Grant Anonymity to the Presumptively Innocent Accused of Rape–COTWA Agrees

Community of the Wrongly Accused
Feb. 18, 2013
The identities of men accused of rape and other sex crimes should be kept secret unless they are found guilty in court, a leading lawyer said yesterday. Maura McGowan, a deputy High Court judge and chief of the professional body for barristers, said the law should protect the identity of those charged with sex offences because the crimes ‘carry such a stigma’.

“Until they have been proven to have done something as awful as this – I think there is a strong argument in cases of this sort, because they carry such stigma with them, to maintain the defendant’s anonymity, until he is convicted,” she said. “But once the defendant is convicted then of course everything should be open to scrutiny and to the public.”

Terry Harrison, who was falsely accused of rape in 2007, told the BBC: “If the person has done a crime as heinous as that, then they should be named and shamed, I agree, but not until they’ve actually been done for it. Innocent until proven guilty is a load of rubbish. I was guilty until I was proven innocent, and even when I was proven innocent I’m still getting judged. I ended up going to jail for something I didn’t do. I was in the paedophile wing, the rapists’ wing, the grass wing. I was there for three months before the DNA results finally came back negative.” The woman who falsely accused Mr Harrison, 42- year-old Shirley Prince, was jailed for three months in 2008 for perverting the course of justice. See here.

COTWA agrees and urges anonymity for persons merely accused, but not convicted, of sex crimes. Here is why:

Since women who accuse men of rape are granted anonymity — under law in the UK and by the voluntary policies of news organizations in the U.S. — then the men accused of rape should be anonymous, too. The same stigma that would keep women from reporting their sexual assaults if they were not granted anonymity maligns innocent men and boys, and sometimes destroys their good names, when they are not granted anonymity. This blog attests to the harm that too often befalls the wrongly accused. The stigmatization from rape and from rape claims is too sides of the same coin, and to be concerned about the stigma to the accuser while ignoring the stigma to the accused is unjust by any measure.

We are always perplexed by those who insist that when it comes to accusers, rape is a different kind of crime warranting anonymity, but when it comes to the accused, the stigma of rape is no different than any other crime. They can’t have it both ways: either the stigma of rape is inordinately severe or it isn’t, and if it is inordinately severe, there is no justification to assume that the social evil of false rape claims doesn’t tarnish men in ways other crimes do not. While we are not convinced that, in the 21st Century, the stigma to women who report they’ve been raped is generally severe, we are certain that there are few things worse in this world than the stigma from being wrongly accused of rape.

Justice for rape victims does not depend on the public shaming and humiliation of the presumptively innocent. For rape claims, the accusation becomes its own conviction in the court of public opinion because it is nearly impossible to undo even the most far-fetched rape claim (that’s because of the he said/she said nature of the claim). Legion are the cases where those wrongly accused of rape have suffered unspeakable injustice due to the vile stigma of the claim. False rape claims have caused innocent men and boys to be killed and to kill themselves; to be beaten, chased, spat upon, and looked upon with suspicion long after they are cleared of wrongdoing. They lose not only their good names but often their jobs, their businesses, their spouses, and the affection of their families and their friends. It is often impossible for the falsely accused to ever obtain gainful employment once the lie hits the news: for the remainder of his life, a falsely accused man will have prospective employers Googling his name and discovering the horrid accusation.

Many accused rapists are already afforded anonymity, without adverse effects to rape victims. In the UK, anonymity orders under Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 are frequently granted to teen boys accused of sex crimes. Moreover, men whose identities cannot be revealed without necessarily revealing the accuser’s identity are usually treated anonymously by the press in both the UK and the U.S. The identities of accused males who fall within these two classes are shielded because, as a matter of public policy, the benefits of shielding their identities are deemed to outweigh the detriments. There is no evidence — none whatsoever — that granting anonymity to these classes of defendants has in any manner hindered the war on rape. Thus, in a real world setting, every hypothetical disaster that would supposedly occur if anonymity were granted has been proven to be disingenuous.

The fact is, more rape victims would “come forward” if the men they accuse were anonymous. The vast majority of rapes, we are told, are of the acquaintance variety. When a woman accuses a male acquaintance of rape and he is publicly identified, it often isn’t difficult to infer who the accuser is. Most rape victims would prefer not to have their identities revealed by inference when they accuse an intimate acquaintance of rape. If the policy underlying anonymity for women is correct, then it is reasonable to assume that a fair number of women are not coming forward because they know their identities will become known when the identities of the men or boys they accuse are publicized.

We need to insist that this issue receive a fair airing in the public square, free of the the shrill, politicized voices of the sexual grievance industry, whose representatives manifest little to no concern for the interests of the wrongly accused.