In Part 1 of “Dangerous rape myths,” I examined three common rape myths: that doubt = misogyny; that the innocent have nothing to fear; and that false allegations are rare. Here in Part 2, I will examine three more: that false allegations are not harmful to the accused; that even if they are harmful they’re nowhere near as bad as actual rape; and that combating false accusers hurts real victims.
1. False allegations are not harmful to the accused.
False allegations can be extremely harmful, both immediately and in the long term. The falsely accused suffers, and faces, serious damages.
- His reputation takes an immediate hit.
- He will be at least temporarily imprisoned.
- There will be at least the financial loss involved in paying bail.
- Regardless of the outcome of the trial, there will be at least some in his community who will always view him as a rapist.
In addition, the stress of dealing with the false allegations and the ensuing mandatory investigation can:
- damage his existing relationships with family and friends;
- cause him problems at work due to lost time, reputation issues, and hostility resulting from reputation issues; and
- cause stress-related health problems, including anxiety, depression, elevated blood pressure, digestive issues, and the exacerbation of existing health conditions.
He faces an uphill battle, being accused of one of those crimes for which discriminatory law requires that the accused be treated by the court as guilty until proven innocent. If he cannot prove his innocence, he faces:
- imprisonment, followed by
- abuse by fellow prisoners and guards because of the nature of his conviction.
If he survives long enough to be released, he is subjected to invasion of privacy via:
- sex-offender registration;
- publication of said registry for public viewing, including online access;
- forced self-identification to neighbors;
as well as
- compromised freedoms (regarding where he may or may not reside);
- reduced employability; and
- the loss of the right to bear arms.
Falsely accused boys—whose selves are still forming at a rapid rate and are strongly subject to outside influence and whose community includes the closer knit and less private environment of school—would face issues not present for adults, such as:
- frequent and consistent violent bullying and harassment in response to his damaged reputation;
- lost education opportunities, as the accusation could lead to his being barred from attending school during the investigation, or if convicted;
- reduced academic achievement, even if allowed to attend school; caused by stress, time lost to compliance with investigation and hearings, and possibly educator bias;
- loss of time-specific personal development opportunities, in the delaying or prevention of enrollment in youth programs and activities that won’t be available to him when he’s older;
- greater susceptibility to the emotional and psychological repercussions of the terrible lessons the experience may teach him, including damage to his ability to trust both authority figures and women;
- change to the path of his character development by subjecting him to incarceration, where defensive behaviors must be adopted, at an impressionable age;
- damage to his developing self-image, and possibly his future ability to emotionally connect with sex partners, due to a possible mental association of sex with betrayal; and
- potential damage to the formation of his entire sense of self, as kids’ beliefs about themselves can be shaped by what they are told and shown that their respected or loved elders and those in authority think of them.
What if the excuse was true? What if being falsely accused doesn’t change a guy’s life in any way? Aside from how absurdly difficult to hold, and insulting to the accused, that assumption is, there is also the question of why that makes it all right to create a false alarm in the community. Let’s compare it to pulling a fire alarm when there is no fire. Since no harm is done to the building, is that okay, feminists? Should we treat false fire alarms as if no harm is done, when police and firefighters are occupied, resources are used, and a disturbance is created around the source of the alarm? Should we enact legislation to protect false alarmists from prosecution? After all, since no damage is created by the false alarm, the alarmist hasn’t done anything wrong, right?
2. The experience of being falsely accused doesn’t feel as horrible as being raped.
This kind of statement can only come from someone who has never seen the devastating effects that false accusations can have on an individual’s life. It’s not just dismissive of the damage done to the accused but also insulting to the intelligence of the listener or reader, who is apparently expected not to be able to imagine how the fear, shame, humiliation, and other feelings often associated with rape may also be experienced by the falsely accused.
Subjected to the perception of guilt within his community, and because of that treated as a walking perpetrator, the accused will experience a sense of being violated coupled with a response of indignation at the assumptions others are making. He may feel betrayed by the accuser and/or by other people he expected to know him better. He may feel outraged by behaviors exhibited by those around him in response to the allegations against him. He may feel frustrated and confused by the dissonance between his knowledge of his innocence and his experience of being treated by those around him as guilty.
He may have a sense that his own personal choice, or control of self, has been taken away from him. He may be stricken by a sense of helplessness or powerlessness. By creating a false public impression, the accuser has robbed her victim of a level of personal sovereignty. It is no longer enough for him to live within the bounds of common decency; he can now be viewed as an indecent person through no action of his own—in fact, his actions don’t matter. He has been robbed of his right and his ability to shape his reputation through the behavioral choices he makes.
He may be oppressed by the hostile environment that a discriminatory public attitude toward him can create; reluctant to confront the stares, whispers, and sometimes open aggressiveness of individuals who have judged him by the accusation rather than by any evidence. Even though he knows that he did nothing wrong, he may pick up and carry the guilt lobbed at him by a judgmental public. There is a vulnerable, naked-in-public feeling in knowing that everyone around you may have a bad impression of you in mind as they interact with you, more so when it’s a concrete belief that you’ve committed a crime thought of by most as an atrocity. He may be humiliated and ashamed at what strangers might think of him, made to feel dirty or tainted by the allegations against him.
He may feel like a predatory presence or perverse outcast among other people in response to the knowledge that that is how others see him. This can lead to a level of phobia—fear of interpersonal interaction within the community in which his reputation has been tarnished or even of going out in public at all. That phobia may be made worse by others’ treatment of the victim. He can end up isolating himself and becoming depressed, even suicidal.
There is also the fear of the other potential consequences of those allegations, as described above, all of which can take an emotional toll. As with the experience of rape, that emotional toll can, and often does, last well beyond the duration of the experience of facing false allegations, which can arguably be said to last much longer than the experience of rape.
However, let us again take this assertion to its logical conclusion. Let’s accept, for a moment, the belief that being accused is a less horrible experience than being raped. How does that justify advocating tolerance of the behavior? The argument basically is that because the experience of the victim is thought not to be emotionally traumatic, the crime is not a crime. Taken to its logical extreme, that assertion excuses embezzlement, tax fraud, grave-robbing (the victim is dead), destruction of public property, and a host of other serious crimes that do not emotionally traumatize anyone. Or, rather, that we should not prosecute a rapist who victimizes an individual who is too mentally disabled to understand or care about the experience. Since it’s not as emotionally upsetting as forcible rape, it’s not worth addressing, right?
3. Addressing and combating false allegations hurts actual rape victims.
This assertion is based on the pretense of an either-or competition, pitting the rights of rape victims against the rights of the falsely accused. The claims are as follows: first, that the effort to prevent men from being wrongfully convicted would create a legal environment in which legitimate rape allegations would not result in conviction due to the court’s requirement for actual evidence; and second, that penalizing women for leveling allegations proved to be false will discourage legitimate rape victims from coming forward.
The first claim, offered as an argument in support of rape victims, is really an attack on due process in hopes of making rape accusations a weapon that can be pointed and fired to destroy a man’s life and reputation.
The second claim, also offered as an argument in support of rape victims, is really an attack on the value, or weight, of the human rights of men in comparison with the human rights of women. It amounts to the assertion that some men may be subjected to the involuntary sacrifice of their rights, reputation, health, family, and freedom to foster the emotional comfort of some women.
Taking the attitudes of these claims to an extreme end, one could justify the abolition of due process. If affording accused criminals the right to due process is a violation of the rights of crime victims, then there should never even be hearings held to determine the validity of criminal charges involving a victim. As soon as there is an injured party, it doesn’t matter whether the party convicted is guilty. It only matters that someone is convicted. Who cares about a few human sacrifices when there are women to protect, right?
Finally, even in the one concession that ever gets made in favor of addressing an effort toward prevention of false rape allegations, there is the move to transfer victim status from the accused to uninvolved women. This is done by stating, as one’s reason for condemning the act of false accusation, the fear that public awareness of the existence of false allegations will negatively impact the credibility of real rape victims. Doing this marginalizes the real victim, the falsely accused, and ignores the ordeal he suffers at the hands of his accuser in favor of steering the discussion back around to a gynocentric perspective.
Of all the various ways in which feminists dismiss the wrongness, ignore the impact, and marginalize the victims of false rape allegations, this one is both the sneakiest and the most blatant. It’s sneaky in that it involves a pretense of support, and it’s blatant in its designation of men as irrelevant and disposable. It relies solely on the treatment of the human rights of men as having less value or weight than the human rights of women.
That attitude is at the bottom of all the ways in which feminists dismiss and marginalize male victims of false rape allegations. The hypocrisy is that these self-described fighters for equality cannot abide any acknowledgement that the human rights—or human experience—of men are equal to their own. Doing so would take away the Mantle of the Oppressed that gives women the power of Blame, used to maintain the privilege for which feminists have so passionately fought since the beginning and the soapbox from which feminist ideology is preached. Everything has to be about feminism’s female proxy victims, and if it’s not, the dialogue has to be directed back to them. This is the way that the feminist response to false rape allegations against men reveals the underlying basis for feminist advocacy: that they fight not for human equality but for female power, and they’re willing to ignore, step on, or sacrifice anyone who gets in between them and their achievement of that goal.