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The Seriousness of the Charge

I'm seeing the same poorly thought out, hypocritical response whenever the issue of false rape allegations garners the attention of radical feminists. It's a single response, divided into multiple concepts designed to disguise its nature, with most discussions relying on a single one of those. I'm not going to provide links to discussions, partly because some are old and I can't easily find them any more, and partly because I don't want to feed the trolls involved. I'm addressing it here instead, because having personally witnessed the shoving of families through the meat grinder that false allegations represents, I'm more than a little focused on that issue. Also, I think it might be good to have the disguising concepts of the feminist response put into words and discussed all in one place.

Denial comes to mind first. Though it's no longer the most notable response, it's one of the most ridiculous, in light of the existence of proof to its contrary, in cases like the Brian Banks story. The existence of proof makes it the easiest to counter. Because of that, I'm not even going to address it beyond mention.

More often and more effectively used is the attempt to marginalize and minimize. There are several methods to this.

There is the assertion that if a man is not guilty, he has nothing to fear. The wrongness of that assertion is highlighted by cases of false conviction (again, with the recent example of the Brian Banks story.) Even we ignore existing examples, there is still the ordeal he must go through; mandatory investigation, public defamation, and possibly being tried on the charge. During the ordeal, he faces discrimination and suspicion at the hands of his peers, and possibly also harassment and violence. If he's underage, the chance of violence increases, because social violence among youth is more tolerated than among adults, due to the expectation among adults that kids will sometimes fight, to and the fact of reduced legal repercussions for fighting while underage.

Imagine gym class for an accused boy who is believed by the other kids to be guilty of raping a girl.

There are also still the factors which lead to false conviction. Under legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, and policies enacted by police precincts and procedures followed within the court system, a male accused of rape is considered guilty until proven innocent, a daunting and perilous standard. Conviction may occur in the absence of evidence. Worse, even if he is acquitted, the allegation can stick to his reputation. An accused male who has been acquitted faces the likelihood that to some, he will never again be just a guy, but always seen - and treated - as a falsely acquitted rapist.

However, just for a moment, let's assume that assertion is true; that the falsely accused are never convicted. How does that justify subjecting anyone to the experience, putting him through the rigors of an investigation, damaging his reputation, and possibly forcing him to defend himself in court? Is it really believed within the feminist community that the hope of an acquittal negates all other aspects of the experience? Does feminism now consider no harm to be done even if the only worst harm is evaded? Does this mean that it's okay for men to fantasize about rape,  joke  about rape, and threaten women with rape, as long as they don't actually do it? After all, if a woman is not actually getting raped, then she has nothing to fear, right?

There is the assertion that false allegations are not a big deal because their occurrence is rare. This is contradicted by existing factors within their own community. Victim advocacy on the topic of rape calls for treatment of allegations as credible without doubt, including when there is not sufficient evidence to support that. Even lack of conviction is not viewed as vindication of the accused, but as an instance of the perpetrator getting away with the crime. The assertion of rarity, based on loyalty to the concept that female accusers must not be doubted, is circular reasoning - a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with. (Because we are not allowed to doubt the credibility of alleged rape victims, it must be accepted that false allegations occur only in the rarest of circumstances, when evidence against the accusation is overwhelming.)

Broadening of the definition of rape to include incidents in which the alleged victim was not averse to the interaction until after the fact has further muddied the water, by creating a conflict between what feminists consider rape, and what rape actually is (and is considered to be by the law.) This manner of twisting the definition turns sex into a form of entrapment in which the woman may withdraw consent after the event. The fact that the man involved did not force the encounter by any means does not deter radical feminists from applying the label "rape." This leads to filing of allegations which get tossed out or struck down because the accuser was never actually victimized. These cases, in turn build an area of disagreement, in which the term rape has been falsely applied to sexual encounters in a way supported by feminist ideology. That disparity in viewpoint is the key to a lot of feminist dismissal of the falsely accused.    

Basing the assertion of rarity, in any part, on loyalty concepts like regret as evidence of rape, and guilt until innocence is proven, is an act of begging the question, or basing one's belief on a false premise which one has accepted to be true. (The allegation cannot be false because the woman feels raped, or because the man must be perceived as a rapist.)

Still, just for a moment, let's accept that assertion as true. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that only one in a hundred allegations actually turns out to be false. How does that make the act of falsely accusing any less wrong, any less serious, or any less harmful to the victim, the falsely accused? Does he suffer less because of the rarity of his plight? Does the "fact" that other accusers are honest reduce the damage done to this victim's life? How about we apply this to rape. If we get the occurrence of rape down to 1 in 100 women, can we just let it go and not prosecute the perpetrator in that one, simply because the crime is rare? If it doesn't happen often, then it doesn't merit much attention, right?

How is this an accurate or honest way to measure the severity, seriousness, or wrongness of any crime? Applying the rarity-as-an-excuse standard, misdemeanors such as moving violations while driving (running a stop sign, speeding, improper lane change,) which are committed with greater frequency than any assault, should be taken much more seriously, discussed at length, and subject to greater legal consequences than say, anything as comparatively rare as rape. When played out to such an obvious extreme, the concept that rarity excuses the behavior is exposed in its lack of logic.   

There is the assertion that false allegations are not harmful to the accused. In reality, false allegations can be extremely harmful, both immediately and in the long term. The falsely accused suffers, and faces, damages.
  • his reputation takes an immediate hit
  • he will be at least temporarily imprisoned
  • there will be at least the financial loss involved in paying bail
  • regardless of the outcome of the trial, there will be at least some in his community who will always view him as a rapist
In addition, the stress of dealing with the false allegations and the ensuing mandatory investigation can
  • damage his existing relationships with family and friends
  • cause him problems at work due to lost time, reputation issues, and hostility resulting from reputation issues
  • cause stress-related health problems, including anxiety, depression, elevated blood pressure, digestive issues, and exacerbation of existing health conditions
He faces an uphill battle, being accused of one of those crimes for which discriminatory law requires that the accused be treated by the court as guilty until proven innocent. If he cannot prove his innocence, he faces
  • imprisonment, followed by
  • abuse by fellow prisoners and guards because of the nature of his conviction
If he survives that long enough to be released, he is subjected to invasion of privacy via
  • sex-offender registration
  • publication of said registry for public viewing, including online access
  • forced self-identification to neighbors
as well as
  • compromised freedoms (regarding where he may or may not reside)
  • reduced employability
  • loss of right to bear arms
Falsely accused boys, whose selves are still forming at a rapid rate and strongly subject to outside influence, and whose community includes the closer-knit and less private environment of school, would face issues not present for adults.
  • frequent and consistent violent bullying and harassment in response to his damaged reputation
  • lost education opportunities, as the accusation could lead to his being barred from attending school during the investigation, or if convicted
  • reduced academic achievement, even if allowed to attend school; caused by stress, time lost to compliance with investigation and hearings, and possibly educator bias
  • loss of time-specific personal development opportunities, in the delaying or prevention of enrollment in youth programs and activities which won't be available to him when he's older 
  • greater susceptibility to the emotional and psychological repercussions of the terrible lessons the experience may teach him, including damage to his ability to trust both authority figures and women
  • change to the path of his character development by subjecting him to incarceration, where defensive behaviors must be adopted, at an impressionable age
  • damage to his developing self-image, and possibly his future ability to emotionally connect with sex partners, due to a possible mental association of sex with betrayal
  •  potential damage to the formation of his entire sense of self, as kids' beliefs about themselves can be shaped by what they are told and shown that their respected or loved elders and those in authority think of them
Regardless, let's just for a moment pretend that assertion has merit. Let's assume that every time a male is falsely accused of rape, it doesn't change his life in any way. Aside from how absurdly difficult to hold, and insulting to the accused, that assumption is, there is also the question of why that makes it all right to create a false alarm in the community. Let's compare it to pulling a fire alarm when there is no fire. Since no harm is done to the building, is that okay, feminists? Should we treat false fire alarms as if no harm is done, when police and firefighters are occupied, resources are used, and a disturbance is created around the source of the alarm? Should we enact legislation to protect false alarmists from prosecution? After all, since no damage is created by the false alarm, the alarmist hasn't done anything wrong, right?

There is the assertion that the experience of being falsely accused doesn't feel as horrible as being raped. This kind of statement can only come from someone who has never seen the devastating effects false accusations can have on an individual's life. It's not just dismissive of the damage done to the accused, but insulting to the intelligence of the listener or reader, who is apparently expected to not be able to imagine how the fear, shame, humiliation and other feelings often associated with rape may also be experienced by the falsely accused.

Subjected to perception of guilt within his community, and because of that, treated as a walking perpetrator, the accused will experience a sense of being violated, coupled with a response of indignation at the assumptions others are making. He may feel betrayed by the accuser, and/or by other people he expected to know him better. He may feel outraged by behaviors exhibited by those around him in response to the allegations against him. He may feel frustrated and confused by the dissonance between his knowledge of his innocence, and his experience of being treated by those around him as guilty.

He may have a sense that his own personal choice, or control of self, has been taken away from him. He may be stricken by a sense of helplessness or powerlessness. By creating a false public impression, the accuser has robbed her victim of a level of personal sovereignty. It is no longer enough for him to live within the bounds of common decency; he can now be viewed as an indecent person through no action of his own... in fact, his actions don't matter. He has been robbed of his right and his ability to shape his reputation through the behavioral choices he makes.

He may be oppressed by the hostile environment that a discriminatory public attitude toward him can create; reluctant to confront the stares, whispers, and sometimes open aggressiveness of individuals who have judged him by the accusation, rather than by any evidence. Even though he knows that he did nothing wrong, he may pick up and carry the guilt lobbed at him by a judgmental public. There is a vulnerable, naked-in-public  feeling in knowing that everyone around you may have a bad impression of you in mind as they interact with you, more so when it's a concrete belief that you've committed a crime thought of by most as an atrocity. He may be humiliated and ashamed at what strangers might think of him, made to feel dirty or tainted by the allegations against him.

He may feel like a predatory presence or perverse outcast among other people in response to the knowledge that that is how others see him. This can lead to a level of phobia... fear of interpersonal interaction within the community in which his reputation has been tarnished, or even of going out in public at all. That phobia may be made worse by others' treatment of the victim. He can end up isolating himself and becoming depressed, even suicidal.

There is also the fear of the other potential consequences of those allegations, as described above, all of which can take an emotional toll. As with the experience of rape, that emotional toll can, and often does, last well beyond the duration of the experience of facing false allegations, which can arguably be said to last much longer than the experience of rape.    

However, let us again take this assertion to its logical conclusion. Let's accept, for a moment, the belief that being accused is a less horrible experience than being raped. How does that justify advocating tolerance of the behavior? The argument basically is that because the experience of the victim is thought to not be emotionally traumatic, the crime is not a crime. Taken to its logical extreme, that assertion excuses embezzlement, tax fraud, grave robbing (the victim is dead,) destruction of public property, and a host of other serious crimes which do not emotionally traumatize anyone. Or rather, that we should not prosecute a rapist who victimizes an individual who is too mentally disabled to understand or care about the experience. Since it's not as emotionally upsetting as forcible rape, it's not worth addressing, right?

There is the assertion that addressing and combating the use of false allegations is an attack on actual rape victims. This assertion is based on the pretense of an either-or competition, pitting the rights of rape victims against the rights of the falsely accused. The claims are as follows: First, that the effort to prevent men from being wrongfully convicted would create a legal environment in which legitimate rape allegations would not result in conviction due to the court's requirement for actual evidence; and second, that penalizing women for leveling allegations proved to be false will discourage legitimate rape victims from coming forward.

The first claim, offered as an argument in support of rape victims, is really an attack on due process. What the debater is really articulating is the belief that women should be able to expect to accuse without evidence, yet automatically be believed... or turning it around, that when accused by women, men lose their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the very base upon which the western concept of due process is framed.

The second claim, also offered as an argument in support of rape victims, is really an attack on the value, or weight, of the human rights of men in comparison with the human rights of women. It amounts to the assertion that some men may be subjected to involuntary sacrifice of their rights, reputations, health, families, and freedom, to foster the emotional comfort of some women.

Taking the attitudes of these claims to an extreme end, one could justify the abolition of due process. If affording accused criminals the right to due process is a violation of the rights of crime victims, then there should never even be hearings held to determine the validity of criminal charges involving a victim. As soon as there is an injured party, it doesn't matter whether the party convicted is guilty. It only matters that someone is convicted. Who cares about a few human sacrifices when there are women to protect, right?

Finally, even in the one concession that ever gets made in favor of addressing and effort toward prevention of false rape allegations, there is the move to transfer victim status from the accused to uninvolved women. This is done by stating, as one's reason for condemning the act of false accusation, the fear that public awareness of the existence of false allegations will negatively impact the credibility of real rape victims. Doing this marginalizes the real victim, the falsely accused, and ignores the ordeal he suffers at the hands of his accuser, in favor of steering the discussion back around to a female-centric perspective.  
Of all of the various ways in which feminists dismiss the wrongness, ignore the impact, and marginalize the victims of false rape allegations, this one is both the sneakiest, and the most blatant. It's sneaky in that it involves a pretense of support, and blatant in its designation of men as irrelevant and disposable. It relies solely on the treatment of the human rights of men as having less value or weight than the human rights of women.

That attitude is at the bottom of all of the ways in which feminists dismiss and marginalize male victims of false rape allegations. The hypocrisy is that these self-described fighters for equality cannot abide any acknowledgement that the human rights - or human experience - of men are equal to their own. Doing so would take away the Mantle of the Oppressed that gives women the power of Blame, used to maintain the privilege for which feminists have so passionately fought since the 1960s, and the soapbox from which feminist ideology is preached. This is the way that the feminist response to false rape allegations against men reveals the underlying basis for feminist advocacy; that they fight not for human equality, but for female power, and they're willing to ignore, step on, or sacrifice anyone who gets in between them and their achievement of that goal.
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