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December 06, 2014

A Headline That Is Troubling

In reporting on Rolling Stone's apology/retraction of its story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, the Houston Chronicle ran this headline.

Advocates fear impact of Rolling Stone apology

Frankly, approaching this story from this angle is frighteningly irresponsible. That the concern is not for the actual victims of this false story(the men who have been tarred with a broad brush as potential rapists or being complicit in rape) but rather for the woman who appears to have lied and whether that will prevent some hypothetical sexual assault assault victim from coming forward in the future, is chilling. It places the value of the "rape culture" narrative above the value of the actual facts of this case, and indicates a desire to subordinate concepts like innocence and due process to a notion of "justice" that has very little to do with actual justice. As I noted int he comments on the story at the Houston Chronicle,

Apparently the "advocates" live by the motto "Better that hundreds of men be falsely tarred as sexual predators and lose their freedom and their opportunity to get an education, a job, and have a family than that a single woman claiming sexual assault have to answer questions and provide evidence substantiating her accusations."

Now that may sound harsh, but I hold this view because I take sexual assault quite seriously. A woman close to me is the survivor of sexual assault. She was not believed by law enforcement, despite there being a lot of physical evidence to support her claim, because of the paleolithic views of the cops who were called to investigate the case. One of those beliefs is that women lie about rape -- and when women like "Jackie" in the Rolling Stone article clearly have lied, they reinforce that belief. We as a society let the liars get away with it by failing to prosecute them when they are exposed, and by shielding their identity after having made the identities of the accused public from the very beginning of the process.

So let's be clear -- as a man who takes sexual assault and justice for victims seriously, I am also concerned by what has happened here. And to the degree that it might keep some future victim from coming forward, or from being believed if she does come forward, I am every bit as concerned as the so-called "advocates. But rather than excuse or minimize false accusations or demand confidentiality for those who make false accusations, I instead think we need to expose the false accusers so that false accusations carry a price that discourage them. We need to treat rape like every other crime so that law enforcement will treat it like every other crime -- and that includes investigations that get at the truth, due process for the accused, and punishment for those who file false reports and make false claims.





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