England Might Stop Naming Rape Suspects
Minette Marrin writes in the Times of London about a possible progressive development in the UK, and why it's the right thing to do:
A false allegation of rape can ruin a man's life. Even if he is tried and found not guilty, he will still remain suspect in many people's eyes and perhaps at home, too. Rape is notoriously difficult to prove, even when the defendant is clearly guilty, and people always say there is no smoke without fire. So it is almost impossible for a man to survive an accusation of rape without a stain on his name: there will be whispers and worse for the rest of his life. Only a false allegation of paedophilia could be worse.
That must be obvious. So one might imagine that the government's proposal last Friday to grant defendants in rape cases anonymity until proved guilty would be welcomed. On the contrary, activists in the rape lobby were furious. Ruth Hall, of Women against Rape, angrily described this new policy as an insult. It would stop women reporting rape, she claimed, and reinforce the misconception that lots of women who do report rape are lying.
This is nonsense. The subject of rape has a curious way of making the most rational people throw away the most basic principles of justice and sexual equality as well. Surely the most misandrist of feminists would accept that the principles of equality before the law and equality between men and women are not lightly to be dismissed. After all, equality is what the feminist movement has fought so hard for, and the rape lobby is one of the daughters of feminism. And surely they would agree that the presumption of innocence until proved guilty is a central principle of English law.
What is legal sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander. The law rightly protects women in rape trials from the particular miseries involved; it should equally protect male defendants from the corresponding miseries, because every man is innocent until proved guilty.
Of course, she says, if he is found guilty, his name would be made public, just as the woman's would be if he is found not guilty.
Politically correct feminists claim false rape accusations are rare and account for only 2 percent of all reports. Men's rights sites point to research that places the rate as high as 41 percent. These are wildly disparate figures that cannot be reconciled.
This week I stumbled over a passage in a 1996 study published by the U.S. Department of Justice: Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial.
The study documents 28 cases which, "with the exception of one young man of limited mental capacity who pleaded guilty," consist of individuals who were convicted by juries and, then, later exonerated by DNA tests.
At the time of release, they had each served an average of 7 years in prison.
The passage that riveted my attention was a quote from Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck, prominent criminal attorneys and co-founders of the Innocence Project that seeks to release those falsely imprisoned.
They stated, "Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. Specifically, FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have "matched" or included the primary suspect."
The authors continued, "these percentages have remained constant for 7 years, and the National Institute of Justice's informal survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly similar 26 percent exclusion rate."
If the foregoing results can be extrapolated, then the rate of false reports is roughly between 20 (if DNA excludes an accused) to 40 percent (if inconclusive DNA is added). The relatively low estimate of 25 to 26 percent is probably accurate, especially since it is supported by other sources.