Whenever sexual allegations come up, it seems like the default response of some is how it encourages false accusations even more. Horror stories of the Duke Lacrosse rape case and that of Wilbert Jones, the Louisiana man who spent 40 years in prison due to false rape claims, pop up. Though these stories are valid and do impede on our equality and justice, it shouldn’t be used to silence victims.
The comment that “It just might be another false accusation” when it comes to rape and sexual violence has a different impact as opposed to any other crime. When you look at social media and today’s climate, the consequences of an accusation can be harsh and immediate. But you also have to look at how the victims are immediately treated with suspicion. The backlash is also terrible and feeds into the rape culture. So here’s why you should think twice before believing in the likelihood of false accusations.
The Independent reports that the number of false accusations are consistently low. In the United States, it’s only two to six percent of reported cases and only four percent in the UK. This is also the same amount of false reports for other crimes. This is not counting how the police file certain reports as “unfounded” due to lack of evidence. In other words, let that paranoia go.
Let’s say that women cry wolf more often than not, but that doesn’t mean an immediate conviction. Quartz reports that false accusations are rarely picked up by the court. In a British Home Office study, only 139 out of 216 false reports became a formal complaint. Of that number, six complaints lead to arrests and only two charges pushed through before they were proven to be false. This leads to the conclusion: “So the evidence suggests that even in the rare case where a man is the subject of a false rape complaint, chances are that the charges will be dropped without him ever learning about the allegations.”
Despite hard facts telling us otherwise, there is still a looming threat that false rape claims are used by women as a cop out for sexual encounters they regret. This comes as a misogynistic response and feeds into the idea that women can’t choose freely without being judged. It also disregards how women who speak up are subjected to public scrutiny. The Stanford University MAAN (Men Against Abuse Now) writes, “Victims know that if their claim becomes public, their every behavior will be scrutinized, they will be shamed for their sexual history, and they will be labeled as lunatic, psychotic, paranoid, and manipulative.”
Instead of feeding into a male-driven fear that false rape allegations are more common, let’s look at something that is more obvious: sexual predators are not hard to come by. For the many reports of sexual abuse, there are even more unreported than those that are simply false. Though caution over who you speak up against should still be exercised, it is still paramount to make sure that victims are not shamed and silenced.
Art by Lara Intong
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