Quick Hit: False Rape Accusations and Rape Culture

This post reminds me why Amanda Hess at The Sexist is quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers.
Update: Apparently Feministing love for Hess runs deep. My bad.

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78 Comments

  1. aleks
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Sarcasm that has nothing to do with anything I’ve said but that she repeatedly uses as a “reply” to me? Actually, given the source, I’m certain you’re correct.

  2. aleks
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    If those are serious questions, then I don’t know any more about their daily routines than you do. Obviously filming the event turned out to be a life-saving safety precaution.

  3. Pantheon
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    In this particular case, I believe a video came out that shows the girl willingly participating, and that she recanted her story as soon as she heard there even was a video, before she saw what was on it (so its not an issue of being selectively filmed somehow showing an innaccurate picture).
    It sucks in general to film someone having sex without their knowledge, but in this particular case I’d say it was pretty lucky that it happened, since those four men really were unjustly accused. Its really unfortunate that it happened this way at all, since the publicity will hurt real rape victims. But as unfortunate as that is, it looks like the facts in this case are pretty clear that they didn’t rape her.

  4. Pantheon
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    It is messed up that they recorded her without her knowledge. But in this case, I think it was lucky that they did. A sleazy action happened to save 4 guys from being sent to jail for something they didn’t do.

  5. SarahMC
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    It is bad to punish innocent people. That doesn’t apply to the Hofstra case so I’m not sure what you’re going on about. Nobody has advocated punishing innocent people.

  6. jayjay323
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Fat Old Man,
    you know, I for one, was shamed about my sexuality as a man to the extent that I not only did pretty much all of what you said, but I also did not just limit myself to vanilla sex, for years I was afraid to even initiate any physical contact with a woman, because my feminist mother had told me to always respect women, and that respecting women meant to never *want anything sexual from them*. Of course, the wanting bit wasn’t possible to overcome but I was so scared of accidentally becoming the alleged rapists that all men are, and, of course, I was scared of being falsely accused should I ever even touch a woman.
    In fact, I was so affected by this that I needed years of serious counseling to (almost) get over my sexual shame. And if it weren’t for a woman, who took the risk and initiated with me, without asking for my consent (I was happy, but she took that risk anyway), I’d still be unkissed, and to a significant degree because of my fear of being falsely accused.
    So, for someone like, who has had a serious pyschological problem with exactly what you say, your comment must come accross as condescending.
    Just something to consider.

  7. Athenia
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I could give lots of WTFs to various things about this incident but I felt that others have already covered that.
    Like another commenter said, obviously she didn’t know she was being filmed which I see as a lack of respect towards the woman and—shock!— a violation of consent. All these guys cared about was doing some type of “kinky” sexual act and proving that they did it. And I find that disgusting.
    These things don’t happen in a vaccum.

  8. cattrack2
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    “All these guys cared about was doing some type of “kinky” sexual act and proving that they did it.
    Really? And what did the woman care about doing? Why not just blame the guys for making her want to do it?

  9. Suzann
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Let me understand this.
    When a woman says she has been raped we believe her. ( Good policy IMO.)
    When a woman says she was not raped ( ie: recants) she is lying.
    I’m sorry – I see a double standard here.

  10. TD
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Yes. Or. Also, or law enforcement could not or would not find evidence to prove rape.
    No then it would not meet the standards of unfounded. It would simply be a case of insufficient evidence. Unfounded does not simply mean incapable of being proved as it might be assumed in common parlance, but instead, like I said earlier, requires the allegations to be provably untrue, or for the allegations to fail to meet the legal requirements for the claim that was made.
    Unfounded, as in the FBI 8%, includes false. It does not equal false.
    True, however, barring a person being unfamiliar with the details of the charge of rape, it is identical to false allegations with the sole exception of contravening circumstances misleading the prosecution which can happen in any crime, be it false allegation or direct criminal endeavor.
    False, to the writers, means it didn’t happen as claimed, or at all. My personal definition of false also means deliberate falsehood, not a mistake.
    How many times do you honestly think that a persons conception of rape drastically diverges from the legal definition of rape in the modern day? Unfounded does not mean mistaken identity, it does not suggest the type of cases where a crime undoubtedly occured but the police nabbed the wrong suspect. It means the type of cases where the incident could be proven wrong. The type of cases one brave poster admitted to having contributed to in the previous topic.

  11. TD
    Posted September 21, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    If there hadn’t been a video of the intercourse, these men would be in prison for years.
    Do you honestly expect me to believe that you would not have advocated for their punishment if that video had not existed?

  12. A male
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    There’s a reason I included links.
    FALSE REPORTS AND CASE UNFOUNDING
    Recommendations for Law Enforcement Response
    http://www.oregonsatf.org/resources/docs/LE_Rec_Practice_False_Reports_Unfounding.pdf
    Definitions
    • A False Report is a report, to a law enforcement agency, of a sexual assault crime that an investigation factually proves never occurred.
    • Case Unfounding is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting, as a method of case clearance utilized for reports that are found to be false or baseless.
    o A false report has the meaning listed above.
    o A baseless report is a reported sexual assault that does not meet the elements of a crime (often the result of mistake of law or insufficient information collected during the initial report).
    False = factually proven didn’t happen.
    Unfounded per FBI = false OR baseless
    Insufficient evidence is included in “unfounded.”
    Furthermore, via Oregon SATF:
    FALSE REPORTS AND CASE UNFOUNDING
    Recommendations for Law Enforcement Response
    “Identifying a false report of sexual assault requires a thorough investigation that factually proves that a criminal sexual offense neither occurred nor was attempted. While case unfounding is an appropriate method of case clearance when a case has been determined to be false, it is not an appropriate method of case clearance for reported incidents where the investigation was unable to corroborate or substantiate a sex crime. Using case unfounding as a clearance method when there is insufficient corroboration to prove or disprove a report of sexual assault is improper.”
    You: “Unfounded does not mean mistaken identity, it does not suggest the type of cases where a crime undoubtedly occured but the police nabbed the wrong suspect. It means the type of cases where the incident could be proven wrong.”
    Or. OR “baseless.” Unfounded explicitly includes per above linked PDF, but does not EQUAL false. False, to FBI and Oregon SATF = proven wrong.
    I’d hate to be in a situation I needed to “prove” an accusation wrong, because I just can’t see how that is possible for me who has regular intimate contact with clients. In cases like that 88 year old woman, only the fact that the entire staff had direct experience with her as well as some directly witnessed her experiencing delusions, “proved” my male coworker and I weren’t assaulting her. If the woman had not (when lucid) explicitly identified “the man” as a Christmas ornament visible from her bed, or a dwarf who lived “in the ceiling,” we’d have been fucked. If her descriptions had been vague, or she pointed out one of us as “the man,” we’d have been fucked. (For that matter, there is no way I would be able to “prove” I am NOT abusing my wife or children, because even lack of physical evidence, recantation or videotaped evidence are not accepted by many.)
    If any other resident or family member claimed that a staff member “fondled” them during or under the pretense of providing care (and all sorts of accusations are made in our line of work, from stealing non-existent or long gone objects, to kidnapping and entrapment, to attempted murder while simply wiping someone with a damp cloth), we’d be up shit creek, because most of the time there are no witnesses.

  13. Fat Old Man
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Although I don’t find anything particularly feminist in equating respect for women with not finding them attractive (I can’t do much with your phrase “wanting anything sexual from them”); nor does drowning you in shame and anxiety seem essentially first, second, or third wave; still, I am glad that you were able to find support to ease your suffering. No one should have to limit their behaviors in the manner alluded to in my first post.

  14. this-is-what-an-anarcha-feminist-looks-like
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    It’s not unusual for people to oversimplify opinions they don’t agree with.
    When a woman says she has been raped, yes, we should believe her. But no one is saying that when a woman says she was not raped she is lying. What myself and others have been saying is that all we really know is that she is recanting. There are reasons for an accuser to recant that exclude the innocence of the accused. We want those reasons to be acknowledged.
    Of the reasons submitted, some have included:
    *intimidation: threats of violence or death or revenge
    *public humiliation: psychological stress from unwanted public attention and scrutiny
    There are probably more but these seem to me like the most easily anticipated.

  15. this-is-what-an-anarcha-feminist-looks-like
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    When *anyone* says they are raped, we should believe them. I have to work on being more gender neutral.

  16. SarahMC
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    My advocating for their punishment and a jury convicting them are two different things. In a world where ACTUAL RAPISTS rarely spend any time behind bars it’s highly unlikely the absence of video would have resulted in much of anything for these men.

  17. SarahMC
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    OR, the only time we should believe a woman is when she recants a rape allegation.
    There’s your double-standard.

  18. TD
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Insufficient evidence is included in “unfounded.”
    Insufficient evidence during the initial report which is the key part you missed. Insufficient evidence as a whole, and insufficient evidence in that initial report are different things.
    What unfounded means is that if a person comes to the police to report a crime, and, after their description of everything that occurred, and assuming that everything they said was completely accurate, there was not a crime committed. Not because of an inability to prove the allegations to a court of law, but because none of the allegations were actionable. Only then can the report be decided to be “unfounded”.

  19. kinsella
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    “Rape culture does not just encourage men to proceed after she says “no.” Rape culture does not simply teach men that a lack of physical resistance is an invitation. Rape culture does not only tell men to assert ownership over whichever female body they desire. Rape culture also tells women not to claim ownership over their own bodies. Rape culture also informs women that they should not desire sex. Rape culture also tells women that saying yes makes them bad women.”
    Obviously, we don’t know what went on here. But for me the problem is not so much that “rape culture” tells women they’re bad women for saying yes to sex. I think there’s a massive problem with men not acknowledging, or perhaps not fully understanding, the enormous power dynamic in play when there are four men and one woman (tied up or not) involved. I’m not saying that group sex just should never happen, but I think it’s too easy for it to happen with “consent” on the woman’s part, without the woman involved having full agency, or the men involved having any consideration of that. I’m not talking about legality here; legally, of course, yes means yes, and I can’t see any way around that. Oh, I don’t know how to finish this. You know what I mean, fuck the patriarchy etc.

  20. TD
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    They could establish sex took place and few would have believed she engaged in the act consensually if there was not evidence to show that she did. You would have advocated for these men to be convicted, and the jury would very likely convict them. You make light of that as if every time there is some miraculously exculpatory evidence which will be revealed to the DA.
    So yes, these men would have gone to jail if it were not for the fortuitous video evidence. And we should treat this as an attempt at an extremely serious crime which was narrowly averted. Not as a non-issue simply because the culprit was caught early.

  21. ekpe
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    what is the power dynamic there. how do you know she didnt feel empowered pulling 4 men? would you find the power dynamic tilted towards the women if i were 4 women and 1 guy?

  22. Fat Old Man
    Posted September 22, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Obviously filming the event turned out to be a life-saving safety precaution.
    Walk with me a bit on this one, aleks. I’m not as ready as some people are to go all Chicken Little about the imagined horrific future of the four (plus one) guys. As some posters have noted, even in real, live, actual sexual assault cases, conviction and incarceration are quite infrequent.
    [TRIGGER ALERT]
    Imagine DA Rice and Chief Skrynecki talking the case over.
    DA: OK, Chief, make this one a slam-dunk for me, I’ve got a golf date this afternoon.
    C: Well, Ms. Rice, the case is kind of “problematic.”
    DA: Don’t be silly, Chief. Girl was tied up and gang raped on a college campus. How complicated can that be? Of course, you checked the ropes for her DNA?
    C: We didn’t find any ropes.
    DA: That’s unfortunate. Well, when a person is tied up and struggles, there are ligature marks on the body. Show me the Polaroids. Wrists? Ankles?
    C: Well, there weren’t any ligature marks on her to photograph.
    DA: You got something against golf or something, Skrynecki?? Tell me about the bruising – even without ligature marks, there’s often bruising when there’s restraint, right?
    C: Right. (pause) The thing is, there wasn’t any bruising.
    DA: Any marks indicating slapping, hitting, choking, punching?
    C: Uh, no. No, uh, rope marks on the paint in the bathroom stalls, either. Actually, there’s not a lot of physical evidence…
    DA: Did she even have sex with these guys?
    C: Affirmative.
    DA: Ok. Injuries?
    C: Nothing inconsistent with a one-on-five.
    DA: Not a lot of tact there, Skrynecki. Witnesses? Anybody see or hear anything?
    C: No.
    DA: No?? You’re telling me these kids are gang raping this girl in the middle of a freaking college dorm, and nobody heard nothing?
    C: No. Body. Heard. Nothing. Yes, M’am.
    DA: In a freaking men’s dormatory bathroom, where at any moment some guy who has to take a piss or his sneaked-in overnight girlfriend could wander in and discover something?
    C: Nobody saw or heard anything.
    DA: Shit. How long…? Look, five times even as quick as as the fastest guy takes to — that still adds up to a decent amount of time… Nobody??
    C: Nobody.
    DA: (pause) Tell me they dragged her in off of the street, at least.
    C: She met them at an on-campus dance party. It looks like she went back to one of the guys’ dorms.
    DA: Unbelieveable. What DO you have?
    C: Well, we have her cell phone.
    DA: Whoop-di-do. Anything else?
    C: Well, she told us it happened.
    DA: Look, Skrynecki, I got this burning in my middle that says it wants to grow up and become an ulcer when it’s a big girl, and I’m eventually going to have to stand for re-election in this job, so I have to win my cases, not look like some kind of jerk social worker — have you got a case, or not??
    C: Well, the suspects are… er… minorities.
    DA: What do they say?
    C: They say they don’t even know the girl, don’t know why she’d make up such a story.
    DA: Great. (pause) Maybe we can get a change of venue and try this thing in the Deep South, Skrynecki, and then get a change of decade, while we’re at it and do it in the ’50s or ’60s — preferrably the 1850s and 1860s — instead of Lawn Guyland in 2009.
    C: District Attorney Rice…
    DA: You. Got. Nothing. We can play the “race card” and pick the boys up, we can play the “daddies, protect your daughters” card and the “college should be an ivory tower” card and hold them for a few days, but we probably couldn’t win this case even if we had a videotape of it…
    C: Uh, Ms. Rice, about that videotape…

  23. zubblin
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I posted this in the other thread, going to repost here:
    I really want to know if this woman knew she was being recorded on a cell phone. Did she give consent for that? If she didn’t, isn’t that in itself a crime? Those boys recorded her and showed it to other people. Isn’t that criminal behavior anyways? Rape or no rape, that’s a crime! How come no one is asking about that?

  24. A male
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    You’re right. That is a perfectly valid point. Her reaction suggests she did not know there was a video, nor did she consent to any video.

  25. Mycroft Holmes
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    “OR, the only time we should believe a woman is when she recants a rape allegation.
    There’s your double-standard.”
    Why is there talk about who to “believe?” I’d be much happier if every rape/assault accusation was investigated before we throw people in jail.
    The men accused were in jail less than 24 hours.
    We should expect more of our police and legal system. Why were they arrested and in jail before a serious investigation took place?
    Don’t ‘believe’ people when they accuse or recant. We should investigate all claims with the presumption of innocence.

  26. Mycroft Holmes
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “Isn’t that criminal behavior anyways? Rape or no rape, that’s a crime! How come no one is asking about that?”
    I think people _are_ talking/thinking about it. I believe most people understand that it’s wrong and illegal.
    I think most people are comparing the illegal taping and the recanted rape accusation and doing some serious comparisons and finding that they would rather be convicted one than the other.

  27. Pantheon
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I assume she did not consent to any video. Filming her without her permission is a crime, as far as I know. But think about the real world situation. She had these 4 guys thrown in jail, potentially for years, for something they didn’t do. Is any jury going to send them to jail again for a much lower level crime that ended up proving she was lying? It might not be entirely fair, but I can see the prosecutor thinking it just isn’t worth pursuing this one.
    Also, I think I heard that it was some unnamed 5th guy who took the video, so if they don’t know who he is they might not try real hard to find out. They also all can probably argue that they weren’t the one filming, and if she didn’t notice they were being filmed there’s no reason to assume the rest of them would notice… So possibly only one of them is guilty of filming sex without the consent of the others.

  28. Pantheon
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    That’s a fair point– they may not have been convicted even if this video hadn’t come out. But even if they were acquitted, it would be hanging over their heads forever, and lots of people would still think they did it. Now, with this video, everyone knows they didn’t rape her. Of course, everyone also knows they had group sex in a public bathroom, which could still be damaging to some job prospects, etc, but not as much as people thinking you’re a violent rapist.

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