Politico reported that Betsy Devos is planning on including several problematic groups in a discussion about Title IX, specifically the “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) that was released during the Obama Administration instructing schools how they should remain in compliance with Title IX when it comes to sexual harassment and assaults.
I am not surprised one bit that Betsy Devos is planning on meeting with these so called “Men’s Rights Advocacy” groups. These groups have gone so far as to suggest that we consider the use jury nullification and acquit all accused rapists until the “problem” of false rape accusations is dealt with. (Elam and his cohorts have crawfished away from their initial strong support of such an idea and have instead suggested it was akin to a Swiftian suggestion. I don’t believe them for a second.) MRA will focus on the “Kanin Study” to “prove” that false rape accusations make up nearly half of all total rape accusations. They use Kanin to say that false rape accusations are an “epidemic”. The study is flawed for many reasons (unscientific, small sample size, etc) but these MRA groups will cling to it like it is the gospel. No real evidence exists to show that false accusations of rape are any more frequent than false accusations of any other crime. I have also seen MRA claim that a not-guilty finding means the claim was false. This is absolutely untrue.
One of the groups that is actually getting to meet with Devos, The National Coalition of Men, once suggested that Ray Rice wouldn’t have hit his wife had she not annoyed him. This is the kind of people that Devos is valuing in her meeting. One of the planned upcoming projects for this website is going to be an ongoing criticism of these MRA, what they say, and why they are often wrong about the issues they advocate for. MRA will often try and derail conversations about rape by injecting stories of false accusations of rape. They will often try and equate the pain that a rape victim goes through with the pain of a false accusation. The latter in no way comes close to the former.
The DCL includes some very good protections that colleges should set in place for persons who come forward as victims of sexual harassment or assault. However, one thing that I have pointed out previously is the potential problematic nature of both requiring the school to punish rapists instead of enabling law enforcement to do its job better and the requirement that schools use a lesser “preponderance” standard for an accusation of criminal behavior. Schools are often not well suited to investigate and punish people for crimes. Even if they were , the Federal Government shouldn’t be able to set a lower standard to punish someone for criminal behavior when they would have to meet the higher standard if brought to a court of law. If I had my way, I would rewrite the dear colleague letter in a way that kept the protections against harassment during the investigation. I would require the schools to set up counseling services for victims of sex crimes and empower those services to aid students in coming forward and bringing the criminal claims to law enforcement.
One example of why the preponderance standard is a bad idea and why we should leave punishment of criminal investigations to the police is Caleb Warner. The school, using a preponderance standard, kicked Mr. Warner out after he was accused of rape. Police, however, concluded that he did not rape the accuser and instead she was the one who lied. After a long ordeal and multiple attempts at appeals, Warner finally had the ruling against him reversed. However, the damage had already been done.
So my problem here with Devos is not that she is actually wanting to hear from people on both sides of the issue. Had she decided to meet with pretty much anybody else on this issue, perhaps I would even applaud her for listening to both sides of the story in order to try and make an informed decision. Unfortunately, the groups that she is including would just throw the baby out with the bathwater and them doing so would place victims of rape back into the targets of rapists and abusers.
But then the pendulum swings back the other way. One problematic response is from the Wonkette. I agree with the author on most of her points.
- Affirmative consent should be the standard when it comes to consent
- Past sexual history shouldn’t be allowed as proof that rape didn’t occur.
- Ladies nights promote rape culture.
- “Good faith” belief that you didn’t rape, the standard that MRA support, is BS.
So what is my problem? Well, I was once falsely accused of sexually assaulting somebody. I was in high school. My false accuser, “K”, claimed that an assault happened on day one but then came back to see me on day two to hang out. She even asked my friend to leave his room so that we could be alone. No charges were ever brought because it was obvious after the police took her report that her story didn’t hold water. However, the impact of the false accusation has lasted for over 20 years. When a news story reports another clear case of false accusations (like what happened in Hofstra, or Duke, or even the Caleb Warner case) I will have nightmares of it happening again. I react badly simply when someone says something false against me. I have fought very hard to stop myself from always needing to have the last word when people are saying false things about me about anything. And it has only been within the last few years or so that I have realized that my inability to let certain things go when people say false things about me directly pertains to the false accusation in my past. MRA groups have not made it easier on me either. Because of their lies about the frequency and scope of false accusations as well as their impacts, it makes it harder for victims like myself to come forward without being pigeonholed as being one of them.
So when I read the author of the Wonkette story say that lying about sexual assault “is not an actual thing” it makes me mad. It is a thing. It is a thing that happened to me. She is ignoring real pain.
When I read her article that states:
Families Advocating for Campus Equality is a group formed by mothers of sons who have been accused of sexual assault, who are very sad that all these mean women ruined their sons’ bright futures by accusing them of sexual assault, which they know for a fact their good boys never would have done.
I have to wonder what she might have said to my mother, who was also sure that her son did not do such a thing and was worried about my future. Now please do not get me wrong. FACE itself is a horrible group because it dares to suggest that being falsely accused of rape is totally the same thing as being raped. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. Looking at the FACE website I see several issues with what they raise. They want a “definition of incapacity”. How about this, if the person you want to get naked with would be considered too drunk for you to sign a business contract with them, the person is too drunk to consent.
Clearly one can be critical of the tactics used by FACE, or any other MRA group for that matter, by attacking their stances (like equating the pain of rape with the pain of being falsely accused of rape) without being dismissive of real victims of false accusations.
And that is my point. The overall feel of this article is one that is dismissive of people who have legitimately dealt with being falsely accused. And while what happened to us is unlikely to happen to most people, that doesn’t lessen the real impact these accusations have had on our lives. This is a well written article on false accusations and why it is harmful to just ignore their reality. I urge everyone to read it.
But one thing I really do not get is why some people are so quick to try and sweep false accusations under the rug. Every false accusation of rape contributes to the rape culture. Each example where it is shown that someone has lied about being raped makes it that much more harder for victims of rape to come forward and be believed. Do you believe that the Duke Lacrosse case helped or hurt future rape victims? Do you believe that the Hofstra case helped or hurt future rape victims? If you really want to combat rape culture, wouldn’t you aggressively fight against those who falsely accuse? The snide comments about the falsely accused should be saved for those who falsely accuse.
I do disagree with the author on one other point. She says:
HERE IS AN IDEA, DUDES: If you’re not sure, you can ask! It’s not even that hard. The woman is right there, in front of you. Just ask. Like you would with basically anything else you do in life that involves another person, other than, apparently, sticking your dick inside of them.
Asking is not enough. If a person is in front of me who is three sheets to the wind, any affirmative answer given to my question would not be considered acceptable consent.
And to those of you who DO want to have meaningful discussions about false accusations and what should be done about them, I have a couple of tips that will make things better for all of us. Do not go into spaces where rape is being discussed and bring up “false accusations”. Doing so derails needed conversations about rape and often talks over victims of rape who should have their stories heard. Also, do not give false accusations “undue weight”. Understand that while they suck, they are rare. Finally, you need to understand that the presumption of innocence doesn’t mean we have to ignore people who have been raped. We can both embrace the presumption of innocence and treat people who come forward with a rape accusation with decency and respect.
Devos is horrible for meeting with MRA.
MRA are horrible for a stupid number of reasons and should have no input on Title IX
False Accusations are extremely rare but they do happen.
Yes means yes, unless the person is too drunk to consent. At that point, any yes is a no. Just be a good person and get them home safely.
Don’t be a jerk to victims of crimes.