A false rape accusation can ruin your life—men who have been so unfortunate to go through it never fully recover.
To be falsely accused of rape in itself is an ominous stain that will always stay with the accused person. This is true whether the court acquits or the accuser withdraws the allegation.
One victim of false rape accusation, described the experience as nothing compared to what terrorist organizations could dish out.
History is replete with stories of women who made false rape or attempted rape accusations against men.
We are familiar with the story of Joseph in the Bible, who went to prison over a false accusation of attempted rape. It took a miraculous turn of events for him to have been released. If not, he would have spent the rest of his life languishing in his jail cell.
Most falsely accused people have not been as lucky as Joseph. Take the case of Gary Dotson, convicted in 1979 for the rape of Cathleen Cromwell. Unfortunately, Dotson who was 24 at that time, and utterly innocent of the crime, was sentenced to 25-50 years imprisonment.
Dotson spent many years in jail, and had Cromwell not confessed, he would have served the full term.
The most challenging part of a false rape accusation is that it is the accuser’s words against the accused. The principle of law is that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In rape cases, however, most people turn the law on its head.
Recently in 2018, two men, Malcolm Alexander and Christopher Miller were released from prison after serving 38 years and 16 years, respectively for rape, before DNA evidence proved their innocence.
But these are the lucky ones. There is no doubt that there are men in jail for rape or sexual assault offenses they didn’t commit. If your false accuser goes to her grave with the truth, or DNA evidence does not come to your rescue, then your fate is sealed.
Classification of False Rape Accusations.
There is an apparent confusion of what constitutes false rape accusation. This confusion stems from an attempt to classify rape reports that are considered false.
Rape reports have been classified into some of the following groups.
- Baseless Rape Reports: These are reports of rape or sexual assault incidences that, although considered truthful, do not contain the elements required to file a criminal charge.
- Unsubstantiated Rape Reports: When rape reports do not provide sufficient evidence to conclude that a crime occurred, it is called unsubstantiated.
- Uninvestigated Rape Reports: There are situations where rape reports are made, but the victim, for one reason or another, refuses to co-operate with investigators.
- Inconsistent Rape Reports: Some accounts of rape incidents are so inconsistent that their successful prosecution is not probable.
Our focus is on rape accusations that were proved beyond doubt to be false and include cases;
- Where the accuser made the story up.
- Where investigations factually proved the rape never occurred.
- When DNA was used to exonerate the accused.
Why Some Women Make False Rape Accusations.
No one knows all the motives behind why some women make false rape accusations against men. However, the following are some of the reasons that drive women to that extreme.
History is full of stories that give credence to the statement that hell hath no fury as a woman scorned.
For many women, sex is a serious business, and usually a way to cement and commit to a relationship. Some women allege rape to get back at men who refuse to commit to a permanent relationship.
In India, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report of 2006 shows that about a quarter of all reported rape cases were based on false promise of marriage.
Money is a good motivator- and this is also true for women who make false rape accusations against men.
False rape accusation is precisely what happened to John (not his real name). He was a married man, who was involved in an illicit affair with a divorcee. When John could not meet up with the high financial demands of the woman, she accused him of raping her.
Rich men and those with strong financial backgrounds are usually victims of these kinds of false rape accusations.
Making a false rape accusation as a way to establish alibi. It is common among girls and young women under the control of their parents, or some kind of authority.
Young women and girls, who are under the control of someone, live under some strict rules of behavior. When these women exceed the boundaries set for them, they sometimes make false allegations to avoid getting into trouble.
Many teenagers and young women, who have gotten pregnant by engaging in premarital sex, claim they were raped. Their parents incensed by these allegations will quickly bring charges against the accused.
In some cases, false rape accusations have been made by women who want to bring some attention to themselves.
Most victims of this type of false rape accusation are famous people and stars who are always in the limelight.
Conor Oberst, a member of the musical band Bright Eyes, had a bitter taste of this kind of false rape accusation in 2013. Joanie Faircloth accused Oberst of raping her a decade earlier, and that caused quite a scandal.
A few months after first making the accusation, Faircloth confessed that the rape never happened. According to her she was passing through a difficult period in her life, and made up those lies to get some attention.
Sometimes when women do not want to face condemnation, they seek the sympathy of the public.
Recently in Cyprus, a British woman had consensual sex with some Israeli boys who recorded the sex act. Fearing embarrassment and reproach from her family and the public, she claimed the boys raped her.
Some women have an uncanny record of accusing almost every man they come across of raping them. Women like these are mentally unstable and usually suffer from psychosis.
In the United Kingdom, between 2010 and 2013, Jemma Beale, who was then in her early twenties, made 15 false rape claims against 15 different men, one of whom was sent to prison for 7 years.
In very conservative societies, premarital sex, especially among women, is looked upon with disapproval. So some parents pressure their sexually active daughters to claim they were raped, to cover up the shame.
Also, in an attempt to cover up an adulterous relationship, some women make false rape accusations against men.
The Concept of Rape.
Rape is the most serious of all sexual offenses, and is punishable with life imprisonment in most jurisdictions.
In simple terms, rape is having unlawful sexual intercourse with someone without the person’s consent. It is still rape where the consent is obtained by force, threat, intimidation, or false or fraudulent representation.
In some jurisdictions, for example, in Nigeria, rape is a gender-based crime because a woman cannot be guilty of committing rape upon a man. But in other jurisdictions, the gender of the accused does not matter. Once there is a penetration of the anus, mouth, or vagina, by a sex organ, body part, or object.
The Question of Consent.
The issue of consent is always at the forefront of all rape cases. The prosecution must prove that at the time of the alleged offense, there was no consent from the victim.
Consent obtained by force, threat, intimidation, fraud, or when the victim is incapable of giving consent is not consent.
The Gravity of False Rape Accusation.
Some people have tried to point out that the percentage of false rape accusations is small when compared to the total number of rape reports. There is, however, no agreement on the exact fraction of false rape reports. Many researches put it at between 2 and 10 percent.
But others have argued that whatever the percentage, false rape accusations happen. According to them, it is like reminding people that only a small percentage of robberies end in murder.
The shame associated with false rape accusations will always hang around those who are accused of it. Rape allegation never entirely goes away, whether founded or unfounded.
The Fear of False Rape Accusation.
For many men, around the world, especially in the United States, where the #metoo movement has taken off, the fear of false rape accusations is the beginning of wisdom.
This fear has led to a dramatic change in the way men and women relate, especially in the workplace. Some reports say that men are now apprehensive in hiring or mentoring women in their establishments.
While some have accused men of paranoia, others have defended them saying they are only trying to play safe. According to some people, false rape accusation has been elevated to an art form by some women’s group.
There are now sites where anonymous and faceless women can go and make anonymous sexual assault allegations against men. Some men have, based on unverified allegations from faceless women, lost their jobs, and friends.
Penalty for Rape.
The consequences of rape conviction are better imagined than experienced. Rape is a grave offense, and those convicted will spend many years in jail. Recently there have been convictions of high profile individuals, like Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein, for rape and other sexual offenses.
Consequences of Rape Conviction.
Apart from spending multiple numbers of years in prison, people convicted of rape and other sexual offenses face sanctions like
- Exclusion from holding public offices.
- Disqualification from certain posts.
- Loss of membership in some professional bodies.
- Being registered as a sex offender.
- Exclusion from some social welfare programs.
- Wearing electronic tags
- Losing custody of your children, etc.
Dealing with False Rape Accusation.
If you are facing false rape accusations, the way you handle it can be the difference between your freedom and spending a long, long time in prison.
The following are some of the steps you can take to save your hide and reputation.
Don’t Take a False Rape Accusation Lightly
Some people falsely accused of rape find it so incredulous that they don’t take it seriously.
Unfortunately for the accused person, the state takes every allegation of rape very seriously. The prosecution, therefore, will use every resource it has to investigate and prove that allegation.
Consult a Lawyer Immediately.
Consulting a lawyer immediately you become aware of a false rape accusation against you will help in your defense.
False rape accusations can be made against you,
- through a phone call,
- through an e-mail or instant messaging app,
- on the internet website, social media or an online forum,
- or through word of mouth.
When someone makes a false rape accusation against you through any of these media, consult your lawyer immediately.
Do not wait for the accuser to make a formal demand or for the security agencies to arrest you. Do not also wait for the prosecution to file charges against you before you see a lawyer.
Time is of the essence in rape cases. So the earlier you tell the lawyer your side of the story, the better for you. Your lawyer will know the steps to take to defend your interests and prevent the matter from worsening.
When Faircloth falsely accused Conor Oberst of rape, he consulted a lawyer who took some actions, including suing the accuser which made her confess and apologize.
Do Not Contact Your Accuser.
Many people falsely accused of rape are so astounded by the allegation that they quickly try to confront their accusers. Big mistake!
Everyone will misinterpret any attempt to contact someone who has just made a grave allegation of rape against you.
People wrongly accused of rape should also avoid any form of verbal or written communication with the accuser. Passions usually run wild during these periods. You might say something that will give credence to the false allegation.
If you must communicate something to the accuser, do it through your lawyer, who will know the right things to say.
Don’t Hide Anything from the Lawyer.
People say, you should not hide anything from the doctor, the priest, and the lawyer. When you hire a good lawyer, don’t hide anything from him/her.
Yes, never lie to your lawyer. Remember that anything you say to the lawyer is privileged information. Many people who did not heed the admonition, not to lie to the lawyer, lived to regret it.
Every little detail of what transpired between you and your accuser is essential. When you are facing a false rape accusation is not the time to have selective amnesia. You never know which detail will help in exonerating you.
Remedy for Victims of False Rape Accusation .
While the damage that may occur following a false rape accusation can be enormous, there are certain remedies available to one wrongly accused.
There are both civil and criminal remedies available for one falsely accused of rape.
The civil remedies include claims for defamation of character, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment.
These civil remedies are only available to an accused person cleared of any wrongdoing by the court. It is also for those who have had the false rape allegation against them retracted or withdrawn. Some civil remedies include:
- It is a situation where a party has made false and damaging statements that have caused injury to another’s reputation. There are two types of defamation – slander, and libel.
Slander occurs where the damaging words are spoken to a third party, while libel is when the damaging statement is written and published.
Usually, people facing rape charges suffer damaged reputation. Most of them lose their jobs and find it extremely difficult to secure one even after their accusers have dropped the charges.
When a woman defames your character by making a false rape accusation, the court can hold her liable for damages resulting from such an allegation.
- Malicious Prosecution.
You can bring a claim of malicious prosecution against someone who deliberately made false allegations against you that resulted in your prosecution, which ended in your favor.
- False Imprisonment.
Victims of false rape accusations who have been imprisoned or detained in any form can bring an action for false imprisonment.
Making a false rape accusation can make one liable for prosecution and, if convicted, to many years of imprisonment.
Jemma Beale, who falsely accused multiple men of rape and sexual assault was finally convicted and sent to 10 years imprisonment.
Wrapping things Up.
False rape accusations can negatively affect both the accuser and the accused. It literally tears families apart. And it turns lives upside down. The consequences of having a false rape allegation made against you can linger and also affect your family members.
Victims of false rape accusations suffer economic, emotional, and psychological distress, which is what happened to John, mentioned earlier in this article. Apart from the money he spent clearing his name, he lost the trust of his wife and children.
While the vast majority of rape reports and complaints are true, the few people that make false rape reports are the greatest enemies of rape victims.
Photo by U.S. Marshals Service