Friday, June 16, 2006

Are Rape Advocates Blind to False Claims?

Because so many people may have the same misperceptions and biases as Cathy Young, I am responding to her latest post on victim advocates.

Cathy Young

I must say, with all due respect to Hostler [from North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault], that I find it very hard to believe that in all her years in the sexual assault field, she has never seen someone who came forward with a claim of sexual assault that, in fact, had never happened. It's hard to believe simply as a matter of statistical probability. I'm not saying that she's lying; I suspect it's simply a matter of preferring not to see.
This statement indicates to me that Cathy Young has a basic misunderstanding about the frequency of sexual assault and about victim services. This is an opt-in program so alleged victims can choose not to work with a victim advocate. That means that no victim advocate or agency or collection of agencies is going to work with everyone who makes a claim to the police that a sexual assault occurred.

I doubt that the girl who lied in May of this year about why a taxi driver wouldn't let her go, agreed to work with a victim advocate even if she was offered their services.

Ms. Young's statement quoted above also assumes that the percentages of false reports is so high that a victim advocate with any amount of experience must have worked with at least one woman who lied about being sexually assaulted. That assumption is dangerously wrong and lets armchair experts claim they know more than those who work with victims in one capacity or another -- because if we weren't fooling ourselves, we'd see what Ms. Young expects us to see.

The closest I've ever come to a false allegation was during an education session with a trained investigator on our local police force. What we were told was that false allegations were rare, but they did happen. The MO usually involved an accuser like the case above or someone with specific mental health issues like the example Ms. Young gave from 1991 to support her conclusion quoted above. It's worth noting that for the story Ms. Young wrote in 2004, she used as an example a case that took place 13 years earlier (and now 15 years ago).

I take that back. I did have a caller who I believe was making a false allegation. All I can say about the call due to confidentiality was it was a man. Because of a crime that was committed by a man within weeks of that call, I still hear his tone and his words echoing in my head and I wonder.

Now that I'm thinking about it. There were more. The sicko crank callers. Also men.

The cab driver falsely accused and the 1991 case are not comparable to cases where the prosecutor doesn't believe there is enough evidence to file charges. Also with tight budgets and unpredictable juries, some solid cases may go nowhere. Just because you can't, or won't, prove something doesn't mean it didn't happen. And just because something happened doesn't mean people like Ms. Young agree that it qualifies as a real rape.

That need to go way back to prove a specific point (ala Tawana Brawley - 1987) should be significant to those who aren't sure what or who to believe. It's estimated that every two and half minutes someone in America is sexually assaulted.

Think about the number of proven false accusations people collect like paperweights and then compare that to these statistics from RAINN:
Of the average annual 204,370 victims in 2003-2004, about 65,510 were victims of completed rape, 43,440 were victims of attempted rape, and 95,420 were victims of sexual assault.
Because of the methodology of the National Crime Victimization Survey, these figures do not include victims 12 or younger.
For many people the thought of 200,000 plus victims in a 12 month period is overwhelming and to keep from feeling some of the pain behind those statistics it can be tempting to decide the number must be far too high. This can't be happening in America, they think, so they attack those who insist on keeping this problem where everyone can see it.

Yes, we do.

Because vermin work best when nobody knows they are there. But the good news is that despite the increased coverage of rape cases (and maybe because of it) the trend is moving in the right direction.

Ms. Young also makes a mistake in believing that victim advocates' and feminists' assumptions that each allegation should be treated as if it were legitimate is damaging to rape defendants. The conviction statistics in rape cases don't support her conclusion.

What we are asking for is to have all cases investigated respectfully and not to have police and others dismiss this serious issue as if it's all in our heads or our vindictive hearts. This approach cleared the cab driver accused of attempted rape in just over 2 weeks so it doesn't give blanket protection to those who chose to lie about being raped.

Rather than wanting all men accused of rape thrown in prison or put to death, what all activists that I know want is for rapists to stop raping and for all exploiters to stop sexually exploiting. Until that happens those who are victims of sexual crimes deserve a fair shot at justice.

For those who blame victim advocates and feminists for cynicism towards rape defendants, you should be blaming the rapists and wannabe rapists who by their sheer numbers make many people skeptical at protests of innocence when yet another man is charged with a sex crime.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:05 AM   1 comments links to this post


At June 24, 2006 10:57 PM, Blogger alyceclover said...

Only 200,000? I think the figure is low, because some rape is never reported. An example is a cousin who was in her late 20's when she confronted her step-father. Quite sure there was no charges, how could there be, with that passage of time. I wonder if any man ever admitted that he was guilty of raping a woman (girl, boy). The criminals I know, always claim they didn't do the crime. I'd be a terrible rape advocate, I even believe the taxi driver was lying.


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