September 6, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here again is the excellent Shawna Thompson (Lincoln Journal Star, 8/31/17). This time her article is on false allegations of sexual abuse both in family courts and elsewhere. Her theme is that those allegations have become so numerous and so transparently aimed at achieving some immoral or even criminal end that “judges, juries and prosecutors are losing patience with” false accusers. I can only hope she’s right. For myself, I read enough about cases, particularly in family courts, that I believe, based solely on that anecdotal evidence, she probably is. Time and again I see courts looking askance at claims of DV or sexual assault and drawing the correct conclusions.
Beyond that though, Thompson’s article is simply a litany of recent cases in which judges and juries have “thrown the book” at false accusers. Of course, she doesn’t have the space to list them all, but she hits the high spots, many of which are internationally known. The infamous Rolling Stone fraud is there as is the Sandra Grazzini-Rucki case in Minnesota (although not by name). The welter of cases coming out of colleges and universities that are beginning to cost those institutions sizeable amounts of money in civil court judgments are alluded to as well. Given that her piece only touches on recent cases and only a fraction of those, it’s a pretty impressive list.
Unfortunately, what she doesn’t mention are the figures on false rape allegations. Efforts to pin down a percentage of rape allegations deemed to be false have been notoriously fraught with one problem or another. Eugene Kanin’s study was rigorously done, but can’t be extrapolated to the population at large due to its highly specialized demography. His sample was taken from all rape claims in a college town in the mid-West of the United States and, as such, can’t be said to represent either the U.S. or even the state in which it was conducted.
Still, Kanin’s methodology all but ensured that fewer cases would be counted as “false” than was actually the case. In order to be considered a false claim of rape, the accuser had to admit that it was factually false and agree to take a lie detector test to ensure that her recantation wasn’t itself a lie. That’s setting the bar quite high, but even so, Kanin found 41% of allegations to have been false. A previous study conducted by the Air Force that was similarly rigorous found a 27% rate.
Nor does Thompson mention the fact that the 2% false rape figure so beloved of feminists was in fact made up out of whole cloth by Susan Brownmiller back in the 70s. Brownmiller claimed to have heard the figure given in a lecture by a New York State judge, but never produced any evidence for his having done so. The judge is long dead, but his law clerk at the time said he never said any such thing.
Perhaps most importantly, Thompson never mentions the fact that, just because a case isn’t proven positively to be false, as Kanin and the Air Force study did, doesn’t mean it’s true. Indeed, there’s a huge terra incognita between cases that are clearly true and those that are clearly false. Some portion of those gray area cases are probably true and some false, but no one has yet come up with a sound way to ascertain in any rigorous way which is which.
But whatever the actual figures are, I think Thompson is onto something with her assertion that the legal establishment is getting sick of false allegations. Moreover, they’re starting to translate that antipathy into action.
The North Dakota Supreme Court also approved a significantly unequal division of marital assets in favor of the ex-husband. According to the court, “a party's dissipation of marital assets is an important relevant factor in an equitable distribution of property. [The wife’s] lies dissipated marital assets. It would be inequitable to put on [the husband’s] side of the ledger in the property division any of the marital assets he spent” defending himself from his ex-wife’s false allegations.
I’ve said it countless times: as long as courts wink at false allegations, they’ll continue to be made. Why wouldn’t they? Indeed, courts in the past haven’t just winked at them, they’ve positively rewarded them. So as long as there’s money to be made from false allegations of DV, child abuse or sexual abuse, why not give one a try? If the worst that can happen is that the case proceeds as it would have had the allegation never been made, why not make it? For many years, that’s exactly what’s happened. So it’s good to see that the law of the State of North Dakota now allows a court to order an unequal division of marital assets due to dissipation of same because of a false allegation.
After all, isn’t that what the justice system is supposedly all about – the imposition of consequences for wrongful behavior? The whole idea is to (a) punish the wrongdoer and (b) attempt to influence future behavior, i.e. convince others that the behavior is a bad idea.
If judges and juries are in fact starting to punish false accusers, they’re simply doing the job set out for them by our very concept of justice. If they’re not, they’re failing to do that job. And no one should be surprised when the behavior continues.
We’ll see, but for now, thanks to Shawna Thompson for raising this important issue.
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