Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Raging At The Patriarchy

Glenn Sacks has written a post: NOW Leader Slams Glenn over Column on False Rape Accusations which includes the following.

However, some of her [Erin Boguski, a member of the board of the Baltimore chapter of the National Organization for Women] assertions lack validity. My assertion in the column that the Clothesline Project [at the University of Maryland] is a feminist event which encourages women to "rage at the patriarchy" is correct.

As compared to encouraging women to remain silent and happy after being raped? And to let men like Sacks control their free speech and stand in harsh judgment of those who reported being raped? Sounds like someone is taking this "rage at the patriarchy" a little too personally.

More importantly, Boguski dredges up the old feminist myth that "false allegations of sexual assault occur at the same rate as false allegations of other violent crimes, at just 2 percent of charges." [...] A 1997 Columbia Journalism Review analysis of rape statistics noted that the 2% statistic is often falsely attributed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and has no clear and credible study to support it. The FBI's statistic for "unfounded" rape accusations is 9%, but this definition only includes cases where the accuser recants or the evidence contradicts her story. Instances where the case is dismissed for lack of evidence are not included in the "unfounded" category.

This misuse of FBI data tells us that Sacks is quick to smear the character of all those who have had their reports labeled unfounded. He is also quick to smear the character of all those who have had their cases dropped for lack of evidence.

It's important to note that he isn't just smearing the character of those who reported rape, he is smearing victims of all crimes who had their cases dropped for lack of evidence or who had their cases classified as unfounded. I bet using his methodology that the false allegations of all violent crimes would be higher than the 2% that Sacks accepts as fact.

Because Sacks believes the number of false rape reports is much higher than for other violent crimes, those who reported rape to their college security or police must be assumed to be liars unless and until a trial ends with a guilty verdict.

Since recanting doesn't equal a false report and neither does contradictory evidence, the FBI statistics tells us only about the perception by law enforcement within the limits of how cases can be classified. That would put the FBI's 9% number on the high side of the actual number of false rape reports not on the low side as Sacks implies.

In the Baltimore Sun column that Boguski responded to he wrote:

A significant percentage of allegations of sexual assault are false. According to a study conducted by former Purdue sociologist Eugene J. Kanin and published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, in more than 40 percent of the cases reviewed, the complainants eventually admitted that no rape had occurred. Mr. Kanin also studied rape allegations in two large Midwestern universities and found that 50 percent of the allegations were recanted by the accuser.

The problem with this study and all the other evidence Sacks provides in this column to back his assertion is that none of his proof actually measures the percentage of allegations of sexual assault which are false. Some of his proof doesn't measure anything except individual opinion which he rejects unless that individual opinion matches his opinion. Then it becomes valid proof.

Mr. Kanin's studies do prove that investigators in some towns and colleges can get up to half of those who report rape to recant. When those like Sacks assume that most reports of rape are false, they have no interest in looking at the ethics used in those investigations. The studies provide him with an outcome which matches his assumptions and that's all that matters.

I'm sure that if there were similar studies that documented specific jurisdictions where investigators got 98% of alleged rapists to confess that Sacks would attack those studies as invalid due to obvious wrongdoing on the part of the investigators.

If there is no credible study that directly supports the assertion that the rate of false allegations of sexual assault is higher than the rate of false allegations of all crime, then we must assume that there is no difference and that the 2% rate quoted by Boguski is credible.

Sacks strategy is to attack alleged sloppiness with sloppiness of his own. I wonder if we are supposed to accept his sloppiness because he's a logical man and not someone who is angry about rape.

Update (10/25): Sacks responds to a letter from Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar named Lesa:

Perhaps Lesa is correct that I underestimate the therapeutic value of the Clothesline Project for rape victims. However, I believe what rape victims really need isn't the Clothesline Project, but instead criminal convictions of their rapists, along with stiff prison sentences for them. And one of the biggest problems preventing justice for rape victims is the substantial percentage of rape accusations which are false. [...] Lesa is correct to criticize some of the studies I cited as being from the 1990s or 1980s, but I have a legitimate reason--there aren't many studies of false allegations of rape. It's a difficult subject to get funding to study, if not outright impossible.

I find Sacks concern for all rape victims non-credible. Nothing in what he has said about the Clothesline Project or rape indicates genuine concern for all those who are raped. Nothing.

His concern is instead for himself and other men. That's why he keeps repeating the unfounded claim that a substantial percentage of rape accusations are false. Maybe he has deluded himself into believing his own propoganda.

He's right that there should be more studies on false allegations, but those studies should also look at the differences between perception and reality. I would love to see a review of rape cases that were classified as unfounded, lacking sufficient evidence and those labeled as fabrications to see if these classifications were based on the facts of the case or on the bias of the investigator.

Sacks doesn't seem aware of false allegations when they are made against real rape victims. Frankly, he and others who think he is credible need to buy and read Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice by Bill Lueders about the ordeal of the victim of a stranger rape who was herself charged with a crime. Only the fact that there was enough DNA and other evidence to later convict her rapist cleared her name.

Smearing the reputations of those who report rape and calling a substantial number of them liars in no way facilitates his stated goal of seeing criminal convictions of rapists. He is instead helping keep a key problem which interferes with justice for rape victims alive and well. That shows in his closing.

I don't doubt that rape is, as Lesa says, very painful. There are two groups of people responsible for the pain of rape, and only two--rapists and women who make false accusations of rape.

It's no surprise to me that Sacks gives those who make false accusations against rape victims a free pass.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:02 AM   0 comments links to this post


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