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False allegations

World Magazine has an article from Lynn Vincent, False convictions, ruined lives, which uses the United States v. Barry case as foundational to a discussion of false confessions. Here are several interesting takeaways.

BOTH CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH AND ANCIENT LITERATURE examine unthinkable acts, including false allegations of rape. A 2017 Dutch study of 57 proven false allegations revealed eight different motives: material gain, alibi, sympathy, attention, regret, a disturbed mental state, relabeling, and revenge.

That last motive applies to the first recorded instance of a false rape accusation, the one leveled against Joseph, son of Jacob, in the book of Genesis. Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s palace guard, looked on Joseph with great favor and put him in charge of his household. Joseph was handsome, and Potiphar’s wife wanted him. Day after day, she tried to seduce him, but he declined her advances. Spurned, she accused Joseph of attempted rape, and Potiphar had him thrown in prison.

In my own cases, I have seen each of the motives in some form or another. The wife who has casual sex and doesn't want to tell her husband, or the wife who has previously had casual sex, has been "threatened" with divorce and offends against the marriage again.

In 2018, during the Kavanaugh-Ford battle, some journalists said only 2 percent of rape allegations are false. A 2006 study of 812 rape cases supported this number. But criminologist Brent E. Turvey and his co-authors, in their 2017 book, False Allegations: Investigative and Forensic Issues in Fraudulent Reports of Crime, said the 2 percent stat “has no basis in reality. Reporting it publicly as a valid frequency rate with any empirical basis is either scientifically negligent or fraudulent.”

There are several problems in identifying false allegations:

  • A refusal to accept there are false reports, often accompanied by the "it's better an innocent man be convicted tostop sexual offenses."
  • A refusal to investigate and conduct legitimate research. Some even advance the pathetic idea that research into actual false allegations will prevent victims coming forward.
  • A lack of clarity on what is required to label an allegation as false. Must the false accuser confess in order to classify the allegation as false? If the false accuser doesn't confess, what amount of evidence is necessary to classify the allegation as false? These are just two of the important questions for researchers.
  • A failure to understand that there are collateral effects on the victim, his family, and real victims of sexual offenses. An innocent man loses reputation, job, suffers retribution, and social stigma. His family--wife and children--also suffer because they are associated with a sex offender. Imagine a child in school being bullied and teased by classmates about her sex offender father. Because of false accusations, real victims may decline to report for fear of not being believed.

AT THE HEIGHT OF THE KAVANAUGH HEARINGS and even now, #MeToo activists seemed to regard men like Barry as acceptable collateral damage, sacrificial lambs whose blood is just payment for what they see as millennia of male violence against women. However, the Bible says “bearing false witness” is a crime, precisely because of the harm it does to the innocent—and to true victims, like me, whose testimony lies in the shadow of doubt created by unaccountable false accusers.

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