Combating the Idea of the False Rape Accusation
Posted on January 15, 2013
A friend from high school posted this article about the horrific Steubenville rape case, and a person I don’t know replied:
i’m not disagreeing, but i think a lot of people are forgetting that some girls actually do lie about being raped, just for the sympathy/attention. i have known many. claiming that women are NEVER EVER WITHOUT ANY DOUBT responsible for it, is naive.
What kind of person reads an article about the rape of a teenage girl–a rape that appears to have been poorly investigated and prosecuted– and thinks, “Yeah, but you know what we need to worry about more? False rape accusations!”
No. What we need to worry about are STOPPING RAPISTS.
You know what I think about when I read about a violent crime–any violent crime? I think about the victim. I think about the perpetrator and wonder what on earth is wrong with that person, and how they could have done such a terrible thing. I think about the victim and the victim’s family and future and how life is going to change for all of them.
I do not think about people who might be accused of that same violent crime, even though they’re innocent. That’s not where my mind goes, because that’s a really weird leap in logic.
If, when hearing about a terrible murder, your first thought isn’t, “You know, a lot of people are falsely accused of murder, and that really ruins their lives,” then your first thought when hearing about a rape shouldn’t be, “You know, a lot of people are falsely accused of rape, and that really ruins their lives.”
I don’t see how it’s rational to be confronted with the topic of rape and find yourself dwelling not on the pain of the victims or trying to figure out how to stop the perpetrators, but on the fact that some people might be falsely accused of rape from time to time?
I pleaded with the stranger to read an article about false rape accusations in Ms. Magazine, in which the key quote is:
So what’s the answer? Do women lie about rape? According to Joanne Archambault, a former sex crimes unit supervisor, the answer is fairly simple: “[False reports] are not a problem. They happen, but they’re not a problem.” Research has shown that only roughly 2 to 8 percent of rape reports are untrue, (for car thefts, another felony offense, that number is about 10 percent [pdf].) Two to 8 percent is a pretty small number to justify the climate of fear around false rape reports.
When you think about the fact that the majority of rapes are never reported, that statistic of false accusers shrinks dramatically.
That means that for every 2 or 3 false rape accusations out there, there are 97-98 rapes, many of which are probably committed by the same criminals.
Which of these things is something we need to spend time focusing on? Which of these seems like a problem that should be brought up every time there is a news story about a rapist? Are you more focused on those 2-3 false accusations, or on the fact that we live in a world where 97% of rapists will never do any jail time?
No one argues that there has never been a false rape accusation or that it wouldn’t be terrible to be the focus of one. Of course being unfairly accused of any crime is going to be a terrible experience, and we should try to figure out why it happens so that we can address it.
What feminists point out is that rape is the only crime that is constantly associated with false accusations, despite the fact that there are statistically so few of them. Why is that? Why do the comments of every article about a rape include someone calling into question the victim’s story, or bringing up the face that “many women lie about this,” or argue that the real problem with rape is “the plethora of false reports that discredit legitimate cases”*?
If you want to read more about the reality of false rape accusations, check out the analysis over at Almost Diamonds. From the introduction:
The difference with rape is the reminder. Name someone who gave an acquaintance a gift then accused them of robbery. Find me a blog post about a robbery where one of these people is mentioned. Name someone who is used to demonstrate that insurance fraud occurs–every time a large insurance payout for theft makes the papers. Name one of those audacious people who tried to frame someone for a murder that never happened, even in fiction, then show me how their name comes up every time a body isn’t found.
It doesn’t happen. We’re not told that people lie about these things. We’re told that women lie about rape.
The implication in the “women lie” narrative is that we must be particularly on our guard against false accusations of rape, that any particular accusation is unlikely to be true. But is it?
I think the numbers are clear: false accusations of rape are rare, especially in comparison to the number of rapes that actually occur.
The question I want to answer, then, is this: Why are people so invested in trying to disprove the accounts of victims? Why do people want to focus on the 2 falsely accused instead of the 98 victims?
*That’s another one I saw on Facebook this week.