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article imageOp-Ed: Debate over charges for false accusations of rape is important

By Calvin Wolf     Dec 3, 2014 in Politics
Rape scandals abound in our media cycle, with headlines including the Bill Cosby rape allegations and the UVA fraternity investigation. While we strive to combat rape, especially on college campuses, what about those who make false accusations of rape?
The media has begun to shine a harsh spotlight on America's alleged "rape culture" on college campuses, as explored by The Huffington Post, where young men, particularly during and after frat parties, prey on intoxicated young women. Critics are vociferously condemning a lax, "boys will be boys" culture at colleges and universities that allows young men to receive lenient punishments for sexual assault and rape. Recently, schools have begun to change their ways, and there has been much buzz over the concept of "affirmative consent" that has become law in California.
With colleges and cops taking allegations of rape much more seriously than in decades past, some have complained that the pendulum of justice has swung too far in the other direction, actually discriminating against men. Many pundits have criticized affirmative consent, such as Cathy Young on TIME, and feel that it is both too vague and ambiguous to be good law and represents a gross overreach of government.
Some bloggers worry that young men will lose their due process rights at colleges and universities, with schools quick to boot accused men from campus to avoid criticism.
In today's news cycle are two high-profile rape scandals: The Bill Cosby rape allegations and the UVA fraternity investigation. With rape so prevalent in the news, TIME's Megan Gibson reports on a looming debate over prosecutions for false accusations of rape.
It is a very important debate, though an uncomfortable one. According to Gibson, this debate is raging across the pond in Britain, where the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is at odds with the nonprofit group Women Against Rape (WAR). CPS is apparently throwing the proverbial book at women accused of falsely accusing men of rape and charging them with the hefty charge of "perverting the course of justice," which can carry a life sentence. WAR is not happy about it and is criticizing CPS for failing to adequately prosecute rapists.
Unfortunately, WAR and Gibson focus on pillorying weak prosecutions of rapists instead of looking at the actual false reporting of rape itself. The two issues are not related. Rapists should be fully and swiftly prosecuted...but government failures in prosecuting alleged rapists should never condone leniency in prosecuting those who would ruin men's lives through false accusations. Two wrongs do not make a right.
The fact that false accusations of rape are comparatively rare also should have no bearing on the intensity of prosecution for that crime. Murder is comparatively rare, so should we be lenient toward murderers? Obviously not.
A false accusation of rape is a heinous crime that can damage a man's life severely and permanently. Arguably, it could be considered a hate crime due to its uniquely gendered nature. Due to entrenched stereotypes, society is likely to forever be suspicious of a man who has ever been accused of rape, even if the accuser later recants.
"She was pressured into recanting," would be a common refrain. "He most have done something," would also be frequently uttered. She remains the virtuous victim and he remains the perpetual suspect.
WAR spokeswoman Lisa Longstaff argues that men who are falsely accused of rape already have sufficient recourse by being able to pursue civil damages. While a man may indeed be able to sue a woman who falsely accused him of rape, is the money he might receive sufficient to overcome the stigma that will haunt him forever? No. A man who has been publicly accused of rape, especially if he went to trial, will forever lose out in life because a quick Internet search removes him from consideration for jobs, dates, and friendships. It will often not matter that he was later exonerated - nobody will want to take the risk.
False accusations of rape are serious crimes and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. In our digital age, the damage caused by a public accusation of rape is crippling. Allowing women who level false accusations of such a heinous crime to receive mere slaps on the wrist is an affront to justice. Rape is a serious crime, one that ruins lives, and its seriousness mandates that the false accusation of it also be treated with the utmost care and sensitivity.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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