Representative Akin had good reason to use the term “legitimate rape”
By Attorney Marc Angelucci
September 12, 2012
Representative Todd Akin is in a heap of trouble over his statements about rape. But putting aside his stance on abortion and the credibility of his claim that rape rarely results in pregnancy, Akin had good reason to use the term “legitimate rape. And President Obama missed the point by retorting that “rape is rape.” Yes, rape is rape, but not all rape accusations are true. And that is obviously what Akin meant by the term “legitimate,” for which he should not apologize.
It may not be politically correct to say it, but false claims of rape are not rare. From the nine black teenage boys known as the Scottsboro boys who were falsely accused of rape in Alabama in 1931, to the lacrosse players at Duke University, to the recently exonerated ex-football star Brian Banks and the millions of other falsely accused individuals who received no publicity at all, this country has a long, dark history of false rape accusations against men.
The advent of genetic testing has given us a glimpse of this reality, as more and more innocent men are getting released after years of incarceration for rape convictions. But Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz points out that the publicized cases are the tip of the iceberg, as objective data shows the problem of false rape claims is a serious one and “the percentage of false reports in rape cases is considerably higher than the percentage of false reports for other violent felonies,” partly because false accusers are rarely prosecuted.
For example, Dershowitz cites a 2009 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in which a Purdue sociologist studied rapes in a small Midwestern city and two large universities and found that 40 percent of the accusers admitted they lied about being raped. Among those, half said they lied for an alibi, such as to cover up an affair. Another study by the U.S. Air Force found similar results, and the most common reasons the accusers gave for making the false rape claims were “spite or revenge,” “feelings of guilt or shame,” and to cover up an affair.”
At Hofstra University in Long Island, for instance, a woman accused five men of gang raping her in a dormitory bathroom, but then recanted after a videotape showed her wholeheartedly participating in the group sex. Four of the men served time in jail before the woman recanted.
Granted, some accusers recant even when the claim is true. But it is also very likely that most false accusers do not recant at all. So there are two sides to that coin.
And there are other motives as well, ranging from mental illness to the completely outlandish. In one case, two women falsely accused a cab driver of rape because they didn’t want to pay the cab fare. Another woman falsely accused a man of rape because he forgot her name.
This is in no way to undermine true rape victims. Rape is a heinous crime that deserves serious jail time. But so are false accusations. Conviction or not, a false rape claim can destroy a person both psychologically and economically. According to Warren Farrell, author of The Myth of Male Power, false rape claims are a form of psychological rape and should face the same penalty that the accused faced.
Politics aside, false accusations of rape are a serious problem that should not be ignored out of political correctness. And that reason, I cannot accept Mr. Akin’s apology.