False Rape Accusations

alia_bhatt_4_0There were many news stories on women making false rape accusations against men, in the recent past. When this happens, most people assume that this might be rare. Why would a woman do this? Of course, in offices, what happens often can at best be expressed along these lines: The office harlot’s attempt to nail a man, again, fell flat. Then all the contemptible mediocrities that were hiding behind the rocks for long, seething with resentment, came crawling out to ruin the superior man—to get closure.

Many columnists have pointed out that it is unfair to shift the burden of the proof to the accused, in a rape case. But, how would we know whether there should be a strong presumption in favor of the “victim” or not? Find out how common false accusations are. That seems to be the only way there is. A typical scenario:

“The ‘Rohtak Sisters’  is a curious case which started with a video upload showing the two sisters beating eve-teasers in a public transport bus. Hyped by the media, these sisters were hailed as brave hearts who fought back against sexual abuse. Haryana Government even announced that the girls will be honored on the occasion of Republic Day. Few days later a second video was released which showed these sisters beating another guy in Public Park for not so clear reasons. And then local witnesses started giving statements against these sisters blaming them of occasionally harassing and falsely accusing men of sexual abuse.”

Deepika Narayan Bharadwaj tries to find out the truth here.

Now, contra feminist dogma, evolutionary psychologists have always known that a man being victimized by rumors, gossip and ostracism, and manipulation of public opinion is very common. It is fashionable to say that there “ought to be” a change in the attitude of sexist Indian men. But then, how would we define primitivism? A primitive man rejects facts without giving it the fair hearing it deserves. The feminists are guilty here, not the lone, sane voices.

From A Natural History Of Rape:

“Women have evolved to compete for limited resources and mates not so much by direct physical aggression as by indirect and low-cost (relative to physical aggression) means. In fact, research shows that in social competition human females use a sophisticated suite of indirect, low-cost tactics. Girls and women, relative to boys and men, tell more false stories about adversaries, gossip about them, start rumors about them, and use ostracism and manipulation of public opinion as tactics. We know of no studies of social knowledge that males and females differ in these ways, but we predict that such studies would reveal that such knowledge exists. Thus, the requirement for corroboration in rape cases may reflect, in part, evolved knowledge of the tactics females may use in social competition. We suggest, also, that people are especially concerned about the credibility of women’s allegations when sex is involved. As we have mentioned, people everywhere understand sex to be something that women have and that men want. This intuition about social life arises from the sex difference in minimum investment necessary for the production of offspring. That males want sex itself appears to have selected, in human evolutionary history, for females who used sex and promises of sex to manipulate men and get resources from them. Clearly, women behave this way far more often than men. Studies reveal that, relative to men, women seem to be more deceitful about their sexual interest in individuals of the opposite sex, about sexual arousal, and about personal sexual history (e.g., claiming to have had fewer partners than the actual number). Studies also suggest that women are more deceitful with respect to mateship infidelity. Thus, especially when sex is involved (as it is in rape), there may be an evolved intuition that women sometimes lie for their own gain. This is not to say that men don’t lie about sexual matters. They obviously do, and presumably for personal gain, because a high number of sex partners is associated with high status and high self-esteem in men, and not in women. However, social intuition about women’s use of sexual allegations, in combination with their use of low-cost competitive tactics, may lead to skepticism and to reluctance to judge in favor of a woman who “cries rape.” False rape allegations have received little systematic study. To some feminists, the concept of false rape allegation itself constitutes discriminatory harassment. However, a careful study of 109 rape cases in the United States found 41 percent of rape accusations to be false as evidenced by the women’s own recantations. The women studied gave three reasons for their false reports: providing an alibi for a consensual sexual encounter that might have led to pregnancy, seeking revenge against a rejecting consensual male partner, and obtaining sympathy and attention from kin and/or friends. Kanin emphasizes that false rape allegations “reflect desperate efforts to cope with personal and social stress situations”.

Scott Alexander has some of the best arguments I have ever read on this, and a good guesstimate:

“Many scholars critique the police’s judgment, suggesting many police officers automatically dismiss anyone who doesn’t fit their profile of a “typical rape victim”. A police-based study that took pains to avoid this failure mode by investigating all cases very aggressively (Kanin 1994) was criticized for what I think are ideological reasons – they primarily seemed to amount to the worry that the aggressive investigations stigmatized rape victims, which would make them so flustered that they would falsely recant. Certainly possible. On the other hand, if you dismiss studies for not investigating thoroughly enough and for investigating thoroughly, there will never be any study you can’t dismiss. So while not necessarily endorsing Kanin and the similar studies in this range, I think they make a useful “not provably true” upper bound to contrast with the “near-provably false” lower bound of 2%-10%. But this only represents the number of false rape accusations that get reported to the police. 80% of rapes never make it to the police. Might false rape accusations be similar? Suppose you are a woman who wants to destroy a guy’s reputation for some reason. Do you go to the police station, open up a legal case, get yourself tested with an invasive rape kit, hire an attorney, put yourself through a trial which may take years and involve your reputation being dragged through the mud, accept that you probably won’t get a conviction anyway given that you have no evidence – and take the risk of jail time if you’re caught lying? Or do you walk to the other side of the quad and bring it up to your school administrator, who has just declared to the national news that she thinks all men accused of rape should be automatically expelled from the college, without any investigation, regardless of whether there is any evidence? Or if even the school administrator isn’t guilty-until-proven-innocent enough for you, why not just go to a bunch of your friends, tell them your ex-boyfriend raped you, and trust them to spread the accusation all over your community? Then it doesn’t even matter whether anyone believes you or not, the rumor is still out there. This last one is the one that happened to me. I wasn’t the ex-boyfriend (thank God). I was the friend who was told about it. I took it very very seriously, investigated as best I could, and eventually became extremely confident that the accusation was false. No, you don’t know the people involved. No, I won’t give you personal details. No, I won’t tell you how I became certain that the accusation was false because that would involve personal details. Yes, that leaves you a lot of room to accuse me of lying if you want. So I know three men who have been accused of rape in a way that did not involve the police, and none (as far as I know) who have been accused in a way that did. This suggests that like rapes themselves, most false rape accusations never reach law enforcement. While rape victims have some incentives to report their cases to the police – a desire for justice, a desire for safety, the belief that the evidence will support them – false accusers have very strong incentives not to – too much work, easier revenge through other means, knowledge that the evidence is unlikely to support them, fear of getting in trouble for perjury if their deception gets out. So I consider it a very conservative estimate to say that the ratio of unreported to reported false accusations is 4:1 – the same as it is with rapes. A more realistic estimate might be as high as double or triple that.”

Today, we have mail archives, chat logs and CCTV footages. Many false accusations and selective representations of reality are harder to maintain. Many such women won’t get very far. But, does that matter?

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