Why “She Lied” is Too Convenient

Check out this moving commentary by Kristal Brent-Zook about the Hofstra student’s false rape claims and the public reaction. An excerpt:

I’m having Duke deja vu right now.
Because for every African-American woman who is courageous enough to report a rape, there are 15 other African-American women who choose to keep their assaults quiet.
How many of us can honestly know for certain that our own mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, or girlfriends haven’t been raped at some point in their lives?
The problem is that cases like what happened at Hofstra and at Duke somehow end up canceling out in people’s minds, the real violence that takes place against women every day. It’s more convenient for us. It feels better to say, “See, she lied.” It excuses the rest of us from having to face, in any real way, the violence that surrounds and impacts each and every one of us in our own lives, and in the lives of the women we love.

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73 Comments

  1. lucierohan
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    This is also a response to aleks:
    “In whose mind, exactly, does this “cancel out” genuine rape?”
    It’s true, not many people would say “well this makes real rapes less horrible.” But there are many people who say “see?! women really can’t be trusted on this stuff. So the 1 in 4 statistic MUST be bullshit.” In that sense people use the false accusation to devalue all accusations.
    Example: The last comment on this thread talked about how, in response to the false accusations, some sports coaches ADVOCATED the athletes taping their sexual encounters with our without the permission of the woman.
    And as for Ponygirl’s comment, she went much farther than I would go and made assertions that weren’t based of the specific evidence of this case. However, she made one VERY important point. That women often retract claims that they were raped for fear of public humiliation, combined with the fact that the odds generally aren’t in the rape victims favor in the courtroom. This is partly what makes it so dangerous to turn a false rape accusation into a false accuser witch hunt. Because even if one woman deserves to be punished for lying for her own convenience, that’s going to impact those women WERE raped but do not have sufficient evidence to prove it (which is the case in most situations where the rapist has not left visible injuries).

  2. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I would never tape a sexual encounter, what a sleazy and unromantic thing to do. I also don’t sleep around, or have sex with women I don’t trust not to withdraw consent post-coitus. I remember one encounter we both almost immediately regretted, but neither of us pretended we hadn’t wanted it at the time. Fortunately, since that was back before digital video.
    Some people do sleep around, and pointing out that this puts them at advanced risk of being falsely called a rapists is both 100% and 100% victim blaming.
    That women often retract claims that they were raped for fear of public humiliation, combined with the fact that the odds generally aren’t in the rape victims favor in the courtroom. This is partly what makes it so dangerous to turn a false rape accusation into a false accuser witch hunt. Because even if one woman deserves to be punished for lying for her own convenience, that’s going to impact those women WERE raped but do not have sufficient evidence to prove it (which is the case in most situations where the rapist has not left visible injuries).
    Yes, punishing the Hofstra liar might have a chilling effect on real victims coming forward. One more way in which she’s proven herself an incredibly selfish person. I don’t know how it’s a “witch hunt” when she’s unambiguously guilty of a serious, real-life crime. But yes, her actions have far reaching consequences for rape victims, and that’s another reason I wish I was surprised to see people defending her. So what’s the preferred alternative? To declare that even in the most egregious case (five innocent people arrested) with no doubt about her guilt, there should be no legal consequences for knowingly accusing innocent people of crimes?
    And when I said certain activists seem upset that the lie was discovered because it complicates the story line, here’s a summary of what I mean: “That women often retract claims that they were raped for fear of public humiliation, combined with the fact that the odds generally aren’t in the rape victims favor in the courtroom. This is partly what makes it so dangerous to turn a false rape accusation into a false accuser witch hunt. Because even if one woman deserves to be punished for lying for her own convenience, that’s going to impact those women WERE raped but do not have sufficient evidence to prove it (which is the case in most situations where the rapist has not left visible injuries).”
    I don’t have children, which I think we can all agree is fortunate, but if I had a son I’d fear this woman for casually throwing away boys’ lives for her convenience, and if I had a daughter I would hate this woman for trivializing rape.

  3. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I said taping sex was sleazy and I stand by that, but in the Hofstra case Thank God they did.

  4. Lily A
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Right on.
    Yeah, it’s scary to think you might be accused of rape when you thought the sex was consensual. So make sure the sex is consensual! If you’re having sex with someone you don’t know very well or don’t have an ongoing sexual relationship with, make sure to get an enthusiastic “yes” for everything you do. Make sure the person isn’t drunk out of their mind or otherwise incapacitated. And if you’re really that concerned… get your partner to sign a statement beforehand agreeing to have sex with you, and that stipulates that either of you can back out at any time.
    Or… don’t have sex with people that you don’t know well enough to understand if there’s consent and trust not to falsely accuse of rape…

  5. Lily A
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Obviously falsely accusing someone of rape is wrong.
    But raping that person in prison is also wrong. The people who raped the innocent guy in prison are responsible for raping him, not the woman who falsely accused him.

  6. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    The people who raped the innocent guy in prison are responsible for raping him, not the woman who falsely accused him.
    If I shoot someone but he dies of an infection to the gunshot wound, it’s the infection that’s the murderer not me.

  7. Lily A
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Right, but the infection isn’t a person who is responsible for his/her own actions.
    Rapists, on the other hand, need to be held accountable for their actions. A woman who sends a man to prison on a false accusation is responsible for the normal suffering that comes from being in prison. She is not responsible for rape, abuse, or any other human-caused injustices that occur in prison.

  8. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Violence including rape is part of the normal suffering that comes from being in prison in the U.S. and probably elsewhere. It’s not right, prisoners and guards shouldn’t brutalize others, but it’s the predictable consequence of being incarcerated. Sending an innocent person to jail is putting them in a position where rape is very, very likely. The fact that prisoners and guards should make better choices doesn’t change the fact that you know some of them won’t.

  9. A male
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    “I’m sorry, are you asserting that *millions* of men are falsly accused of rape? ”
    No. Millions of men aren’t recording their lives to “prove” themselves innocent of criminal behavior.
    Keep my other posts, even on this thread, in mind before considering me a rape apologist or MRA. I have not called the Hofstra case a false accusation, that woman a liar, or those men innocent. I don’t know the facts of the case. I merely recognize the fact the MEN were lucky.

  10. Hershele Ostropoler
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    No one is saying that the men accused at Hofstra should be punished anyway; the point is that rapists can now too conveniently point to the woman at Hofstra and say “well, she lied.”

  11. hfs
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Losing years of your life in prison is a [b]fucking terrible punishment[/b]. I can’t believe you could be so blase about it.

  12. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    She’s not minimizing prison, she’s saying that no one other than the person who commits an act [in this case prison rape] shares any responsibility for that act occurring. She’s wrong, but she’s not being blase about prison.

  13. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Another unfortunate consequence of accusing innocent people is of course that it muddies up the waters and makes it hard to prosecute the guilty. Quite a lot of unpleasant externalities for the convenience of not having to admit she cheated on her boyfriend. What an amazingly selfish person.

  14. Lily A
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but this sounds to me a lot like the “dark streets / parties with drinking are places where rapists like to take advantage of vulnerable women.” Yes, that’s true, but that doesn’t make it anybody’s fault but the rapist if you get raped walking alone at night or drinking at a party.
    I recognize that rape and abuse are predictable parts of the prison system, and it absolutely should not be that way. And, knowing that it is that way, sending an innocent man to prison where you know he may be raped and abused is obviously a terrible terrible thing to do. I absolutely don’t deny that. But I stand by my point that rapists and abusers are the ones at fault for perpetrating rape and abuse.

  15. Lily A
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Woah, hey hfs. Please read my comments again — I was not being blase about prison. Obviously going to prison is a terrible experience, and sending an innocent person to prison is a terrible thing to do. I think I was pretty clear about that, and thanks aleks for defending me even when we disagree on some things. I appreciate it! :)

  16. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    If you think deliberately sending an innocent person to prison absolves the accuser of any responsibility for what everyone knows will be done to him there, I guess we’re just not going to find common ground.
    Child molesters are responsible for their crimes, yet I don’t think the Church should have given known abusers access to kids. I think JFK, LBJ and Nixon have some responsibility for the Americans who died in Vietnam, even though it was the Vietcong and NVA who killed them. I don’t think you can wash your hands of the obvious and predictable consequences of your crime, even if someone else is also to blame.

  17. Lily A
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    You convinced me.
    Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. Thanks for being persistent and respectful — I learn things from you all the time!
    I do think it’s dangerous to blame anybody but rapists for any individual rape… but in this case the more I think about it the more I suppose you have a point.

  18. aleks
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. And I do see your point, that the actual assailant is fully responsible for his crime (in this case prison rape). That’s true. The thing is that for something so horrific there’s enough responsibility to go around.

  19. Gopher
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Youre picking apart redundances. I think its obvious that those who think of false rape allegations think that they are being made maliciously. So this doesnt matter whether youre using her own words, its still for a pointless reason. To answer where the ‘always’ comes from; it comes from the bigots and the misogynists.

  20. JessWin
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    I think you’re still missing the point of my comment, however – if we’re saying the video was evidence of their innocence, we’ve got to at least interrogate what we’re expecting rape to look like. The video is evidence that her original allegations (screaming, rope binding her hands, etc.) were false, but a video that “looks like sex” isn’t evidence that rape didn’t occur.
    And I’m not arguing that rape actually did occur – there just isn’t enough information. I think many people wish that authorities were wise enough to look at a video that “looks like sex” and still conclude that they need more information to determine whether rape occurred. They can conclude that she lied about certain details, but they disregard the possibility that a woman could change the details so that it “sounds like” rape – which seems plausible, especially when a man’s innocence is hinged on proving that it was sex, not rape – and if what happened can “look like” sex, it’s all over for you.

  21. aleks
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    I guess as a troll who’s only trying to be disruptive you’re not obligated to make sense, but shouldn’t that make you rethink your career goal? When did I suggest in any words that false accusations were always malevolent?

  22. A male
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    “I think you’re still missing the point of my comment, however – if we’re saying the video was evidence of their innocence, we’ve got to at least interrogate what we’re expecting rape to look like. The video is evidence that her original allegations (screaming, rope binding her hands, etc.) were false, but a video that “looks like sex” isn’t evidence that rape didn’t occur.”
    Completely untrue, regarding assertions about me. I say those men were lucky there was a video, because they are now free. It does not mean there was no assault, and I said so. See: Deep Throat for visual documentation of “looks like porn,” but is in fact, claimed to be a documentation of rape. How? Because behind the camera Lovelace reports she had a gun on her, and Traynor was controlling her with physical and sexual violence throughout her career. I have never watched “Deep Throat” to look for visible bruising Lovelace reports or any other reason.
    You can’t stereotype what rape or a rape victim LOOKS like (do 1 in 4 or 1 in 3 of all adult women “look like” rape victims?), because rape is about something that is NOT there, consent. During the Duke case, ABC news cited unnamed “experts” claiming there was NO forensic evidence in 70-80% of rape cases. Maybe they were consent cases. Maybe it was too long after the assaults. Maybe the woman showered or was forced to shower before she was examined. Maybe the man used a condom and cleaned the area later, as cited when discussing the CSI phenomenon.
    Did the Hofstra video show five men asking the woman if they could have sex with her, with NO evidence of coercion, and the woman apparently verbalizing “yes” FREE of coercion? Without that, there are people who would still call the Hofstra case rape, video or no video. How “enthusiastic” is enthusiastic (see: Deep Throat or more recent trends in porn videos, including scenes I WOULD consider assault in a court of law)? This is why stereotyping rape victims as physically traumatized is not helpful, because lack of physical trauma or the actions that would cause them (e.g. beating) can be used against victims who lack injuries or are raped without use of physical violence. My wife never reported being injured or even in pain, even when she was raped at the age of nine or other times in her life. Her injuries and scarring were caused by the child abuse from her stepmother. According to her. See below.
    Look back on the “false accusation” thread. *I* am the one asking (WITHOUT RESPONSE) how to separate true, accurate accusations of rape, from those which are not. What is a feminist supposed to do sitting in a jury box? (I recently received a notice that I was eligible for jury duty.) I was not trolling. It’s a real problem law enforcement, attorneys, judges and juries face every day. Are you the friend or loved one of someone who says they were raped? The answer is simple: offer your support, period. Keep any questions or skepticism to yourself. But we are not the ones empowered to put the accused in prison in the off chance it is a mistake. If a feminist is a jury member, it is their responsibility to see the legal process is served (though not necessarily “justice” as you see it). That means making your personal judgment on which version of the story is accurate and true. How is a feminist supposed to do it?

  23. A male
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Regarding rape and injury.
    From DoJ National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey” (1998)
    http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/172837.pdf
    31.5% of women self report being injured. 68.5% were not.
    “Women are significantly more likely than men to be injured during an assault: 32 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men who were raped since age 18 were injured during their most recent rape; 39 percent of the women and 25 percent of the men who were physically assaulted since age 18 were injured during their most recent physical assault. About one in three women who were injured during a rape or physical assault required medical care. To better meet the medical needs of women who are victims of violence, medical professionals should receive comprehensive training on the physical consequences of violence against women and appropriate treatment strategies.”
    This makes it more difficult to prove rape, because 69% of women don’t “look like” rape victims with visible physical injuries, and only 36% of the injured victims sought or received care.
    “The survey found that 36 percent of the women injured during their most recent rape since age 18 and 30 percent of the women injured during their most recent physical assault since age 18 received some type of medical treatment (e.g., ambulance/paramedic services, treatment in a hospital emergency department, physical therapy)”
    Their wording, NOT mine, regarding 72.6% of specific types of injuries:
    “Most of the adult rape and physical assault victims (both men and women) who reported being injured sustained relatively minor injuries, such as scratches, bruises, and welts.”
    BTW, the survey included men.

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