There is a report in the news today about a horrendous false rape claim in Wigan, a town in Greater Manchester, England, that provides some lessons about what is wrong with the way rape claims are handled. A 15-year-old girl falsely accused a 13-year-old boy of rape, causing him to endure a six-month ordeal of police investigation, intimate medical examinations, stigma, and a backlash of misguided recriminations.
The boy and his family suffered what the prosecutor called “severe emotional damage.” The girl gave police a very detailed account of an attack that never occurred, supposedly in a graveyard, and even tried to use a bruise on her leg as "evidence" of the violence involved.
Despite the absence of any forensics, and despite holes in the timeline of the events she recounted, the boy she named was arrested on suspicion of rape, was quizzed by detectives, underwent tests to take intimate samples and for months -- for months -- had to undergo the terrible stigma of being branded a rapist.
It turns out she had texted someone about the bruise on her shin on a date before the attack supposedly occurred. The police confronted her with the discrepancies more than six months after she first reported the “crime” and she finally admitted that she made up the whole story.
Her punishment? She appeared in juvenile court and admitted to perverting the course of justice. She was given a four-month detention and training order.
The chair of justices said at the hearing: “This was a serious offence - there have been long-term effects on a younger victim which may not be understood for years to come. There has been severe emotional damage to the victim and his family. It was only admitted to being a false allegation after extensive police inquiries showed her to be lying."
The lesson is chilling. A 13-year-old boy could have gone have been adjudicated a rapist on the basis of nothing more than the word of a 15-year-old girl. The only thing that saved him was corroborating evidence that proved she lied. What about all the other innocent boys and young men who aren't so lucky to have positive proof that their accusers lied? This blog and our predecessor blog are replete with examples of accused persons being saved by videos and text messages. In too many sexual assault cases it seems that law enforcement has adopted an informal requirement of corroborating evidence to prove the accused's innocence in order for the charges to be dropped. That, of course, flips the burden of proof on its head.
The news report is here: http://www.wigantoday.net/news/local-news/schoolgirl-jailed-over-rape-lies-1-5210675
Wigan holds a special place in the hearts of readers of this blog. Back in 2008, we reported that a Wigan woman who was arrested for falsely crying "rape" had the audacity to proclaim, "That's why women don't report rape." See here. Do you see the irony? A false rape accuser misusing the meme of sexual assault victims' advocates. The message that rape is under-reported has oozed down to the underbelly of society, mimicked even by women who aren't raped but who report they were.