Monday, September 21, 2009

Hofstra University Rape Case Recantation And Anti-Feminists

I've lost count of the number of times anti-feminists have declared how much they hate the presumption of guilt when the suspect has not been convicted of any crime. But the response by most of these people to the recantation in the Hofstra University gang rape case shows this hatred to be selective.

Being effectively branded, stamped with a scarlet letter is evil when it is done to men accused of rape, but it is a must when it is done to women accused of fabricating an allegation of rape.

The evidence in this case indicating that the report of a gang rape was fraudulent looks strong, but when evidence looks equally strong that a man accused of rape is guilty that is not enough to declare a man guilty. The accused rapist facing what looks to be overwhelming evidence must still be called an alleged rapist not a rapist.

No such caution is being demanded from the anti-feminists in this case even though those people frequently claim that committing rape and filing a fraudulent rape report are equivalent crimes. If their claim of equivalency is to be seen as a valid claim made in good faith then the equivalency must permeate everything they say and do about cases where the alleged victims is declared by the police to have filed a fraudulent police report.

The first failure of equivalency is that these people are not referring to the Hofstra woman as an alleged false accuser.

According to the anti-feminists this story opening from the NY Times should not cause people to assume that the police got it right:

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A Hofstra University student trying to retrieve a stolen cellphone was lured into a men’s room in a campus dormitory and sexually assaulted by five men, the Nassau County police said on Tuesday.

Four of the five suspects, including the only Hofstra student among them, have been arrested on rape and other charges.

Detective Lt. John Allen of the Nassau County special victims squad said the rape occurred on the Hempstead campus about 3 a.m. Sunday.

While they believe headlines which say, "Prosecutors say Hofstra student fabricated rape charge," must cause people to assume that the police and prosecutors got it right.

When it is shown that the police have been sloppy in a rape investigations while the police assumed a report of rape to be genuine, we are to ignore this same sloppiness when the police believe the reported rape to be fraudulent.

Cases such as this one where the system ultimately worked in favor of those accused of rape are often positioned as undeniable proof that the system never ultimately works in favor of those accused of rape.

This contradictory claim is then used as the evidence for shouts of "The Laws Need To Change." The favorite proposed change is to disregard the testimony of all alleged rape victims. Those who report non-sex crimes also make fraudulent police reports but there is no similar call to disregard the testimony of all alleged crime victims.

Sometimes the testimony of alleged rape victims is viewed as suspect or as proof of that alleged victim's guilt because the described actions of the alleged rapist or rapists doesn't fit with the investigators assumptions about what rapists actually do before, during or after rape. This ignores the fact that different types of criminals can behave in ways which make no sense.

What is positioned as hopelessly unreliable -- alleged victim testimony -- often gets glorified when the alleged victim is a man who was first accused of rape. The chorus of, "alleged victims lie," goes silent. Most of those who claim that believing alleged victims presumes the guilt of the alleged criminal drop this premise when the alleged victim is a man who was accused of rape. He can be believed -- no, he must be believed -- even though the alleged criminal in his case has not been convicted.

I've lost count of the times I've read, "Better for a thousand guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be convicted," yet those who write this don't also write, "Better for a thousand false accusers to go free than for one innocent accuser to be convicted of filing a false police report." Their stated dedication to protecting innocent suspects evaporates.

Some people who want the names of rape suspects kept confidential unless or until they are convicted are rushing to publicize the name of the woman now accused of making a fraudulent rape report. She's a suspect but should not be treated as such.

Video evidence which allegedly proves a man to be guilty of rape is rarely accepted by anti-feminists based on the assessment of the police and prosecution. Everything about the video must be questioned. Yet these same people don't seem to be asking critical questions about the video in the Hofstra U. case. They don't seem to care whether or not the video recorded critical moments in the alleged interaction.

Those who refuse to make an absolute declaration of her guilt until that guilt is proven legally are painted as not caring about false accusations or false criminal charges. The truth that false accusations and false charges can go both ways is denied or ignored.

Any refusal to presume the guilt of those accused of filing a fraudulent rape report will be used to falsely declare that this is proof that the person believes that no girls or women ever lie about rape. Demanding due process is a must unless the person being denied due process rights first reported being raped.

If it is right to review and question the circumstances of some confessions to ensure that the confessions are true then it must be right to review and question all confessions even when those confessions are described as recantations.

If rushing to judgment is wrong then it is wrong no matter who is presumed guilty. Otherwise, the popular anti-feminist chant, "innocent until proven guilty" is nothing more than a sham designed to protect men accused of rape irregardless of whether they are guilty or innocent.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:53 AM   11 comments links to this post


At September 21, 2009 1:18 PM, Anonymous NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault said...

Marcella--I think that your post makes an important about the relationship between survivors/perpetrators and the media. Alleged or convicted, the media has such a tortured relationship with sexual assault. Survivors come forward all too rarely, and when someone recants (either truthfully or under undue pressure) the picture is futher muddled.

At September 21, 2009 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am unconvinced that the "anti-feminists" making the equivalence claim are anything more that a straw man. Have you citations that aren't just internet trolls?

I suspect that a much larger group of people think that it's a very serious problem that needs to be addressed, ideally along with the issue of rape under-reporting.

At September 21, 2009 2:42 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


You can believe what you want, but the equivalence claim is common and you know it or you wouldn't try to dismiss it as coming from only trolls.

I notice that you absolutely fail to address the issue of wrongful accusations when the person being wrongfully accused is a girl or woman who reported being raped.

Are you okay with the widespread presumption of guilt when the person assumed to be guilty first reported being raped?

At September 21, 2009 8:06 PM, Blogger dankprofessor said...

Well, it's not just about issues regarding the videotape. What is most germane is that the woman has recanted the charge that she was raped. If such is actually the case, then it is fair to assume the woman's guilt. If I say I did X, it is fair to assume that I was guilty of doing X. Yes, I know one could argue that maybe the statement was coerced and that nothing is ever final. If one embraces that position, that there is always doubt, even when there has been a legal conviction, then routinely
one should always qualify all statements one makes about any one thing.


At September 21, 2009 9:05 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


Your claim that a recantation always equals guilt is provably false. One such case where a rape victim was coerced into recanting is described in the book Cry Rape. In that case there was enough evidence to eventually convict that woman's rapist. The city of Madison, WS ended up settling out of court with the woman who had been wrongfully charged and wrongfully accused of fabricating her rape.

Pressuring those who report rape into recanting is a too common practice and it is just as wrong as using the same techniques to pressure rape suspects into confessing.

Assuming this woman's guilt on the basis of hearing there was a recantation is not fair and aids injustice. Research has been done which shows that getting people to falsely confess is not difficult at all when pressure is applied under specific conditions.

That means an important piece of evidence is the recording of the police interview where the woman withdrew her complaint. Did someone apply pressure either directly or indirectly to this woman?

Another important piece of evidence is the video which allegedly shows she undeniably consented. If it actually does this then that will prove the case even without the recantation.

I've read that the police didn't bother to look at the video before confronting the alleged victim in this case and were in a rush because a fifth suspect was about to be charged. Rushing often leads to sloppiness and sloppiness can inject injustice. This is wrong no matter who gets hurt by that sloppiness.

At September 21, 2009 9:10 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


If you always believe people when they confess then you must reject exonerations of men who confessed and who were later cleared because of DNA evidence. Those men certainly shouldn't be compensated for their imprisonment according to your standards.

At September 21, 2009 9:42 PM, Blogger Rj said...

I've read many a post on this across the net and I knew that yours would be the most concise and easy to read. Thank you.

By the way, the Black community and juveniles know very well about coerced recantations/confessions. This is done to anyone who is not in a position of power, thus would apply to women.

At September 21, 2009 10:09 PM, Blogger dankprofessor said...


If you reread my comment, do note that I did qualify
my statement re recanting of the rape charge.

One ethical area you have not commented on is that the videotape of the sexual "encounter" was apparently taken without the woman's consent. Assuming the lack of consent re videotaping, should one even allow the videotape to be considered in reaching an evaluation of this case?

the dankprofessor

At September 22, 2009 9:09 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I don't need to reread your comment, I saw your qualification which your own position ignored. You know women can be coerced into recanting true reports of rape but you find it acceptable to simply assume that didn't happen and to therefore assume that woman or girl's guilt.

You are right that I didn't address the admissibility of evidence. The rules should be consistant whether the defendant is an accused rapist or an accused fraudulent reporter. Just as in rape cases the defense attorney will review the evidence and address the specific rules of law which apply to the case.

The video might be the core prosecution evidence or it might be core defense evidence if the video does not show what it claims to show.

At September 22, 2009 9:20 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I reread your original comment re "note that I did qualify
my statement re recanting of the rape charge" and here's what you wrote:

"Yes, I know one could argue that maybe the statement was coerced ..."

This is not the same as actually acknowledging the possibility that the statement could have been coerced. You only acknowledge what people could argue, not the possible reality behind that argument.

At September 23, 2009 10:49 PM, Blogger Dr Patti said...

Thank you for posting about this situation. I have been beside myself since I have heard about it. I am the author of "Invisible Girls: The Truth About Sexual Abuse" Also I have an organization Girlthrive Inc. providing scholarships to incest survivors. I do not care that she recanted. In my opinion she was raped. The men formed a "train" They took turns having intercourse with her. Just because she did not scream "no" does not mean she did not want each man to stick his penis inside of her! I am sick to think that this young woman is being vilinized for 5 men taking her into a mens bathroom in a dorm in the middle of the night and lining up and having sex with her. So.... did she go to the hospital? does she have a background of sexual abuse, that brought her to this abuse? was she drunk? did they slip something in her drink? These men are seen posing with thumbs up after they were released. Where is our culture ? This is a young black woman, a Freshman in college. Who in their right mind believes this kind of sex is "consentual" - I feel terrible for this young woman. I hope she gets help and support. These men are part of a frat - pimp culture that thinks of women as nothing. Thanks for letting me vent.
Patti Feuereisen


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