False Accusations of Rape Usually End Up Being Proven False

In May, two men, VanDyke Perry and Gregory Counts, got out of prison after 26 years. They had been convicted of rape, sodomy, and kidnapping, and they were exonerated after new DNA evidence excluded them and after the woman accusing them recanted her story. It should be a textbook case for conservatives who want to argue that young men are at risk for their well-being because they might be accused of sexual assaults or rapes they didn't commit.

The right clings to this notion that the 5% of reported rape cases that end up being classified, for various reasons, as false are an epidemic. As New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens scrawled today, "Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime. This is nothing to sneer at." To be fair, when you're falsely accused of something, you aren't beaten and penetrated, but, you know, other than that, sure, Bret, sure.

But, see, the story of Perry and Counts doesn't fit into whatever anti-woman narrative the right is trying to construct. The two African American men were arrested in 1991 when they were 21 and 19. So a pair of young black men from a poor area of Queens, New York, during the height of the panic over crack addiction didn't really stand much of a chance against a legal system that was more than willing to railroad them. In fact, "investigators had no physical evidence. Semen recovered from the woman did not match the two accused men. The prosecution’s case relied heavily on her testimony, which was inconsistent." This was overzealous prosecution to the extreme.

Yes, what happened to the two men was awful, a tragedy on many levels.  Yet you know what really happens almost every time when a man is falsely accused of rape or assault? An investigation happens and he's cleared. It's stressful, sure, but it's over. And you know what else happens? Lemme give you a short list from the last few months.

- In August, a woman in Montgomery, Alabama, was charged with filing a false police report after she had accused a man of rape.

- In June, a female college student in Connecticut was sentenced to a year in prison for a false rape allegation against two young men.

- In May, police in Waco, Texas, declined to prosecute a woman who had falsely accused an officer of raping her. A body cam on the officer showed that it hadn't happened, but the woman hadn't filed any official report, so she wasn't charged.

Going to police with a false accusation is a crime. And you can go to prison for that crime. That seems to be a pretty big disincentive to anyone who might think about committing that crime.

Also, the fact that most of the false cases are proven false is a pretty big incentive for someone who is falsely accused to want as full an investigation as possible.

Enough already. Enough with the attacks on Christine Blasey Ford. Enough with the bizarre citing of To Kill a Mockingbird by Republicans, as if Brett Kavanaugh is comparable to a black man in the South in the 1930s. Enough with the white man grievance parade. Enough with the painting of women with the broad brush of hysteria. Enough with the failure of empathy and compassion.

Just enough already.