The false accusation fallacy. April 20, 2006Posted by Winter in rape.
This is an issue that has really annoyed me for a while. The minute anybody anywhere mentions the possibility of changing anything that may possibly benefit rape victims and lead to more convictions somebody pipes up with “But what about all those women who will make false allegations?” Poor Men, Ruined lives etc, etc. Having finally thought about the reasons why it annoys me in a way that is almost coherent, I’m going to attempt, in a short post to explain why this argument is a big, time-wasting, energy-sucking fallacy.
I have no doubt that having been falsely accused of rape must be devastating for someone, I don’t really think this fits in with debates over helping rape victims, i.e. women who have actually been raped and traumatized. I shall tell you why I think this same old argument gets wheeled out. Frankly when you bring this argument into a discussion that should be focused on women, you make it about men. Not about raped women, but about the behaviour of scheming conniving little bitches towards poor innocent men. When talking about rape survivors you are dealing with a group of people who are predominantly women, and should be focused on the needs of those women. Obviously, by default there is little room to talk about men in this context except for men as rapists. I can see how that may be threatening to some men, an in an attempt to take the emphasis of men as rapists, and as a handy way to enter the debate, wheel out the old false accusation fallacy.
I don’t believe that the issue of false accusations belongs anywhere near any sensible adult conversation about how to support survivors of rape, and how to improve the rape conviction rates. This is why;
- By using the words false accusations you immediately associate rape survivors with falsehood. By sheer implication you are suggesting that many of these women are probably liars, and as a logical extension of that, trying to screw up some poor innocents guys life by accusing him of being a rapist. The last thing any woman who has been raped needs to hear is rhetoric about false accusations. She needs to be reassured that she will be believed and supported. She needs to believe that it was not her fault. SHE DOES NOT NEED TO SPEND TIME AND ENERGY TRYING TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT SHE HAS IN FACT BEEN RAPED IN THE FIRST PLACE.
- Often these arguments seem to imply that if we make it easier to prosecute thousands of women will suddenly jump up and think “He’s pissed me off, I’ll call him a rapist. That’ll teach him.” The processing of rape victims is a long and stressful process that requires a certain amount of courage. Women are not going to put themselves through this lengthy process, which includes internal examination, just to get their kicks. There are not hundreds of women sitting out there just waiting to make false accusations.
- Having been raped still carries with it a stigma. For this reason many women who have been raped do not attempt to prosecute their rapist because they just want to forget about the experience and try and put it behind them. Many women do not want to be in the position of carrying that stigma around. I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a crowd of women out there volunteering for it.
- Having to explain to someone why false accusations aren’t relevant to this discussion takes a lot of time and energy and ultimately diverts the debate from it’s actual perpose.
False accusations are a completely different issue to those concerning rape survivors and prosecution of actual rapes, and they should be treated as such.