Hermes Solenzol Ph.D., as of right now, we don’t treat women who make sexual assault/rape claims in the same way that we treat other victims of crime — by believing them until such time as an investigation demonstrates that we shouldn’t. Of course, we should do a real investigation, but the fact of the matter is that 95%+ of sexual assault allegations are in fact true.
It’s Time to Dismantle the Myth of the False Accuser
We Need to Start Thinking Differently About Sexual Harassment and Assault
“First off, there is no “rape demographic.” People of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and genders get raped — women, men, non-binary and transgender people; little babies and old nuns. But there is a certain demographic of people who make false accusations -“adult false accusers who persist in pursuing charges have a previous history of bizarre fabrications or criminal fraud. Indeed, they’re often criminals whose family and friends are also criminals; broken people trapped in chaotic lives.”
But if a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex — in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true. This is not because of any political dictum like “Believe women.” It’s because this story looks exactly like tens of thousands of date rapes that happen every year, and nothing at all like a false rape accusation.
According to RAINN, out of every 1000 instances of rape, only 13 cases get referred to a prosecutor, and only 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction. Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 310 are reported to the police. We’re seeing the reasons for that play out right now on a national stage (this was written at the time of the Kavanaugh hearings). Harassment, name-calling, death threats, hacked email accounts, slut-shaming, and ostracization are what you can reasonably expect if you report sexual assault. Not help; not justice!
Go check out the new hashtag on Twitter #WhyIDidn’tReport for 37 thousand more examples from both men and women about why they didn’t say something at the time or how their report was brushed off or quietly dropped. When interviewed for the Amber Wyatt story, former Fort Worth Police Department sergeant, Cheryl Johnson, said it was common practice to not pursue cases or for grand juries not to indict, despite strong evidence of a crime.
“We had cases where there were photographs and confessions from the suspects that were no-billed,” Johnson told me in 2015 in the tidy living room of her Fort Worth home. One case in particular stuck with her: A man admitted to giving a woman drugs that would render her unconscious — and then raping her after she had passed out and photographing the act. The victim was sent the photographs of her own rape, which she turned over to police. Still, the grand jury decided not to indict.
As Elizabeth Breunig wrote about the Amber Wyatt case, “To look into the eyes of a vulnerable person is to see yourself as you might be. It’s a more harrowing experience than one might readily admit. There is a version of yourself made powerless, status diminished, reliant upon the goodwill of others. One response is empathy: to shore up your reserves of charity and trust, in hopes that others will do the same. Another is denial: If you refuse to believe you could ever be in such a position — perhaps by blaming the frail for their frailty or ascribing their vulnerability to moral failure — then you never have to face such an uncomfortable episode of imagination. You come away disgusted with the weak, but content in the certainty you aren’t among them.”