This story out of South Africa caught my attention.
Superintendent Conrad Engelbrecht, head of the family violence and child protection unit in Port Elizabeth, said police believed the demand for post-exposure ARV drugs was behind the surge in rape complaints.
He said they had caught wind of the problem after noticing a big percentage of rape cases were either scrapped as false or withdrawn.
“It seems that some complainants are having unprotected sex and panic when they suspect their partner might be HIV-positive. “They then lay a charge of rape with the police because they know all rape victims get treated with ARVs.”
This assumption that the increase in reporting and the increase in cases labeled false or withdrawn is due to women lying about being raped is a very dangerous assumption.
For many people it is an easy assumption to make since it fits neatly into their long standing biases which contribute to rape victims remaining silent and which allows so many rapists to view their actions as acceptable.
It's harder to see when the source of the problem is a system that is too eager to label real rape victims as false accusers (including taking actions which lead to false recanting of the allegations) and which actively, if unintentionally, drives many rape victims away then blames the victims for leaving.
As a volunteer advocate I've been in the hospital with rape victims who endured the process of getting a rape kit done and who wanted treatment to help them prevent STDs but who didn't know if they could endure how they would be treated if they reported to law enforcement.
This happened even though there was a strong victim services agency available to help them navigate the system and well-trained local law enforcement agencies. Deciding to report was rarely easy unless the victim was one of those rare few who was attacked at gunpoint or knifepoint by a stranger. Even with good support from victim services and law enforcement, the process of reporting and going to trial, if charges were ever made, was disruptive at best.
Many rape victims who had little hope that their rapist would be convicted because he would claim that the sex was consensual simply wanted to spare themselves months or years of agony. They wanted to do what so many victim blamers demand. They wanted to get over it.
This ugly reality for rape victims makes it easy to understand why so many rape victims weren't reporting before potentially life-saving drugs were available to them if they came forward. They may believe that it is better to be alive and falsely labeled as a liar than to be dead.
Uglier still is that many people advocate for the removal of support and medical treatment for rape victims since according to them support and medical treatment give women too much incentive to lie about being raped.
Hey, if we made women pay a thousand dollars or more in cash (which would be returned upon the conviction of their rapist) so a bond could be posted which would cover the entire cost of the investigation that would really reduce the incentives women have to lie about rape.
To make it fair, stab and gunshot wounds would be equivalent to half the fee. We can't have it equal the whole fee since women who lie about rape are the kind of people who would stab or shoot themselves in their quest to be seen as real victims.
To those who see this story as proof that we cannot rest until we have removed all of the institutionalized incentives women have to lie about being raped I have to ask: Why don't you take equal pains to remove all of the institutionalized incentives men have to lie about not being rapists?
Oh, wait. That would needlessly harm people who have done nothing wrong, a fate meant only for rape victims.