Do you want to know what’s sick? People exist who are upset that there isn’t more rape happening on college campuses. In fact, these people will brutally battle recent studies in order to convince others that more rape is happening, instead of – you know – being glad that it isn’t.
A study released in December 2014 by the U.S. Department of Justice effectively debunked the myth that 1 in 4 college women will be raped, instead revealing the number to be closer to 1 in 52. The study, which included information spanning from 1995 to 2013, revealed that “rape and sexual assault victimizations of students (80%) were more likely than nonstudent victimizations (67%) to go unreported to police,” as well as the fact that “student victims (12%) were more likely than nonstudent victims (5%) to state that the incident was not important enough to report.”
Conflicting studies on the matter have found the instance of false reporting to be anywhere from 2% to 50%, proving not only a discrepancy in methodology, but also likely the incorporation of personal bias in information gathering and evaluation; thus, it is virtually impossible to determine the true amount of false reporting. Equally important to the rate of occurrence, however, is the ways in which society – and the law – respond to false accusations.
In February 2013, University of California Santa Barbara student Morgan Triplett contacted police after allegedly being beaten and raped in broad daylight, while visiting the UC Santa Cruz campus for an LGBT conference. In actuality, Triplett used a series of Craigslist ads in order to locate a stranger who would beat her up in exchange for sex. In the first ad, which failed, Triplett attempted to locate someone willing to shoot her in the shoulder with “the smallest caliber bullet possible.” Triplett’s sentence included a small fine, 60 days in prison, community service and court-ordered therapy.
In 2004, Rollins College student and former local NOW president Desiree Nall reported being sexually assaulted and raped by two men in a unisex restroom during Sexual Assault Awareness Week. The investigation reportedly cost police over $50,000, and Nall’s husband has repeatedly defended her, saying that she is “only being targeted because she is a women’s rights activist.”
In 2009 Danmell Ndonye of Hofstra University accused fivemen of gang rape, until a cell phone video surfaced, showing she participated willingly. Four of the men were in jail and repeatedly threatened until Ndonye retracted her story. She was not charged, instead agreeing to participate in therapy and community service. A nearly identical case occurred five years prior, with Tamara Anne Moonier accusing six men of kidnapping and raping her. The men faced life in prison if convicted; luckily a cell phone video of the encounter proved consent and cleared the men. Moonier was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with the remainder of her sentence to be served on home release.
According to Guardian columnist and Feministing founder Jessica Valenti (who, in the interest of transparency, the author of this article admits to being extremely biased against), said of the now debunked UVA rape accuser, “The current frenzy to prove Jackie’s story false – whether because the horror of a violent gang rape is too much to face or because disbelief is the misogynist status quo – will do incredible damage to all rape victims, but it is this one young woman who will suffer most.”
“I also believe that the disproportionate worry for accused rapists over their victims boils down to a fundamental distrust of women,” Valenti wrote in another article. “It is less worry that men will be wrongly accused, and more a lasting, ill-informed “certainty” that women lie about rape.”
A convicted murderer who previously falsely accused three Duke athletes of rape. A group of high school girls who wanted to “teach their ex a lesson.” The now infamous UVA rape hoax, where a young woman fabricated an elaborate story and an overzealous Rolling Stone writer decided fact checking wasn’t necessary.
Considering women don’t lie about rape, there are an awful lot of women lying about rape.
Campus rape accusations have become a media and societal spectacle of guilty until proven innocent – and sometimes, even after.
Justin Miller, Senior Editor at The Daily Beast, recently drew the ire of the internet when he shared an article entitled Columbia Rape Accuser Emma Sulkowicz Carried Mattress to Graduation on Twitter. “You have shit inside of your skull,” replied one user, with another telling Miller, “delete your fuckin account.” One tweet replied, “ACCUSER?! Sir you misspelled VICTIM/SURVIVOR!” while another tweeter wrote, “[I]s she famous for her accusation? No, she is famous for her activism. ‘Rape accuser’ is inaccurate and insulting.”
While many took serious issue with Miller’s use of the word “accuser,” this was actually an example of accurate and appropriate reporting.
Paul Nungesser was accused of rape by Emma Sulkowicz several months after a sexual encounter that Nungesser claims was consensual. Facebook messages between the two in the months following the alleged rape show Sulkowicz stating that she missed Nungesser, several attempts to plan time together, and “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!” Despite the affection and eagerness to connect that Sulkowicz expressed in the messages throughout September and October of 2012, Nungesser was summoned to the Office of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct in April of 2013, and informed that he was being accused of raping Sulkowicz in August 2012.
Although Nungesser was cleared by the University, two local district attorneys, and the local police department, Sulkowicz maintains her claim that he raped her. Sulkowicz has become famous for her act, carrying a mattress similar to the one she claims she was raped on and which was also her senior project for her visual arts degree, has been praised as both protest and art. Sulkowicz claimed that she would carry the mattress until either graduation, or until her rapist was expelled.
On May 19th, Emma Sulkowicz graduated – carrying her mattress across the stage as she accepted her diploma. The following day, the Twitter account @fakerape appeared. Some time between the graduation on Tuesday and the account’s first tweet in the early morning hours on Wednesday, posters appeared on and surrounding the Columbia campus. The posters, which feature photos of Sulkowicz and her mattress and the words “Pretty Little Liar” and “Emma Sulkowicz Columbia #RAPEHOAX,” were documented by the Twitter account, and were everywhere from subway station walls to hanging from traffic lights. Anonymous passer-bys were photographed removing several of the posters.
False rape reports not only serve to destroy the lives of the falsely accused, they also increase doubt of, and remove resources from, actual victims. Those who lie only serve to raise awareness of the fact that people lie, not of the existence of the crime itself. And until the law is used to appropriately hold to account people guilty of fabricating such claims, I cannot in good conscience tell you that the negative reactions break my heart.
Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.
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