Victims to the left of me, accusers to the right: Does Bobby Franklin know something we don’t about rape?

Georgia state representative Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) has recently proposed a bill that would require the word “victim” to be replaced with “accuser” in the state’s criminal codes. If this were the whole story, the bill might pose a moderately interesting metaphysical question: aren’t all crime victims merely accusers unless and until a court delivers a conviction? While the answer to that question is perhaps rather obviously no, that is not the question the bill actually raises: Rep. Franklin doesn’t think that people who claim to have been robbed, assaulted, or defrauded are merely “accusers.” No, those people are still “victims” even before a conviction is handed down, and indeed even if no conviction ever materializes. The bill only applies to certain crimes – namely, rape, stalking, and family violence. That is, the only crimes affected by this bill are those crimes disproportionately committed against women and committed disproportionately by men.

What accounts for this exceptional treatment? Neither the bill nor Rep. Franklin himself offers insight into the bill’s logic, and so we are left to speculate. Perhaps Rep. Franklin has fallen victim (or do I mean accuser?) to the unfounded yet persistent belief that false accusations of rape are significantly more common than those of other crimes. The bill provides yet another opportunity for misogynists to rehash hysterical statistics on false rape reports (one site,”Fathers for Life,” goes so far as to claim that there are 520,000 false rape allegations per year, a number that the site claims to work out to a whopping 98.1% of all reported cases – interesting numbers, because according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, there are closer to 250,000 sexual assaults per year, which would mean that 520,000 false reports would actually work out to an impressive false allegation rate of about 200%…) as well as a host of other anti-feminist canards, such as the claim that feminists don’t believe women ever lie about rape. How wearying it is to have to cover the same ground, over and over: of course people sometimes lie about rape. They also sometimes lie about robbery, and fraud, and assault. No reliable study – that is, any study that does not simply categorize as false all reports not resulting in convictions (an unconscionable conflation even without considering the documented, widespread manipulation and miscategorization of rape claims by police departments) – has ever shown that false reports of rape are significantly more common than false reports of other crimes. Yet false rape reports receive far more media attention than false reports of other crimes; rape claims are subject to more skepticism and invasive investigation than other claims; and rape is, for these and many other reasons, a vastly underreported crime.

And yet Rep. Franklin has proposed a bill that actually manages to make the status quo worse – one that actually increases the skepticism and prejudice that victims (yes, victims) of sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence already endure. Even if there might be some merit in a general prohibition on the term “victim” prior to a court determination that a crime has been committed (although whatever merit this prohibition would have is meager indeed, as it defies logic to claim that a person has only been victimized if some perpetrator is proven guilty of the crime in a court of law. This would mean that all unsolved murders have no victim; all unreported crimes have no victim; all crimes not resulting in convictions due to bad lawyering or jury error have no victim), to apply this prohibition only to crimes committed primarily against women is simply unjustifiable.

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36 Responses

  1. Well, yes, some people lie about robbery, or regular assault, too. However, in the case of robbery, for instance, if we ask for more evidence that the crime was committed than the bare, unsupported word of the accuser, nobody starts screaming about how we’re victimizing a robbery victim all over again.

    And, frankly, if you include prisons, I’m not sure that rape IS primarily committed against women.

  2. Shag from Brookline says:

    Apparently Brett self-defines misogynist despite his reference to prison rape as a defense to such a charge.

  3. Marc DeGirolami says:

    A great post. For what it’s worth, and recognizing that anecdotal information is not evidence, when I was an ADA for a few years, the bulk of my cases dealt with sexual violence against women and children. By the time a victim got to me, on average, she or he (in the case of children) had been victimized multiple times without so much as a peep of “accusation.” From my point of view, the problem in these cases is still, and overwhelmingly, gross under-reporting.

  4. Brett, if we routinely asked robbery victims how they were dressed, how much they were drinking, and whether they were really robbed (maybe they just gave their money away?); if to collect evidence of robbery we had to subject victims to a procedure that lasts up to six hours and requires them to disrobe, have their orifices swabbed, their blood drawn, and their fingernails scraped and cut (and then let thousands of these evidence kits sit untested on shelves untested); if victims claiming they were robbed by beloved sports figures or prominent members of the community or celebrities faced widespread social condemnation, invasions of privacy, and death threats, we might very well say that robbery victims were being victimized all over again. To say this would merely be to acknowledge that the investigative and adjudicative process can be a humiliating and terrifying experience for individuals who have already suffered a humiliating and terrifying ordeal. What is so offensive about that?

    It’s worth noting, too, that sometimes the only evidence of a crime – not just rape – is in fact the word of the accuser. This doesn’t make a victim any less of a victim; it only means that the perpetrators are likely to never be brought to justice.

    I’m all for including prisoners (both men and women)in rape statistics. But absent any indication that Rep. Franklin was making such a calculation, the bill he proposes quite obviously targets crimes (rape, stalking, and so-called “family violence”) that are known to be committed disproportionately against women.

  5. pml says:

    This is just another whining feminist agenda to try and make Bobby Franklin look bad. Your not a victim if you would have gave it away anyway.

  6. Shag from Brookline says:

    Mary provides the bill of particulars for my charge. Thanks.

  7. Poor pml: struggles with words, struggles with logic.

  8. unsure says:

    I have no idea whether sexual assault crimes are fabricated more frequently vis-a-vis other crimes, but I think some of the concern here may relate to the fact that the mere allegation of rape can destroy a man’s reputation, in a way that accusing a man of robbery does not. As a male, I’d much rather be wrongfully accused of robbery or murder than being wrongfully accused of rape, although I’m sure no accusation is pleasant.

    That’s not to say that persons who are allegedly sexually assaulted should be singled out as “accusers,” but I think it helps explain (not justify) why the Rep. wants to treat some crimes differently.

  9. Unsure, you may well be right that concern for men accused of rape partly explains the bill’s focus. If so, the relevant questions would seem to be whether this concern is serious enough to warrant the proposal and whether the proposal is actually responsive to that concern.

    Of course false allegations of any crime are bad, and false rape allegations may have particularly negative consequences for an individual. But the negative consequences of false accusations must be balanced against the benefits of encouraging actual rape victims to come forward, as well as against the reputational and other harms that such victims must suffer in addition to the harm of the rape itself. What we know for sure is that rape is a vastly underreported crime, which testifies to a massive asymmetry in our balancing of the potential harm to men of being falsely accused against the potential (and far more statistically likely) harm to women being raped and not believed.

    Moreover, the oft-repeated assertion that “the mere allegation of rape can destroy a man’s reputation” strikes me as overblown. Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, and Bill Clinton (just to a name a few) have somehow managed to enjoy widespread respect and even admiration after they were accused of sexual assault. For that matter, even CONVICTIONS for rape and sexual assault don’t necessarily have much negative impact on men’s reputations – see, e.g., Roman Polanski, Tupac Shakur, and Mike Tyson. In fact, it is not uncommon for men accused of rape to receive a great amount of sympathy and support, regardless of the credibility of the accusation.

  10. Logan says:

    A simple way to address these concerns would be to keep the name of the accused and the victim/accuser/alleged victim both private and only upon a guily verdict does the accused have their name released. Of course, legislation that would do this would never be passed because of the public uproar that would occur if they found out their next door neighbor was that individual (let alone in the rare instances when the accused is free on bail and commits another crime).

    In regard to Ms. Franks’ response to unsure, I think your example is comparing apples to oranges. I say that because these individuals are celebrities and for whatever reason the American public only cares about their transgressions until the next celebrity messes up (I liken it to are declining social capital). Further, I’m not so sure that their reputations are not tarnished. Tupac doesn’t really work well because he was involved with gangsta rap and Death Row Records, so it wasn’t like he had much of a morally positive rep to keep intact anyways. Few hold Polanski or Tyson in high regard either. At least I’m unaware of anyone that does. Though I do understand and believe your point to be correct.

    In the end, I wouldn’t be entirely opposed to this change IF it were applied across the board. However, despite my lack of a radical feminist agenda, I find the legislation troubling, given the fact it only applies to crimes where women are a majority of the victims.

  11. Logan Run says:

    This conversation is why we can’t have nice things. It’s incredible to see which issues bring out the trolls and how.

  12. Logan says:

    I’d also add that most accusations against celebrities rarely end up with a guilty verdict because of the enormous amount of pressure put on the victim. They either drop the charges or settle out of court which plays perfectly into the argument that they were only after money (not that it’s true or not true but it does play into that argument). This in turn helps one believe that a majority of accusations are false.

  13. also unsure says:

    I agree with Logan. Those examples say more about celebrity culture than they do about how long the stigma of accusation generally sticks. Show me some schoolteachers, postal workers, bankers, or nurses (i.e., people in non-celebrity positions) who are as well respected after being publicly accused of sexual assault.

    And I’d be very interested in hearing about this observation that accused rapists “receive a great amount of sympathy” – that seems wildly wrong, unless it means “great amount of sympathy from some while being shunned by most.”

    Of course, none of this is to say that the legislation being discussed is justified. I agree that it is inappropriate to single out these types of crimes for the “accuser” label, although I wouldn’t have any problem with doing so across the board. Additionally, it is horrible that these types of crimes are so frequently unreported, especially when a minor is at issue.

  14. Also unsure and Logan, neither of you offers any empirical support for the claim that “mere allegations” of rape destroy the reputations of men who aren’t celebrities. All you have done is speculate that the examples given are exceptions because these men are famous. I gave these examples because they are publicly verifiable cases of men whose reputations have not been destroyed despite being accused of or even convicted of rape. To point out that these men are famous, without more, tells us nothing useful about whether non-celebrity men would fare differently.

    Logan, I take no issue with your second comment, but here are some thoughts on the first. Roman Polanski is one of the world’s most celebrated, award-winning directors. Mike Tyson, in addition to being a very popular boxer, has recently been praised for his comedic turns in the movie The Hangover and on Saturday Night Live. Whatever low opinion some may have of him, moreover, may not have much to do with the fact that he is a convicted rapist (more people remember him for biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear). I’m not sure what your point about Tupac was. In any event, whether you personally “know people who think x” may not be the best way to test a proposition.

    Also unsure, while I appreciate your final points, where’s the evidence that men accused of sexual assault are “shunned by most”? I’d very much like to see those numbers. As far as examples of the sympathy that accused and even convicted rapists receive, have a look at the petition signed by over 100 members of the film industry urging the release of Roman Polanski after he was arrested on charges relating to his rape of a child, or Whoopi Goldberg on The View holding forth about how Polanski wasn’t guilty of “rape rape.” Or check out Alan Dershowitz’s article, “The Rape of Mike Tyson” (in Penthouse, no less); the title really does say it all. Or if celebrities are too confusing, take a gander at the numerous protests, demonstrations, Facebook pages, etc. in support of the Duke lacrosse team in the wake of rape accusations against them – long before those accusations were shown to be false. And finally, see your own comments, along with Logan’s and unsure’s – you yourselves are proof that people care an awful lot about the potential harm to men caused by rape allegations.

  15. also unsure says:

    “neither of you offers any empirical support for the claim ”

    I think you are arguing against common sense and 99% of the population (outside of the ivory tower, anyway) in saying that rape accusations don’t severely damage a man’s reputation, so I don’t feel a need to pull out Excel spreadsheets. Try google, though.

    Also, are you really using the Duke lacrosse players as an example of people who were not harmed by false rape accusations? Really? Really? A few facebook pages counteracts the whole country blasting you, dozens of your own professors blasting you in print, who refuse to retract their statements even after your innocence is shown?

    I think this conversation has really gone downhill if you are pointing to the Duke fiasco of why false rape accusations aren’t harmful. Wow. And Hollywood’s obsession with defending Roman Polanski has been slammed by people left and right, so the fact that some idiotic moviestars are rushing to protect “one of their own” hardly establishes that the nation is sympathetic to a convicted child molester.

    Regarding men who are accused of rape: I’m just as wary of them as everyone else is. I wouldn’t want to be caught in public with them. In an author’s footnote, I thanked someone in the legal community who was later accused of sexual misconduct (later vindicated), but I still asked Westlaw to remove the reference to him in my author’s footnote. So I don’t think I’m “proof” that alleged rapists are celebrated by society.

    The worst and most dangerous part of your strand of analysis — that being false accused of rape is really no biggie — is that it distracts from the legitimate issue regarding whether rape victims should be singled out for the “accuser” label. If you wish to advance your arguments in in the real world, I would suggest that you avoid saying that women should not be viewed as accusers, but as victims, because there’s no harm done to falsely accused men. That won’t get you anywhere. Instead, focus on the other aspects of the issue (the impropriety of singling victims of sexual assault, the underreporting, etc.). And you should ask some of your male colleagues how they’d feel if they were falsely accused of rape before assuming that such an accusation can be brushed off.

  16. Also unsure, I repeat my observation that you have offered no evidence for your claim. Now you’ve just added bombast, defensiveness, and ignorant attacks, and you also make it clear that you have a serious problem with reading comprehension. I never said that false allegations are “no biggie.” I in fact explicitly agreed that they cause harm. I did not use the example of the Duke lacrosse players to show that rape accusations aren’t harmful. It was a direct response to a request, from you, to cite examples of accused men getting support, which is exactly what it demonstrates.

    I do not need a lecture from you about what is dangerous or legitimate about my analysis, or what I should focus on, especially as you make it abundantly clear that you are in no way qualified to participate in an advanced discussion on this topic. My post did in fact focus on the singling out of crimes against women by this bill. Your comment brought up other issues, which I responded to in good faith.

    And really, I’m in the “ivory tower” while you, pseudonymous poster, can give me advice about “common sense” and “the real world”? Cliches are no substitution for actual analysis, my friend.

  17. Marc DeGirolami says:

    I’m in the ivory tower now, not anonymous, with relatively recent experience in the “real world” of sexual violence against women and children, a Duke graduate and acquainted with some of the people who were smeared by the accusations in that case (though not those who were accused criminally), and still, somehow, find myself in substantial agreement with Professor Franks’s views based exactly on my real world experience and not on any “feminist agenda” (or, perhaps better, I sign on through and through if this is the “feminist agenda”).

    It is certainly true that accusations of rape and other sex crimes can do terrible damage to the reputation of men who are innocent. But I have yet to see any study — anywhere — which indicates that the problem of false accusations of rape, though real, comes anywhere close to equaling the problem of under-reporting of sexual crimes by victims. My own “common sense,” which I can support at least in part with a few years of practice experience, suggests to me that while cases which receive loads of (justified) negative exposure (like the Duke case) are important, it is the problem of under-reporting which is shamefully under-exposed.

  18. AYY says:

    Prof Franks,

    I’m not sure I see the point of the post. The bill hasn’t gone anywhere, and it doesn’t do anything a trial judge doesn’t have the discretion to do even without the bill. So maybe your comments would be better directed to those in the Georgia legislature who will decide on whether to bring the bill to the floor, than it is to the readership of this blog.

    As for responses to some of the comments, I think you underestimate the effects of a false rape charge. It’s reminiscent of the famous Catherine Comins quote in Time Magazine in 1991:
    “Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, also sees some value in this loose use of ‘rape.’ She says angry victims of various forms of sexual intimidation cry rape to regain their sense of power. ‘To use the word carefully would be to be careful for the sake of the violator, and the survivors don’t care a hoot about him.’ Comins argues that men who are unjustly accused can sometimes gain from the experience. ‘They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.'”

    In other words, according to her men would benefit from having a false rape charge leveled against them.

    Here are some of the statistics for which you requested documentation:

    As reported by “False Rape Allegations” by Eugene Kanin, Archives of Sexual Behavior Feb 1994 v23 n1 p81 (12), Professor Kanin’s major study of a mid-size Midwestern U.S. city over the course of nine years found that 41 percent of all rape claims were false. Kanin also studied the police records of two unnamed large state universities, and found that in three years, 50 percent of the 64 rapes reported to campus police were determined to be false, without the use of polygraphs.
    n addition, a landmark Air Force study in 1985 studied 556 rape allegations. It found that 27% of the accusers recanted, and an independent evaluation revealed a false accusation rate of 60%. McDowell, Charles P., Ph.D. “False Allegations.” Forensic Science Digest, (publication of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations), Vol. 11, No. 4 (December 1985), p. 64.

    As for the effects of a false rape allegation:

    “In the real world, the ordeal typically isn’t over in a matter of minutes. It usually stretches for days or weeks, even months or years. Sometimes, it never ends.

    First, the police often don’t come to the door in the civilized manner of the scenario recounted above. Remember the news report of the poor guy who spent two months in jail after the mother of his daughter falsely accused him of rape? You see, they had consensual sex, but she was angry at him, so not only did she lie to police about the rape, for good measure she told them he was armed and dangerous. So 12-15 police cars came for him. His neighbors must have thought he had been implicated in the World Trade Center attacks. (When the police discovered she was lying, what sort of police response do you suppose they gave that?)

    Lots of falsely accused men are dragged out of their places of employment in full view of their bosses and colleagues, no doubt giving their false accusers that extra sexual thrill of knowing they’ve thoroughly stripped their prey of the last vestiges of their dignity. Some young men are dragged from their bedrooms in their parents’ homes half dressed, carted away without any explanation to their terrified parents.”

    If you would like additional substantiation or other material on false rape accusations you could find it on that website and similar websites.

    The examples you gave of Kobe Bryant, Ben R., Bill Clinton, etc, are highly selective, and all of them were harmed by the allegations, even if you personally think their reputations were not harmed. The average guy who is not in the public light would be harmed even worse.

  19. Shorter version of AYY: “Women are liars. There’s this one MRA website I really like that says so, and so do these two studies I read about. Also, some woman said something in Time Magazine in 1991. In conclusion, I don’t like the stuff you’re saying, and that means it’s wrong.”

    Relax, AYY, I had you covered at “this bill provides yet another opportunity for misogynists to rehash hysterical statistics on false rape reports.”

    If on the very off chance you ever feel like venturing out of your head, consider consulting any of the statistics on unfounded (which is not the same as false) rape reports by the FBI (or is the FBI a bastion of radical feminism?) and respected scientists, and maybe spare a little of your abundant skepticism for the very limited sources on which you rely. I’ll even get you started:

  20. Shag from Brookline says:

    Query whether any of the self-proclaimed misogynist commenters have watched rape video games?

  21. Yikes says:

    How interesting (and telling) that those who merely argued that the effects of false accusations may have been understated, while also observing the substantial policy concerns with the underreporting of sexual assaults, have apparently become “self-proclaimed misogynists.”

    Marc smugly reminds us that he is not posting anonymously, but liberal professors don’t need anonymity when speaking to other professors because they are generally speaking to like-minded persons.

    Marc also misses the point in concluding that the unquestionably serious problems posed by underreporting outweigh the stigma of a false accusation. The earlier comments did not conclude otherwise, but merely suggested that the stigma associated with a false accusation may have been understated, and Mary Anne’s blind denial has led to this back-and-forth.

    Marc also tells us that he exists in the “real world,” but he has openly stated that his scholarship is not meant to be written for any audience and is instead deliberately useless. Pardon me for snickering.

    AYY, in an even-toned comment, provides some statistics. These stats are apparently of questionable validity. Instead of replying with an even tone, Mary Anne engages in ad hominem attacks. I hope that her classroom conduct is better.

  22. Shag from Brookline says:

    Consider the misogynist campaign at the national level with the Republicans’ “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” that would have – before being aborted as a result of public outrage – redefined rape as forcible only.

    (For purposes “an even tone,” I am making the assumption that Yikes is female.)

  23. Logan says:

    Well this sure has turned into a shit show. Whatever happened to us all agreeing that this was ill-advised legislation, to put it nicely.

    Ms. Franks, I never asserted that “mere alligations” destroy a mans life. I was only pointing out the limits of your example (which all goes back to celebrity culture). Also, as a political scientist I understand that generalizing from my personal experiences might not be the best way to test a proposition but as far as I’m aware there are not any legitimate non-biased studies on the issue and I’m thus left with my experiences as a Resident Assistant in freshman dorms for 3 yrs. Not to mention the issue of what effects a rape allegation has on an individual isn’t exactly suited to quantitative studies. Which is why I went with my own informal case study, just like you did with your celebrity examples. Both of which are incomplete and thus not useful for drawing larger conclusions.

  24. Shag from Brookline says:

    Did Logan’s “own informal case study” undergo the media coverage of Mary’s “celebrity examples”? If not, then the latter may be more complete and useful for drawing larger conclusions as they have been tested in public.

    I’m not convinced that all of the commenters agree that “this was ill-advised legislation” and the reasons why.

  25. Logan says:

    In other news, Rep Joe Pitts (R-PA) introduced legislation a day or two ago that would allow doctors to choose not to save the life of a mother of that of the fetus. Which seems odd given most fetuses die when the mother dies.

  26. Marc DeGirolami says:

    Yikes, the funniest part of your email (it was hard to choose one) was labeling me a liberal law professor.

    But more seriously, my comment was intended to respond to the general claim that under-reporting of sexual crimes is as widespread and systematic a problem as false accusations of rape. In my own practice experience (I guess you find it snicker-worthy that I’ve had some, but I really have…really, I promise), that has not remotely been the case. That does not mean that I do not believe false accusations to be a problem. I do. But the huge problem of under-reporting also shapes my view of the legislation that was proposed by Mr. Franklin. That was the subject of this post, and not often enough of the comments responding to it.

  27. AYY says:

    Prof Frnaks,
    With all due respect, if you write a post in a blog that allows comments you can expect criticism.

    If your response to adverse substantive criticisms is to personally attack the commenters by telling them that you don’t need lectures, calling them misogynists, and suggesting that they venture out of their heads (I’m not sure what that means or how one goes about venturing out of ones head), it might be a good idea to ask the management whether you can blog without allowing comments.

    You accuse me of being a misogynist. Why am I a misogynist? Because after there was a request for empirical support, I supplied some? All I did was suggest that your post was directed to the wrong audience because the bill hadn’t gone anywhere and didn’t allow for anything that a judge couldn’t do as a matter of discretion, and then provided some information in response to your request for empirical support. That makes me a misogynist? You don’t even know whether I’m male or female.

    The studies appeared on a website that was involved with false rape claims. (And no I didn’t say whether I really liked the site, although you gave no reason why a person shouldn’t like it. But now that you know about the site, you might even find that you like it. In fact I don’t recall ever having the visited the site before yesterday. It took me only a few seconds to find it on a google search.)

    The website didn’t author the studies. Apparently you don’t like the idea that a website is directed to false rape claims, but that doesn’t change the evidence that a large percentage of rape claims have been shown to be false, even if there’s a dispute about the validity of one of the studies I cited, nor does it mean we should minimize the harm false rape allegations cause.

  28. Thank you, Marc, for reminding people in this thread what my post was actually about. I wish I could say I don’t regret treating unsure’s original point as a good faith concern that merited examination, but this threadjacking makes that impossible. It has been hard to watch yet another conversation about actual harms to women be derailed by insistent demands to talk about potential harms to men. What is worse is how those making the demands have deliberately misstated my views and those of other commenters, recited misogynist propaganda and widely discredited statistics, and when challenged, have simply repeated their claims more loudly and with more invective. They have taken issue with the fact that the term “misogyny” might be applied to them, without reflecting on what the term actually means (as evidenced most explicitly by the commenter who thinks a person’s biological sex has something to do with it). They have demonstrated that they are confused by the requirements of critical reasoning generally, and by what “ad hominem” means specifically. They insist that a claim must be true because somewhere on the Internet someone said it was, or because they feel extremely strongly that it is and some people they know agree. They ignore the existence of documented and verifiable repudiations of their claims and sources. They believe they are qualified to enlighten people who have spent years researching rape or have actual legal experience with rape prosecutions because they did a Google search.

    But most of all, these commenters insist, over and over again, that what they care about is what matters, dammit, and that I must acknowledge this. Such an acknowledgment, I can assure you, will not be forthcoming. Nor will I further indulge any topic that is not relevant to or does not advance the discussion of my particular post. I have already engaged with and responded to a wide variety of (mostly pseudonymous) comments, even though I am not obligated to do so. If I may remind those commenters who seem to have forgotten: This post does not belong to you. This thread does not belong to you. If you do not like the way I evaluate your ideas, or if you take issue with my “tone,” or if you simply want to talk about something that is not related to my post, please feel free to show yourselves out. No doubt there is some corner of the Internet that will welcome you.

  29. Sass Funstein says:

    “No doubt there is some corner of the Internet that will welcome you.”

    Certainly this will lead to a destruction of democracy and the end of our national conversation. Won’t someone think of the trolls?

  30. Anon says:

    Professor Franks,

    I’d like to delve deeper into a question you first asked in your original post:

    “What accounts for this exceptional treatment? Neither the bill nor Rep. Franklin himself offers insight into the bill’s logic, and so we are left to speculate.”

    So far in this thread there are two suggestions that may account for the exceptional treatment:

    1) “the unfounded yet persistent belief that false accusations of rape are significantly more common than those of other crimes” (your original post);


    2) that “the mere allegation of rape can destroy a man’s reputation, in a way that accusing a man of robbery does not” (comment 9, by “unsure”).

    I think you appropriately discredit the validity of the first motivation, but I think there is more to discuss regarding the second.

    You responded to this second concern with the following:

    “Unsure, you may well be right that concern for men accused of rape partly explains the bill’s focus. If so, the relevant questions would seem to be whether this concern is serious enough to warrant the proposal and whether the proposal is actually responsive to that concern.

    Of course false allegations of any crime are bad, and false rape allegations may have particularly negative consequences for an individual” (comment 10).

    I think that your last sentence here brings up a critical related issue: namely, is the higher-order stigma associated with a rape accusation related, in some way, to the inability of our criminal justice system to otherwise properly assign blame in rape cases?

    To phrase that as a statement, perhaps increasing the societal stigma for those accused of rape is an extra-judicial heuristic we created because rape is rarely punished by the legal system. After all, the most likely to be guilty of rape are those who have been accused.

    If this hypothesis is true (that a lack of public trust of criminal prosecution generally leads to heightened stigma attached to the merely accused), then perhaps it would provide further insight into the motivations of Rep. Franklin. Yes, he may simply be a misogynist. However, many who share his angst are perhaps actually upset because they see an injustice in extra-legal punishment – we are constantly told “innocent until proven guilty,” so if you are not convicted of a crime, you are not supposed to be punished for the crime. Could the Rep. Franklins of the world simply be clumsily attempting to respond to the symptom (extra-legal societal condemnation) rather than the underlying disease (a broken criminal justice system)?

  31. Anon, I think this is a very interesting possibility. My own sense is that the concern about extra-legal punishment is grounded in a hyper-salient fear of false accusations and their consequences, rather than from an acknowledgment that our justice system rarely punishes rapists. In fact, concern about extra-legal punishment often seems to go hand-in-hand with the belief that the justice system is overly punitive with regard to rape, both in the sense of unjust convictions (e.g., definitions of rape are too expansive and do not adequately account for the ambiguity of many sexual encounters) and of too-strict sentences (e.g., even though the defendant is guilty, his crime does not warrant severe punishment). But your hypothesis is an intriguing one.

  32. Shag from Brookline says:

    Anon’s closing question:

    ” Could the Rep. Franklins of the world simply be clumsily attempting to respond to the symptom (extra-legal societal condemnation) rather than the underlying disease (a broken criminal justice system)?”

    brings to mind the Warren Court’s recognition of rights of individuals accused of crimes and the law and order reactions that followed. The clumsiness of the Rep. Franklins of the world is gender-based as they do not seem to wish to back off otherwise from the law and order reactions to the Warren Court. I don’t think it’s that simple.

  33. Anon says:

    Professor Franks, I agree that concern is grounded in a hyper-salient fear of false accusations and their consequences. However, to clarify, I am not trying to imply that Rep. Franklin himself thinks the justice system rarely punishes rapists, but rather that society at large has internalized this truth, a fact that has organically created the extra-legal stigma to which Rep. Franklin is keenly aware. To restate my closing question, then, could he be aware of the symptom but unaware of the disease?

    Shaq, perhaps you are right, but consider that rape is one of the few crimes for which Rep. Franklin’s position (white, male, powerful) does not afford him significant reputational protection. I think it is likely that Rep. Franklin perceives a uniquely glaring injustice regarding rape accusations, while simultaneously failing to see many other injustices because they can never impact him personally.

  34. Shag from Brookline says:

    Might this suggestion from Anon:

    ” … while simultaneously failing to see many other injustices because they can never impact him personally.”

    be considered so self-centered that Rep. Franklin might be a tad libertarian when not impacted personally? Keep in mind that he is a legislator and might consider being objective as such with regard to his district constituents.

    By the way, with regard to society at large, history tells of gender attitudes back in the days of the Scarlet letter.

  35. Shag from Brookline says:

    With regard to the fear of false accusations of rape, perhaps Rep. Bobby Franklin is channeling male African-Americans’ fears of not that long ago of being falsely accused of raping white women and end up being lynched without a trial or even being formally charged.