The public discourse about sexual assault has hit an all-time low as evidenced by articles penned by two feminists appearing in major on-line sites in the past few days. Neither advances the public discourse on this critical issue in a serious or helpful way; both underscore a disturbing trend that seeks to silence anyone who dares to voice concern for the presumptively innocent when it comes to sexual assault.
First, Jezebel's Katie Baker suggests that keeping an open mind about a rape claim is rape apology. See our take on it here and Baker's article here.
Now, Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky is attacking Judith Grossman's perceptive article about the absence of due process protections for college men accused of sexual assault as "rape culture" and "victim blaming." She doesn't bother to discuss, much less challenge, Ms. Grossman's informed indictment of the college disciplinary system as grossly unfair to men accused of sex offenses. Instead, Wakeman insists on changing the subject to proclaim that rape is rampant on campus, that women don't lie about rape, and that rapists aren't punished severely enough. Wakeman is indignant that anyone would dare to speak up for the presumptively innocent, likely because, to her, an accusation is as good as an adjudication of guilt -- if only that pesky due process nonsense weren't in the way! Her biggest beef seems to be that Grossman self-identifies as a feminist, and she doesn't understand how a feminist can denigrate a system that was designed to help our daughters just because it is unfair to our sons. Grossman's take on the matter is the reasonable one: we need to have a system that is concerned about both our daughters and our sons, it's not a zero sum game. Wakeman's blather is not worthy of serious refutation. The unfortunate article is found here.
This blog frequently discusses the critical balance that is at the heart of sexual assault legislation: every civilized society must strive to eradicate heinous criminality by punishing offenders, but it also must insure that the innocent aren't punished with them. While the latter concern typically is absent from the public discourse, rarely have we seen such vitriol directed at persons who express concern for the presumptively innocent as in the Baker and Wakeman pieces.
Hurling terms like "rape apology," "rape culture," and "victim blaming" where they are not appropriate is the bow wow of extremists who aim to do one thing: silence voices the writers don't agree with. Baker and Wakeman have exiled themselves from the adult table on these very serious issues. Only people interested in the aforementioned critical balance need apply for a spot, not gender warriors spouting the clichés of gender get-evenism.*
*Wakeman also repeats this canard: "The reality is that only two to eight percent of reported rapes are false." Here's the truth. A leading feminist legal scholar correctly acknowledged this irrefutable fact: ". . . the statistics on false rape accusation widely vary and 'as a scientific matter, the frequency of false rape complaints to police or other legal authorities remains unknown.'" A. Gruber, Rape, Feminism, and the War on Crime, 84 Wash. L. Rev. 581, 595-600 (November 2009) (citation omitted). Another legal scholar has explained that the politicization of rape renders it impossible to discern the extent of underreporting. See, J. Fennel, Punishment by Another Name: The Inherent Overreaching in Sexually Dangerous Person Commitments, 35 N.E.J. on Crim. & Civ. Con. 37, 49-51 (2009).
FBI statistics show that false reporting of sexual assault is multiple times greater than the average for all crimes. (The Politics of Sexuality, Barry M. Dank, Editor in Chief, Vol. 3 at 36, n. 8.) While the percentage of unfounded claims for all crimes has been traditionally set at two percent, an authoritative law review article debunked the canard that only two percent of all rape claims are false by tracing this number to its baseless source. (E. Greer, The truth behind legal dominance feminism’s “two percent false rape claim” figure, 33 Loyola L.Rev. 947 (2000).) Moreover, the last time the FBI reported on "unfounded" rape claims (meaning the claim was false or the elements of the crime could not be met) was 1996 (it never reported on "false" claims per se), and the FBI found that unfounded rape claims were were 15% of all claims -- that's 7-1/2 times the rate for all crimes as a whole. (See Dr. Bruce Gross,False Rape Allegations: An Assault on Justice, Annals of the American Psychotherapy Associaton, Dec. 22, 2008.)
That 15% figure, as it turns out, is in line with Dr. David Lisak's research for his 2010 Violence Against Women study, a study frequently touted by feminist bloggers. That study found that, putting aside the gray claims -- that is, the majority of claims that can't be classified as either rape or non-rape -- and only looking at the claims that could be classified as false claims or that were referred for prosecution or disciplinary action, 14.2% were, in fact, false claims. The exact percentage of false or otherwise wrongful claims is unknowable, but the percentage of false or wrongful claims is certainly higher than 14.2%, possibly much higher. How do we know this? It is reasonably certain that a portion of the claims referred for prosecution or disciplinary action were false or wrongly brought, based on what we've learned from the Innocence Project and the National Registry of Exonerations. In addition, Lisak's own study includes among the "gray" claims reports that did not result in a referral for prosecution or disciplinary action because the "victim" -- Lisak's terminology, tipping off an unfortunate bias -- "mislabeled" the incident as sexual assault when, in fact, it was not sexual assault. (We note that to a man or boy wrongly accused of rape, it matters little whether the wrongful accusation was a lie or a mistake. The concern of this blog is to give voice to the wrongly accused, not to insist that a lot of women lie about rape.) If, indeed, Lisak's study was intent on "proving" that false rape claims are rare, it actually underscored that a staggering percentage of men and boys are wrongly accused of sexual assault.