were accusing in the manner they were claiming). A very close friend of mine who is transgendered and commonly accepted as what they really are (a man) was accused to brutal penetrative rape by a very hateful, bigoted nurse. Given that the detail of her story _specifically_ claimed a few things my pre-op friend is simply not physically capable of, even with 'props', I knew she was at best exaggerating.
    She basically accused him of rape in order to make it publicly known (especially to our local bigoted police) that he was transgendered. She as much as admitted that afterwards. His alibi wasn't airtight enough to use as a defence on its own, so he had to undergo more than one physical exam which were then used as court evidence.


    In any other case in the world, I think I'd be willing to at least extend the benefit of the doubt and offer sympathy if not exactly 100% belief. If somebody accused my brother or father or husband of rape, even if I truly felt they were full of it, I would probably still try to extend some kind of sympathy. In my head it might be sympathy for their issues, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't try to pat them on the back and hand them a few "There, theres"

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  141. All I want is to give the defendant a chance before a judge to assert that certain charges are totally implausible before they're published.

    That's obviously impossible. Best you can hope for is simultaneously.

    And in all seriousness, if the first I hear that I'm accused of rape is when the cops break down my door ... again, I'd like the accusation to be written down somewhere people can read it. That some of those people may be hostile to me is a price I'm willing to pay for not being desaparecido

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  142. I'm not going to jump in on this conversation because it's already going strong enough...

    All I wanted to say is that I've been reading all the comments and I actually really appreciate that you have seem to have deleted the most malicious and ugly ones.

    "Free speech" is all well and good but safe spaces are important too and I like coming here and knowing I'm not going to have to face the most ugly, misogynistic violent comments (unlike most every other comments section of every other article dealing with rape on the internet) because sometimes those can just be overwhelming and deeply distressing.

    I'm only sorry that you have to sift through them. Does it get to you from time to time? I really admire your bravery dealing with these hard topics.

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  143. "That's obviously impossible. Best you can hope for is simultaneously."

    Well, no; it goes before the judge, and then after they've been presented they become a matter of record. But the judge's throwing out of any totally implausible charges is also a matter of record.


    "And in all seriousness, if the first I hear that I'm accused of rape is when the cops break down my door ... again, I'd like the accusation to be written down somewhere people can read it. That some of those people may be hostile to me is a price I'm willing to pay for not being desaparecido"

    The first thing you will hear when you are accused of *anything* is the cops arresting you, in many cases. Sometimes by [insert horrifying tale here].

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  144. Some variations of scenario 8, though I don't know how often they happen:

    Bob continually asks Alice for sex and in practical terms allows her only the answers of "yes" and "ask me later." Eventually she says yes just to get him to stop.

    Bob doesn't say or do anything remotely threatening ... but he does keep himself between Alice and the door while being a foot taller and twice her weight.

    Both of these are within the letter of the law (though I would say it's nearly impossible Bob doesn't know what he's doing). Does anyone think it's appropriate to tell Alice "well, he didn't break the law, so you weren't really raped"?

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  145. Aaron: Somehow I missed the words "before a judge" in your comment.

    But I'm still right and here's why: a free society cannot secretly arrest people. If we empower a bunch of people to haul other people away at gunpoint and confine them -- and I don't dispute the reasonableness, if not necessity, of this -- the least we can do is demand they do so as out in the open as possible.

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  146. I'm curious how often #7 is due to a simple mistake or due to something more complex like in To Kill a Mockingbird, where the accuser knows that chuck did not raped her but accuses him due to [insert explanation which I'm not enough of a psychologist or literature major to give].

    Aaron: Also, if you are secretly arrested, what is your boss supposed to think when you don't come in for work that day?

    I think perlhaqr is correct.

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  147. @Hershele: at the same token I do wonder if there aren't instances where a woman says "yes" because she feels like she can't say "no" but is actually in a situation where she can say "no" and just doesn't realize it.

    Everything gets really confusing and the more I think about it the more I believe radical changing of rape laws may lead to more instances of rape convictions, but not necessarily a better world.

    Rape cannot be fought in the courtrooms. With the world of kink and liars and assholes and douchebags and drugs and tricks and coercions, it's not black-and-white enough to be a matter of law. That's not to say it shouldn't be illegal...

    But it is to say that rape will be successfully fought in the classrooms by proper sex education. Rape will be successfully fought in the media, in families, by appealing to the hearts and minds of everyone who, by and large, are decent people uninterested in hurting those around them.

    And I don't wish to alarm people but while the "one-in-six" statistic is often mentioned, this means that the vast majority of men out there (some 83%) are not rapists. Look at where we are and look where we have to go: we're not staring down an entire racetrack wondering how we're going to get through, we're in the final sprint: the last dash to the finish line.

    Also I don't wish to alarm people but if you think rape will ever disappear you need to get your head out of the clouds. As long as there are two people left alive, someone is going to want someone else dead. You can't erase crime out of the world any more than you can erase disease. Cancer can't be cured, only treated.

    (Actually http://xkcd.com/931/ cancer is a very appropriate analogy for rape)

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  148. Anonymous said...
    Another horrible aspect of the white knighting Ami mentioned is that it's, once again, setting off people doing something you don't want them to do, because apparently they can't help themselves. They just HAVE to beat the fucker up, HAVE to kill him in graphic ways. And it's kinda indirectly your fault.

    And, sure, it's all talk (thank god it's all talk), but it's still obnoxious, and it makes it seem like bad things actually happen to rapists, whereas in reality... well, sometimes. But mostly not.


    Exactly... it's creates this false narrative in our society that ppl will charge out in an angry mob and beat up a rapist every single time (or even most times)... and this narrative also is used to dismiss concerns rape survivors have, or nething else we say about not being believed, about being victim-blamed, about etc etc etc.. b/c ppl go "oh society HATES rape!" "EVERYBODY believes you!" "if you just point at a guy, everybody will beat him up!" when the truth is... a lot of the times, they'll SAY that if they have no idea who the guy is... it's easy to be all full of bravado and stuff and say "I'd totally beat him up for you!" when I've never named names. But when they KNOW who it is... it's "he's a good guy, he wouldn't do that!" "maybe he misinterpreted what you wanted" and accusations of lying.. or smearing his good name... :\

    Yes ppl hate rapists. They hate the nameless, faceless rapists that exist in their fantasies of saving women. But if it's somebody they know, then it's different... >:|

    And anonymous is also right in something else I hadn't thought of. The same way some ppl treat rapists like they can't control themselves and have no responsibility... this fear of "white knights" seems to be the same thing >:\ Any guy who decides to go out and beat up a guy cuz he thinks he's a rapist, is WRONG, and it's HIS responsibility not to do it >:| And yet, the blame keeps being put on survivors who share their stories.... I mean whether we are lying or not, it doesn't change that ASSAULTING PPL IS WRONG >:\ And the blame and responsibility should be ON THE PERSON WHO CHOSE TO DO IT (this is talking about ppl who just act on hearing an accusation... like I wasn't going "I THINK YOU SHOULD BEAT HIM UP"). If ppl think there is an epidemic of men going out and brutalizing other men b/c they hear a female friend got raped, then the fault should be on the person making the choice to beat the crap out of people. -_-

    It also can happen that after you tell them you don't want anyone to get hurt and ask them to stop their vigilante vengeance fantasies, they start guilt tripping you. Like "if you were ~really~ raped, wouldn't you want me to beat that guy up?"
    So they are, again, making it all about them without any regard for the person who just told them they were raped, and who are asking them to respect their wishes.


    EXACTLY. Actually, all the guys who were puffing out their chests like that. When I told them that's not what I want or need, they got angry at me, some did what you said which is question if I was rly raped and stopped being my friend and just never talked to me again... cuz it was just about their power fantasy. >:\

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  149. perversecowgirl said: I never see anyone focusing obsessively on the fact that OMG being falsely accused of stealing could ruin a person's life FOREVER!!!1! It's always, and only, about rape.

    This isn't a thing I worry about often, but when I do, it is pretty unsettling[1]. A big difference between rape and all the other crimes is that I have a chance in hell of proving that I didn't steal or slash tires or kill a dog, but I can never prove that someone consented[2]. Most crimes that I think of are entirely objective and factual - a person did or did not break an object, commit violence, take property they had no right to, buy/sell something illegal - but with rape it seems like the sex isn't in question but the mental state of the participants is, and I can never prove what someone else's mental state was. Also people tend to have pretty strong visceral reactions to anything having to do with rape, which adds some scary factor - if someone gave me their car keys and then said "oh, he stole my car" they'd be unlikely to have a squad of dudes offer to find and murder me.

    It's not a thing I worry about a lot. It takes EXTREME CRAZY to falsely accuse someone of a capital crime, and for more-likely-to-matter-in-my-life reasons I try real hard to only stick my penis in people I think are sane and trustworthy and such, and a false accusation from someone I've never had sex with just doesn't register as super scary in my head. But it is the most terrifying thing I can be accused of that I'll never have any evidence to prove I didn't do.

    All of this said, I am somewhat less than proud of my fellow menfolk for many of their comments here.

    [1] Probably much less unsettling than worrying about raped, which being a man and not in prison is not a major worry in my life.

    [2] Unless I start recording all my sex. Stupid, but technically an option.

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  150. Yes ppl hate rapists. They hate the nameless, faceless rapists that exist in their fantasies of saving women. But if it's somebody they know, then it's different... >:|

    And I think part of the logic is "I hate rapists, therefore someone I don't hate is not a rapist."

    Most crimes that I think of are entirely objective and factual - a person did or did not break an object, commit violence, take property they had no right to, buy/sell something illegal - but with rape it seems like the sex isn't in question but the mental state of the participants is, and I can never prove what someone else's mental state was.

    That occurred to me, but I think it's circular. The protection against that is people telling the truth; if you don't already assume women lie all the time, or have to make the same effort not to lie most men have to make to lie, the fact that it's easier to lie about than other crimes wouldn't really be a major factor.

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  151. I agree with Hershele Ostropoler, it's not objectively different. If someone hides or throw out some of their stuff, and then say it was there before you visited but gone afterwards, you have as much chance of proving you didn't take it as you have of proving you didn't force someone into having sex with them.

    But if you subscribe to the narrative that women are especially prone to (and good at) lying/more likely to be insane, and that they'll automatically have the support of their surroundings (such as in the case of Ami Angelwings' white knights), then being accused of rape will be seen as the bigger threat. It's not about the actual risk, but about the narrative you build up around it.

    A surprisingly similar example is many men's lack of fear of being raped, or many women's disproportionate fear of being raped by a stranger. We tell ourselves that the people close to us are trustworthy and would never do something like that, and many men furthermore tell themselves that they're physically superior, much better at standing up for themselves, and capable and willing to enjoy all sex with women (which might explain why so many of them are disproportionately afraid of gays), so the risk of getting forced to have sex with someone is minimal. And often, the result is that the perception of other threats is increased to compensate.

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  152. "But I'm still right and here's why: a free society cannot secretly arrest people."

    There's no recommendation in my posts for secret arrests. Just that the charges default to privileged information until either it goes before the judge or the defendant/accused wish to release it.

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  153. Far be it from me to play the Golden Mean here, but it seems that there has to be a level between 'ultra top secret' and 'free to publish wherever you want'.

    @PJ - did you miss the bit where we were all talking about how unlikely it is that these WhiteKnighters would actually run out and beat a guy up over a rape accusation. I mean, I've heard of it happening, but only where either the victim was underage, or the accused was racially profiled, and it's really not that common at all. So your theory of, 'if someone accused me of rape, there would be a mob on my doorstep within seconds' seems to be innacurate.

    That said, when I was raped, I had quite a few friends offer their services when it came to vigilante justice.. not just dudes either. And I personally didn't take these as patronising or my friends making it all about themselves. I felt that in most cases my friends were expressing their anger at the guy for doing that to me (most of my friends were acquainted with the bastard), and in two cases, I believe it was a genuine offer. The guy and girl in question sincerely wanted my go-ahead to kick his head in, both in the hopes that it would make me feel better, and the knowledge that it would have made them feel better. I declined, and my friends defaulted to just cutting the bastard out of their lives, much to their credit. In my case, the only people who doubted me were the cops (and later, mental health professionals, but I guess they're required not to believe a word I say), but they did so mercilessly and aggressively.

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  154. "(and later, mental health professionals, but I guess they're required not to believe a word I say)"

    They're really not. Mental health professionals are just jaded, incompetent jackasses most of the time, or so's been my experience.

    A mental health professional who is actually competent doesn't have "Aggressively doubt everything my client says", but rather "Figure out what my client needs and then help my client to the best of my abilities."

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  155. Loki, I'm not suggesting my fears are actually justified. I'm just explaining the thought process behind them.

    On the one hand, I'm aware of two separate cases where "white knights" actually *have* committed violence. On the other hand, I know a lot of people (Holly claims I know everyone on the planet), so the number being only two kinda backs the argument that it's Statistically Unlikely.

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  156. A big difference between rape and all the other crimes is that I have a chance in hell of proving that I didn't steal or slash tires or kill a dog, but I can never prove that someone consented

    I feel like a rape accusation would only be a trickier issue than other crimes if you happen to be into rough sex. If a woman accuses you of rape, and there's physical evidence that you did indeed have sex with her but there's no evidence of a struggle, we'd be back to "Well, ma'am, if you didn't want to have sex with him then why didn't you fight or scream?" wouldn't we? So legally there's no evidence that you raped her and no evidence that you didn't, either, aside from your word against hers.

    If someone accuses you of having slashed their tires, and their tires are indeed slashed and you were near their car alone that night, same thing: there's no evidence that you slashed the tires but there's also no evidence that you didn't. Once again it's your word against the other person's unless some new piece of proof is uncovered.

    Bear in mind I posit these theories as someone who knows nothing about trials aside from what I've seen on tv, but still...given that in society at large, we doubt and blame rape victims all the damn time, it seems logical to believe that a court (which after all is made up of the same people as society) will tend to do the same thing. It doesn't seem likely that a judge is gonna say "Well, all we know for sure is that you had sex with this woman...but, she said it was rape, so I'm gonna sentence you now."

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  157. " It doesn't seem likely that a judge is gonna say "Well, all we know for sure is that you had sex with this woman...but, she said it was rape, so I'm gonna sentence you now.""

    Maybe not, but there are plenty of juries who have said "Well, we all know for certain that you're black/Latino, and she's white, and she says you raped her, so off to jail with you!"

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  158. perversecowgirl said:I feel like a rape accusation would only be a trickier issue than other crimes if you happen to be into rough sex.

    I didn't think any part of this conversation would make me laugh, but I read this line on my laptop while literally in bed with a woman who really wishes I would inflict a great deal more pain on her during sex. (I showed her this and she made puppy eyes on me and nodded eagerly.)

    Anyway, as I said, this fear I have is not particularly rational, and I recognize that, but you asked what the source of this fear was in a calm, reasonable manner, and I did my best to reply similarly.

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  159. Fair enough, PJ. I appreciate your input and hope you and your masochistic girl can work out a level of roughness you both enjoy. :D

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  160. Man, I might be opening a big can of worms, but I feel it needs to be said. I've been a teacher in a low income area for a long time and I've heard a lot of accusations of sexual misconduct. Many, or probably most of them are true. But the reason people sometimes don't believe the women involved is because the things that makes them an opportune target also makes them less than credible. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if attackers consider the woman's credibility when choosing her as his victim. At the same time, some of the shitstorms I've seen are SO not credible and have such a history of attention getting behavior, it's hard not to doubt. (I know of an allegation where it turned out the "victim" made the accusation because the "attacker" wouldn't write a paper for her. Another because he was ignoring her and wanted to date her friend.) And some of THOSE also turned out to be true, again, I think the victim made an easy and unfortunate target.

    Does this mean I tell her it's all in her head? No, of course not. I would always respect the allegation and pass it to those who need to investigate it. At the same time, I let that investigation take place and stand by the results of it, while making sure not to call anyone a liar.

    Rape allegations, and more significantly, assault without evidence allegations (which more often become he said/she said situations) are very complicated. And in those situations it's natural to take both parties' credibility into consideration. Personally, I'd rather live in a world with rapists on the street (like I would anyway) than a world in which an accusation is all it takes to ruin a person's life. It's all about balance and respect.

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  161. @Anonymous... It's real easy to say you'd rather live in a world with rapists on the street when a) you're, I'm guessing, a dude and b) you haven't been raped. Rapists are fucking dangerous. I reported mine - even though I *knew* there was a good chance I would get put through the ringer and my already fragile mental health was on the line - because I wanted *something* to happen to him that would have some chance of convincing him not to do it again, to some other girl.

    I'd also warrant far more people have died - by suicide, honour killings, injuries, STDs and the rest of it - by being raped, than people have died or 'had their lives ruined' as a result of being wrongly accused.

    Oh and @Aaron - I was *mostly* joking about the shrinks.

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  162. I'd just like to point out that we demonize rapists because they ARE fucking monsters.

    For example, my rapist raped me, forced me to shower and dispose of any evidence at gunpoint, continued to threaten and harass me for years, sent a bomb through the mail to my mailbox, recorded sexually torturing another person and sent me the video, and then shot at me. Rapists deserve to rot in jail for the rest of their excuse for a life. They deserve to be demonized. They committed one of if not the worst possible crime known to people. To pretend that rapists do not deserve the community backlash that they get for their crimes is a stance that allows rape to be normalized.

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  163. Well, Holly how about this one:

    3a) Alice goes to the police and falsely accuses Bob of raping her. Bob is arrested, tried, and acquitted when evidence is found that Bob was nowhere in the vicinity when the rape happened and further more it is discovered that Alice made the whole thing up in order to hide an extra-marital affair.

    What should happen to Alice in this case?

    When that happened to me, guess what happened to "my Alice?" Not a goddamn thing. I lost my life, my livelihood, the woman I loved, and even my home (I had to leave my hometown) because of a woman telling a convenient lie to cover up that she was sleeping around.

    Here's the thing, Holly; nobody wants to dismiss the crime of rape (well, most of us do not want to dismiss it). Most of us acknowledge that rape is a horrible thing. But I have lived the nightmare of being falsely accused of rape and it is a fate that I would not wish on any single soul.

    While I more-less get the point of your post, I find your caviler dismissal of the issue of false rape accusations rather disturbing. You wish people to take a woman's declaration and alleged pain of being a rape victim seriously; but at in the same breath, you callously and with snark, dismiss the alleged pain of a man who has been falsely accused.

    Those who seek compassion, should start by showing it, Holly....

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  164. But I do have this to say: if someone tells you they've been raped, and you are not acting in official capacity as a judge or juror, just go ahead and believe them. The odds they're lying are a pretty small minority, and the odds they're lying in a way that hurts someone are even smaller. Just go ahead and take that risk.

    This is an issue I feel kinda weird about, as a friend of mine was recently accused of, not rape, but something in the same ballpark.

    And here's the thing: in general, the rule cited above is a good one. But not all situations are created equal. I believe my friend was falsely accused, mostly because, well, if it's a choice between a total stranger and a man I've known and loved for years, I'm going to take the word of the person who's proven himself to me to be trustworthy and honorable time and time again.

    And... there's a part of me that feels really shitty about that. Because I don't want to condone blame-the-victim mentality or the knee-jerk assumption that the accuser is lying. That's a terrible mentality, and the last thing I want to do is send the message that I support it.

    But... hell, this is the guy who comforted me when *I* had a near-rape experience, and confronted the other guy the next morning on my behalf. I've shared hotel rooms with him and felt perfectly secure. I... look, I could go on and on, but the point is, this guy has more than earned my trust. So as much as I'd like to give the accuser the benefit of the doubt, I just can't. I mean I literally cannot force my brain to believe in the reality where this accusation is true.

    And I can't shake the feeling that that somehow makes me a bad person.

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  165. demosthenesxxi: let me take a stab at this one.

    For starters, you have my sincere sympathy. I can't even imagine how horrible your experience must have been, and it hurts to even think of someone having to go through it.

    Here's the problem: what, exactly, would you suggest be done about it? Punish the woman for bringing a rape accusation if the defendant is found innocent? Bear in mind that in the American legal system, the courts don't really declare that a person is "innocent"; they simply decide that there isn't enough evidence to declare them guilty. And as Holly pointed out, there are tons of reasons why someone may be found not guilty; actually being innocent is only one of them.

    So imposing a penalty for accusing someone of rape who is later acquitted stands an incredibly good chance of punishing women who really were raped, but whose rapist could afford a better attorney (or whatever.) Which would then make it even less likely that women will report rape when it happens, and therefore make it easier for rape to happen. It's no good saying "but the punishment should only take place if the accused is actually shown to be innocent," because our court systems don't work like that.

    And... yeah. It's fucked up, and I completely agree with that, but I can't think of a single solution that wouldn't cause more problems than it solves. And I think that's what Holly was trying to say; I sincerely doubt she meant it to come across as callous and snarky.

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  166. I don't think anyone is saying punish the accuser if the defendant is found not guilty. But it seems there's a push to do the opposite...to presume guilt because of an accusation.

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  167. Hershele OstropolerOctober 3, 2011 at 11:50 PM

    Anon, people suggest precisely that.

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  168. Hi Holly,
    I read your blog a fair bit lately, and I really like your style. I don't comment a lot, but when I do I think I'm usually supportive.

    When I was 22, I worked in a store. One day I saw a young woman I used to know stealing a lot of stuff, so I arrested her and called police. A few days later, one of the daughters of another employee said she went to school with said young woman, and there was a plan to accuse me of sexually assaulting her in the works. I thought, no problem - I was never alone with her while waiting for police, so this will go away fast. Even though I was never alone with her, the idea of being questioned by police was scary.

    It took a while, but I was arrested. But, instead of the accusation I was expecting, I was told she was accusing me of raping her eight years earlier when I was her baby-sitter. The police were harsh, but stayed within the law. That doesn't mean I didn't have nightmares, though.

    Eventually they decided not to press charges. Perhaps it was because there was no evidence. Maybe because it was oddly coincidental to accuse someone just after they had arrested you. Possibly she admitted I hadn't done anything. Thing is, when I look back to when I babysat, there are hints that a babysitter who was also a kid may not have seen. Hints that she might have been being abused. So now I wonder if she really thought it was me, or if she accused me because she could not accuse that family member and wanted to hurt me for not doing something about it. Or maybe it was just about being mad, and desperate, and wanting to freak out and do damage because her life was going to shit. But I also wonder when the police will come back... Not knowing why they dropped things where they did can do that, I suppose.

    For years I was afraid to be alone with a kid for fear an allegation would be made someday. I should have got counselling, but I didn't, and even today I feel the effects of having been arrested and accused of the most awful thing a man can do.

    But here's what I know:
    1) Sometimes the wrong person gets accused.
    2) When we hear an accusation, the tendency (for most sane people) is to believe it.
    3) Being falsely accused isn't "not so bad" because you didn't do it. It's fucking horrifying and it doesn't go away very easily.
    4) I'd rather live in a society where false accusations can happen than one which tolerates sex crimes.

    Yeah, you read that right. Even after being falsely accused, I think an accusation needs to be investigated fully, and the accused needs to be questioned. I think as scary as it was, I would (almost) rather be arrested and questioned than for someone who was actually hurt that way to go without some sort of closure, for a real perpetrator to go without being captured and punished. It's confusing to support a system that hurt me, but I don't see a better alternative.

    Thanks for this post. And for giving me an opportunity to tell what happened to me. I don't think I've ever actually got that out before.

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  169. Oh, for what it's worth, I've had friends tell me they've been assaulted. None of them know I was falsely accused. I always believe them. I'm always sympathetic. I always encourage them to take whatever (healthy and legal) route toward healing they feel they can. I never think, "I wonder if this is a lie" because those aren't the types of people I allow to be close to me. Even my accuser likely was telling some truth, it just had nothing to do with me.

    As for those high-profile cases, I neither believe nor disbelieve. I don't engage in the gossip about it, because that's all it will ever be for me - I won't ever be privy to actual evidence. I also don't care which celebrity is secretly gay, cheating, etc. I'll never actually know, and nobody will benefit from my support, so I can wait for the courts to decide. But I don't go off about someone being innocent until proven guilty, either - if I'm going to withhold judgment, then I actually withhold judgment. In the eyes of my friends, I'm just someone who doesn't engage in celebrity gossip.

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  170. Hey FA - I don't know if you'll read this, but I think it's morally courageous of you to still hold that position and it does credit to you as a human being.

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  171. It just doesn't make sense to me that there would be lots of false accusations. How far would they really get? Wouldn't it be just incredibly difficult to prove a false accusation as true? I mean, even when it's true it's hard to get a conviction, so when it's false it must be way harder. Besides, you'd have to be one sick fuck to want to go through life pretending you'd been sexually assaulted - it couldn't possibly be worth the type of attention it would get. This is why most of the time I know she must have told them the truth and that's why they backed off.

    Thanks, Loki & Mary. While I hold my position because the alternative just doesn't make sense to me, it is nice to have someone express support for the rather shitty situation I went through.

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  172. Hi Loki, Mary - and again, Holly.

    I need to clarify something. I said, "sometimes the wrong person gets accused." Even after my experience, I know how rarely "sometimes" is. Almost never. It happens, but seriously, you'd have to be more than just a little fucked up to think it happens daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly in North America. I also think that when/if a false accusation gets made it also tends to fall apart right away.

    I really do appreciate your support, and I welcome it. It isn't that hard to think the right thing, though, since it's based in an understanding of what's really happening around me.

    I hope, Holly, that you keep up with this education for all of us. It's needed, unfortunately. I've always wondered what makes so many people afraid of making life easier for the victim and harder for the perpetrator... I guess it's just about who they identify with more readily. A scary thought.

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  173. This is the first post on Pervocracy that I've ever disagreed with. If a friend of mine was accused of a crime, I wouldn't immediately assume he was guilty, so I feel I owe it to people who're not my friends to give them the same courtesy. (Of course, this doesn't mean assuming that a crime wasn't committed--it means not saying what, if anything, I believe, and giving comfort to either the accused or the accuser if I'm in a position to do so. And this isn't just for accused rapists--it's for anyone who's accused of doing something horrible, if I have no way of knowing whether they did it or not.)

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  174. You forgot the one where Bob rapes Alice, Alice goes to the police, Bob get arrested and charged, Alice gets threatened, Alice withdraws the allegation, police believe Alice is telling the truth and prosecute Alice for wasting police time for a false allegation of non-rape. Alice gets 8 months

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-11707903

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  175. Sorry for necroposting. I much of the above has revolved around trying to figure out why accusations of rape are different from accusations of, say, burglary. I think there are two key differences: 1) unlike burglary, the physical evidence of rape is often nearly identical to the physical evidence of sex, and 2) accusers of rape are often seen as incredible.

    The problem is that these reasons are very often complete nonsense: the accuser has a history of promiscuity; she uses or has used drugs; she failed to fight violently enough during the attack. These reasons are nonsense because they do not even attempt to provide any motivation for the victim to make a false accusation.

    This motivation is supplied by a widespread, implicit assumption that you might call the shrew libel: that "loose" women are so irrational and so ashamed of their sexual behaviour that they will convince others or even themselves it is forced on them. This is I think the sort of belief that the "Holly camp" above wants to negate; the assumption that women are irrational, spiteful, and liable to launch rape accusations at any moment. To correct this, we should lean towards believing people who claim to have been raped, just as you probably would believe someone who claimed to have been mugged.

    However, and I think this is what some of the male posters were getting at, there are cases where the accuser clearly benefits from her accusation (the accused is a personal enemy, for example), and here I think we should be a bit more wary. Again, this is not really essentially different from claiming to have been mugged.

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  176. When I met my husband our first conversation (yes first), was him saying before we talk or dive into our lives I have to tell you in a few months I will be put on trial for rape. He told me his side. He showed me the police report where her story changed multiple times and also the fact he was the third ot fourth man she had accused. A he said she said. He spent a week in jail before his parents could get 24000 raised. Another 15000 to retain a lawyer. My sister many years before had been date raped so i am not naive, i was molested as a young child. So anyways two years after the accusation trial day comes she is a no show. He and I marry and weeks before our first child is born I get a call from my father in law and he is sobbing, 4 years have passed since the accusation, he just got a call from the girls uncle(who happened to be a friend of his) and she had sat her entire family down and admitted she had COMPLETELY lied about the rape because she was past curfew. I had always known from day one it was false but to have her finally come clean was a mix of emotions. My now husband went through hell. He tried to commit suicide, lost years of his life, thousands of dollars gone, has people to this day who still believe he did it( because once a horrible accusation is out there know matter what you do there are ignorant people who just wont hear the truth). But you know what he forgave her. Never has uttered another word to her, but to be able just to live he forgave her moved on let me in his heart and we will celebrate 10 years of marriage this September! Yes rape is serious and horrible and life changing. But please as easy as it may be to assume an accusation is true listen to the facts before judging. He NEVER should have been charged. He has let this moment in his life change him for the good, instead of letting her take even more from him. He is amazing despite having someone deliberately trying to destroy him, he is amazing despite her, he is my loving husband and our boys amazing father!

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