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False allegations of rape

By Scott Tibbs, October 22, 2007

I am one of the people Chiara Galimberti complains about in her October 20 column bemoaning comments that "perpetuate myths about sexual crimes." A 19 year old Indiana University student claimed that she was kidnapped in broad daylight, raped, and returned to the same spot where she was kidnapped. She claimed she was "walking in the area southeast of the Jordan Avenue and Law Lane tennis courts". Take a look at the map below:

The red X marks the spot of the IU Police Department's headquarters. The blue X marks the tennis courts where the woman said the alleged attack took place. Even Galimberti would have to admit that the details of the alleged assault are unusual. A kidnapping in broad daylight? She was returned to the same location? This happened across the street from the IU Police Department? The fact that several people on the HeraldTimesOnline.com thought the story was questionable does not mean that we question all women who come forward and say they were raped.

The fact of the matter is that false reports of rape, while rare, do happen. Another 19-year-old IU student admitted to fabricating a kidnapping and "rape" just five months before the alleged kidnapping and rape on September 8. The unnamed victim recanted her story and admitted that she "engaged in consensual sex with a man at a local motel." I was reminded of the earlier fabrication when I read the September 8 article because of the similarities of the two stories.

There are national examples as well. In the spring of 2006, Crystal Gail Mangum fabricated charges of "rape" against three Duke lacrosse players. The three were banned from campus by Duke University president Richard Brodhead, and disgraced former prosecutor Mike Nifong (a Democrat) covered up evidence that exonerated the three men he was attempting to frame for a crime they did not commit. A year after Mangum first fabricated the charge and it was abundantly clear that no "rape" took place, Nifong said that he still believed something happened.

Let's also not forget Tawana Brawley's fabricated charges of "rape" against several prominent men in New York City. Those charges gave notorious racist (and former Democrat candidate for President) Al Sharpton an excuse to destroy the lives of several innocent men. Has Sharpton ever apologized for the Brawley witch hunt? When Sharpton spoke at the Indiana Memorial Union in 2005, his speech was sponsored by the Monroe County Democratic Party.

With one exception, I have attended every Take Back the Night rally for the past several years. I support stiffer penalties against rapists. There is no question that our culture tends to blame the victim of sexual assault, questioning what she was wearing, how suggestively she was acting, whether she was drinking, and where she was. There is never an excuse for sexual violence, but too many people find various reasons to minimize the seriousness of sexual violence in one situation or another. We have a long way to go as a culture.

However, that does not mean we are to automatically believe every allegation of sexual assault without question. Yes, we must support victims. Organizations like Middle Way House are there to provide support to women who come to them; it is not Middle Way's job to question whether the sexual assault really happened or not. I am glad that Middle Way is there to provide this service and I have donated money to them because of the fine work they do.

However, the foundational principle of our criminal justice system is that someone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. While we cannot blame the victim for an assault, we also cannot swing too far in the other direction and automatically assume every man accused of rape is guilty. The feminist movement's focus on automatically believing women who claim to have been raped presents a dangerous and un-American challenge to the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, false allegations of rape hurt not only the men accused of crimes they did not commit, but victims as well. There are several very good articles about this on ifeminists.com from August 5, 2003, July 22, 2003, April 20, 2005 and May 02, 2006.

Galimberti over generalizes (and shows sexism) when she attempts to paint legitimate doubts about a questionable story as a misogynistic and defensive reaction from men. The use of polarizing rhetoric to shame doubters into silence does nothing to help victims of sexual assault. Taking an allegation of rape seriously does not mean blindly accepting it as fact without carefully examining the evidence. A commitment to justice and truth is not incompatible with a ministry of compassion. I hope the rest of the staff at Middle Way House do not share Galimberti's regressive views.