Accusation and Refutation

The following began as a result of an accusation made during the #metoo movement of Oct 2017. Originally, I set about simply refuting the false accusation made against me but, as my personal situation developed, my perspective changed. As the movement grew in the public forum, this story seemed to take on implications beyond my immediate social group. What started as simply an attempt to offer the other side, grew to include many subjects that I never expected, some complex and sensitive subjects that I’ve done my best to cover as delicately as I can. I’ve also tried to be as sensitive as possible to those involved and, as this will be public, I’ve chosen to make this entire account anonymously and redacted all the attached supplements.

Since this will also serve as my refutation to the false accusation, you may find yourself at this page with personal knowledge of those involved looking for some definitive judgment in what happened. If that’s the case, in the end, you probably won’t be satisfied. It’s he said/she said, as these things often are, and only one person is telling the truth. This is simply my account. You’ll have to decide what you believe.

So, the story: I met the subject of this account, known here as J, in 2009. We dated briefly over the course of a volatile few months of her life following her divorce. There were several good qualities to J – she was attractive, charming, adoring and endearing and I liked her. But as the weeks passed, the relationship became more and more unstable. There was a distinct emotional intensity in nearly every aspect. Within weeks, other characteristics of J began to emerge, such as jealousy (2), alcohol excess leading (4) to black outs, over-attachment (2) and erratic moods. The relationship became troubled. In previous versions of this account, I went into great detail about these events, thinking it important to illustrate the mental state of my accuser at that time. However, now the situation has changed and to discuss many of these events could be taken as too defamatory to her. I’m choosing instead, to only discuss the last night we spent together, as it effectively illustrates much of the relevant context. It is also the night in which the accusation is based.

For several days proceeding the last night we were together, in Jan 2010, our relationship had been fairly rocky. This was the result of a volatile evening in which J had jealously confronted my best friend of more than 2 decades, a woman who J thought I might have been dating (2). This lead to some tension between us but, after a few days, things eventually thawed. She called me one night while I was working. I called her when my shift ended. She had been out drinking, as had I. She asked what my plans were. I told her I was grabbing a bite and heading home. She then told me that she hadn’t eaten all day and asked if I would bring her something. I agreed, I hit a drive through and drove over to her house. We ate our burgers and after a little conversation, J initiated sex, also not uncommon for the relationship.

At this point, I could go into to detail describing our sex life but I’m choosing not to. Everything that happened this night was consensual, as it had been throughout the relationship. The real point of this account is not necessarily to describe our sex life or refute any specific claim but rather to present the context in which a false rape accusation could, and has been, made.

After sex, we laid in bed for a while, talking. At a point, J shifted the conversation towards the relationship and some of the previously mentioned troubles. As it was late and we had been drinking, I tried to avoid this topic. It was a long conversation that I didn’t want to get into. J persisted and things became tense. J continued to have the conversation. I became more and more impatient and finally I told her that we should continue the conversation the next day. I got out of bed and started getting ready to leave. At this point, J became very upset. This made me want to leave even more. She was sobbing, throwing things, screaming (1, 6, 8)– questioning why I was leaving, why I didn’t want to be with her – and most vivid of all my memories that night – why I didn’t love her when she loved me.

At this, my frustration came pouring. I told her she didn’t know what love was. I didn’t think she knew who I was because she was always drunk. I told her I was the guy that brought her burgers when she couldn’t feed herself, I was the guy that drove her home when she passed out in bars, that I wasn’t her boyfriend, I was her babysitter, that I didn’t love her. I stormed out. This was the last direct contact I had with J for several years. At that time, I felt guilt about what I had said. I wasn’t trying to be cruel – I was honest and I believed every word that I had said – but still, I knew my words had hurt her. I thought about calling or going back but in the end, I decided to let it cool off. The next day I called and got her voice mail. I tried several times over the next few days to get in touch, reaching out to friends, none of which had heard from her. It wasn’t until a week later that I heard she had self-harmed (5) and was Baker Acted. Shortly there after, I heard she had been admitted to an inpatient treatment center for a longer duration.

At the news of this, I was naturally distressed. Despite the fight and troubles, I did care about J. That was, and remains, the only time I’ve been that close to something like that. I felt guilt that I had missed the warning signs and about the fight. I sought counseling to help me process this. They said my feelings were natural and common among people in my situation. We talked about the relationship and I began to see J differently – rather than the emotional, erratic, drunk I had dated, I started to see her as a deeply troubled person who had medicated with alcohol. I wrote down much of the relationship at that time with all its many darker moments. Deeper issues began to emerge as I did this. It seemed the events leading up to this night had been set in motion long before I ever met her. I suspected some deeper mental issues.

Here, I’d like to break the narrative for a moment to point out that this is not some random night from years ago. Perhaps, in situations like this, that might be the case. Surely, if it were any other random night when alcohol was involved, my recollections wouldn’t be as clear. Had J just passed out as any number of nights before, the same could be said. Had I just stayed the night, the same could be said. But those things didn’t happen.

That was my last direct contact with J. I did hear about her from time to time. I would hear things she had said in the months after. The accusations started around this time. Not of rape but other things. Some were the more common “he’s an asshole” type. Others were more bizarre. Of these, the most odd was when, months later, she accused me of breaking into her house to steal DVDs. She had a friend call to confront me. I hadn’t. As the months passed, J came up less and less. Years passed. It wasn’t until 2013 that she came back into my life. We were at the same party and her boyfriend at the time confronted me about some offense, but with no details. After this, I wrote the boyfriend a message trying to keep the peace.

The next interaction was about a year later in 2014. She showed up at a well-publicized show I was playing. One of her group confronted me, slapped me, and was kicked out of the venue. Another threatened me. This was the first time I heard “rape” in relation to J. I took this more seriously. I considered my options. Started researching J and calling mutual friends to get information. I heard a couple versions of the rape accusation. I also learned that she was going through a foreclosure and bankruptcy, she was drinking and she was handling all this badly. Based on my time with her when she seemed to be struggling with similar things, the outcome then and my sympathy for her, I ultimately decided to let it go. I didn’t want to push her. I did take some precautions – I blocked her on social platforms thinking that perhaps I could partially prevent further interactions if she couldn’t see what I was doing. She tried to add me on linkedin shortly thereafter but after that, things seemed to settle down. There were the occasional interactions, typically at a bar where we both were. I tried to keep my distance. These were mostly uneventful. Life went on.

And so, for much of the next 3 years, things were quiet as far as J was concerned until on Oct 16, 2017, during the #metoo movement, when she posted on FB that I raped her in 2007. She tagged my business and band and encouraged her followers to share the post. I messaged her under guidance of an attorney, to remove the post under threat of legal action. She did, but continued to allude to the post and continued to private message people. In the initial panic of the situation, I considered many things. I drafted several versions of a response but settled on this.

I don’t think this was a planned post. It seems as though she were egged on by comments on other posts before the accusation. With her impulsive nature, perhaps she didn’t try to verify the date. It’s easily verifiable when we met. Perhaps she does in fact believe it was in 2007 or perhaps charitably, it could be assumed a typo. Either way, it does begin to cast some suspicion on the claim. There is often a presumption that I must know the accusation. In truth, I didn’t know that sex was part of J’s actions against me until 2014. At that time, I heard a few versions of the story through mutual friends. In the weeks after the post, the number of versions grew. So it seemed necessary to understand the accusation beyond the vague, and demonstrably incorrect post and the few vague versions that I heard from others.

As I mentioned in the message, I had sent an email to J. At first she declined, but a few weeks later, she did call me. It was a Monday morning and I was at work. I was very surprised and not at all prepared. Still, I tried to have an honest conversation with her and for the first time, I heard the claim from her directly. To be honest, our two versions of the events aren’t that dissimilar. She acknowledges that we were having consensual sex. But then, where I remember a somewhat drunk and awkward, but consensual, 45 seconds or so, she’s added a violent assault. Naturally, she’s also removed consent. She’s also revised the moments after to exclude the conversation and argument. During the phone conversation, she repeated the same lines over and over, somewhat script like, telling me a version of events that simply did not happen. I explained multiple times that I didn’t remember it like that, trying to be more diplomatic than saying that it didn’t happen that way. I tried to shift the conversation to the context of the night. I tried to discuss the events before and after. She did not want to talk about anything other than the exact version of events that she was telling me. In the end, no closure was reached. I can’t say that I was surprised given the situation. I tried multiple times to suggest that we talk with a therapist or mediator. She declined.

When the thought first occurred to me to talk to her directly, I was willing to accept various causes, and even some fault, for the situation: there may have been some crossed signals or some portion of the night that we remembered differently, that it was very likely that she had gaps in her memory as a blackout drinker would, or that her alcohol had some how invalidated her consent, as seems the cause in similar situations or, considering comments like this, where she indicates that considering a woman “disposable” is somehow rape validated her claim. I was fully willing to accept that I had hurt her feelings with my insensitive words and that possibly she felt used since I left. I was fully prepared to acknowledge her suffering and struggles over the years. I was willing to sympathize with her. I truly wanted to listen to her pain and offer some peace to the situation. That however, only seemed possible in J’s mind if I accepted her exact version of events. I refuse to do this. I do not have to ignore reality and accept some false narrative just because she believes or feels something, or because she’s suffered, or because I would like to heal the situation.

And so again, if you want a definitive verdict, you’re not likely to be satisfied. After all, there were two people alone in a room. I can’t prove what happened that night. It’s simply he said/she said. Or rather, in this case, it’s actually he said/she said/she said/etc. In the initial months after the night, she had conversations with friends about these events. Some of these are mutual friends to us both. I’ve asked a few of them for their accounts. In one version, she acknowledged that something I said hurt her and that’s why she tried to “kill herself” – this is at odds with her claim that we never had an argument. In one of the more detailed conversations, another mutual friend said that she only mentioned the sex with a little embarrassment but there was no mention of rape or violence and that she was distinctly more upset by the fact that I left after. This person assured me that had J mentioned anything that sounded like rape, she would have encouraged her to report. That never happened. At this point, I’ve heard several various versions of this account. The details are different in each. In some versions, she’s sober, in others she’s not. Moments before and after are varied. It depends on who you ask. I’m basing this on the version she told me.

So again, the crux of this account is to not necessarily compare details of accounts but rather provide the context of how this false accusation came to be. I can’t say that I’ll ever know exactly. I’ve speculated over it for the last 3 years since I first heard the claim and come up with several plausible scenarios. A Google search can yield several relevant results of other false accusations and a long list of motivations. While you’re welcome to do your own research, this study was particularly interesting because it asked the accusers about their motivations after the allegations were proven false. In over 60% of the false allegations, “Emotional Gain” was the reason. This includes things like attention, revenge, sympathy, alibi, mental disorder, relabeling and regret and, given that evening as it unfolded, all these seem applicable and likely are, to some degree or another. These feelings are probably common among many failed relationships but they do not end with false allegations of rape. So why is this scenario different?

As I’ve indicated, I suspected deeper psychological issues at work in J. In the hindsight of self-harm, it does seem to bring special significance to events prior. In my previous drafts of this account, I covered lots of these events that seemed to indicate mental instability in J at the time. Fear of being accused of “gas-lighting,” as it’s become so infused into situations like this, made me stop short of voicing my suspicions. Mutual friends had also mentioned J and mental illness before but I was still hesitant. However, all that changed when she made a post. She indicates that she has Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder and that only recently has gotten her medication for these correct. Clearly I’m not a doctor and I’ve never had any opportunity to talk to J about this – at the time we dated, it was never mentioned and I’m not sure she was diagnosed yet. Still, I’ve done a lot of research on the illnesses, as would be expected in these recent weeks, and given my account, the accounts of others and much of her behavior, I think it’s impossible to write this without addressing her psychological issues.

Both of these illnesses, often diagnosed together, are serious. Bipolar, or BD, seemed evident throughout our relationship. I saw several manic episodes, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, always drunk, and so often I dismissed them as an emotional person who would let it out after drinks. In our last night detailed above, this seems evident. Though BD is a serious illness, my research on Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, seemed more relevant to me and so I’ll cover it in greater depth.

Firstly, BPD is diagnosed generally by identifying 5 of 9 character traits in an individual. These traits are:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging. (alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, promiscuity, etc)
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

To me, these signs were present throughout much of the relationship and, in just the brief, one-night account above, at least 5 are present. In my research, I found there are hundreds of anecdotal accounts of interactions with BPD individuals on Youtube and blogs and such. There are several common behaviors attributed to the disease that go beyond the clinical diagnosis. It seems that this particular suite of traits manifests itself in common behaviors over and over. I did find one article, and I acknowledge it’s not an academic paper and rather poorly organized, and a little harsh, that covers a wide array of these BPD behaviors and serves to flesh out the diagnosis. It’s long so I’ll include a few relevant samples here.

“BPD see themselves as always being the victim of other people.  They constantly accuse the people closest to them of acting maliciously against them.”

“Their accusations that others are sabotaging them are often merely projection (pot kettle black) of their own efforts to sabotage and betray coworkers, spouses, and children.”

“Besides being the eternal victim, many BPDs will strive to be seen as heroes, defenders of the truth and the weak. This involves declaring that “bad” people deserve to be punished and then singling them out for months or years of accusations and abuse.”

“..how a BPD acts:

Can’t be alone, can’t stand to be with others, a common neurotic trait.

Makes everyone walk on eggshells – this is a common way of describing other personality disorders as well.

Extreme pride and grandiosity – even though the BPD suffers from a crippling lack of self-esteem, they may give the appearance of being armor plated.  Whatever criticism reaches them is filtered through layer after layer of denial and distortion.  They may be quite proud of their character flaws.

Shame and secrecy – There is a general sense that anything the BPD does in private must never be spoken of.  In selecting the person for group bullying (in the home or workplace) they will single out the truth teller of the group.

Projective Identification – playing the victim by constantly trying to provoke others into being angry.  This not only fills the emotional needs of the BPD, it can nearly make it impossible for observers to determine which person is ill and abusive.

Respect me! – pretend my fake emotions are real. This is common in many mental health problems.

Conflict in all their relationships.  Years of grudges and score keeping

Demands that people join in their mental games. Creates a bubble of chaos where ever they go.

Constant ad hominem attacks – other people have horrible flaws. Often the BPD can’t quite identify their problem, but the BPD is sure those flaws are in other people and they must be punished.

They lack personal boundaries, demand to know what other people are thinking or feeling, and are always digging digging digging for evidence to use against others.

The BPD has a circle of neurotic friendships to provide the attention, validation, and sympathy that they need to survive.

Accusations – effortless lying, crying, incoherent but convincing, probably believe their own lies more than most people believe anything.

Although they may suffer constant guilt, they constantly try to use guilt against others, and pile guilt on their children. You will never hear them say they are sorry about anything.

Obsessed with the “Truth” and accusing other people of lying

Although seemingly armor plated with narcissistic certainly, they will also plunge into periods of depression and self loathing at regular intervals.

Urge to betray and sabotage their own relationships and destroy other peoples relationships.

Use of projection is obvious – the BPD constantly accuses others of being angry, negative, and abusive. And their accusations against others is a projection of their own guilt.”

This all seems relevant to the situation in which I find myself and provides me with the lens which with to view J. While researching BPD, I also found the term “distortion campaign.” It came up in multiple articles but this one seemed particularly interesting. Again, a relevant sample:

“One of the classic behaviors of a person suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder is the vilification campaign. The target is the person against whom the perpetrator Borderline conducts the vilification.  The intent is to destroy the target’s reputation and thereby destroy the target’s relationships with family and friends, employers, co-workers, doctors, teachers, therapists, and others. The intent may even be to force the target to leave the community, put the target in prison, or even kill the target.  As with so many things involving Borderlines and their typical inability to understand or respect boundaries, there really are no limits. They will use basically any means available to them to cause damage to their target, including denigration, endless disparaging remarks, fabrication, false accusations, and even teaching others (including their children!) to lie on their behalf as part of their vilification campaign.”

“Distortion campaigns are often done behind the scenes against people who are or were related or emotionally close to the perpetrator.  They may start months or years before the target is even aware of the campaign.  For instance, the breakup of a relationship is often connected to a distortion campaign against a former partner.  The campaign may have started a long time before the breakup, to give the Borderline “justification” regarding what she or he has done or is about to do to the target, be it having an affairs(s), kicking them out of a home, filing false domestic violence charges, running away with the children, stealing large quantities of joint money and property, or some other hostile actions. By the time the target is aware of the distortions, people around the Borderline may have been hearing for a long time that the target is some evil, horrible, cruel person as part of the distortion campaign.”

“The BP (short for “Borderline Personality” or “Borderline Person”) is likely to make extreme false allegations, distortions, and varied lies to defame and harm her or his former partner and other targets. The BP is also likely to involve many other people in the distortion campaign. Many are passive participants who will listen and believe the BP’s lies. Others become actively involved in spreading them further. The target may find that there are dozens of people, many whom have never met him or her, who believe and repeat the lies of the BP.”

“Often they revolve around false claims of partner abuse, child abuse, perverse sexual behaviors, drug and substance abuse, mental illness, and criminal conduct. BPs tend to pick false accusations that are difficult to disprove. Although we supposedly live in a society in which people are “innocent until proven guilty”, the reality is, that is not how people are treated. This is especially the case when accusations of sexual abuse, child abuse, and spousal abuse are involved. The victims of the distortion campaign often are treated as pariahs or even criminals, assumed to be guilty without any evidence whatsoever.”

“Often BPs tell varying lies to different people who don’t “compare notes” and so don’t see what should be really obvious deception. Often the BP’s emotional intensity and ability to play on people’s emotions makes them master manipulators. People tend to “just believe” because the BP can come across as very charming, warm and friendly. Untrained, uncritical listeners are particularly susceptible at being duped by their lies.”

This last section may suggest a course of action for those who know J. There are several versions. Perhaps a little comparing-notes may help find the truth, or at least find what’s not true.

And so, this seems very applicable given my narrative. Obviously, this doesn’t disprove anything J has said. After all, not all with BPD use distortion campaigns. But J does. There are several campaigns she’s waged in the years since I knew her. I could discuss those but those stories belong to others. So I’ll discuss the campaign that J was employing at the time I knew her. As mentioned previously, she was recently divorced at the time we dated and naturally, she had negative feelings towards her ex-husband. On many occasions, she would openly discuss, with varying degrees of certainty, that her ex was homosexual. I once pressed her for the basis of her suspicion. She indicated it was because they had stopped having sex. I pushed back against that, saying there are several reasons why that could be without him being gay. She did seem to acknowledge the possibility but it didn’t stop her from continuing the rumor for several weeks. Obviously, this isn’t as severe as a rape accusation but, I believe, that given her devout Christian upbringing, it was intended as a slur. Even in recent weeks, as I’ve monitored the situation, she’s continued the behavior. In one of her post, she mentioned that I found her through my girlfriend, suggesting that she had blocked me when in fact the opposite is true. Recently, she has laid the groundwork for new campaigns against others. Slight misrepresentations about a text or a simple distortion of a phone conversation, could mark the start of the campaign to cast others as villains. Given a few years, who knows what the accusation could be.

I’d like to add here that I take no pleasure in tearing down a mentally ill person. It may seem harsh to discuss several of these things so publicly. I’ve done my best to only tell the story as necessary. The truth is that J has suffered. The diseases and negative effects on her life have been significant. And I am truly sympathetic to her. This is much of the reason that I’ve never gotten into details about her life. I’ve casually dismissed her as “a mess” or “crazy” in conversations where she comes up. I’ve warned a few people about getting involved with her. But much of this account I thought was better left privately in the past and so that’s where I left it. I’ve known of the accusation for several years now and always felt that the best defense to it was simply the accuser, and her many issues with credibility. So for years, she’s engaged in these attacks and I’ve taken a position of reserved defense. Only now, do I feel obligated to defend myself in depth. After all, public accusations deserve public refutations. It’s taken me a few months to offer this refutation, since I had hoped to avoid this type of defense. I had hoped that maybe with the aid of a therapist or a little conversation, J and I could heal the situation without needing to involve others. But despite my efforts, that doesn’t seem possible.

It should also be noted that she has sobered up in the past year and is apparently medicating for her many issues, though with degrees of success. In the weeks after the post, she was clearly having some emotional issues and eventually went into an outpatient program. While these steps are commendable, BPD cannot be cured through medication, only managed. So perhaps she won’t be as volatile, as self-destructive but only years of therapy are apparently effective to combat the effects of the disease. And even with years of treatment, any gains cannot be retroactively applied to all the years preceding.

So here, I’ve described the nature of this accusation as I see it. None of this proves that her claim is false. If I’ve done my work however, it should be clear that her claim is highly suspicious. Given the combination of factors – history of substance abuse, blackouts, mental illness, emotional gain, various accounts, history of false accusations, etc – I’ve described, skepticism would be the appropriate response. It makes sense, in this situation, with no evidence, and only two competing narratives, the credibility of the narratives should be interrogated. But, in the current moment, I’m not sure that is the case. Certainly, there are those who accept J at her word. After all, #believewomen has been shared countless times on social media. And while some articles do the necessary work of describing the nuance of this movement, acknowledging that there was a time when the accounts of women were given less weight than those of men, and that, rightly, all persons should be treated with equality, that isn’t always what happens. Too often, it seems this nuance is lost. Often, “believe women” is interpreted as “disbelieve men.” At least, this seems to be the way J interprets it.

I don’t think “belief” is appropriate or even necessary. There are several areas of human experience – religion, politics, etc – where we are asked to believe. Many of us use a certain amount of reason when deciding how to proceed in these areas. Why would this be any different? Some women do, in fact, lie. Not because they’re women but because they’re human and susceptible to all the moral failings of behavior therein. Obviously, men lie too. So I won’t ask anyone to believe me. I don’t want you to have faith – I want you to think.

But while on the topic, another relationship from my past seems relevant. I’ve made public statements about this in the past but, once again, I feel obligated to address it. It’s often offered by J as a quasi-indictment or evidence for her claim, so addressing it may serve to pull the fangs from that attack. But I also feel this obligation because it informs much of my own thoughts on this recent situation and the much broader conversation currently taking place. And for this one, there’s actually some documentation.

The other story

 

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3 thoughts on “Accusation and Refutation

  1. Interesting story. Feel free to contact me, and we can share thoughts. I can also send you my article on false rape statistics. You will find it interesting, I promise you. I was falsely accused of historic rape by a woman I had never met, and wrote a book about it (“Dry Ice” – check it out on Amazon). I became something of an expert in the field.

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    1. Hey Peter. Thanks for reaching out. I would be interested in your stats since it seems like an area of study not often pursued. I will check out your book as well when I can. As someone who has gone thru a similar experience, I’d be curious as to your thoughts on how I’ve handled this. Unfortunately, it seems there are only difficult paths before me. Since it’s not a criminal matter, it does seem like this will play out in the public conversation. Suing an unemployed, bankrupt, mentally ill women at considerable cost doesn’t seem to be a good route. Just curious what you think. Thanks again for your interest. – BH

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  2. Sorry, I’ve only seen your response now. Here is my article on rape stats (below). Sorry, it’s a bit long! It also refers mainly to UK conditions (though I live in NZ). Most applies to the US however.

    False Rape Accusations

    The Two Percent Myth

    by Peter Joyce

    When discussing rape it is difficult to avoid megaphone English. For some time I have tried to block my ears to the shouting and extract some truth from the claims about the prevalence of rape and especially of false rape accusations. Claims of the latter vary from over eighty percent by the fringe of the men’s rights movement to less than two percent, the figure consistently voiced by women’s groups. Extremists on each side ignore facts and dismiss their opponents with labels like MRA (men’s rights activist) and the venomous feminazi. I have used the abbreviation ARC (anti-rape campaigner) for this article, simply for brevity. It is not intended to be a negative term in itself, even if I disagree with the false accusations figure they allege. Given the difficulty of punishing actual rapists, there is sufficient reason for any woman – or man, for that matter – to be an anti-rape campaigner. I understand the outrage.

    Disappointing though it is for those who crave certainty, no one can pretend to know numbers either of rapes or of false rape accusations. ARCs in most countries stress that rape is vastly under-reported and that it is far too hard to gain convictions of perpetrators who do face trial. The private nature of the crime means they are probably right, but that does not mean they can logically put a figure on this by saying “Only X percent of rapes or sexual assaults end in conviction.” Although we can determine the conviction rates easily enough, the true offence rate is more elusive; rapists are not prosecuted, but alleged rapists are. How can we determine how many unreported rapes occur? Where there is no incriminating forensic evidence and there are no third party witnesses, we cannot simply ask women if they have been raped and, for the records, presume the findings valid. If a rape accusation is made but prosecutors do not pursue it because they are not convinced it is genuine or they are pessimistic about getting a jury to convict, we cannot know for certain the accuser was raped.

    The uncertainty carries over into false accusations. Some real victims report and some real victims do not. Most who report are probably true victims, but an unknown number are liars or fantasists. What do we even label a false report? A genuine victim may wrongly identify her attacker, and a complainant may really have been violated but loses credibility by telling an incidental lie. We should trust no one from either camp who claims to know what the numbers are, and the ARC who claimed on a forum that women are fifty times more likely not to report a real rape than to report a false one was vainly trying to relate one unknowable number to another.

    However, even though it is hard to decide what is right, it is not difficult to show that the ARCs’ two percent figure is almost certainly wrong. The source of the claim is murky enough for legal scholar Michelle Anderson of Villanova Law School to report that “No study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis.” Its supporters defend it in two different ways. In the cruder defence, the number has in effect been plucked out of the air and accepted as a comforting article of dogma, just as Christians once accepted the resurrection. It appeared in print in the 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, by the American feminist Susan Brownmiller, who in turn took it from a speech given by judge Lawrence H Cooke.

    The more sophisticated error does tap into actual data but draws unjustified conclusions. In this form, the figure is based on convictions of false accusers for perverting the course of justice or perhaps a lesser charge such as wasting police time. The clearest example of this comes from the 2012 investigation into false accusations of rape and sexual abuse commissioned by the UK director of public prosecutions and conducted by Alison Levitt QC. The report revealed that in the seventeen months which the report covered there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape, but only 35 for making false rape accusations. This report is often quoted by those who insist false accusations are rare.

    Yet this interpretation has no logical basis. All these numbers reveal is Crown Prosecution Service policies about charging. While it is certainly true that the police do not charge some actual rapists, there are still many rape cases which present sufficient evidence for prosecutors to press charges and allow a jury to decide. The criteria for bringing a case against a suspected false accuser are much more stringent. Sadly, most victims of rape do not gain the satisfaction of seeing their violators punished, and even the accused.me.uk website, which offers support to those falsely accused, concedes that rapists often do not go to trial. However, the site points out that prosecution policies set an even higher evidential bar for trying false accusers, which guarantees that the percentage who face justice is far, far smaller than rapists. The CPS cultivates the illusion of balance by insisting it will pursue false claims “rigorously”, but in fact it has no interest in such a prosecution unless the accusation is provably false – for example, by the unlikely counter-testimony of scores of reliable witnesses or indisputable CCTV footage.

    Even these stringent prosecution criteria are not enough for some police districts in the UK. The head of the (now disbanded) sexual crimes unit of Greater Manchester Police once confirmed that it was GMP policy never to prosecute false complainants because “those making false reports have some sort of vulnerability.” Using the CPS method of basing the frequency of false reports on the number of convictions would therefore consistently yield a false accusation figure of zero for Greater Manchester. It is likely that other police districts in effect follow a similar charging policy but are not forthright enough to admit it.

    Similar obstacles to prosecuting false accusers prevail across the Atlantic. Any detective who is convinced a rape complainant is lying and has sufficient evidence to take a case against her to trial must obtain permission from the prosecutor, who in turn must get the green light from the district attorney. In three states DAs are appointed, but others are elected. Only a brave politician would dare to swim against the tide of the “believe the victim” culture. This means that, as in the UK, only a tiny minority of the most egregious false accusers face justice.

    ARCs can hardly claim not to grasp this disconnect between prosecution rates and the extent of crime. After all, it is precisely the logic they correctly apply to rape itself. They would not for a moment concede that the true number of rapes can be deduced from the number of convictions for rape. In fact, anyone who dared to make such a claim would risk a torrent of fury. Yet they unfailingly accept that the number of false accusations equals the number of convictions for false accusations. As for the CPS, it is astounding that it is so biased in interpreting its own statistics. When it offers low conviction rates as evidence that false accusations are rare, it is hard to know whether its misreading is wilful or just negligent. The former seems more likely, since it is under political pressure to bring more sexual crimes to court. This implies an interest in downplaying the number of false accusations.

    Many studies have found considerably higher rates of false rape accusations than two percent. One investigation was led by Eugene Kanin at Purdue University in 1994. Kanin’s group analysed all rapes reported in an unnamed small American city between 1978 and 1987 and defined a false report as one in which the complainant eventually withdrew the charge and admitted it was false. According to this definition, 41% (45 out of 109 cases) were fabrications. In a shorter but more thorough study, German criminologists Wiebke Steffen and Eric Elsner examined all 1754 rape complaints made in Bavaria in 2000.

    A third of these accusations were judged to be probably not true. No prosecution of an alleged rapist was pursued in half of the total. Reasons for abandoning prosecution were divided into four groups (figures rounded to nearest whole number): lack of evidence 38%; contradictory statements by the women 25%; no punishable action 14%; no offender found 22%. Of the 1754 complainants, 7.4% were investigated for making a false complaint, and of that 7.4%, every single one admitted she had lied. Police prosecuted three-quarters of the false complainants; the other quarter were let off because of mental instability.

    Most interesting is that 7.4% of the 1754 total admitted they had lied. This means that the absolute minimum of false rape complaints in this study is 7.4%. The true percentage of false rape complaints could never be determined, but it must have comprised two numbers: the known 7.4% plus an unknown additional number: those who lied but could hide under enough doubt to escape blame.

    Of course, neither these studies nor any others can ever be the final word because questions can always be raised about how they were conducted. Critics of the Kanin study have detected methodological errors, and they assert that some accusers who recanted may really have been raped, which may be true. The same objection may be made about the German study, and it is easy to protest that Germany is too culturally distinctive for any observers in the UK, North America or Australasia to draw any comparisons.

    Nevertheless, both were exhaustive studies which sought to unearth real data. No one who clings to the two percent figure, which is derived either from an unsourced comment made by one polemicist four decades ago or from modern convictions for false accusations, can claim the logical high ground. At the very least, the German study does underline the critical distinction between known and unknown false accusations – something the CPS report overlooks.

    Rape is a crime that can have devastating effects, and no one with any sense of social justice opposes efforts to bring more criminals to trial. However, ARCs have minimised the number of false complaints by adopting the two percent figure as a matter of faith. In theory, false complaints should outrage ARCs because such complaints allegedly affect the credibility of genuine victims, but there is a puzzling absence of anger; campaigners react as if false accusations are so uncommon that they can simply be discounted. No column on the subject is complete if it fails to remind readers of their rarity. Deborah Tuerkheimer, writing in the Ms magazine blog in April 2017, asserted that “false reports of rape are uncommon.” In a recent article in The Independent, Sarah Green, co-director of the UK’s End Violence Against Women, referred to “the small number of false allegations against men” and lamented that “we are still criminalising extremely vulnerable women.” After the CPS report on false accusations, Women Against Rape in the UK wrote an open letter to the director of public prosecutions, urging that no women ever be prosecuted for making false rape accusations, calling such cases “extremely rare” and insisting that prosecutions are “not in the public interest,” and Slate columnist Ruth Graham went so far as to label those who deny that fake complaints are rare as “bottom feeders”. Perhaps the most callously dismissive comments came from an MSNBC interview in which Bill Keller from the Marshall Project said, “The idea that women make this stuff up is a pernicious myth.”

    Unpunished rape is the greater problem. Yet false reports are far from rare, and their effects are uniquely terrifying. False Allegations: Investigative and Forensic Issues in Fraudulent Reports of Crime is a recent book co-authored by forensic scientist and criminal profiler Brent Turvey, retired Special Victim Squad detective John Savino and forensic psychologist Aurelio Coronado Mares. They also dispel the two percent myth, confirming that it “has no basis in reality.” Savino writes that his Manhattan squad saw false report rates consistently in double digits, and sometimes as high as forty percent. He confirms that false reports “are, for lack of a better word, common.”

    The question of how to handle false complainants remains, whether they are forty percent or just a tenth of one percent. Let us assume that even the discredited two percent is a wild overestimate and Jemma Beale is the only false accuser in the UK. She is the woman who made fifteen rape complaints, gained £15,000 in compensation and had an innocent man put in jail for two years. Another of her victims, in fear of arrest, fled the UK. The effects of her malicious accusations were so far-reaching that she was tried, convicted and sentenced to ten years’ jail. The prosecution called Beale’s life a “construct of bogus victimhood” which had cost the Crown 6,400 hours of investigation and £250,000. Would ARCs and the GMP’s former head of sexual crimes insist that even she is a “vulnerable woman” whose prosecution was not in the public interest? Her victims – not to mention taxpayers – can surely be forgiven for disagreeing.

    Of course, ARCs are concerned about numbers. Real victims may hesitate to report sexual crimes if they have even a slight fear that if the police may turn on them and charge them for making false accusations. As there are probably more genuine victims than false accusers, public interest lies with complainants according to any purely mathematical argument that centres on the greatest justice for the greatest number. Yet this is surely an unfounded fear for real victims. Under present charging policies it is close to impossible for a genuine victim to be charged with making a false complaint, and it certainly would always be counter to public interest for police to charge an accuser simply because there is no evidence either way. Only the most extreme MRA would see this as reasonable.

    ARCs gloss over the exceptional nature of a false rape or sexual complaint. The opprobrium attached to the mere suspicion of being a sexual predator is inherently more damaging than any other false complaint, and current policies make it even more harrowing than it once was. Any false accusation is stressful. However, someone falsely accused of assault, burglary or fraud can be reasonably confident that facts will prevent him from being convicted or even charged. Changes in recent years to charging procedures for sexual accusations mean that an unknowable number of false but convincing “he said/she said” complaints will come to court result in a conviction. This is especially true of historical allegations, because it can be impossible to disprove an accusation that dates back decades. The only people who are not petrified by a false sexual accusation against them are those who have misguided faith in the police and the justice system and are too naïve to understand what may happen to them.

    ARCs may complain that not enough rapists are brought to justice, but there is no doubt that innocent suspects end up behind bars. A high school teacher in Napier, New Zealand, was convicted in August 2017 of raping a pupil more than forty years ago. He protested his innocence, but after all this time there was simply no evidence either way. Even the prosecuting lawyer conceded this, but urged the jury to convict if they detected “a ring of truth” to the complainant’s account. They did so; those who can be convinced to accept the slogan “believe the victim” will, by definition, always detect a ring of truth in a complainant’s account and disregard the traditional presumption of innocence. What would she have to gain by lying? This man may be guilty, but the naïve assumption that underpins his conviction is impossible to reconcile with the traditional yardstick of “beyond reasonable doubt”. In the absence of facts, a convincing courtroom performance can carry the day.

    Moral ambiguity can be hard to endure. From the ARC perspective, it is ethically too messy to accept that false sexual complaints are either more common or more stressful than other false accusations. Their assumptions about false complaints are erroneous, but offer the rhetorical advantage of simplicity. ARCs abhor any claims that complicate the one-dimensional anti-rape message. This can also be seen in campaign placards, such as “Just don’t rape!” that rage at any suggestion that sexual consent is not always straightforward. Acknowledging that false complaints are an injustice clouds the singular and pervasive issue of unpunished rapists. For ARCs the purity of the two-percent figure is reassuring, almost uplifting. It allows them to ignore any unsettling doubts, to put aside a whole dimension of the issue of sexual accusations and focus on the only crisis that matters. Yet it is this persistent and nasty little factoid, in collusion with its deadly partner in crime, the “believe the victim” myth, which has destroyed more lives than Bonnie and Clyde or the Krays.

    That nearly included me and my family. After a woman whom I had never met accused me and others of systematic and repeated historical rape, police interviewed her eight times for a total of over seventeen hours. The police who questioned her had probably done specialist training which follows the “believe the victim” dogma and they had learnt to attribute her wild discrepancies to decades of trauma. After more than seven months of terror, during which the police had no interest in facts of time and place, I was told I would not be charged. I was just lucky; the coin-toss went my way.

    I know two other victims personally. My friend Darren (not his real name) was charged, despite the absence of evidence, after a malicious stepdaughter accused him of molesting her. Thankfully, he was swiftly acquitted, but the whole sordid process was an awful strain. Showing this is not a local phenomenon, my friend Steve was charged when he was living in Singapore, after a deranged co-worker accused him of groping her on the dance floor. Police “investigation” ignored the testimonies of colleagues who attended the function and witnessed nothing untoward. Threatened with further action that would have meant jail, he agreed to a plea bargain. Legal fees cost him $15,000. His real name is…Steve. Like me, he sees no reason to hide away.

    I would like to ask a question to anyone who subscribes to the two percent myth; perhaps Guardian columnist Zoe Williams, who described false accusations as “vanishingly rare”. Ms Williams, do you expect Darren, Steve and me to believe we are the only ones?

    Dry Ice: the True Story of a False Rape Complaint
    by Peter Joyce
    ISBN Print 978-0473-37701-4
    Kindle 978-0-473-37891-2
    Epub 978-0-473-37890-5
    Self-published
    Printed by The Copy Press, Nelson, New Zealand: http://www.copypress.co.nz

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