False Reports: We Deserve an Apology



We live in a frightening world, and we as college students need to fully understand and be aware that our environment, the environment of the college campus, has been and is still a place where sexual assault and rape exist as lurking possibilities. When they happen, they are innately and thoroughly devastating, not only for the victim, but also for friends, family and the community at large.

But only when they actually happen.

The exact number of false sexual assault reports is muddled in mystery. According to BloombergView.com, percentages regarding how many false reports exist compared to actual complaints can range anywhere from two percent to 45 percent. The only thing we can confirm, however, is that they do happen, and when they rear their ugly heads they can be devastating. Whether for personal vendettas or out of a desire for public attention, a false accusation of rape or sexual assault can be an outright character assassination levied against an innocent party. The biggest problem is that the court of public opinion is a powerful thing, and the only thing that often needs to be displayed is whether or not it is likely that the alleged crime took place. This then leads to the examination of stereotypes–what was the race of the alleged offender? What was the race of the alleged victim? Was the alleged offender physically imposing? Was the alleged victim physically frail? Et cetera, et cetera.

This is particularly evident in the notorious Duke lacrosse case of 2006. In that year, a black female student of North Carolina Central University (NCCA), who had also happened to work as a stripper and escort, accused three white members of Duke University’s lacrosse team of raping her. The case quickly took America by storm, and the word “hate crime,” a clear reference to the differences in race between accuser and accused, was thrown around. One year later, in 2007, all charges were dropped, and the three Duke University players were declared innocent as criticism of the reliability of the NCCA student’s account of the circumstances of the alleged crime were finally called into question. All three of the accused Duke University students then went on to file a civil case against the city of Durham for personal damages.

Continuing the trend, in November of last year, Rolling Stone magazine published a story titled “A Rape on Campus,” which focused on an alleged rape of a University of Virginia student. After the story circulated, however, campus officials, local police and even an investigation by the Washington Post concluded that the events relayed by the student could not have happened the way that they allegedly did. In April of 2015, Rolling Stone officially retracted the story, and stated its intention to conduct an internal review in an effort to promote and maintain ethical journalism.

Which brings us to our own little neck of the woods. A couple weeks ago we saw that a Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) student who had previously claimed she had been sexually assaulted just outside the boundaries of Fordham’s campus issued a public apology to the community and claimed that she had in fact fabricated the story. It’s easy to see what happened as something akin to public shaming, and that the very possibility of being forced to issue a public apology if a rape or sexual assault cannot be proven can act as a deterrent to those who actually endure such a terrible trauma from filing the appropriate report. But this is not the case.

A sexual assault allegation is a powerful thing, and it can stick with an alleged perpetrator for years to come. The bias of the court of public opinion can prevent this individual from getting a job or from forming certain social relationships. The act of issuing a public apology is meant to ensure that “crying rape” is never established as a trend. It is of the utmost importance that, when it comes to sexual assault, all parties involved, be it the victim, the community or the investigators, take it as seriously as possible. Allowing the perpetual filing of false rape and sexual assault reports is outright insulting to those that have actually been victims, as it wastes the time of all involved parties and transforms what should be a very serious allegation into a tool for the personal gain of the false accuser, whatever that may be.

For the very same reason we do not allow people to shout “fire” in a public place where there is none, we cannot allow people to shout “rape.” It needlessly throws an entire community into turmoil, causes its occupants to scrutinize their neighbors with wary eyes and, in some cases, can be personally damaging to specific individuals. For those with truth to their claims, there is no reason to fear the threat of a public apology, but it is indeed a necessary evil.