When I began the readings for this week, I was stuck in a McDonald’s in Lawrence, Kansas trying not to scream about the Steubenville case article. I mean… there were literally pictures of the girl’s attackers carrying her that had comments literally broadcasting either their previous actions, further intentions, or both, and yet such evidence was completely disregarded. Why? Because sadly a culture has been created where we are too willing to believe the attackers rather than the victims. The article in question then pointed out that only twenty-four percent of rape reports actually lead to an arrest and that the rate of false accusations is eight percent. While I can accept the twenty-four percent as plausible, the eight percent is far less so. After a bit of digging, I found that Stanford actually estimates the number of false accusations to be more around two percent.
Adding to that, there are certain things that need to be taken into account even when dealing with this two percent. To start with, if a victim is found to have misremembered then the claim is determined to be a false accusation. Misremembering is when the memory of the incident is flawed or even completely incorrect in one fashion or another. A person can misremember the date of the incident, the place it happened, and even the face of the person who committed the crime. While there are sometimes blurred lines between what we consider to be a lie and what is a misremembered memory, misremembering often stems from trauma. According to this abstract, misremembering may be an adaptive technique that the brain utilizes in order to protect itself from traumatic memories such as those about rape. Therefore, if we understand that part of this “two percent” is made up by misremembered events, then the true number of false accusations is lower.
Continuing along a similar vein, it is not uncommon for victims to recant their statements. In the face of harassment, death threats, verbal/physical/mental/emotional abuse, pressuring from authorities, and other factors, victims often feel as though it would be better, safer even, for them to recant, refuse to testify, drop the charges, etc.. When this happens, the case is then added to that number of “false accusations” making up that aforementioned two percent. In rape cases on high school and college campuses, this is a far too common event which then leads to fewer rapes actually being reported due to the fear of those things happening to the new victim too. A notable example of what could cause a victim to recant is occurring on the campus of BYU. Victims of rape on the campus have not only been victimized by their attackers but are then victimized further by the people who were supposed to help them. If we accept this as plausible then the number of what could be considered “legitimate” false accusations is significantly lower than two percent.
However, those two conditions are not even taking into account cases where the sexual encounter was coerced rather than physically forced or cases where a disgusting loophole allowed the courts to rule that the act was not rape.
While this post admittedly deviated somewhat from the overarching theme of the module: digital citizenship, this was what I was spurred to write through the readings. If I were to bring the point back to digital citizenship, I would have to say that internet awareness and activism can lead to changes in society. Even today, we are seeing people become more versed in what is and is not unhealthy in interpersonal relationships, we are seeing people reach out to help victims, we are seeing people get the aid and advice they need because of digital citizens. Such things are happening not only in the realm of rape cases, but also environmental activism, gun control, discrimination, and others. As such, I believe that while many people are using the internet to do and say atrocious things, there are many more who are using it to make the world a better place.