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July 19, 2010 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Police in Orlando, Florida, frustrated with an "epidemic" of false allegations of rape, threaten arrest for all future false reports. The problems of this Florida community reflect research that shows a disproportionately high rate of false accusations of rape relative to other crimes, though studies on the issue are far from uniform, and frequently the center of controversy.

The problem of false allegations is at times a vexing one for police officers who may find themselves caught between their instincts and external political pressures. Behind the ideological wrangling, however, are the all-too-real stories of lives turned upside down, reputations ruined, trust shattered, and death.

The phenomenon of false accusations, however commonplace, has led authorities in the United Kingdom to extend anonymity to defendants as well as accusers. Other commentators are calling for limits on anonymity extended to alleged victims. Both proposed policy shifts reference the fact that false accusers are only rarely, if ever, punished.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy (143 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This will end well.

The "epidemic" link cites three alleged cases of false reports. Not really sure how that constitutes a bona fide epidemic, the general immorality of false police reports of any nature notwithstanding. I am also curious how the chronic underreporting of rape affects the analysis in the research link. Assuming that 50% of rape reports are actually false (a huge assumption based on the actual data they examined), then this number becomes somewhat less shocking in light of the fact that so many actual rapes are not reported.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:11 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have to say, allegations of false rape or sexual harrassment are absolutely terrifying.

I have no idea what solution will prevent false allegations ruining someone's life whilst at the same time increasing reporting and conviction rates for real rape cases.
posted by knapah at 5:20 PM on July 19, 2010


knapah: I have to say, allegations of false rape or sexual harrassment are absolutely terrifying.

Exactly. False claims of rape ruin the lives of innocent people, but they also engender distrust toward women who have been victimized. It really is the worst of both worlds, and just like its sibling unreported rape, it seems to happen much too often (with even once being too often.)
posted by paisley henosis at 5:32 PM on July 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


I have no idea what solution will prevent false allegations ruining someone's life whilst at the same time increasing reporting and conviction rates for real rape cases.

Requiring physical evidence before opening an investigation, actually following up for real, and not losing it. How 'bout that?
posted by clarknova at 5:34 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your "research" link sure isn't fishy-looking or anything, particularly given the statistic from the last rape thread that false accusations of rape are far less common than people think.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:35 PM on July 19, 2010


Don't worry, rapists are rarely, if ever, punished too.

Small fraction of rapes are reported to police, small fraction of those are prosecuted by prosecutors, small fraction of those result in convictions, and often there isn't much time served.

So it all evens out, right?
posted by edheil at 5:36 PM on July 19, 2010


Also, your "disproportionately high" link seems to turn up on a lot of MRA websites. I call woman-hating bullshit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:36 PM on July 19, 2010 [14 favorites]


The phenomenon of false accusations, however commonplace, has led authorities in the United Kingdom to extend anonymity to defendants as well as accusers.

That's a damn good idea, we should try that here. Oh wait, then we wouldn't be able to vilify innocent people for the amusement of the public and increased ratings.
posted by MikeMc at 5:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Pure stupidity.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:39 PM on July 19, 2010


...and by 'awesome', I'm thinking 'in the same way a natural disaster is.'

On preview: Pope Guilty, you have my love.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:41 PM on July 19, 2010


Rapes turn lives upside down, shatter trust, and can lead to depression, PTSD, and suicide.

There is so ridiculously much more unreported sexual assault cases than false reports. So tragically much more. And these idiotic local news articles about "epidemics" of "false rape reports" make survivors that much more likely to be disbelieved in a system that is already disgustingly weighted against them. Good god.
posted by quadrilaterals at 5:42 PM on July 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


That's a damn good idea, we should try that here

Nancy Grace is OUTRAGED!!!!11!! at this suggestion
posted by Kirk Grim at 5:52 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Currently, the two main identifiable adversaries involved in the false rape allegations controversy are the feminists and the police.
Wha?

I'm not ready to call woman-hating bullshit, exactly, but this really can't end too well. It's surely shitty when someone is falsely accused of anything, and especially in these instances for the reasons pointed out by paisley henosis: "False claims of rape ruin the lives of innocent people, but they also engender distrust toward women who have been victimized. It really is the worst of both worlds"
More and more (especially on these young-male dominated sites like reddit) I see men basically saying something like "See! women lie all the time! Men are being victimized!" As though that's somehow the predominant scenario, or actually more common than assault itself, which it is not.
And yes, that "research" looks biased and kind of shitty, whether or not the dudes have a phd.
posted by Red Loop at 5:54 PM on July 19, 2010


Can we please all agree at the outset, here, both that being falsely accused of a crime is bad, even potentially life-wrecking AND that sexual assault is bad and potentially life-wrecking without invoking false dilemmas or using this as an opportunity to rehash personal and/or ideological disputes? A boy can hope.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:55 PM on July 19, 2010 [15 favorites]


That sounds like a good idea, joe. Additionally, since there's inevitable criticism of bringing up false rape allegations in posts about real rapes, and that doing so is a derail, it would be fair to suggest that discussions of actual rape would be a derail and a distraction here, too, so that ought not to occur.

I mean, if we're just wildly hoping for stuff.
posted by adipocere at 5:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also: I am not even attempting to draw any kind of equivalence here, for the record. Sorry if that was unclear, but that is the opposite of what I was trying to say. As compassionate people, we can simultaneously advocate both for the reduction of false allegations AND the reduction of sexual assault without compromising our principles.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:57 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry, adipocere, my irony meter is broken. Were you mocking my call for even-toned discussion? I cannot even tell anymore, no offense intended.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:58 PM on July 19, 2010


research that shows a disproportionately high rate of false accusations of rape relative to other crimes

It explicitly does not show that, nor does it show anything else outside a single city:

Since this effort is the first at a systematic, long-term, on-site investigation of false rape allegations from a single city, future studies in other cities, with comparable policies, must assess the representativeness of these findings.

And even what it says about a single city is questionable without any apparent peer review. I can't even confirm the author is a real person.
posted by scottreynen at 6:00 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Requiring physical evidence before opening an investigation, actually following up for real, and not losing it. How 'bout that?

Because a victim should absolutely be smart enough not to, say, shower for a couple of hours in an attempt to wash away the feel and smell and stain of the inhuman bastard who committed a profound violation.

As long as you're postulating perfectly rational human beings, you might as well postulate perfectly rational ones who don't rape other human beings. Makes the whole exercise a lot easier.
posted by Etrigan at 6:06 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Idiotic. The only way this works is if an accuser is automatically tried when her lawyer fails to obtain a conviction, which would seem to have quite a chilling effect on the reporting of real crimes. And why stop at rape? It's damaging to be accused of any serious crime. It's hard for me to even gauge how bad an idea this is -- it's off the fucking charts, even for Florida.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh, why did it take me so long to notice the plethora of Daily Mail links? That about says it all about this post.
posted by Red Loop at 6:17 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Ontario, which does track false allegations of rape, the rate is around 5-6% according to this article, which is about 8 years old.

Here's an interesting slate.com article on the issue.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:18 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


The reason why there are rape victim advocates in every major city and lots of smaller ones, and the reason why the experience with police and service providers post-rape is known as "the second rape," is that it's FUCKING HORRIBLE to go through that process. Real victims may change their story just so that it will end.
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:19 PM on July 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


Yep. Metafilter is a 'girlzone' alright. A thread about rape will chase away any possible nuance or dissent or discussion. A thread about false accusations- which the usual participants in the rape threads are quick to denounce by begging the question and insisting that false accusations don't occur and even if they did they'd be irrelevant or overshadowed by rape and why isn't this thread deleted already- will not get the courtesy of respecting the principle topic of the thread.

Adipocere's point is there, sure to be thoroughly ignored by the usual suspects. THIS thread is about false accusations of rape, and how the legal system can protect against that. It's a fair point, and not a concern limited to misogynists. Some people feel the pendulum swung too far, and making rape a special crime with different rules, where a false accusation bears little to no punishment or recourse, makes for a frightening legal system. False accusations do occur for many crimes, including rape, and it is not actually "okay" to say that false accusations are fine since rape is so terrible or because there are unreported rapes and it all balances out. Even though false accusations may be a minority, it's still a concern worth addressing in structuring our legal system, or enacting laws that may imbalance the scales of justice.

But I'm a guy, so My Fault, I'm Male. Now, please commence chewing me out, insulting me, or accusing me of sexism and misogyny.
posted by hincandenza at 6:34 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


hincandenza: I am with you, but I think you misunderstood my call for civility here. We are better than this. Or at least theoretically better than this. No need to fall back into US versus THEM analyses here. That is what they want us to do, friend.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:39 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


get it?
posted by joe lisboa at 6:43 PM on July 19, 2010


Etrigan: Because a victim should absolutely be smart enough not to, say, shower for a couple of hours in an attempt to wash away the feel and smell and stain of the inhuman bastard who committed a profound violation.
Um, yes. It's shocking to suggest that the victim of a crime not remove evidence before contacting the police, and then demand that their word should be good enough? I have been attacked on the street by some thugs, and the first thing I did was call the police, even though my face was a mess and I was hurting and bleeding.

Rape is not super special. It's still just another crime though a horrid crime (although I again argue that the same energy is rarely directed towards curbing prison rape even though it should be preventable and punishable in a tightly controlled environment. My thoughts on those who are so silent on this when they are otherwise so loud are not kind). Like any crime, it's victims need to do what they can to ensure prosecution even if it's difficult. Expecting the legal system to just let you make blunt accusations without evidence and demanding a 100% conviction rate because this crime is so awful is absurd to the point of psychotic narcissism.
posted by hincandenza at 6:47 PM on July 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


LTG stated right up front that "... studies on the issue are far from uniform, and frequently the center of controversy. "

I suppose that calling "woman-hating bullshit" on research because it is referenced by a bunch of websites that look disagreeable is a bad idea. The article, a dated publication in the peer reviewed Archives of Sexual Behavior ought to be considered independent of whomever might want to use it to support a questionable agenda.
posted by millions at 6:50 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nope, joe. I am usually fairly heavy-handed in my mockery. I would be uber-obvious about it. Plus, I like you, so I wouldn't do that anyway. I would genuinely like an actual discussion about this topic. I tend to think we won't get it, because for all of the somewhat legitimate talk about "this is a derail" when the counter cases are brought forward, much of it may be from pure Nobody Can Talk About Thisishness.

I think there's an interesting terror humans have over things for which there is no defense. Cars kill more than planes do, by mile, but we're terrified of plane crashes. I wonder, every so often, is it because once it gets underway, unless you're the pilot, you can do absolutely nothing to stop it? The crash is underway and you are along for the ride and you either dead at the end or not. Is that the same principle with men who fear false accusations of rape, just the sheer perceived helplessness of it?

I have seen a false rape accusation go almost comically wrong, in the sense that you see films and people doing crazy things because they have managed to fixate on something entirely wrong, and then they end up in predicaments, and then you laugh and say, "People can't go that far down the rabbit hole. They'd stop and evaluate things." Nope. Ended up with my buddy and some other people crouched in a basement with a rifle and a shotgun because the bad guy in question "was coming for her." That could have been written off as college hijinx but for my already-distraught friend, who I did not want around loaded weapons at the time, especially when he was so often loaded himself. Just one of those things that Could Have Gone Pretty Badly In Retrospect.

People engaged in fistfights between what could be roughly called Believer and Skeptic camps, those who bought the story and those who had the nerve to say, "Well, do we have any evidence yet?" Nobody Can Talk About This. I believed the accusation was false because, at one point, she changed the story to a time and place where the rapist and I happened to be in a room together, along with about a dozen other people. Other details were also either wrong or simply unlikely. He could have been astrally projecting*, I suppose. That didn't matter, though, because various White Knights were out there ready to beat the crap out of anyone who asked, "How do we know this happened?"

The accused dropped out of college and left town, long before everyone else caught on to this woman's pattern. Rumor mills just don't push innocence along as effectively as accusations. Drunk at one point, she confessed that she made the whole thing up. Later, she went on to make other dramatic stories about different things to satisfy some bizarre need she had. She was a systematic victimizer who would select people who were already viewed with suspicion or distaste, then concoct wild stories where she was a central player. And while she clearly had some Serious Problems, they were still manifested in ways that completely tormented this guy. I didn't even like the guy, but I still recognized that he'd been done wrong. And, like having a few engines blow out in your plane, while this was going on, he had nothing to do but wait and either crash or not crash, because nothing he could say or do would make him innocent when someone wanted to believe he was not. That, I think, is where the fear arises.

* The astral projection thing might not be too far off. Some months later she claimed to have captured my soul in a bottle where, for all I know, it still remains.
posted by adipocere at 6:53 PM on July 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


I hear you Joe, but I'm also frustrated that some comments will verge on hysterical or demanding that dissent is unallowable. This pattern repeats ad nauseum in all these threads, such that the topic ought to either be always unmoderated or always deleted. I thought adipocere's comment was valid: mentioning false accusations in a stopping-rape thread is shouted down (and if those Ontario numbers are accurate, 1/20 to 1/12 is nothing to sneeze at), but the same courtesy of maybe not using this thread to rehash the same polemics about rape culture, etc is likely to be ignored. Even your call for balance or civility, while nice, is not going to be heard equally.
posted by hincandenza at 6:54 PM on July 19, 2010


Thought experiment: replace "rape" with "capital murder." Add false accusations and braise low for about six hours.

Personally, I have no greater fear than being wrongly accused and convicted under this present penal system. So, yeah, no matter how charged the subject matter, it bears discussion.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:54 PM on July 19, 2010


it is not actually "okay" to say that false accusations are fine since rape is so terrible or because there are unreported rapes and it all balances out

Who is saying that?
posted by cj_ at 6:56 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Failure to get a conviction does not constitute a priority evidence of false accusations, merely unproven ones. That's a total red herring.

If you can prove that an accusation was made intentionally and maliciously and with knowledge of it's falseness - the same standard that applies in any criminal trial, the punishment ought to be proportionate to the damage the accusation does. Civil recourse should also be available so lawyers are interested in pursuing false advisers. It would make for a strong deterrent.

Of course, justice should prevail in all cases at all times, and in most domains of law that seems rarely to be the case

This thread is off to a shitty start.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:07 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


A priori, not priority

And its falseness, not it's

iPhone spell check sucks.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:10 PM on July 19, 2010


(with even once being too often)

Why do we always use this sort of rhetoric when talking about sexual assault? It's almost as if we're afraid to talk about it on honest terms. (And in all honesty, that makes the stigma of rape far, far worse.)

People get struck by lightning all the time, but I don't add these footnotes when discussing thunderstorms for fear of being labeled as pro-lightning. (One strike is one strike too many!)

Thunderstorms are a fact of nature and life. Humans are also (on rare occasion) violent slobs. There is nothing we can do to change this fundamental concept. However, we can do our best to mitigate those risks by not playing golf on hilltops during thunderstorms, teaching women to practice self-defense, and prosecuting rapists when there is physical evidence to support the case.

Rape is a horrible crime. However, no crime is horrible enough to suspend the protections and burdens of proof required by the legal system. Many of the exceptions carved into the law only worsen the stigma, which in turn makes the problem of unreported rapes much, much worse.

And that's all I have to say on the issue.
posted by schmod at 7:14 PM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


As we saw with all those pedophile priests, if you are a reasonably upstanding citizen, many true allegations of rape will be ignored by almost everyone until the number becomes overwhelming.

In other words, there is a far greater presumption of innocence with respect to accusations of rape than for almost any other crime, already.

Look how long Mike Tyson got away with it, for another example.

I suppose we could follow the lead of some forms of Sharia and require three adult male eyewitnesses to even bring charges, but I doubt even that would satisfy the men behind this latest pushback.
posted by jamjam at 7:22 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rape is a horrible crime. However, no crime is horrible enough to suspend the protections and burdens of proof required by the legal system.

Is there evidence somewhere that the protections and burdens of proof required by the legal system are suspended for rape cases?
posted by rtha at 7:37 PM on July 19, 2010


hincandenza: "THIS thread is about false accusations of rape, and how the legal system can protect against that. It's a fair point, and not a concern limited to misogynists. "

It is a fair point. However, it so often— like this— gets framed as an "epidemic" and that pendulum swings too far. In my personal opinion, this post is weak in that it presents a token counterpoint to the obviously biased point, rather than laying out more quality information to stimulate discussion.
posted by Red Loop at 7:37 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


This just makes me really, really sad. My point was not that false accusations never happen, nor that we shouldn't talk about them, but, as Red Loop says, they are NOT an epidemic, and your chances (as a male) of being falsely accused are really freaking low, as schmod said.

While I don't think you're sexist, hincandenza, I do think a lot of this is tied up in gendered fears. Women are socialized to be afraid of being raped, and guys are socialized to be afraid of being falsely accused. To fault those whose knee-jerk reaction is to protect rape victims, I think, an ill-placed fault. You may say these are not rape victims, but this is the discourse around just about every woman who has been raped- she's a liar, she's out to ruin his life, blah blah. If it's not that, it's victim blame. I've seen it firsthand with the women I've worked with as a victim advocate, and I'm familiar enough with the literature to know that that's not just my experienced. While most women will not be true false accusers, a good chunk of us will be raped, and a good chunk of those will be called false accusers.

I'd rather participate in discourse that questions the assumptions of actions like Florida's than accept it out of hand as truth. And there really, truly is a good deal in those assumptions to question.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:55 PM on July 19, 2010 [22 favorites]


Speaking as someone who has worked in this field for a long time, I can't second emilyd22222 enough. Any false accusation, of any crime, is a bad thing, but the mythology that false accusations of rape are common is incredibly damaging to actual victims -- and incredibly helpful to rapists.
posted by bearwife at 8:11 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think this post was framed deliberately to cause the discussion it engendered. There's a good FPP to be made discussing false accusations and the justice system and penalties that might be levied in regards to malicious accusations.

This is not that post.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:27 PM on July 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


There is so ridiculously much more unreported sexual assault cases than false reports.

Well, it's not like false convictions "even things out" or something.

Anyway, it's impossible to really know the actual rate of false rape reports, at least in situations where there are only two people involved, and one person claims it was consensual. You could even have situations where the man thought there was consent, and the woman did not.
posted by delmoi at 8:48 PM on July 19, 2010


Well let's take it in a new direction? How much of the fear of false rape accusations is a proxy for other fears (rational or not) of the place of men in society in relation to women. Rape accusations may be a red herring, but the existential fear may not be.
posted by stratastar at 8:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


However, no crime is horrible enough to suspend the protections and burdens of proof required by the legal system

This would make sense of the procedures of the legal system were perfect in every way, developed in a vacuum to best serve the public, or perhaps divinely given. They aren't.

These procedures were developed over centuries when crimes against women weren't conceived as anything other than property crimes against their male owners, where women couldn't testify in court, where women couldn't serve as attorneys (check out the 1873 Supreme Court case Bradwell v. State), where domestic violence was legally sanctioned, not prohibited. Not only were women's voices and experiences excluded from this developmental process, but the procedures themselves still have overt and obvious trappings of earlier times.

The right to confront and cross-examine? It derives it part from the pre-Constitutional pre-Common Law practice of judicial dueling, an evidentiary practice where a litigant would take a club and try to beat up a witness in order to determine the truth. In most jurisdictions, women couldn't duel men, and thus couldn't serve as witnesses. Which sort of made accusations of rape rather unprovable. The few times women could participate in a duel, the man would stand in a pit with one hand tied behind his back and the other holding a club. The woman would circle around him holding a cloth wrapped around a stone. The loser was put to death. You cannot make this shit up.

So why don't we duel anymore? Because as society evolved we realized that our protections and burdens of proof no longer made sense in dealing with the issues of the time. And when feminists in the 1970s fought for Rape Shield protections, the same process was occurring.

So go ahead and assert that rape is the same as everything else and we should never change our judicial procedures. Just be prepared to pick up a club, stand in a pit, and fight for it.

As for this whole post, ugh. There's an old feminist saying about antifeminist reaction: If it's that bad, it can't be happening and if it's happening, it can't be that bad. Underlying everything linked in this post, including those horribly offensive Daily Mail pieces is this belief. There's no way all those allegations can be true, because that would mean there's a lot of rape. And there's no way there can be that much rape, because the world isn't that way. Demonstrate some shoddy math skills and voila, you're a cause celebre amongst the MRAs.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:02 PM on July 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


I think a lot of my confusion, emilyd22222, comes from the idea that if I were raped I'd break completely in the process of seeking vengeance or justice. A horrible fear that I have is that I'll somehow end up in prison and reduced to a literal human toilet for years while the full weight of the mightiest empire in human history ensures I have no escape and no relief, where my constant psychic and physical torture was the stuff of comedy for the prisoners and the guards complicit in my absolute nullification as a human. I suspect it would completely break my mind, and my life would then be on rails of vengeance and death that ultimately resulted in my own very quick and painful death, possibly by the state itself. But good lord, would I fight like a fucking lion either in the act, or afterwards in seeking criminal convictions as the singleminded purpose of the rest of my life.

And as an aside, I do believe that when these rape-related threads occur, the image is so rarely of that horror, that somehow it's to be easily dismissed or ignored. It makes me question the actual concern of those concerned with a "rape culture" when they ignore perhaps the most victimized and least protected.


I know that false accusations are a minority by far. However, no matter the crime, there are people who will lie about it for any number of rational or irrational reasons. People are people, and people are mostly rotten. If rape is an act of violence and power, then lying about rape would itself potentially be an act of violence and power using the legal system itself as a fist or a knife. And it does happen, and the legal system should be concerned with ensuring- as with all crimes- that there is innocence until proven guilt, that a fair trial is ensured, that the accused are given the right to confront their accusers, and those who would bring false claims may and should face severe criminal sanctions of their own. Nothing about that should be controversial- yet it is, apparently.

I don't believe that false accusations are an "epidemic" problem, but I do think the pendulum swing from the terrible past where rape was ignored or assumed to be the right of certain people (or somehow a forfeited right by some women), past the healthy point of rape counseling and legal protections and due process without suspicion and humiliation. I think it's worth having a conversation as a society as to whether we've moved potentially a place where- as some have even implied in this thread- all accusations are assumed true and physical evidence isn't even necessary. I personally find it inconceivable that a person who was raped would not be at the hospital the first moment they could, demanding a rape kit and the police be contacted- Etrigan's angry claim for example that this is too much to ask just makes no sense to me whatsoever. And I believe that the legal system has enacted changes- such as for example not allowing past history to be used when that might be legally relevant as part of the defense- that go counter to a fair trial.

As horrible as rape is, like child molestation I still believe that even the crimes that most offend us still deserve a full fair trial, that convicting an innocent person is worse than letting a guilty one go free.
posted by hincandenza at 9:23 PM on July 19, 2010


This poorly sourced post furthers a misogynist mythology that women pervasively lie about being raped. I'd need hipboots to wade through the amount of evil bullshit piled up here.

The "research" link summarizes a 10-year study of a single midwestern police department to support the claim that 45 of the total 109 forcible rapes reported (or 41%) were "false" because the accusers recanted after police offered to administer a polygraph test to the accuser and accused. Even if this department were taken as representative nationally, this tells us little about the actual incidence of false reporting because the study does not distinguish between recantations because of falsity and recantations prompted by an accuser's desire to disengage from the criminal justice system. Although the author assures us that the accusers would have no reason to do so since "these recantations did not follow prolonged periods of investigation and interrogation that would constitute anything approximating a second assault." This would be miraculous, given the extensive reports by rape survivors all over the country that the criminal justice system is very, very, rough on accusers.

Precise figures on false reports of rape *are* difficult to obtain simply because of the nature of the crime and the stigma surrounding it, but the 41% figure is an incredible outlier. Citing it is misleading, even without considering the age of the study and methodological problems.

The links that ostensibly discuss the variation in numbers are also misleading strawmen. Three of the four are concerned entirely with whether Susan Brownmiller's 2% figure is accurate (the only link in Brownmiller's favor is an abstract of her book). The fourth mentions that most studies put the figure between 8% and 10%, but also says that higher estimates are plausible before discussing false reporting rates of 40 and 90%. This set of links is the "teach the controversy" of rape report figures. Whatever the poster's intent, they only serve to reinforce the idea that many, many rape charges are false -- perhaps even 90% of them.

But even the 8-10% figure (mentioned only briefly in the link and then undercut) may be high. The National Center for Prosecution of Violence Against Women issued a paper on studies of false reports (discussing the 41% figure) says that larger, more recent studies converge around 2-8%. Even 2-10% is plausible.

There is no good reason to push the 41% figure (to say nothing of the 90% figure!) in the face of widespread academic consensus that rape is underreported, and in the face of the pervasive accounts of women who say they were raped but did not report the rape to the police. This nonsense is only likely to make it even more difficult for people who are raped, especially women who are raped, to be taken seriously.
posted by Marty Marx at 9:24 PM on July 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


NCPVA paper is here.
posted by Marty Marx at 9:25 PM on July 19, 2010


I hear you Joe, but I'm also frustrated that some comments will verge on hysterical or demanding that dissent is unallowable.

I know these threads are somewhat predictable, but what's the point of calling out people for things they haven't even said yet? It's tough to be in a discussion where most of the other people disagree with you, but there's no reason to preemptively assume that anyone here is going to be "hysterical." Everyone's free to comment about their views in good faith and hopefully the result will be a civil discussion.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:25 PM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


The way to handle any potential or real false accusation "epidemic" is for police departments to take it seriously as a crime and actively, carefully and diligently collect evidence about the crime impartially.

This means police departments should treat rape as seriously as homicide - if not more seriously, because instead of a body you have what and who is a living victim likely suffering from the effects of a crime arguably more brutalizing and traumatic than simply being dead. Dead people don't care about being dead. They're dead.

This means getting victims (male or female) to hospitals for examination immediately. This means procedure to collect the right evidence to support or deny the case. This means processing that evidence and eliminating backlogs of "rape kits" and not letting the expire or the evidence to degrade. This means training and education and actually doing your job as an investigator or police officer.

This means not demeaning or abusing the victims that come in to report that crime - whether they are female or male. This means not calling them sluts, or accusing them of insanely offensive bullshit like "well, what were you wearing?" or "did you lead him on?" Women get the brunt of this maltreatment, but it's just as hard if not harder for men to report rape as well - even if they're both caused by the same misogyny and sexually political bullshit. The person who is fucking is in power, the person being fucked is the victim - this is the core value of the rape culture we're fighting. Sexual dominance versus sexual submission. Giving ones virginity versus taking it.

Hey, "male rights" guys? Yes, some women abuse the legal system. Yes, there's an imbalance in power in procreation - a women can choose to keep a child from an unplanned pregnancy and even use it just to collect child support. Yes, there's crazy, manipulative women who'll marry a guy just to get his money, run off the kids and the pool boy. Yes, some women do falsely accuse people of rape. No, these things are not ok just because women do them. The point is that this is some women - not all women. Just like not all men are rapists, or even potential rapists. You can't cherry-pick issues of imbalance like that without looking at the whole picture - or the men in your lives that do the same damn things. Shall we line all the toxic, dangerous men and women side by side and count them?

Do you know what the surefire way to not be damaged by these kinds of dishonest people? Don't have sex with them or marry them! Take it slow! Get to know someone before you jump in the sack with them.

And in the end - in my not so humble opinion - this means "Men's Rights" movements need to get it into their heads that this "us vs. them" playground-grade bullshit isn't going to help anyone, that at it's root "feminism" is just mis-named "humanism" asking for us to treat each other equally - but feminism is stuck with a name that has unfortunate baggage that makes some men immediately leap to asking "But what about men!?" without even once stopping to consider the actual historical context and power imbalance of men owning women that went on more or less forever until a few decades ago - or even listening to what feminists are saying and proposing about equality.

What about men? Ask a true feminist! Ask them! They want men to have everything women want themselves. Equal pay. Equal rights and representation. A world where people don't assume you're an idiot because you have tits or not, or a dick or not.

And in the grander sense it's the responsibility for any feminist-humanist equality-minded person (male or female) to strive to bridge that gap and help make all the rights and responsibilities assignted to "us" and "we" and not "them" or "I".
posted by loquacious at 9:27 PM on July 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


So just after posting my comment, I read allen.spauldings.
However, no crime is horrible enough to suspend the protections and burdens of proof required by the legal system
allen.spaulding: This would make sense of the procedures of the legal system were perfect in every way, developed in a vacuum to best serve the public, or perhaps divinely given. They aren't.
I have no way of reacting to that rationally- basically, it seems like a stream-of-consciousness jumble involving pits and stones and olden times that admittedly sucked, all to prop up the initial point of "Sure, for rape- because it involves women who historically were mistreated- we should throw out due process as a nuisance." Somehow he simultaneously defends improvements in the judicial process over the generations while implying that we shouldn't have them, or... something. I don't think I was able to even process that by the end.

I mean, what the fuck? If that's the stance being taken, you can't defend against or even discuss that. We all know the law and the legal system are imperfect, but the response of modern civilized people is supposed to be "Let's find the right measured balance of due process and ensuring those victimized are protected". We've done that to move towards- we hope- more fair, unbiased, and functioning systems of justice. We've even done that to hopefully minimize the cultural legacy of the police/law to downplay rape as something that isn't a priority or is easily dismissed, so that now the police are (unless they're negligent) duty-bound to respond to rape charges immediately, or to enforce separation in domestic violence calls so that they aren't showing up two hours later to a homicide scene.

This in no way means we throw out due process, which seems to be the case allen.spaulding is making.
posted by hincandenza at 9:32 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


This in no way means we throw out due process, which seems to be the case allen.spaulding is making.

No. You're not even wrong.

You are taking the status quo conception of due process as a given, assuming it to be appropriate, just, and measured. You are reacting to attempts to improve judicial procedure to make it more equal, demanding that all cases receive the same protections created by flawed historical processes.

Attempts to change due process to better address gender-based violence are about thirty years old. Attempts to fight any change to the status quo is much older than you, I, or the English language. You're fighting history and the dustbin may be well-populated, but it gets old over time.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:39 PM on July 19, 2010


Hincandenza, I agree with most of what you just said, although I don't think the pendulum is anywhere near at a place where we believe every rape accuser. I think that's probably due to our different location in terms of involvement with the issue.

I'd also like to try to clarify this:

I personally find it inconceivable that a person who was raped would not be at the hospital the first moment they could, demanding a rape kit and the police be contacted- Etrigan's angry claim for example that this is too much to ask just makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Some reasons that a person might not go to the hospital/contact the police
(using "she" here for simplicity)
-She has heard a lot of victim blaming in her day-to-day life, and either internalizes it and blame herself or worries that she will be blamed
-She suspects that she will not be believed, perhaps because she has heard people talk about false accusations
-She might not trust the police, either for sociocultural reasons, or because she's heard how many police officers treat rape victims
-She does not have health insurance and is not aware that forensic exams are free
-She is uncomfortable with pelvic exams
-She's heard about how horrible the hospital/police experience can be
-She is having the worst experience of their life and just wants it to end so she can move on and forget about it
-She is from a group disproportionally vulnerable to rape, such as the differently-abled or mentally ill, who might have a hard time (for a variety of reasons) getting to the hospital/calling the police
-She doesn't realize that what happened to her was rape, perhaps because it was her husband, or she didn't say "no" but expressed the lack of consent in other ways
-She has to go to work within the next 6-12 hours or risk being fired
-She has no childcare while she's in the hospital
-She is too scared or traumatized to go alone, but she has no one to go with her
-She loves the person who raped her and doesn't want to get him in trouble
-The person who raped her is the father of her children and she doesn't want to risk him going to jail
-She doesn't want people to find out she was raped
-She (or her family, pets, or belongings) have been threatened by the person who raped her if she tells
-She would otherwise go but isn't thinking clearly or rationally, since she's just experienced something incredibly traumatic.

That's just off the top of my head. I hope that helps make things a little clearer.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:39 PM on July 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


Marty Marx: There is no good reason to push the 41% figure (to say nothing of the 90% figure!) in the face of widespread academic consensus that rape is underreported, and in the face of the pervasive accounts of women who say they were raped but did not report the rape to the police. This nonsense is only likely to make it even more difficult for people who are raped, especially women who are raped, to be taken seriously.
The 41% figure is bullshit, of course. But then, most figures about rape/sexual assault are bullshit, since we could find figures to suggest apparently every woman I've ever known has been raped. Which- either all these women are conspiring to protect one really awful man, or all men but me are rapists, or the figures are wildly inaccurate.

Rape is awful, yes, but dismissing one set of figures while ignoring the log in the eye of those who claim some rather inflated, and unsubstantiated, figures is knee-jerk anti-intellectualism. 2% is apparently the generic "false accusation" rate, so the 2-8 or 2-10% figures sound somewhat plausible. NO ONE in this thread is suggesting the myth that women "pervasively" lie, for the love of christ! But the idea that women never lie, or that 2, 8 or 10% is something we shouldn't concern ourselves with as part of the judicial process like with every other crime, is offensive to any sense of justice or civility.

Oh, quick aside to burnmp3s:
I know these threads are somewhat predictable, but what's the point of calling out people for things they haven't even said yet?
Please see Marty Marx's post, as an example. Apparently I went from "Well due process is important whether it's a rape case, or child porn or molestation case, or check kiting" to "pervasively" suggesting all dem bitches are lying about rape. Sorry for being defensive!
posted by hincandenza at 9:41 PM on July 19, 2010


Also this: I have no way of reacting to that rationally, is beyond adorable. In the if-you-want-a-circle-jerk-so-badly-go-back-to-reddit kind of adorable.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:42 PM on July 19, 2010


Hincandenza, I agree with most of what you just said

Should clarify that because you posted again- should have previewed. I agree that rape-related threads do tend to focus on the victim, although I disagree with you that they're not the most victimized and least protected. I think that the pendulum has swung, but not as far as you say, and this warrants a conversation, and that basic legal rights should be protected. However, I do NOT agree that rape shield laws make a trial less fair. I also don't think that letting a guilty person go free is better or worse than convicting an innocent person- they both are terrible outcomes, and should be treated as such.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:45 PM on July 19, 2010


loquacious, I wanted to favorite your post until the "hey men's rights" line. I completely agree with what you said: that false accusations should be collected and dealt with, and while not perfect that it is a very good thing that our police departments are hopefully much better at handling rape and domestic violence cases impartially, professionally, and cooly- ensuring evidence and testimony is collected, that the victims are brought to medical care, that protections are ensured, etc- than they were 50, 40, even 10 years ago.

But that doesn't mean anyone who says "But stories like a guy in prison while his accuser is known to be a liar and there wasn't any physical evidence... that is concerning, and a perversion of justice just like Byron de la Beckwith walking away scot-free initially" is some loin-cloth wearing Men's Rights drum beating neanderthal.

I agree with you that the better term is humanist, that ideally we're working for true equality. But us vs. them isn't a mindset held solely by male posters on Metafilter.
posted by hincandenza at 9:46 PM on July 19, 2010


allen.spaulding: This in no way means we throw out due process, which seems to be the case allen.spaulding is making.

No. You're not even wrong.

You are taking the status quo conception of due process as a given, assuming it to be appropriate, just, and measured. You are reacting to attempts to improve judicial procedure to make it more equal, demanding that all cases receive the same protections created by flawed historical processes.

Attempts to change due process to better address gender-based violence are about thirty years old. Attempts to fight any change to the status quo is much older than you, I, or the English language. You're fighting history and the dustbin may be well-populated, but it gets old over time.
You're just being difficult and trollish at this point, and I resent you for it. My point is not nor has ever been that due process is some set-in-stone handed-down-from-the-gods concept, but rather that it is an ideal that we are constantly striving for like "justice" and "fairness" and "peace".

Your comments are condescending and insulting, you are ignoring everything I write while casting me as some heavy-browed troglodyte clinging to outdated ideas. I find it infuriating especially since I've repeatedly made a point of applauding the progress we as a society have made in the past 30 years to address the inequities of centuries. Why, again, is saying "We should strive for ideally having the fairest, most effective, just and noble legal system" somehow being part of the dust bin of history? Part of fairness is that we take a little care to not err on the side of overcompensating. The first half of loquacious' post put it so well, that we've made great strides in law enforcement. But I guess you were just looking to pick a fight with some doppleganger of misogyny, and I was convenient for you.
posted by hincandenza at 9:53 PM on July 19, 2010


Please see Marty Marx's post, as an example. Apparently I went from "Well due process is important whether it's a rape case, or child porn or molestation case, or check kiting" to "pervasively" suggesting all dem bitches are lying about rape.

I kind of get the impression Marty Marx wasn't directly speaking to you, but rather about the post itself.
posted by Ouisch at 9:56 PM on July 19, 2010


But I guess you were just looking to pick a fight with some doppleganger of misogyny, and I was convenient for you.

My bad. When you preemptively accused everyone else of being hysterical, or when you said My Fault, I'm Male, you were the one contributing something valuable and worthwhile to the thread. When I cited leading research on the Confrontation Clause and explained why people might be hesitant to accept uncritical claims about due process, I'm the troll.

My fault. You're male. That must be it.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:58 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


we could find figures to suggest apparently every woman I've ever known has been raped. Which- either all these women are conspiring to protect one really awful man, or all men but me are rapists, or the figures are wildly inaccurate.

Please to direct me to these figures which prove that 100% of women have been raped, hincandenza. And I'm very sorry that you have nightmares about suffering institutional rape or being raped while incarcerated, but please do understand that the fear of sexual assault is pretty widespread amongst women, too.
posted by jokeefe at 10:01 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, rapists are rarely, if ever, punished too.

Small fraction of rapes are reported to police ^


There is a serial rapist in Houston. There's nothing funny about serial rape, but...

[audience laughs]

What is noteworthy about this particular rapist is that all of his victims have been men. Enjoy your evening.

[audience cheers and claps]

I can't believe you clapped about that. There's a man raping men in Houston. That's... the most gangster shit... so far...

[audience laughs]

Like, like, seven men have already come forward in the Houston area and reported this motherfucker, which means he musta raped THOUSANDS.

[audience laughs]

Coz it's a tough phone call for us to make... It's not like when you get raped ladies, there's no, um... Society don't give a fuck about male rape, there's no hotline for us.

[audience laughs]

When a man get raped you just gotta get up and walk that shit off.

[audience laughs]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLWlBgj0uOc
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:02 PM on July 19, 2010


emilyd22222, I appreciate your list of reasons. I still feel like some of those seem so dismissive of what must be a traumatic event. I certainly think that there is value in educating women to always, always, always fight for their rights, and hopefully empowering women and men to seek out help and justice when they are wronged.

I can't imagine for example getting assaulted and then not calling the police because I'd be late for work, or because I'd rather put it behind me- to my mindset, I see that as allowing the "bastards" to win. And I suppose that is a mindset that gets culturally conditioned for some, and we should seek to remove that cultural conditioning in victims as we have hopefully done a lot of in the legal system (again, referring to loquacious' post about the strides made in ensuring the police don't minimize rape charges).

The guilty going free line is I guess a particular philosophical foundation that not everyone agrees with. I think that the legal system would ideally be perfect and have a 100% accuracy rate, but we all know that won't happen. Given that, I feel it should err on the side of the guilty going free as opposed to seeking high conviction rates regardless of the innocent being imprisoned (i.e., that protections of the accused should take weight over the police going into a windowless backroom until a 'confession' is given, as an example). When an innocent person is convicted, then not only is one person being unjustly harmed (by the state) but the actual guilty party remains at large, and unsought after. Both are as you say undesirable, but to my mind there is a greater horror to an innocent person in prison than a guilty person free- at least in the latter case, one can hope that some of the guilty will see themselves as lucky as opposed to emboldened to greater levels of crime.


But I do think the thing we're agreeing on is that we're discussing how we position the pendulum. I want to thank you emily for having civil and measured conversation, as that's what I'd hope we could all do: agree that there is a balance to be struck somewhere, and have a conversation to decide where the right place for that pendulum to stop swinging. I suspect that there are regional and generational variances as well: I am in my mid-30's in Seattle, and I can't imagine the police being dismissive or women of my generation or younger not knowing and enforcing their rights (or that if they were, protests and marches would quickly ensue). Perhaps I'm still wrong, but it informs my viewpoint that we're much closer to ideal in terms of treating rape and sexual assault as real issues compared to the stories you hear of even two decades ago.
posted by hincandenza at 10:04 PM on July 19, 2010


Sorry for being defensive!

You came into a frankly not-at-all-great post on a subject you've been very combative about in the past to preemptively and dismissively call out people for the comments they hadn't even made yet disagreeing with your position. "Defensive" is generous; you're being absolutely bunker-mentality when you pull that kind of shit, and it's self-defeating if what you actually want is a civil conversation instead of people thinking you're coming in here in bad faith to pick a fight.

It actively makes threads worse, and you would do well to either cut it out or just stay of these conversations in the first place.
posted by cortex at 10:10 PM on July 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


NO ONE in this thread is suggesting the myth that women "pervasively" lie, for the love of christ!

Speaking of calling people out for things they haven't said...

The authors of the studies cited in the post claim that 41% and even 90% (from the Salon link) of accusations of rape are false. Posting these articles as if they were even plausible while failing to include discussions of their obvious shortcomings, as I said, furthers the misogynist myth that women pervasively lie about being raped. 90% is pretty "pervasive", for the love of christ.

And even though the 41% figure is obviously bullshit, the articles in the post also cast doubt on more reliable estimates by presenting the "apparently generic" 2% rate from Susan Brownmiller's work as the only estimate in that range. To the contrary, the 2-10% figures have nothing to do with the "apparently generic" 2% rate from Susan Brownmiller that the OP's liks criticize as unsubstantiated. The 2-10% figures is the range of results around which studies converge (as discussed in the Salon link and the NCVP).
posted by Marty Marx at 10:10 PM on July 19, 2010


jokeefe: we could find figures to suggest apparently every woman I've ever known has been raped. Which- either all these women are conspiring to protect one really awful man, or all men but me are rapists, or the figures are wildly inaccurate.

Please to direct me to these figures which prove that 100% of women have been raped, hincandenza. And I'm very sorry that you have nightmares about suffering institutional rape or being raped while incarcerated, but please do understand that the fear of sexual assault is pretty widespread amongst women, too.
Well, the 100% was hyperbole, but I believe it was in the last rape thread just a couple of days ago that figures like 1 in 3 or in one case 53% (later researched to have been that of incarcerated women being sexually assaulted at some point in their lives) were tossed around. My point in being hyperbolic was to say that these figures can get inflated without fact-checking to the point that one has to seriously question "That can't be right, can it?" As in, if a huge minority to majority of women are being sexually assaulted, then please be vocal! If any of my friends are assaulting you, tell me and I will at bare minimum never speak to them again. As far as I know, no male friend of mine has sexually assaulted a woman much less raped anyone. If that's not true, it does no one a favor to stay quiet.


That Dave Chapelle clip is incredibly uncomfortable, because people are laughing there at male rape. Again to the point of humanism: we should be bothered by that as much as if the genders- or races, or whatever- were switched. Laughing at violent rape? That's never cool.
posted by hincandenza at 10:11 PM on July 19, 2010


Sorry, did not preview to see cortex's response.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:11 PM on July 19, 2010


If it's that bad, it can't be happening and if it's happening, it can't be that bad.

Er, isn't this pretty much your exact reaction to the possibility of false rape accusations?

Ah, the problem with pendulums...they swing both ways.
posted by effugas at 11:16 PM on July 19, 2010


I've had to testify in a case for a friend as a witness because the "the victim" falsely accused him of something. The police then turned around and falsified police reports to try to convict him. It was only a misdemeanor, but that was even as a witness the worst experience of my life easily. My friend still has PTSD over it. The only reason he got off was because he had a lawyer who got the police to admit in court to leaving out all sorts of information that would have potentially cleared him from the police report. And guess what, the people who tried to frame him received no punishment what so ever. People who have not had to go through the experience of either being or seeing someone they know falsely accused of a crime do not know how much the court system turns the accused into victims. It cost $800 for a cheap lawyer just to clear his name, and that was just for a simple hearing in a judges office. After that experience I would absolutely rather be raped than be falsely accused of ANY felony. At least I can move on and get therapy for the rape. Cleaning up false accusations can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars for a felony.
posted by An algorithmic dog at 11:20 PM on July 19, 2010


Allen's historical digression is a bit confusing.

You are totally against the right to confront one's accuser? No? But then, what about your historical anecdote speaks to what you actually do believe?
posted by Wood at 11:23 PM on July 19, 2010


The 2-10% figures is the range of results around which studies converge (as discussed in the Salon link and the NCVP).

Marty: The only thing that I think I disagree with you about is that you seem to feel that 2-10% is pretty low, while I feel like a 2-10% false reporting figure is still really disturbingly high when you consider the implications for our system of justice. And because our system is rightly based (however imperfectly) around the idea that it is better for 10 guilty men to go free than to convict one innocent man, a 6% false reporting figure (the average of 2-10%) makes the entire process one big disaster waiting to happen for everyone involved.

I think it is an extraordinarily difficult task to come up with a fair and just legal system to deal with a serious crime where there is often no evidence except the testimony of the accuser and of the defendant and in which the false accusal rate is on the order of 6%. It is absolutely true that this figure means that false accusations are much less common than true accusations; it is also undeniably true that the rate of false accusations is high enough that it can't be dismissed as trivial or too small to take seriously.

One implication we have to keep in mind is that when someone is assaulted, it is the perpetrator that bears the moral responsibility for his or her actions. But when someone is put on trial for a serious crime, it is all of us who bear that responsibility. Criminal cases (at least in the USA) are not the accuser -vs- the accused, they are the state-vs-the accused. We are putting them on trial, we are sentencing them, and we are punishing them. So a false imprisonment is a moral blight on all of us in a way that the crime itself was not.

If you ask me to give my opinion on whether somebody is a rapist scumbag, I'm going to be a hell of a lot more free in my willingness to condemn than if you ask me to pass judgment with the full might of the state behind my verdict. And that's how it should be.
posted by Justinian at 12:00 AM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don't worry, rapists are rarely, if ever, punished too.

Small fraction of rapes are reported to police, small fraction of those are prosecuted by prosecutors, small fraction of those result in convictions, and often there isn't much time served.

So it all evens out, right?


So, two wrongs make a right? It's tragic that rape is under-reported, etc. etc., but there is no reason on earth why anyone should have one's life ruined by false accusation of rape or sexual abuse. I know someone who was a victim of false abuse (of his child, in a custody case) and the result on his life was frightening and terrifying to behold. How many thousands of people have been falsely accused, had their "story" published on the front page of the local daily (never mind the local news, with reputation-thirsty, so-called "newscasters" perching on their front lawn - then, when exonerated exonerated, the story of same w up as a blip on page 14, with no mention on the so-called "Nightly News".

Frankly, ALL names of those accused of most crimes should be kept anonymous in the news until those persons are shown to be guilty. Imagine, publishers of media and print, in order to sell your eyeballs to advertisers, are willing to bandy about the good name of persons who are not yet proven guilty, and may never be. That's an outrage.

Yes, it's an unacceptable outrage that sexual abuse and rape go under-reported, but don't tell me that screwing over an innocent person is acceptable. It's not, and puts anyone making the latter claim in a very poor ethical light.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:54 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Justinian and Vibrissae said it so much more eloquently than I was able. That's all I was really trying to say.
posted by hincandenza at 2:18 AM on July 20, 2010


Justinian alludes to the famous Blackstone Ratio.

"Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer," says English jurist William Blackstone. The ratio 10:1 has become known as the "Blackstone ratio." Lawyers "are indoctrinated" with it "early in law school." "Schoolboys are taught" it. In the fantasies of legal academics, jurors think about Blackstone routinely.

On that subject, I'll add only this - that our willingness to say “better N go free than one innocent suffer,” has been much informed by the meaning of suffer. We would not be so tempted to play with the balance of justice were its other hand not on the hilt of a sword; Blackstone is the kind of counterweight we build to the body hanging from the gallows tree. Where we happen to place N is a measure, in part, of our horror at the operation of the law. What if all this savagery - all these engines of death, however modern, however painless, and all these human landfills, all these cages - were suddenly turned on us? On me?

This strange variable - how many? - will be with us wherever we kill for killing, rape for raping, and where our curative for suffering is little more than suffering itself. We can unburden ourselves of it only by hardening our hearts, or by learning how to instill discipline without such pain and terror.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:39 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


This does seem to be a poorly-framed post, but Marty Marx has done a great job outlining the problems with the "research" presented.

That said, clearly a false accusation, in the rare event that it happens, is incredibly damaging. I'm really intrigued by the British system of anonyminity for both sides. I think that might even help some rape victims come forward. If they could ensure that both parties are anonymous until a conviction comes down, I think women might be more likely to report.
posted by lillygog at 4:09 AM on July 20, 2010


A member who'd like to remain anonymous asked me to post this on her behalf:
"When I was raped, it was part of a progression of something relationshipesque. We were kissing, talking, hanging out outside my room. And then he kept going and pushed me down and, though I remember struggling and remember saying no, he had sex with me. And afterwards he told me I didn't struggle and he certainly didn't hear me say no - he'd never have kept going if I had. And so I started to doubt my memories of an already scary and confusing thing WITHIN 5 MINUTES of what had happened. That, for me, is scarier and worse than what physically happened, because now I start to doubt everything I remember and say and always thought I'd be capable of in a bad situation.

People knew that we were sort of a thing - it would have been the ultimate in "He says, she says." If what I knew about the situation started being fuzzy as soon as it happened, I knew that wouldn't stand up in court. I was somewhere where doing a rape kit was not an option at all. And I knew that telling someone in charge about it would only get people talking about me and speculating about me and what sort of person I was, and repeat the things that were already rolling around in my head: Well, didn't she know that she invited him to her room? What was she thinking? How could she be so stupid? If she really didn't want sex, she would have struggled or said no or fought back.

So in the end, the only person I told was my friend who had emergency birth control. I don't think that me going to the police would have had ANY positive outcome for me. Did "the bastards win?" Well, I guess. He's still out there doing his thing. But I kept what dignity I had left in the situation intact. I would have felt no sense of justice if we'd gone to court and I got raked over hot coals as the defense targeted my character, my previous relationships, dissected whatever poor choices I made to get to that situation, and ultimately exonerated him. Because there's no way he would have been prosecuted. Even though I KNOW I was raped."
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:10 AM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Expecting the legal system to just let you make blunt accusations without evidence and demanding a 100% conviction rate because this crime is so awful is absurd to the point of psychotic narcissism.

hincandenza, I was pretty obviously responding to the statement that physical evidence should be required before opening an investigation. If you believe that disagreeing with that statement is "psychotic narcissism," do you then believe that all witness testimony should be rejected? Of course not, but I don't seem to share your glee at taking statements of moderation far beyond even the most absurdly illogical tangential conclusions.
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 AM on July 20, 2010


False accusations are equivalent of framing someone for a crime to consequentially deprive them of life or liberty. They should be prosecuted as forcefully as any other premeditated act that deprives someone of life or liberty. A false rape charge should get someone the equivalent punishment as the rape itself, including, for the rest of your life, having to register whenever you move into a new town, having to stay a certain number of yards away from areas of male-female congregation, like bars, parks, movie theaters, etc.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:26 AM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also don't think that letting a guilty person go free is better or worse than convicting an innocent person

The above statement is an abomination. A fucking abomination.

Hincandenza, I agree with everything you said. And clearly, having a dissenting opinion does make a person misogynistic in the eyes of some. I wonder, when you hate the those who hate so much that you can't seem to think straight, are you a metasogynist?
posted by umberto at 7:04 AM on July 20, 2010


I also don't think that letting a guilty person go free is better or worse than convicting an innocent person

The above statement is an abomination. A fucking abomination.


Why? A rapist will rape an average of something like seven people before the rapist is caught (I am trying to remember the stats offhand). That's seven rape victims; seven lives potentially ruined. I'm not going to sit here and say that seven rape victims is just as bad as one person imprisoned for 5-10 years or whatever the going rate is for rape these days. What I meant to say is not that they are equally bad, just that they are apples and oranges. I don't think you can fairly compare the two.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:27 AM on July 20, 2010


And clearly, having a dissenting opinion does make a person misogynistic in the eyes of some

Yes, clearly that's it. It's not preemptive use of words like hysterical, disingenuious anti-intellectualism, or the constant repetition of sexist tropes about the trustworthiness of women.

Understanding why people look down on those that parrot these issues is not hard. Our criminal justice system developed at a time when crimes against women were not considered crimes, when women did not participate in these developments, and so on. Reformers have used historical analysis and serious data to question whether or not these traditions need to be retained or changed to better address these problems. Some have clung to them tightly, insisting that the real problem isn't a broken justice system incapable of addressing rape, but false accusations of rape, disproportionate to any other crime. The data used by these advocates assumes that any accusation that does not result in a conviction is a false one.

Moving forward, reformers have a few basic tools that I'd expect reasonable people to apply. One might ask if there is a distributional impact caused by outdated practices that leads certain groups of people to be more disadvantaged than others. Others might look to the effective administration of justice.

So here are two hypothetical examples of legal reforms we might want to challenge. If trials had to be administered in Latin, it would probably not have significant distributional effects but would certainly be inefficient and would not add much relative to the costs of the policy. Same goes for a requirement that defendants be able to hold a hot coal for 1 minute before testifying. If we required that all female defendants prove their virginity before claiming sexual assault, there'd be serious distributional impacts.

Given this simple framework, let's look at one proposition given by a few people above. Some would like the names of defendants to be confidential throughout a trial. While it might seem intuitive, it violates a basic tenet of our judicial system: public trials. The defendant is one of two parties to the case, the other being the government. We often, but not always extend anonymity to the victim, believing that such a move does not challenge principles of fairness or expediency (of course, this usually has to be argued in a motion).

Maybe you think this balance has been struck poorly. Maybe you think that we need to rethink this policy in certain situations, such as accusations of sexual assault. Is there something intrinsic to these situations that is particularly probelmatic, where defendants have greater liberty interests at stake? Are there distributional effects that disadvantage certain groups because of public trials? Would justice be administered more effectively without this information? Make an argument instead of making assertions. Why is it worse to have an innocent person convicted rather than letting a guilty person go free? Make an argument. Blackwell's formula is not the word of God.

If you think that there is something about sexual assault trials that mandates that there should be prior restraints on the press and that the principle of public trials should be curtailed, I'm not necessarily opposed. Just show why. This is the process that feminists used to argue for Rape Shield protections. But people on one side of the argument aren't making arguments, they're just reflecting high-school level understandings of the status quo using a tired pendulum metaphor while expressing thinly veiled and perhaps misunderstood feelings about feminism and the gendered purpose of the criminal justice system. Reasonable people can disagree on much here, but we're not really seeing disagreement from one side.

All this said, I know LTG and I disagree on much, but I have to give him a lot of credit for not using this thread as his battleground and letting the discussion go forward without thread shepherding. Kudos.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:28 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


False accusations are equivalent of framing someone for a crime to consequentially deprive them of life or liberty.

The rabbit gets put into the hat when you use the term "false accusation." Does that mean any accusation that does not result in conviction? If an accusation is made but no charges are pressed, how do you determine it was false? Let me give you three examples and you tell me which one should lead to a criminal conviction of the accuser:

1) A black woman goes out on a date with a white man. She invites him back home but doesn't like the way things start going and asks him to leave. He doesn't and despite her protestations, he forces himself upon her. She goes to the police and he claims the sex was consensual. A jury, lacking any evidence beyond their testimony, unsurprisingly applies racial heuristics about black women and promiscuity to color their views of the victim. On top of that, they assume any woman who invites a date back home must be giving consent to everything, and the man is found not guilty. Prison time for the accuser?

2) A woman is roofied at a frat party. She wakes up and believes she has been raped, or is not quite sure, and is quite distraught. Instead of going immediately to the police, she goes home and showers, trying to remember what happened. She goes to the police and accurately identifies the man she believes roofied her. In reality, while she was correct about that identification, that man was not the one who raped her, as he later left the party and had an airtight alibi. In fact, another frat brother had raped her but there's no possible way to identify the man without eyewitness testimony. After a brief investigation, the police decline to press charges against the roofier, who can prove he didn't do it. Prison time for the accuser?

3) A woman is raped by a close acquaintance. She gets a rape kit and the dna matches her testimony, or at least it would it anyone ever processed it. Serious cutbacks in this economy have led to understaffing at all levels in local enforcement. The police don't care enough to investigate and the prosecutor doesn't care enough to focus any attention on the case, hoping to get a plea bargain instead. The charges are dismissed by the judge for lack of evidence. Prison time for the accuser?

Are these accusations false? Do you mean knowingly false? How do you prove that?
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:42 AM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've been mulling this over in my head- I have a question about your point, hincandenza. Ideally, you'd like everyone who has been raped to get a rape kit and report to the police, right? But you'd like the burden of proof to be increased so that it's harder to get a conviction (with the end goal that less innocent people are convicted)? How do you envision this working? I think it would be really hard to get more people to go through this process if even fewer rapists were being convicted.

Also- you might already know this- but a large percentage of forensic exams do not produce any forensic evidence, for a number of reasons, including that not all rapes produce forensic evidence, and also that forensic evidence is pretty easy to accidentally destroy. Even just the waiting period in the ER before the forensic exam (which can be REALLY long- 3-4 hours has been average in my experience) can destroy evidence.
posted by emilyd22222 at 7:43 AM on July 20, 2010


Freeing a guilty person hurts their victims. Jailing an innocent person undoes any justification for the society.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:48 AM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Are these accusations false? Do you mean knowingly false? How do you prove that?

Plenty of ways, but none in your three completely contrived examples.

How do prosecutors ever get first degree murder verdicts? How do they prove that?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:06 AM on July 20, 2010


How do prosecutors ever get first degree murder verdicts?

I assume you're talking about determining the mens rea of malice aforethought. If you're interested, we can talk about that. I don't think you are thinking these questions through and are using a cop-out to avoid analysis.

I gave you three situations that are not exactly uncommon. Given all the data, would you consider any of these situations to constitute a false accusation?

Now without the data, assume you're a prosecutor. How would you establish this information? How would you distinguish between cases where you think an accusation was not knowingly false but had the same outcome as one that was knowingly false.

What would the distributional impacts on the criminal justice system be? Would there be knock-on effects that discouraged people who had been raped from making police reports?

This is what I mean when I say one side is just making assertions.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:20 AM on July 20, 2010


Freeing a guilty person hurts their victims.

What if there's more to it than the individual case? What if society chose to never convict white men who raped black women? That hurts more than the victims. That hurts society as well.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:34 AM on July 20, 2010


What if there's more to it than the individual case? What if society chose to never convict white men who raped black women? That hurts more than the victims. That hurts society as well.

The question of systematic bias is a different question from whether freeing the guilty is more harmful than jailing the innocent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:38 AM on July 20, 2010


The question of systematic bias is a different question from whether freeing the guilty is more harmful than jailing the innocent.

I'm not so sure these can be so easily disentangled. I think at the core of this entire discussion is an attempt to reform evidentiary practices and judicial procedures to address systematic gender bias. There has been backlash, much of it disproportionate that has focused on the fact that proposed reforms (or people's confused ideas of how the justice system works) will lead to the imprisonment of the guilty. The two seem pretty closely mixed to me.

And that's one of the problems with rule-based systems. They will never perfectly match their goals 1:1, they will always overenforce or underenforce. Noting systematic bias and addressing it will hopefully reduce the underenforcement of good laws, but may still result in some innocent people being wrongfully accused and perhaps convicted. That's not unique to rape or other gender-motivated crimes, but it makes these discussions difficult.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:50 AM on July 20, 2010


ack. I mean "will lead to the imprisonment of the innocent."
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:50 AM on July 20, 2010


Plenty of ways, but none in your three completely contrived examples.

So, what are those ways?

Regarding mandatory rape kits: The Tribune review found that over the course of two years large suburban police agencies had stored untested rape kits from nearly 100 alleged victims of sex crimes, including a 6-year-old Bolingbrook boy who told investigators an older child had forced him to perform oral sex, a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by a stranger in Downers Grove, and an Aurora woman who reported being raped by an acquaintance who later made a taped confession, according to police records.

Illinois has passed a law mandating that all rape kits actually be tested, instead of just taken and then chucked into storage. It must be awesome, being the victim of a sexual assault, reporting it, submitting to a rape kit, and then having that kit sit in storage.
posted by rtha at 9:10 AM on July 20, 2010


Why is better to (theoretically) have a guilty person go free than an innocent one go to jail:

1) How is it fair for an innocent person ever to suffer from the sins of the other? In one of the scenarios presented by allen.spaulding a person who although was sure that she was raped was not sure of who raped her and then goes on to make a false accusation. In her scenario the person is somehow able to prove that he didnt rape her because of an airtight alibi and the presence of other witness but how about if it wasnt the case? What would have happened if the guy simply would have gone home to sleep and there would not have been an alibi to free him?

An innocent person then goes jail while a rapist is still out-there and able to do whatever he was doing whereas had she gotten it right and somehow the guilty party goes free he is already part of the legal database and just the fact that somebody accused him of being a rapist functions as a deterrent and makes it extremely likely that if he was ever accused again then he goes to jail. However there's a better solution to this case:

The rape investigation should not have been centered on whether so and so raped someone but rather finding the actual rapist. The person in your scenario should not accuse anyone without being a 100% sure that was the case and instead should have gone to the police with the intention of finding someone to accuse.

2) Just as a rapist that goes free is capable of raping other people it is also likely that a person who commits a false accusation and is not caught is capable of doing the same with other persons. Of course this scenario might be deemed unlikely but lets just say that if a person gets away with a false accusation with a slap in the wrist and nothing else then at the very least it guarantees that other people will attempt to do the same.

rape and false accusations should be treated equally harsh. Someone above in this thread mentioned that rape is even worse than murder, how does losing years of your life in jail compare to this? Would you rank it higher, lower or just about the same?

I dont disagree with those who say that rape is one of the most heinous crimes that can occur but I do disagree with those who think that a "false accusation" (even if its just 2% of the time) is not as bad and is the price to pay to get 98% of those right. We should be working on the following instead:

1) Feminists worked very hard to put a legal system in place that allow for women to have benefit of the doubt when reporting rape. Of course this system is far from perfect because of the misogynist culture that may or may not exist in different places so why not strive to educate all women in regards to:

a) retaining physical evidence from rape
b) dealing with psychological fallout from rape in a manner that allows them to build a strong case.
c) dealing with cultural biases in order to get a stronger case.

2) There should be a strong deterrent for a false accusation not only for rape...but for all crimes. I would say that if for some reason or another someone is found out making a false accusation an automatic investigation should begin to find out the length of the accusation and then have the accuser pay a very strong fine and perhaps anonymously consent to community service, some jail time and psychological help. Also the person accused should have the right to present charges against the accuser in some way or the other because a crime was committed against them in some way.
posted by The1andonly at 9:10 AM on July 20, 2010


Apologies for my lack of eloquence in advance....I am at work and had to type that very very fast.
posted by The1andonly at 9:13 AM on July 20, 2010


The rape investigation should not have been centered on whether so and so raped someone but rather finding the actual rapist. The person in your scenario should not accuse anyone without being a 100% sure that was the case and instead should have gone to the police with the intention of finding someone to accuse.

Victims don't file charges, district attorneys do. If someone knows that she has been drugged and raped, she shouldn't go to the police because there's a chance that something unpredictable happened while she was unconscious, as in the example I gave? Are individuals supposed to investigate these things on their own? With what resources? Why the 100% certainty level here and not elsewhere? If someone is mugged by a stranger, should they not go to the police unless they can identify the stranger's social security number? How can someone possibly find the person's identity without opening an investigation?

If a friend came to you and said "I was dragged at person X's house and woke up his bed and had been raped," would you say "you better not accuse him of rape because you don't really know what happened with 100% certainty?" I suspect you'd tell her to go to the police and have them investigate.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:24 AM on July 20, 2010


Also,

Feminists worked very hard to put a legal system in place that allow for women to have benefit of the doubt when reporting rape.

Cite please. This is what I mean when I say people have hazy understandings about how the criminal justice system works and what reforms were made. A vague belief in how men are treated by the justice system is not data.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:26 AM on July 20, 2010


You'd think people had never heard of the second rape.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2010


If someone knows that she has been drugged and raped, she shouldn't go to the police because there's a chance that something unpredictable happened while she was unconscious

No she should definitely go to the police but instead of accusing someone she should say I was at this party, I was raped, these are the people who were there....can we work on figuring out who did it? In your scenario she wrongly accused someone who had no business being accused. As someone close to the very same scenario you are presenting this is a very life altering accusation not only for the victim but for the accused as well.


A vague belief in how men are treated by the justice system is not data.

Rape is definitely treated with more seriousness and much more relevancy (and rightly so) than other crimes and the fact this very thread exists is proof of it. Yes there are cultural and systematic issues in place but there's no need to argue about this. The important point is the false accusations, how they should be handled and if they are relevant at all.
posted by The1andonly at 9:42 AM on July 20, 2010


No she should definitely go to the police but instead of accusing someone

Whereupon, one of the first questions that she will be asked is, "do you know who might have done this?", assuming the police are doing their job. After which point, they would be questioned, as a potential suspect, same as if the victim had accused someone. Again, assuming the police don't just choose not to do anything. At least, this is my understanding of how things work.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 9:48 AM on July 20, 2010


Rape is definitely treated with more seriousness and much more relevancy (and rightly so) than other crimes and the fact this very thread exists is proof of it.

Woah. I could prove all sorts of things with this logic.

There are many studies out there that examine how the criminal justice system reacts to claims of rape. They are often peer-reviewed. There are many papers on various reform efforts of the 1970s that explain how things have changed. Just saying "people take this shit seriously like me" really isn't an argument.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:49 AM on July 20, 2010


"do you know who might have done this?"

So what should her answer be at this point (and I know is all hypothetical?).........

It would go like something like "well he gave me a drink....and then I blacked out"....

and then because she took a shower there's no physical evidence and it becomes a "he said/she said" type of case which is never good because while it is also likely that the guy that gave her the drink did something to her the opposite is also true. So thats why I mentioned earlier, there should be a strong focus on educating society (and women) on what to do in regards to this cases, how to preserve evidence, how to deal with cultural and psychological fallout because we have to make sure we get it right. There's a reason why some (and some say most) guilty go free and we should also work on limiting that.
posted by The1andonly at 9:54 AM on July 20, 2010


Woah. I could prove all sorts of things with this logic.


Fine I agree with you. better?

Does this make it ok for a person to falsely accuse someone else?

The answer is still No.

(and yes even if its only 2%)
posted by The1andonly at 9:59 AM on July 20, 2010


It would go like something like "well he gave me a drink....and then I blacked out"....

And in the scenario, she can identify the guy who gave her the drink. And the cops talk to him. And he did roofie her, but has an alibi for the time of the alleged rape. So he doesn't get charged with the rape. What part of the system is making you unhappy, here? She shouldn't have identified the guy who gave her the drink?
posted by rtha at 10:02 AM on July 20, 2010


It would go like something like "well he gave me a drink....and then I blacked out"....

and then because she took a shower there's no physical evidence and it becomes a "he said/she said" type of case



I'm just looking back again to your comment that I responded to--how is this at all different than if she had accused the guy who put something in her drink? This is part of my issue with the discourse around this, it's somehow implied that if a woman accuses a man of rape, he is immediately locked up without much of an investigation or trial, or that is more likely.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:04 AM on July 20, 2010


What part of the system is making you unhappy, here?

The fact that (at least in my experience) it is not just an "id" but a straight up accusation.

Once again I am only referring to cases of "false accusation". Doing my best not to derail in regards to the whole system.
posted by The1andonly at 10:05 AM on July 20, 2010


Does this make it ok for a person to falsely accuse someone else?

The answer is still No.


Sure. I don't think there are many people saying that it's ok to intentionally and knowingly make a false accusation. What people are saying is that this concern is disproportionately raised in the context of rape, that solutions proposed would strongly disincentive victims from coming forward with real complaints, that organizations and movements exist to undermine feminist gains towards equality and that are propagating misinformation for political purposes, that the obsession with false claims of rape deepens long-held culture attitudes towards women and especially towards victims of sexual assault, and that many are oversimplifying a complex issue.

MRAs and others who raise this issue rely on strong gut feelings amongst a certain type of guy, one that is often inclined to believe that "the real story that nobody is talking about is X, even though people think Y is the real problem." This mindset does not rely on honest inquiry or analysis, but rather a knee-jerk reaction combined with latent feelings that are rarely addressed.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:06 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


it's somehow implied that if a woman accuses a man of rape, he is immediately locked up without much of an investigation or trial, or that is more likely.

It is quite different, someone mentioned earlier the case of a black woman being raped by a white male and because of racial issue that it would be very unlikely that that white person would be pursued by the law. What would happen if we reverse the races (which is what unfortunately is more likely to happen)?

A white woman "accuses" a black guy of raping her, because he gave her the (hypothetical) drink once again.

Societal issues make it very likely that this guy will go to jail even if he is not guilty. Now replace "black" with "uneducated", "someone with a bad reputation and thus most likely to do it (as someone explained above)". Yes there is an investigation but when you start with a bias is not the same investigation.

I am just not sure whats wrong with trying to get it right?
posted by The1andonly at 10:12 AM on July 20, 2010


What would happen if we reverse the races (which is what unfortunately is more likely to happen)?

Um. Are you saying that black men are more likely to rape white women than white men are to rape black women? Because there's this little thing called the History of America that begs to differ. The rest of your post is just, well, there's no there there. You're not talking about rape anymore, or really anything. You're just retreating to what you think is safe ground but really has no content.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2010


What would happen if we reverse the races (which is what unfortunately is more likely to happen)

cite this. now, or I'm just assuming that this is nothing more than racist assumptions.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2010


that solutions proposed would strongly disincentive victims from coming forward with real complaints, that organizations and movements exist to undermine feminist gains towards equality and that are propagating misinformation for political purposes, that the obsession with false claims of rape deepens long-held culture attitudes towards women and especially towards victims of sexual assault

Ok I agree with you in a sense, but if the system stays this way, then it will never get to the place where it should be. Unfortunately the best way to get there is by relying on "facts" as much possible. Once again I argue that the best way of doing this is to train women and young girls as much as possible in dealing with:

1) The gathering of evidence (do not, do not take the damn shower)
2) The psychological issues
3) Dealing with the cultural issues coming from a misogynistic spciety.

You say that the solutions (and others presented above) are over simplistic and even putting these things in place will not make it perfect but it surely damn helps it when you go like "This M****ER dared to "rape" me and here's DNA to prove it". Once again this is not a perfect solution but a START that would help both.....those coming forward to accuse and those who are accused of rape.
posted by The1andonly at 10:19 AM on July 20, 2010


Um. Are you saying that black men are more likely to rape white women than white men are to rape black women?

You are derailing again.....I am saying that historically "white women accusing a black man of rape" is much more likely to happen than the opposite.

I also said to replace black with:

"socially inept"
"uneducated"
"person most likely to commit rape"
posted by The1andonly at 10:21 AM on July 20, 2010


What would happen if we reverse the races (which is what unfortunately is more likely to happen)

cite this. now, or I'm just assuming that this is nothing more than racist assumptions.


I WAS talking about a person "ACCUSING" someone, not the person doing the crime. Once again I am not saying any race is more likely to commit any crime than the other, but they surely are more likely of being "ACCUSED" of doing so.
posted by The1andonly at 10:22 AM on July 20, 2010


I WAS talking about a person "ACCUSING" someone, not the person doing the crime. Once again I am not saying any race is more likely to commit any crime than the other, but they surely are more likely of being "ACCUSED" of doing so.

Good. That's certainly better--but you still need to cite this.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:28 AM on July 20, 2010


Listen that was part of a hypothetical case not different than the one presented allen.spaulding where a black woman was assaulted by a white male. Please stop stop focusing on a small detail of the argument as a whole.

Why dont you present solutions instead?


(and just to satisfy your curiosity here is one link:

http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/page/302

feel free to do a google search for others, this is not a discussion about race, but feel free to email me to discuss if my assumption is wrong)
posted by The1andonly at 10:35 AM on July 20, 2010


Why dont you present solutions instead?

My solution starts with cops taking rape seriously. Once we get there, we can figure out what's next.

Listen that was part of a hypothetical case not different than the one presented allen.spaulding where a black woman was assaulted by a white male. Please stop stop focusing on a small detail of the argument as a whole.

No, that was part of the inane basis of your inane argument, which attempts to bring in a history of sexual and racial politics in the Jim Crow south as clear evidence that false accusations of rape is currently a civil rights concern, without any justification or data. Oh, and when I asked you to cite data, I meant data. Not historical analysis of a period that ended 50 years ago.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 10:49 AM on July 20, 2010



My solution starts with cops taking rape seriously.


So how do you do that? By keeping the status quo? By preserving the he said/she said problem. You are not providing anything but an opinion that the system sucks......how do you make it better?

Listen I am not going to discuss race, is no relevant in this argument. Once again that same system that a lot of people mentioned is predisposed to against women is also predisposed against blacks there are better links to prove that and once again not the purpose of this argument.
posted by The1andonly at 10:59 AM on July 20, 2010


So how do you do that? By keeping the status quo? By preserving the he said/she said problem. You are not providing anything but an opinion that the system sucks......how do you make it better?

Listen I am not going to discuss race, is no relevant in this argument. Once again that same system that a lot of people mentioned is predisposed to against women is also predisposed against blacks there are better links to prove that and once again not the purpose of this argument.


Two things: police accountability to the public is a real issue. It's pretty low, and that's a problem in and of itself, but the truth is, on any significant level, it seems like pushes to keep cops from discarding rape cases are few and far between--the Illinois law requiring rape kits to actually be processed seems like a good example.

In terms of race: yes. You are right. Like anyone who isn't a hard-core racist or ignorant of the racial disparities in the justice system, you have noticed that the system is stacked against people of color. That you would somehow think that this provides some sort of counterpoint against making the justice system work better for women is ridiculous. The fact that a black person is in a lot more risk when they are accused of a crime is external to the issue, and one that must be fixed on its own.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 11:08 AM on July 20, 2010


Shockingly, some black people are women. Some rape victims are black women. Some rape victims who are treated like crap by cops and others who assume they're lying? They're black women. To posit this as being a choice between black people and women is... problematic. And telling. And just as disgusting as much of what's been said in this discussion.
posted by craichead at 11:14 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok I agree with you.

My point earlier was meant to distinguish:

Accusation vs. Investigation.

An accusation can definitely tip the balance towards a suspect and some suspects (because of different societal biases) are more likely to be convicted of a crime than others are.

Police accountability is a great step and if you couple that with education to the masses on how to better handle the aftermath of rape would go towards great lengths towards fixing the system.
posted by The1andonly at 11:22 AM on July 20, 2010


education to the masses on how to better handle the aftermath of rape

As far as I can tell, what you really mean is "education to women on how to handle trauma in a way that never makes me feel threatened at all."

There's just a shocking lack of understanding or compassion towards victims of violent crimes here, coupled with a true ignorance of the work that's been done for decades on understanding these issues. There is no "right way" to handle a trauma and you seem to think that women don't go to the police immediately because they're uneducated. Furthermore, you think changing to a system that places higher burdens on rape victims would be an unquestionable good if it assuages your unreasonable fear of being wrongfully accused, while ignoring all of the costs you're putting on people who have been raped.

You think the system is wrong because you have some unformed fear that you may someday be a victim, while ignoring the very real and evidenced-based demonstrations that the status quo substantially underenforces rape and does not serve rape victims. You want to make things worse for rape victims in order to assuage your undifferentiated and unreasonable fears.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:29 AM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I also don't think that letting a guilty person go free is better or worse than convicting an innocent person

emily: I'm not going to call this statement a "fucking abomination" like some in the thread because I don't think that's useful or likely to lead to anything constructive. I will say that the statement flies in the face of centuries of progress and legal philosophy and is inherently inimical to what we generally accept as the concept of justice. The reasons for that are many but I'll stick with the one that I talked about earlier in the thread and which weighed most on me when I was in a position where it mattered in a practical sense.

First an observation: When people make statements such as yours they never seem to seriously consider that they might be the innocent person imprisoned for the sins of others. This is almost certainly an aspect of unexamined privilege. You might well feel differently were you a young man from an undereducated inner city background who is much more likely to come (rightly or wrongly) to the attention of the police.

Okay, so to the point. Leaving aside things like rape used as a weapon of war since they thankfully aren't applicable to the great majority of us any more (sadly, even on metafilter we can't say "aren't applicable to any of us" as there are members who have personally suffered in places such things have happened very recently), If a man rapes someone, or kills them, or robs them, or commits any other crime of personal violence, it is the criminal himself who bears personal moral responsibility for the crime.

When we put that man (or any man or woman) on trial, we're bringing the full power and might of the state to bear against him. Any punishment we inflict and any liberty we deprive him of is our doing and something we have to bear the responsibility for. A criminal trial is not a civil trial. In civil trials, the form is John Doe -vs- Jane Doe. In criminal cases, the form is The People of the State of California -vs- John Doe. The victim isn't the accuser, the state is. Yes I'm repeating myself but that's such an important point that it bears repeating.

So when you argue that it's okay to jail the innocent if it means we get some equal number of the guilty as well, you're arguing that you don't have any moral qualms about personally bearing the moral weight of the suffering you're inflicting on innocent men and women so long as you get to inflict punishment on some deserving folks as well. That's very much Medieval thinking. We're talking Albigensian Crusade "Kill them all, God will know his own" type of stuff.

I'm not willing to be responsible for jailing the innocent to salve my conscience that the guilty might in the future commit future crimes. You seem to be. I suspect that isn't actually as true as you think it is and that you're speaking mostly from a theoretical standpoint without having borne the responsibility for actually deciding whether someone is jailed for the rest of his natural life or not and you would feel somewhat differently when it came down to brass tax.

At least I hope so.
posted by Justinian at 12:09 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have no idea what solution will prevent false allegations ruining someone's life whilst at the same time increasing reporting and conviction rates for real rape cases.

Requiring physical evidence before opening an investigation... How 'bout that?


That's just about the worst idea I've ever heard.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:15 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the solution of the UK to treat both sides as anonymous until a verdict has been established. I think it's a very elegant balance between the rights of accuser and accused.

I live in Ontario, one of the few jurisdictions that does track false allegations of rape. I know people who have been raped, people who have made false allegations of rape, and people who have been falsely accused of rape. I'm not an expert by any means, but it is an issue that I've been concerned about in the past.

I was told in a fair bit of detail by a friend who was raped about her experience dealing with the police in Ontario (which I had expected to be a little more female friendly than in the US).

From what she said, although she didn't say it herself, it was pretty clear that the cops (all male, which they are not supposed to do) were making a judgment about the likelihood of the case being successfully prosecuted.

This judgment appears to have been made fairly rapidly (and to be based on: she was drunk, she didn't scream or fight, she didn't have bruises on her face or arms), and it seems to have influenced their decision to investigate further (which they did not), including administering a rape kit (which they are supposed to do and did not). They talked her out of filing a criminal complaint, telling her that because of the expected lack of evidence, there was a very low chance of successfully prosecuting the case but that the criminal complaint would be public record.

There's definitely some flaws in the system, even though when viewed on paper it seems like it would be pretty good.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2010


Justanian- I wasn't arguing that they were equal. I was arguing that they are incomparable. I agree with you.
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:30 PM on July 20, 2010


Should clarify that- I agree that it makes no sense to have a legal system that aims to get things right half of the time. I don't think one is worse or better because they are different (but both horrible) things with completely different implications.
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:34 PM on July 20, 2010


Rape is definitely treated with more seriousness and much more relevancy (and rightly so) than other crimes and the fact this very thread exists is proof of it.

Hmmm..I'd say the large back log of untested dna rape kits begs to differ, with some samples waiting 4-5 years to be tested.

Recently in Detroit
http://www.globe-democrat.com/news/2010/jul/01/backlog-of-rape-cases-to-be-examined/

A nice sampling of the nation from CBS News in November of 09.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/11/10/cbsnews_investigates/main5605770.shtml
posted by fyrebelley at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm not willing to be responsible for jailing the innocent to salve my conscience that the guilty might in the future commit future crimes.

Are you a prison abolitionist? It's a position I respect, but I do hope you realize that there are currently innocent people in prison. Indeed, any judicial system will necessarily convict the innocent so long as it is run by people. If you have criminal trials, you will certainly be sending innocent people to jail.

It's easy to take absolutist stands. But right now we convict a lot of innocent people. When people propose making structural changes to the criminal justice system, the claim that it will lead to the conviction of the innocent is odd. Is the balance we have struck now perfect? If not, should nobody ever go to the police?

If you were robbed and had definite proof of it, would you support changing the judicial system to prevent you from making a claim to the police, because it could lead to the conviction of the innocent? If you get hit by a drunk driver, will you not go to the police because of the chance, which is very real, that the same laws that would be applied also convict innocent people? The laws that protect you right now convict the innocent. Should we just throw them to the wind? If not, why do rape victims deserve fewer protections than you do?

And if we do want to throw these laws away to protect those wrongfully convicted, which ones do we choose? Are there distributional impacts on the laws we decide not to enforce, or the groups of people we tell not to go to the police? For decades, black women have been told not to report domestic violence to the police because of the devastating role of the prison-industrial complex and the unfair treatment of black men by the judicial system. This is understandable, but is it also problematic?

These are tough issues. Unsurprisingly, there's been a lot of really good things written on this, but there aren't always easy answers. People who think that false rape is a slam-dunk issue are probably just ignoring their own biases.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:41 PM on July 20, 2010


emilyd2222: Ok. There are two different meanings to saying something isn't better or worse than something else. I guess we each meant one of them.

I still don't really agree; I think jailing an innocent is clearly worse. But that's a whole different argument.
posted by Justinian at 12:42 PM on July 20, 2010


It's easy to take absolutist stands. But right now we convict a lot of innocent people. When people propose making structural changes to the criminal justice system, the claim that it will lead to the conviction of the innocent is odd. Is the balance we have struck now perfect?

Why does it require that one consider the system we have now to be perfect to feel that we should pretty much always err on the side of making it harder to convict?
posted by Justinian at 12:44 PM on July 20, 2010


Why does it require that one consider the system we have now to be perfect to feel that we should pretty much always err on the side of making it harder to convict?

The problem lies with the verb "err." If you conceive of the status quo as neutral, and erring only applies to changes, then it seems disconcerting to me, especially when certain groups are better served by the status quo than others.

If you were robbed, would you consider it "erring on the side of making it harder to convict" to not go to the police? Going to the police means that there is a chance that an innocent person is convicted. Should we tell people to never go to the police ever?

Let's take it to third-party. If you saw a person beating a child horrifically, beyond anything resembling discipline and to the point where real permanent damage was likely to occur, would you not call the cops? Even if you could identify the person? After all, calling the cops increases the chance that an innocent person will go to jail, however small it may be. And don't we want to always err on the side of making it harder to convict?
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:55 PM on July 20, 2010


I can't imagine for example getting assaulted and then not calling the police because I'd be late for work, or because I'd rather put it behind me- to my mindset, I see that as allowing the "bastards" to win. And I suppose that is a mindset that gets culturally conditioned for some, and we should seek to remove that cultural conditioning in victims as we have hopefully done a lot of in the legal system (again, referring to loquacious' post about the strides made in ensuring the police don't minimize rape charges).

You have this sort of Room 101 Rape Scenario that you carry around as The Worst Thing In The World. And I'm sorry, but you seem to have constructed a very dramatic action-figure response. You'd be a towering mass of Furious Vengeance Upon The World? Does that include earning a paycheck, taking care of loved ones, sweeping the floor, taking out the garbage, feeding the dog, buying groceries?

I won't speak for all women, obviously, but speaking for the women I know, we're a little more matter-of-fact about rape. (Which is more horrifying, really.) It's actually kind of exhausting. An ordinary fear of rape is like a tapping spigot, tap-tap-tap, starting when we're very, very small. By the time we're adults, a lot of us have thought about it, and maybe imagined it, and then imagined what we hope our response would be, and we know at least a couple of women who have been raped in the "dark alley stranger" way, and at least a handful more who have been date- or acquaintance-raped. (No downgrading of the latter intended, just noting both scenarios.)
posted by desuetude at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


You'd think people had never heard of the second rape.

I hadn't before now, but Google is my friend, so thanks for the pointer.
posted by Errant at 2:37 PM on July 20, 2010


Why does it require that one consider the system we have now to be perfect to feel that we should pretty much always err on the side of making it harder to convict?
Because the fact that it is currently almost impossible to convict means that rapists can rape with near-impunity. And that, in turn, means that most women live with constant low-grade fear. It means that many, many women have been raped and then denied justice, and they spend the rest of their lives dealing with that trauma. It affects all women's lives to some extent, and it affects a pretty big portion of women's lives in huge ways. I think that's kind of a biggie.

If rapists can't be convicted, then what's to stop would-be rapists from raping? Or is that not a big issue in your book?
posted by craichead at 3:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


If rapists can't be convicted, then what's to stop would-be rapists from raping? Or is that not a big issue in your book?

Gee, I dunno. How do you feel about child molestation? Do you not care about that? And have you stopped beating your husband yet?

Rapists manifestly can be convicted but I agree that we should pursue ways to ensure that more rapists are convicted. But one of those ways should not under almost any circumstance be to do so by lowering the burden of proof required to convict. The burden of proof is the cornerstone of our legal system. Arguing to change it for one particular crime isn't a small modification, it is an earthquake that threatens the entire edifice.

And there are plenty of other things that might help, most notably being by reducing the social stigma associated with being a victim. Better forensics. Maybe actually processing the forensics we do collect would be a good idea since so much just sits in a file drawer somewhere collecting dust.

That's what we should be advocating for, not combating victimization with more victimization.

If you were robbed, would you consider it "erring on the side of making it harder to convict" to not go to the police? Going to the police means that there is a chance that an innocent person is convicted. Should we tell people to never go to the police ever?

Allen: What on earth gives you the idea that I don't think victims of any crime, be it rape, robbery, a long con, being burgled, or even frikkin' vandalism should refrain from going to the police? I think these sorts of strawmen shed more heat than light.
posted by Justinian at 7:00 PM on July 20, 2010


Yes, it is time to bust out one of my favorite bits of theater ever! There is never a bad time but this one is particularly apropos!
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Yay, A Man For All Seasons.
posted by Justinian at 7:07 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Allen: What on earth gives you the idea that I don't think victims of any crime, be it rape, robbery, a long con, being burgled, or even frikkin' vandalism should refrain from going to the police?

I don't think you believe that. Yet when someone goes to the police, they increase the likelihood of an innocent person being convicted of a crime. You said you should always err on the side of making it harder to convict. So which is it?

The problem I have with your position is pretty clearly stated above. You only see deviations from the status quo as demanding of the "err on the side" analysis. So you will shoot down attempts to reform the judicial system to provide more protections for rape victims because it fails to meet this very high bar. Yet you won't shoot down someone who reports a burglary under our current laws, even though it fails the same test.

Our current laws favor certain people over others, people whose voices and perspectives happen to be reflected in the system created by and for people like them. If our system were perfect, perhaps I'd understand your position. For now, if the law is on your side, you don't have to worry about wrongful convictions, or so it seems.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:20 PM on July 20, 2010


Gee, I dunno. How do you feel about child molestation? Do you not care about that? And have you stopped beating your husband yet?
Yeah, with all due respect, fuck you. This is a discussion framed around the premise that women who report rape are often lying. That assumption, which shapes the way we talk about rape, is part of the reason that so very, very few rapists are ever convicted. The burden of proof for rape is higher than for other crimes. The victim of rape is put on trial the way victims of other crimes are not. This post advocates making that bad situation even worse.

Did you read that "research" link in the original post? The one with the "research" that showed that 41% of women who reported rapes were lying? Did you get to the methods bit where he said why he chose that particular city to study? The reason he chose that particular city was that they had an awesome and innovative way of dealing with rape accusations that made it really easy to identify false accusations. They immediately offered the accused and the victim a polygraph test. So a terrified, humiliated, distraught woman comes in because she's been raped, and she's immediately offered the test we give to people to see if they're lying. You think that mugging victims were immediately offered a polygraph? You think that victims of any other crime are automatically forced to prove that they're not lying? Or that it's surprising that, when confronted with the demand that she prove that she's not lying before she can even take a shower and wash her rapist's semen off her body, a woman might change her mind, say she wasn't raped, and do whatever she needs to do to be able to go home, where maybe people will treat her like a fucking human being who deserves compassion and support on what is very likely one of the worst days of her life?

But you're all in favor of doing things that will make it harder to convict. Because every once in a while a rapist actually gets in trouble, and there's clearly something very wrong with that picture.
posted by craichead at 7:44 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Arab guilty of rape after consensual sex with Jew: Israeli man of Arab origin sentenced to 18 months in prison after telling a woman that he was also Jewish
posted by homunculus at 8:16 PM on July 20, 2010


Yeah, with all due respect, fuck you.

Oh, please. Exactly what reaction do you expect when you tell someone they don't care about women being raped? I expect that you're used to people immediately backing off when you bring out the nuclear option like that. I don't generally give in to conversational bullies. Which is exactly what you're doing. Nothing in the rest of your comment has anything to do with any of my statements. It is simply a field of emotional land-mines meant to bully anyone who might disagree with you into silence, and it has no place in civil conversation.

There is a reason we don't put the family of murder victims on the jury when someone is being tried for their murder. Because society has to attempt to handle emotionally charged issues in a way that doesn't lead to further injustices committed in the name of the state.

If that's a problem for you, I'm sorry. But if it changes it means we've taken some rather big steps towards the rule of the mob.
posted by Justinian at 1:16 AM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


You said you should always err on the side of making it harder to convict. So which is it?

Allen: I said the criminal justice system should err on the side of protecting the innocent. Or if I wasn't clear, I'll say it now. That has nothing to do with the actions of the victim of a crime, only the actions of the state.

Do you really think it's that outlandish a position that the might of the state must be wielded with far more care and hesitancy than should the actions of individuals?

So you will shoot down attempts to reform the judicial system to provide more protections for rape victims because it fails to meet this very high bar. Yet you won't shoot down someone who reports a burglary under our current laws, even though it fails the same test.

Except that this isn't true. Well, at least I don't think it is. I'm not exactly clear on the specifics of what you mean. What do you mean by "you won't shoot down someone who reports a burglary" and "more protections for rape victims"? Because I suppose thats the crux. If you mean we should try to make the entire process less traumatic for victims, I am 100% in favor of that. If you mean we should change the burden of proof required for one specific crime in order to make it easier to convict people, I'm 100% opposed to that. But like I said, I'm not exactly clear on what you mean here so I'm not completely sure.

Our current laws favor certain people over others

The law is supposed to favor defendants in the sense that a jury is supposed to presume innocence unless it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant isn't innocent. If that's what you're referring to, I agree with you but think changing that is an awful idea. If that's not what you mean then I probably agree with you that we should change those laws.

This is getting way too general. What changes, specifically, do you think would improve the system? Changes which would make the experience less traumatic for victims of any crime but of rape specifically but which wouldn't alter the nature of the presumption of innocence?
posted by Justinian at 1:25 AM on July 21, 2010


Exactly what reaction do you expect when you tell someone they don't care about women being raped?
I expect a reaction pretty much like I got, actually. Or at least I should have. This is the double bind that you experience when you try to talk about fighting rape. On the one hand, it is conventional wisdom that rape is taken much more seriously than other crimes. Therefore, if you point out that something tacitly supports rape and rapists, you are pulling the nuclear option. How dare you accuse someone of promoting rape?!!?! That's the worst thing you can say about someone!!!!

On the other hand, the truth is that rapists are less likely to be convicted than other criminals. Rape victims are scrutinized in ways that victims of other crimes almost never are. Rape victims are assumed to have asked for it in ways that victims of other crimes very rarely are. Privileged men are much more concerned about the prospect of being falsely accused of any other crime, even though there's no evidence that false accusations of rape are more common than false accusations of anything else, and are therefore much more likely to set up roadblocks to convicting rapists than to set up roadblocks to convicting people guilty of other crimes. The pendulum has not swung in the other direction.

It is a myth that anti-rape forces are super powerful. It is a myth very closely related to the whole idea of "pulling the race card." In that myth, privileged people say something that reflects their privilege, and members of the non-privileged group point it out. The members of the privileged group then react with fury, claiming that the non-privileged people are really the powerful ones, because calling someone a racist is much, much, much worse than saying something racist.

So yeah. You think that we should err on the side of making it more difficult to convict rapists. It's already extremely difficult to convict rapists. That's going to stack the deck even more in favor of rapists and even more against rape victims. And pointing that out is no more the "nuclear option" and no more "bullying" than proposing to make it more difficult to convict rapists and to further discriminate against and victimize rape victims.
posted by craichead at 3:36 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, my assumption is that each of my female friends has experienced sexual assault in one form or another, unless she actually tells me she hasn't. In my experience it's only a matter of time and intimacy until I hear about it, and some experience of sexual assault is the rule rather than the exception. (Almost none of it is reported, what is reported is almost never followed up on).

Of course, sexual assault encompasses a lot of behavior beyond 'rape' (a term not used so much in modern criminal law).

A corollary to that of course is that 'false accusation' also covers a lot of ground, from unpleasant interactions from the acquaintances of the victim that believe her, to police questioning, to arrest, to indictment, to conviction, to a criminal record, and to actual prison time. Likewise, from mistaken identification, to malicious accusation, to official police/prosecutor misconduct with evidence.

A more serious police/prosecutorial approach towards sexual assault will probably involve more men being involved with police investigations of sexual assault, as persons of interest, as suspects, as witnesses. I actually think that's all right if it's necessary in the pursuit of justice, and we need to be careful about distinguishing between the conviction (especially malicious, but even not) of an innocent person, which we should take the greatest care to avoid, and the (real) unpleasantness of being concerned with an investigation, which is unfortunate but necessary. (If people are concerned about the ethics of police investigations, they could get involved with efforts to improve policing, which could use help in a lot of areas beyond sexual assault - racial bias, class bias, etc).
posted by Salamandrous at 7:13 AM on July 21, 2010


On the other hand, the truth is that rapists are less likely to be convicted than other criminals.

Sorry, I was busy yesterday and didn't have the mental energy for this thread; I didn't just bail. Not that you probably were wondering about that or anything.

I agree with you that this is the truth and I've never denied it. But the very nature of the crime makes that inevitable. That doesn't make it good. I'm not claiming that at all. But there is just no way it will ever be as easy to prosecute (many) rapes as it is to prosecute some other crimes because it is very hard to determine what was in two people's heads if the only evidence is statements by those two people. I'm leaving aside the scary-rapist-hiding-in-the-bushes scenario which actually is much easier to prosecute as long as you manage to catch the guy, of course, because those are a lot less common than date rape kind of scenarios.

So yeah. You think that we should err on the side of making it more difficult to convict rapists.

See, now this is why I get pissed off. I don't think you should err on the side of "making it more difficult to convict rapists" and phrasing it like that is crappy. I think you should err on the side of making it difficult for the state to put people in prison. Regardless of their crime.

If this were any other topic having to do with the criminal justice system everybody and their brother would be falling all over themselves saying how shitty it is, how we convict innocent people all the time, how the police are lazy at best and planting evidence at worst, and how we should do everything we can to protect the rights of defendants. That's simply a fact. And you wouldn't be accusing me of wanting to "make it harder to convict thugs and drug dealers" if I said that we should protect the rights of young black men accused of crimes in the inner city. You wouldn't be accusing me of wanting to "make it harder to convict child molesters" if I said that we should protect the rights of people charged with crazy Satanic Ritual child abuse stuff like happened a bunch in the 80s.

Hell, nobody smeared me with wanting to "make it harder to convict Satanic Ritualistic Murderers" for saying we should have protected the rights of the West Memphis Three better. But that's exactly what you're doing. You're saying that THIS crime is so horrific that we can't afford to worry as much about rights as in other crimes. And because it is so emotional a topic (and I'm not criticizing that; sexual assault affects a lot more people than most other serious crimes) anyone who dares to say hey, wait a minute, this isn't how we're supposed to do things gets accused of being pro-rapist.

But fine. I think my posting history stands for itself. There are one or two threads in 6 years of posting that I wish I could take back; threads on protecting rights are not among them. And that's exactly what we're talking about here, the protection of our civil liberties. I've said fundamentally the same thing in threads on drug crimes, terrorist trials, and murder cases up to and including the killing of police officers while on duty. I suspect in those threads you would be agreeing with me that we should be wary of wielding the state's power unwisely and unjustly. Most people on Metafilter do. And yet not in this thread.

Think about that for a minute; saying we should do what we can to protect the rights of someone accused of the mass murder of innocent people will pass without disagreement but applying the same standard to rape defendants gets you accused of being objectively pro-rapist. Maybe not by a lot of people, but even one is disheartening.

So, again, all I'm doing is being consistent. And given what I'm being consistent on is the protection of our fundamental liberty, I can live with your disapproval.
posted by Justinian at 12:35 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many innocent men have ended up in jail due to a false accusation of rape? I am totally against putting innocent people in prison, but from what I can see that isn't what is happening. I mean, even being accused of rape is horrible, but the law isn't responsible for the media circus and social stigma that results from it.
Even if you wanted to punish those who falsely accuse, how would you even be certain that the accuser did it maliciously? I guess you could prosecute them for slander and filing a false police report. At least it would go on their record in case they did it again.

I don't think that backing down from prosecution/not having enough evidence to convict is enough grounds for saying that she lied about being raped.
posted by domo at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2010


Rape charge anonymity pledge dropped

The policy people suggested was a good idea further up the thread has just been dropped by the UK coalition government.
posted by knapah at 1:00 PM on July 26, 2010


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