This question came to my mind today, in light of many, many things: the dismissal of rape charges against the Duke lacrosse team and a friend’s reaction to that, as well as Dora’s third post on Women and Violence at Shrub dot com.
It is, indeed, an insidious process that leads to victim-blaming and excusing the accused, regardless of what the evidence may say. As much as we’d like to think we have a fair justice system, the fact of the matter is that someone who makes an accusation of rape is disbelieved, belittled, and is regarded as being of questionable character, while someone who is accused of rape is rigorously defended, and the media is said to be unfair to the accused, and not the accuser.
My friend’s reaction to the dropped charges boiled down to this: The accused were treated unfairly, and the accuser ought to have criminal charges brought against her for making a false claim of rape; that anyone who would do such a thing is either crazy or criminal.
It was this last part, the dichotomy that would be false if the premise it was based on (that anyone who does not win their suit against a rapist obviously made it up) were in any way usual, that I could actually agree with.
A person would have to be insane to purposefully make up a charge of rape, bring the charges against a group of people for whom there would be all sympathy, and go through with a trial that would result in an acquittal for the accused and complete character annihilation for the accuser.
Which makes me think, although the justice system declared otherwise, that the young woman in question wasn’t making things up.
Where, then, do we get the idea that women would make a false accusation of rape, when the end result is so often destructive? Why is that image of “evil woman who wants to destroy the menz” so prevalent, so powerful in our minds, so as to trump an objective observation of facts?
It was then that I remembered Miyamoto Musashi.
I caught a glimpse of that film this weekend, in which a woman, impressed by the battle prowess of the hero, offers herself to him, and when he refuses, she becomes angry and… that’s right. Accuses him of rape (which furthers the plot for the hero).
But wait, that story’s older than that. What about Potiphar’s wife, you ask? The one in the Bible (at least in the Jehovist texts, apparently*), who tried to seduce the virtuous Joseph (who refused) and then had him thrown in prison (which, again, furthers the plot for the hero).
So, what I can think of for “proof” that women do this? Stories. Religion. Mythology. I’m sure someone somewhere could find a single case in which the (female) accuser made up rape charges, and declare with a rallying cry of “see, men don’t rape, women get raped” that, indeed, a woman who loses a rape case deserves to be punished for bringing up the charges in the first place.
This post is neither clear nor finished. At this point, it is merely a collection of thoughts that have refused to organize themselves sufficiently for me to make really good sense of them. If you have anything constructive to add, please please do. I will annotate the edits to this post, if I get things thought out enough to make additions/reformulations.