Avoiding False Reports of Rape is Everyone’s Responsibility
March 27, 2013
Here on Iowa State’s campus, one of the most recurring issues for students is an issue that has divided the nation for years. That issue is none other than one of the most basic crimes imaginable: rape.
As distinguished from sexual assault, sexual harassment and statutory rape, the term “rape” refers to two or more adults engaging in sexual relations without the consent of each party, and is generally thought of as a man forcing a woman to engage in sexual relations, though this is not always the case.
Despite many well-meaning programs, such as Iowa State’s own Access, that seek to provide any help necessary, victims of rape who report their situation are forced to relive and admit to an event in which their most basic possession — their body — was violated. This may be a hard thing to ask of victims, but these crimes need to be reported.
Such reporting is essential to reducing the incidence of rape, and making sure that justice is given to those that deserve it.
This concept of delivering justice, however, can be applied too liberally. Every year, in addition to the instances of rape that occur, there are some instances of false reports. It would be ludicrous to say that being falsely accused of rape is equivalent to actually being raped.
Equally ludicrous is the idea that false reports of rape occur at a similar frequency to actual instances of rape, but they are still a part of the issues that need to be discussed.
The willful reporting of a false claim of rape is obviously unacceptable, as was the case with Kathleen Furlong, a Tecumseh woman who falsely accused a man she cheated on her boyfriend with of rape. However, these cases are few and far between. Much more common are cases where a person legitimately feels that they were a victim of rape.
Both sides of this issue are fairly well armed. On one hand, rape is such a serious and difficult crime to determine, any and all possible cases need to be looked into. On the other hand, someone accused of rape, even if found innocent, will forever be stigmatized.
Further, by insisting that some regrettable one night stand was rape, the legitimacy of those actually raped is called into question. To suggest that situations where an alleged rapist had no good reason to think that rape was occurring are equivalent to situations where a person was intentionally and maliciously forced into a sexual act is the ultimate form of disrespect to victims of rape.
The issue of addressing questionable reports of rape is a perilous one, because there can never be a clear judgement of such cases as a whole. Each report is a separate event, and cannot be generalized with others by those not present.
Ultimately, when dealing with an issue as intimate as sex, any disagreements as to what occurred will probably end up in a he-said, she-said situation.
The responsibility for combating mistakenly false rape reports, then, falls to the individuals involved. Neither men nor women can be assigned the full responsibility, as both have parts to play.
For their part, women need to be aware of the world around them. It sounds a little ridiculous to suggest that a whole gender must be ever vigilant, lest they be victimized, but the best way to avoid bad results is to try to avoid bad situations.
In the same way that drivers are encouraged to be mindful of their surroundings and to drive defensively, women in general may need to accept that the world around them can be dangerous, and act accordingly.
Men, usually being regarded as the perpetrators of rape, would seem to have a much simpler way to avoid rape charges: Do not rape anyone. This can be more complicated in practice, though, as consent is not always clear. The slogan of “hear and be clear: get a yes” can be a very good starting point, however.
Without pointing any fingers, everyone can take some responsibility to avoid wrongful accusations, so that all resources for rape victims can be devoted to those who really need them, and the actual victims of rape can have their horrible experience taken as seriously as it should be.