Rolling Stone and UVA: How sensationalism has betrayed survivors of sexual violence


As things stand, we know virtually nothing about allegations of a gang rape at the University of Virginia. We know that there are now sufficient doubts about the accuracy of the original Rolling Stone cover story that the magazine editor has effectively retracted it. This does not mean, as some are now claiming, that the entire allegation was a hoax, a lie or a fiction. It is by no means certain that the woman known only as Jackie was not, in fact raped, either in the exact manner she described or with key divergences in detail. All we know is that there is an as yet unconfirmed report of a gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and that the Rolling Stone editorial staff have made a quite egregious, unforgivable lapse in journalistic standards and ethics, one which is likely to leave lasting, perhaps permanent damage to their reputation as a magazine and, much more worryingly, serious damage to the credibility of survivors of sexual violence.

All of this is already being picked over and picked apart in forensic detail. Before that process gets too entrenched, I want to point out one key detail that should inform our understanding of this case and, more significantly, our understanding of how this case reflects every other allegation or report of rape and sexual assault.

The Washington Post story yesterday, the article which appears to have proven the final nail in the coffin of Rolling Stone’s credibility, quoted a campus sexual assault specialist called Emily Renda as saying that research shows between two and eight percent of rape allegations are fabricated or unfounded. Notwithstanding the complexities of this field of research, the statement is broadly true. It is also, however, irrelevant.

The estimates of rates of false allegations refer to rapes reported to the police. On that basis, if one went through 100 reported rapes and picked one at random, one could be somewhere between 92% and 98% certain that it was a truthful report. This, however, was not how Sabrina Rubin Erdely found her case study for the Rolling Stone.

As an earlier Washington Post piece had made clear, at the outset of her investigations, Erdely talked to students and others at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Pennsylvania universities before she found her way to Virginia. The story she settled upon was not typical of sexual assaults on campus, quite the opposite. She appears to have deliberately chosen the most horrifying, the most, extraordinary, the most sensational account she could find. As a journalist I understand the draw of the sensational. It sells magazines. It creates clicks. However just as decent journalists should notice when something is too good to be true, we should also be aware of the risks that something may be too bad to be true. As the old maxim has it, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

The title of the original Rolling Stone article was ‘A rape on campus.’ One presumes it was chosen quite deliberately for its everyday banality. The clear implication is that the story they are telling is a typical, everyday event. They might as well have called it ‘Just another rape on campus.’ Jackie’s story, however, was never typical. When all of this is played out, if it transpires that her account was 100% accurate and honest, it will not be a typical tale of sexual assault. If it transpires her account was 100% fabricated, it still will not be a typical tale of sexual assault.

Survivors of sexual assault have many needs, and that includes responsible media coverage. The catastrophe at Rolling Stone is what happens when journalists stop seeking the truth, and chase after the sensational.

Comments

  1. StillGjenganger says

    Is it 2-8% of allegations that are false? Or is it at least 2-8%? I do not think it is a huge number, but is it not true that all those studies measure reports that can be more or less proved to be false? How big is the ‘do not know either way’ group?

  2. Carnation says

    Can we *please* differentiate between placing an allegation against a named individual and the far greater instances of a generic false report?

  3. BiLob says

    Ally,
    Following on @StillGjenganger’s #1 comment…

    This is strong piece but the 4th paragraph could stand a revisit. Inconclusive investigations and attempted assaults are also part of the pool so the true rate isn’t 100% – (false rate). From a report published by The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women (Archway, Archambault & Lisak), pp. 4-5:

    “Rather, investigators and prosecutors must base all final judgments of a sexual assault report on the findings from a thorough, evidence-based investigation. The determination that a report is false can then only be made when there is sufficient evidence to establish that the sexual assault did not happen (was not completed or attempted.) This does not mean that the investigation failed to prove that the sexual assault happened in that case the investigation would simply be inconclusive or unsubstantiated. It also does not mean that the suspect was unable to successfully complete the sexual assault—this would be an attempted sexual assault and/or some other sexual offense.”

    http://ndaa.org/pdf/the_voice_vol_3_no_1_2009.pdf

  4. Ronald says

    Time is the biggest enemy of sexual assault victims, the longer a person wait or bottles this up, vital evidence gose away and memories become jumbled.

  5. thom prentice says

    The fraternity used a LOST OR MISSING PENTAGON NUCLEAR WEAPON DODGE — “can neither confirm nor deny” — in response to the story. Doesn’t THAT make one wonder?

    One must also wonder WHY the fraternity could do neither.

    This is a far more significant issue than whether a gang-raped woman can effing REMEMBER the PRECISE, EXACT DATE of the party during which she was GANG RAPED. Come on.

    This is the same, typical, tried-and-true patented WASHINGTON/WASHINGTON POST trash and shame and torment STRATEGERY that is a relentless water torture of pointing out totally irrelevant, atomised little details that has the proven, patented ability to trash a person or institution in the “politics of personal destruction” RATHER THAN deal with the issue, THIS TIME OF GANG RAPE.

    WHICH IS:

    ***Jackie stands by her story*** even if Rolling Stone is too chickensh*t to do so itself.

    One other thing: Just what, exactly, did the fraternity’s “alumni” do, PRECISELY to get WaPo to even look IN to the Rolling Stone story WITH THE PURPOSE of trashing it and delegitimating the account of a gang-rape victim who, it must again be said, STANDS BY HER STORY? This is a typical WaPo CIA op.

    REGARDLESS of how many rape reports are ALLEGEDLY FALSE — and the grave methodological questions that accompany such a DIZZYINGLY PRECISE stat, THIS RAPE VICTIM *** STANDS BY HER STORY***, dammit, and as far as I am concerned, all RAPISTS, including Bill Cosby, are GUILTY until proven otherwise.

    How did WaPo drop so low after its Watergate “stand by the story” high? WaPo is the hired gun used by the CIA, among other institutions, to destabilize truth stories and WaPo has done so repeatedly. A famous case is the WaPo trashing of Sacramento Bee journalist Gary Webb now COMING TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU! in a film entitled KILL THE MESSENGER about Webb’s breakthrough story about the crack cocaine epidemic in LA. Webb proved that the CIA had been supplying the drug, but WaPo, trashing Webb and the Sacramento Bee JUST AS IT HAS TRASHED ROLLING STONE, DELEGITIMATED both the Sacramento Bee and Webb himself. Webb committed suicide. Wonder if the Rolling Stone author might now follow suit, Ally?

    You have just been duped, Ally, into being a SHILL for a Patented Washington Post hatchet job.

    Go see the flick.

    And here is what I said with regard to the crowing about it by The American Conservative and I understand the Wall Street Journal joined in the crowing aussi:

    The Fundamental Problems with Conservatism — and Liberal Democrats for that matter
    http://democracyweb.com/?p=27046

    This is such an effing CIA/WASHINGTON POST op that it should even STINK STENCH ALL THE WAY OVER ACROSS THE POND!

  6. says

    Ally, two OTHER famous examples of the PATENTED WASHINGTON POST CIA COVERT OP TRASHING STORY INVOLVE A MORE WIDELY KNOWN JOURNALIUST: DAN RATHER.

    The PENTAGON managed to dmage Rather’s credibility over Rather’s TRUTHFUL REPORTING of ABU GHRAIB in 2004 — remember that? Rumsfeld thought the problem weas too many cameraphones and so he banned them, remember that?

    THEN, when RATHER HAD THE GOODS on GEORGE DUBYA BUSH and the way he SHIRKED HIS NATIONAL GUARD DUTY, using the good ole Washington Post/CIA playbook, they managed to ASSASSINATE RATHER who departed the CBS EVENING NEWS in 2005. He did write a book about it all, Ally, called RATHER OUTSPOKEN; maybe you might read it and SEE HOW WASHINGTON WORKS before JUMPING all over this gang rape victim who *** STANDS BY HER STORY*** rather than RIPPING NEW ARSEHOLES out of a fraternity which can “neither confirm nor deny” and uses alumni bullies to trash what otherwise appears to be authentic reporting, CIA/WaPo style.

  7. AnarchCassius says

    @Ally, thanks, I know a lot more about this matter now. Disturbing on several levels.

    @Carnation
    “Can we *please* differentiate between placing an allegation against a named individual and the far greater instances of a generic false report?”
    Show me the data, now I’m curious.

    @StillGjenganger
    “Is it 2-8% of allegations that are false? Or is it at least 2-8%? I do not think it is a huge number, but is it not true that all those studies measure reports that can be more or less proved to be false?”

    The 2% outlier seems to have been grandfathered in but is as dubious as the 40% outlier often cited by the MRM. Neither is based on generalizable data.

    4%-8% would be a more accurate middle of the road estimate. The largest number found by a large reliable study in recent times is 11%.

    “How big is the ‘do not know either way’ group?”
    We do not know given how many cases don’t show evidence of fabrication and don’t go to trial. Several studies indicate “no crime” (the report wasn’t false but didn’t describe a crime) around 20-25% and one gives 38% as unknown.

    Of course only about one third of rapes are actually reported to police whereas 100% of false police reports are reported to police.

    More info with links to sources.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_accusation_of_rape#Estimates_of_prevalence

  8. StillGjenganger says

    @AnarchCassius
    You are answering the wrong question. I do not doubt that the consensus number of false reports is 2-8% (and I would trust Ally on that point anyway). But what does that number measure? It is the percentage of rape accusations that can be proved to be false, according to some defined criteria. But when we are judging one (or all) rape cases we need to know what are the odds that the accused actually is innocent. Not what are the odds that we can prove that he is innocent. This example should illustrate the point: *)

    Dr. Charles P. McDowell of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations led a team that investigated 556 rape allegations. The initial research categorized 220 of those allegations as true, 80 as false, and 256 as inconclusive

    As you see, McDowell found 40% of allegations true, 14% false, and 46% inconclusive (“can’t decide”). So, all you can tell from the data is that the number of false accusations was somewhere between 14% and 60%. This is of course not very satisfactory, but you need some explicit estimation to get any further. You might try to analyse the inconclusives in more detail, if possible. Or you could tentatively conclude that true reports were three times as common as false ones, which would give a rather uncertain estimate of 25% false allegations overall.

    What you absolutely cannot do is to say that the data give 14% false allegations, and therefore the chance that a rape accusation is true is 86%, counting the inconclusives as true reports. Yet that is exactly what Ally seems to be doing in this post. So, I challenge Ally, and you: The studies you are relying on give 2-8% definitely false reports. How many reports do they give as definitely true? Can they really prove from the evidence that 92-98% are true – which would be kind of strange, given how notoriously hard it is to prove what happened in a rape case? Or what account do they make for the percentage of undecided cases in their data?

    *) The quote is from mediaradar. I have no particular reason to think his numbers are correct. It is just an example I happened to come across that gives numbers for true/false/unknown.

  9. Lucy says

    Nothing cheers me up more than stumbling over a a buch of guys debating exactly what the rape statistics are. It’s good to know they’re concentrating on the important stuff do the rest of us don’t have to.

  10. Lucy says

    “2-8%”
    “4-8%”
    “100%”
    “2%”
    “11%”
    “4-8%”
    “38%”
    “20-25%”
    “40%”
    “14%”
    “46%”
    “60%”

    Just to settle the matter the actual figure is 232.25 per cent. If you take daylight saving into account.

    What was that I wisely said before about men all being on the autistic spectrum?

  11. Archy says

    “What was that I wisely said before about men all being on the autistic spectrum?”

    Because you’re sexist and love to troll people?

    People debate statistics because it does matter to some degree. If the rape statistics aren’t valid in a debate then are legit-rape stats also invalid? If it is men that debate statistics more, maybe these men are interested in facts above baseless opinions.

  12. mildlymagnificent says

    The thing I find surprising is that people seem to find the idea of gang-rape so shatteringly astonishing.

    I thought everyone recognised that this sort of thing was fairly common in some sub-groups of young men. Sports clubs, surf clubs, fraternities, neighbourhood gangs, groups within the armed forces, criminal gangs, other groups. It’s not a majority of men nor a majority of groups that behave this way. But they’re not like unicorns, they really are out there. There are less of them now than there used to be when I was in my teens/twenties, but they’re still around. The non-coercive, non-violent gang-bang is also fairly well-known, but, just this once, the “better” option is a lot less common than the worse.

  13. Bugmaster says

    As usual, Lucy brings up a good point — by illustrating its opposite.

    In real life, as opposed to political rhetoric, numbers are pretty important. They can help you understand what the extent of the problem is; where you should invest your efforts; and whether or not your efforts are bearing fruit.

    Since rape is an emotionally charged topic, let me illustrate my point with something more lighthearted: cancer.

    Let’s assume that a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer is 12%. Now, let’s assume that some scientist develops a new test for breast cancer. This test is 90% accurate. That is, if a woman actually has cancer, then there’s a 90% chance that the test will say, “yes, you have cancer”, but also a 10% chance that it will falsely say, “no, you’re fine”. Similarly, if a woman is cancer-free, then the test has a 90% chance of telling her “you’re fine”, and 10% chance of a false diagnosis.

    Let’s imagine that you are a woman, and you take the test, and it comes up positive for cancer. What is the probability that you actually have it ?

    If we apply Lucy’s reasoning (*), then the answer is, “it doesn’t matter what the numbers are, any chance of cancer of too much, start chemotherapy now”. However, chemotherapy is a process that is expensive, painful, and will monumentally alter your life for the worse, so I would argue that in this case it would make sense to spend 5 minutes with a calculator before committing to anything.

    (*) Ok, so it is more likely that Lucy will say something like, “math was invented by men to oppress women and so was cancer”, but hopefully we can get past that for now.

  14. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy
    False report statistics do not make it less bad to be raped, and they mean little to our idea of the total number of rapes. But they make a great deal of difference to how quick we are to believe a rape report – or how quick we are to ostracise, fire or imprison someone who has been accused. Which is why progressive people put so much emphasis on teaching police and the general population that false reports are very rare.

    Now, I may disagree with Ally about the right definition of rape, but we both agree that policy should be based on reliable knowledge. Do you?

  15. David S says

    @Ally

    … research shows between two and eight percent of rape allegations are fabricated or unfounded. Notwithstanding the complexities of this field of research, the statement is broadly true. It is also, however, irrelevant.

    The estimates of rates of false allegations refer to rapes reported to the police. On that basis, if one went through 100 reported rapes and picked one at random, one could be somewhere between 92% and 98% certain that it was a truthful report.

    No one couldn’t, and I’m really surprised to find you making such a basic error of logic. You don’t give a source, but presumably you get the figure of “two and eight percent” from research such as that by Kelly, Regan, and Lovett, or from reviews by people such as David Lisak. The figure is therefore going to be an estimate of the percentage of reports that can be shown to be false or unfounded, to some standard of evidence decided by the authors. It can’t really be anything else, because that is the only thing you can actually measure. So you have started from the proposition that 2%-8% of reports can be shown to false or unfounded, and leapt straight to the conclusion that the remainder can be shown to be true. This is just as daft as it would be so start from the 12% of reports that result in a conviction, and conclude that the remaining 88% must have been false allegations.

    If the subject of rape were less emotive, then it would, I suspect, be blindingly obvious that no one can directly measure the percentage of allegations that are false. The only things that are directly measurable in any way at all are:

    The percentage of reports that can be shown to be false or unfounded, to some agreed standard of evidence. Let’s call that PF; and

    The percentage that can be shown to be true, again to some agreed standard of evidence. Let’s call that PT.

    If F is the percentage that actually are false, then we can infer that

    PFF ≤ (100%- PT)

    Or, to put it less mathematically, the percentage of reports that are false, is greater than the percentage that we can show to be false, but less than the percentage that we cannot show to be true.

    The problem is that, whatever standard of proof you use, PF and PT are small numbers, which means that the inequality above is really no more than a fancy mathematical way of saying “I haven’t got a clue”.

    As you have pointed out, PF could be as low as 2%. The biggest value you got possibly get for PT would be somewhere around 25% (and that would require you to say that reports had been “shown to be true”, even in cases where a suspect had been tried and acquitted by a jury). So we end up saying that we know that the proportion of reports that are false must be somewhere between 2% and 75%, which isn’t really much use, given that even the most hardened feminist or MRA commentator would suggest figures outside that band.

  16. Marduk says

    “She appears to have deliberately chosen the most horrifying, the most, extraordinary, the most sensational account she could find. As a journalist I understand the draw of the sensational. It sells magazines. It creates clicks.”

    To be fair about this, we also know you don’t need to do investigative journalism of any kind create click-bait if that is truly all you care about. Travelling round the US to do it is somewhat excessive if that is your game. The rationale she explained to Rosin in the Slate interview (before questions were raised) seemed to me not that crazy: “She came upon Jackie’s story of a gang rape, and, as any reporter would, concluded this was a story that needed to be told. If universities couldn’t even properly handle a brutal, orchestrated gang rape, then the system was seriously broken.” I buy that actually

    What it looks like happened was actually some sort of failure in the relationship between Jackie and the journalist. Which is not especially surprising really, the sensitivity with which you’d treat someone in this kind of scenario is not really compatible with rigorous journalism. In the event Jackie felt pushed too far and had ‘lost control of the story’, but its worth noting Erdley felt she couldn’t verify certain parts by questioning people at Jackie’s advance request.

    Rosin once more:
    “When I initially reached out to the advocates who had supported Jackie, they wondered if maybe the media was doubting the story because it was about rape, and people have always doubted victims of rape, and held stories about rape to a higher standard. But what this Rolling Stone story shows is that maybe we’ve reached a point where we hold stories about rape to a lower standard.”

    I think that is sort of true but I disagree with Rosin in as far as I don’t think that there is anything wrong with it.

    The issue is if there has been a change in social conventions for the good in terms of taking victims more seriously it is for victims, not journalists who are piggy-backing in on this as cover. The problem is not with the convention, its hacks taking seriously just how carefully and respectfully they must tread in this space that really isn’t meant for them and the damage that they can do to victims in general by messing up. Its a bit like if you find yourself, for odd and complicated but legitimate reasons, taking advantage of a privelege extended to the disabled (like say, early boarding of a plane or a reserved area at an event), you really need to behave yourself because the stakes are high if you abuse it.

    My guess is that something did happen and something serious, but it got trumped up in the article, perhaps through shaky journalism, perhaps through some sort of interviewing technique failure (the latter seems the most likely to me but its never raised when there are questions about journalistic accuracy despite being the hardest skill in journalism, we’re primed either for absolute truth or complete fabrication).

    As to the false accusation rate, Lucy is right in a way for once. The only reason we talk about it is because (to mix some metaphors in a historically reasonable way) you’ve got a silly Motte and Bailey defence from SJWs often coupled with calls for the law to be undermined, less so serious advocates, that is poisoning the well. When they claim it never happens, that isn’t true, we know it does. And then it turns into a fairly childish “does-doesn’t-does-doesn’t” argument. The more reasonable position is that it does happen, but so what. The law should continue to offer equal protection to the accused and the accuser and that involves both taking the accuser seriously and the accused seriously. Its really not that complicated and the actual rate shouldn’t have any influence, I don’t care if its 0.5% or 95%. The mistake on all sides is believing justice is up for debate, it isn’t.

  17. David S says

    @Ally

    Sorry, when I said that “You don’t give a source,” I mean that you don’t give a primary source. You did cite Emily Renda, but you don’t say where she gets her figures from, or what evidence leads you to conclude that they are true.

  18. Ally Fogg says

    DavidS

    No one couldn’t, and I’m really surprised to find you making such a basic error of logic. You don’t give a source, but presumably you get the figure of “two and eight percent” from research such as that by Kelly, Regan, and Lovett, or from reviews by people such as David Lisak. The figure is therefore going to be an estimate of the percentage of reports that can be shown to be false or unfounded,

    No, this is just wrong.

    Different research uses different methodologies, but for example, the Kelly research began with an estimate of 8% which came from investigating officers and their judgements. In other words, the police doing the investigations dismissed 8% of cases because they came to believe that the reports were false.

    Kelly then re-examined those cases, and found that three quarters of those could conceivably have been true. So in that study, there were 2% of reported rapes which could be shown to be false (to the satisfaction of a self-defining radical feminist academic).

    Other studies quoted by Lisak produce similar kinds of ranged estimates, with the top and bottom limits reflecting the extent to which one offers the benefit of the doubt in either direction.

    Of course there may be other reports which are in fact false but the report (and complainant) are sufficiently credible and consistent that they are not identified as being false. No one can know how many of those there are, just as there are cases which are riddled with inconsistencies and reasons to be sceptical but which nonetheless turn out to be true.

    However it is a fairly accurate assessment of the consensus of criminology research that approximately 2 to 8% of rape complaints can be presumed to be false.

  19. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 20
    No go, Ally. There are three classes when you look at the data: false, true, and do-not-know. 2-8% can be shown to be false. The only way you can go from there to “2-8% are false” is if you somehow can say that everything that cannot be shown to be false is true (or that there are no cases in the do-not-know group, if you prefer). That might well be the case, but you do need to produce data to substantiate it. Otherwise we have to presume that there are ‘do-not-know’ cases, maybe quite lot of them, and that some of them are false, thus inflating the numbers,

  20. StillGjenganger says

    @Marduk 18

    The more reasonable position is that it does happen, but so what. The law should continue to offer equal protection to the accused and the accuser and that involves both taking the accuser seriously and the accused seriously. Its really not that complicated and the actual rate shouldn’t have any influence, I don’t care if its 0.5% or 95%. The mistake on all sides is believing justice is up for debate, it isn’t.

    Unfortunately that is not realistic in practice. All kind of decisions, by lawmakers, juries, and police, are in practice probability judgements. Rape cases hang heavily on which side is more believable, and it both can and should make a difference if the expected false reporting rate is 0.5% or 95%. One example for all: In the report linked to by BiLob(3) it is recommended that police accept that a report with inconsistencies and untrue parts may well be true in essence, and should calmly discuss it with the accuser, trying to reach a story that is consistent and believable. If only 0.5% of reports are false, the main effect would be to get the true version out of traumatised people and punish the guilty, which is good. If 95% of reports are false, the main effect would be to collaborate with liars to build a story that could stand up to cross-examination and put an innocent person in jail. Which is bad. The police needs to divide their efforts between establishing that the story they hear is in fact true, and getting the most coherent and believable story from the accuser, and they cannot do it properly without a reasonable idea of how many false accusations they should expect.

  21. David S says

    @Ally

    However it is a fairly accurate assessment of the consensus of criminology research that approximately 2 to 8% of rape complaints can be presumed to be false.

    The rest of your post demonstrates why that is not a fairly accurate assessment. As you pointed out, the Kelly study estimates the percentage of allegations that can be shown to be false, with 8% being the figure you get if you allow the police to set the standard of evidence required, and 2% being the figure you get if you leave that decision to Kelly and her colleagues (actually I think their figure was 3%, but it doesn’t really matter).

    You allude, in a rather vague way, to the studies summarised by Lisak, but I can’t work out whether you think that any of them use a methodology that is significantly different to Kelly. If you do, then you will have to say which one you mean because, as far as I remember, all of the studies that Lisak mentions give estimates of the figure I described as PF. In other words they estimate the percentage of allegations that can be shown to be false. That means that, if you want to know what percentage actually are false, then you are still faced with the inequality

    PFF ≤ (100%- PT)

    and it still doesn’t tell you anything.

    I agree that there are different ways in which PF can be calculated, and they will give you different figures. However this makes no odds, because what you are calculating is a lower bound, and to get any useful conclusion you need to calculate an upper bound as well – and that means an upper bound on F, not an upper bound on PF. What ever approach you take to the problem, you are always going to end up with a small lower bound, and a high upper bound, so the only genuinely accurate assessment of the evidence is to say that no one has the foggiest clue what percentage of allegations are false.

  22. Marduk says

    @22

    I think this is confusing two things. The global rate, which is relevant to how policy makers distribute funds but thats about it, in this instance gives you little or no useful information about a specific case. For things within a case certainly there are judgements to be made that might have a probabistic element to them. If someone is shot and the defendant says the gun just went off in their hand, the court will come to a view of the likelihood of that based on the presence or absence of supporting evidence and testimony. What we don’t do is jail the spouse/parent without even investigating which is what we would do if we thought crime rates meant anything to a specific case.

    I don’t think probability (…or any other kind of prejudice) such shape the investigation of an individual case.

  23. Ally Fogg says

    DavidS

    You keep using the words “shown to be false” which is wrong.

    In all the studies Lisak looks at, he talks of the proportion or percentage that is estimated to be false.

    http://www.icdv.idaho.gov/conference/handouts/False-Allegations.pdf

    That is not the same thing at all.

    I understand your point, and I’m not really arguing with it. As I’ve said hundreds of times before, we can never know the full extent of false accusations.

    But for the sake of the point I was making in the blog, it remains broadly true that the consensus of the literature is that you could reasonably presume that between 92 and 98 percent of reports to police are true. To presume that the number is in fact lower than that is not entirely unreasonable, but it would be a judgement of belief, not evidence.

    Gjenganger

    There are actually more than three categories. Rape is an unusual crime in that it depends upon intent. There are cases where the complainant truthfully believes she or he was raped and the defendant truly believes no rape occurred.

  24. Ally Fogg says

    Just to add and to underline the point above….

    If we apply the same standards of proof to making false allegations as we do to other crimes, the only way we can reasonably say a claim has been shown to be false is if we only count those cases where someone is prosecutend found guilty of making false allegations.

    That is about 0.1% of all allegations.

    Clearly that is nonsense. However any figure above that can only ever be an estimate or a presumption (or if you prefer, a best guess)

  25. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 25

    You keep using the words “shown to be false” which is wrong.
    In all the studies Lisak looks at, he talks of the proportion or percentage that is estimated to be false.

    I beg to disagree. In the introduction to the paper you link, it says:

    As in any domain of research, you cannot accurately measure what you cannot reliably
    define. […] To classify a case as a false allegation,a thorough investigation must yield evidence that a crime did not occur.[…].

    The determination that a report of sexual assault is false can be made only if the evidence establishes that no crime was committed or attempted. This determination can be made only after a thorough investigation. This should not be confused with an investigation that fails to prove a sexual assault occurred. In that case the investigation would be labeled unsubstantiated. The determination that a report is false must be supported by evidence that the assault did not happen.

    So, Lisak defines a ‘false allegation’ as an allegation where the evidence establishes that no crime was committed. That means the same as ‘shown to be false’ in normal English, and that is what his numbers reflect.

    The category ‘unsubstantiated’ (‘unfounded’, ‘no-crime’) seems to cover case where the report, though made in good faith, did not qualify as rape in law, as well as where the police or other classifier felt it ws likely (though unprovable) that the report was untrue. The last category, ‘case proceeded’ meant that it continued in the process, but that still does not mean that rape did necessarily occur, only that it could not reasonably be excluded at this stage.

    Lisaks numbers only reflect the percentage of rapes that can be ‘presumed to be false’ in the peculiar definition of Lisak where ‘false’ means ‘provably false’. The normal English meaning of ‘false accusation’ means ‘an accusation where the accused is not guilty of rape’. This is what you need to know to judge rape cases, and this is what any non-specialist will understand you as saying. Claiming that the data show that ‘one could be somewhere between 92% and 98% certain that [a random rape report] was a truthful report’ is almost certainly a misunderstanding in logic. It is certainly grossly misleading to anyone who is not familiar with Lisak et al.

    To presume that the number is in fact lower than than that [92-98%] is not entirely unreasonable, but it would be a judgement of belief, not evidence.

    If you had examined the cases and found that 92-98% of the cases could be proved true (by some criteria) this would be correct. But the actual situation is that 2-8% have been proved false, and an unknown fraction of the rest is simply undecided (Toronto study: 54% unfounded; UK studies: 14-16% no-crimed; Lisak: 45% ‘did not proceed’). Claiming that 92-98% of accusations is true is no less a judgement of belief: The belief that all reports that cannot be proved false are actually true.

  26. David S says

    @Ally (25)

    You keep using the words “shown to be false” which is wrong.

    In all the studies Lisak looks at, he talks of the proportion or percentage that is estimated to be false.

    http://www.icdv.idaho.gov/conference/handouts/False-Allegations.pdf

    That is not the same thing at all.

    “Shown to be false” is entirely the right thing, because that is exactly what Lisak is measuring. Unless he has a crystal ball, or a lie-detector that actually works, then it is the only thing that he could measure. Lisak is, in fact, fairly explicit about this. In the study you cited he says

    Applying IACP guidelines, a case was classified as a false report if there
    was evidence that a thorough investigation was pursued and that the investigation
    had yielded evidence that the reported sexual assault had in fact not occurred

    [my bolding and italics].

    In other words, he is counting the number of cases that can be shown to be false, to the evidential standard defined by the IACP, as interpreted by his researchers. If we call that PF then, once again we end up with the inequality

    PFF ≤ (100%- PT)

    Lisak has not even attempted to measure PT, so all he has is a lower bound on the percentage of reports that are false, with no upper bound. In other words he is telling us virtually nothing.

  27. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 26
    That is true. But 2-8% is not a ‘best guess’, but a biased guess. It systematically underestimates the number of false allegations by only accepting cases where there is sufficient evidence to prove falsehood. Any ‘best guess’ will have to account for the fact that some if the undecidable cases must be false too.

  28. David S says

    @Ally (26)

    Just to add and to underline the point above….

    If we apply the same standards of proof to making false allegations as we do to other crimes, the only way we can reasonably say a claim has been shown to be false is if we only count those cases where someone is prosecutend found guilty of making false allegations.

    That is about 0.1% of all allegations.

    Clearly that is nonsense

    If you are trying to estimate the proportion of reports that can be shown to false (my PF in other words) then it is not nonsense at all. It is a reasonably sensible, if rather sceptical, estimate of the figure. The value of PF could indeed be much lower than the 2%-8% that gets bandied about.

    However – and this is the point that you seem to be absolutely refusing to get – it is not PF that is the problem, it is PT. What we need is both a lower bound on the number of reports that could be false, that’s PF, and an upper bound, which would be (100%-PT). Whatever approach you take, PF will be small, and you could reasonably say that it was as small as 0.1%, but PT is small as well, so the only conclusion that any sensible person can draw is that no one has the foggiest clue what percentage of reports are false.

  29. RavenR says

    @Lucy

    Statistics do matter, and Bugmaster points out why they’re of significant importance. Furthermore, when terms such as “rape culture” and “rape epidemic” are frequently used, they ( statistics ) are, in my opinion, indispensable in determining whether those assertions are valid.

    @Ally no. 25. This is something I’d like to see receive more discussion. I believe it’s possible for someone to have experienced a sexual encounter as rape, with all the psychological and emotional damage this subsequently entails, but for no criminality to have occurred. Richard Carrier had a lengthy post a while back which touched on this notion . For those interested, contrast his hypothetical scenario A with his hypothetical scenario B.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4419

  30. Bugmaster says

    @Marduk #24:

    I don’t think probability (…or any other kind of prejudice) such shape the investigation of an individual case.

    In this case, you are explicitly arguing for injustice, because probability is pretty much the only thing that matters.

    Look at my cancer scenario again. What you really want to know is, “do I have cancer or not ?”, but you are not omniscient. You can never know the answer with 100% certainty. Yes, if you were 100% sure you had cancer, you’d seek treatment immediately. But what if you were only 95% sure ? Well, I don’t know about you, but I… would seek treatment immediately. Yes, I could demand absolute certainty or bust, but I think we can agree it would be foolish to do so. If I were only 50% sure, I’d seek a second opinion. And if I were only 1% sure, I might do nothing.

    Thus, it is very important to not only collect evidence (which can reduce your uncertainty in a proposition), but to interpret it correctly. For example, in my cancer scenario, the woman whose 90% accurate test says she has cancer, only has about a 55% chance of actually having cancer (work out the math yourself if you don’t believe me). That’s enough for a second opinion, but not enough for chemo.

    An interesting thing happens if we make the test more sensitive. Let’s say that we manage to increase the true positive rate by 5%, so if you have cancer, the test will say “cancer” 95% of the time (as opposed to 90%). But if you are cancer-free, then the test will still say “cancer” 15% of the time (up from 5%, due to increased sensitivity). Using this new test, the woman’s chances of actually having cancer are about 46%. That’s right — we made the test more sensitive, and instead of improving matters, we actually made them worse. Again, work out the math yourself if you don’t believe me.

    Of course, we’re talking about crime, not cancer, but the same reasoning applies. If you are 95% certain the accused is guilty, you want to throw him in jail for life. If you are 5% sure, then doing so would be wasteful and unjust. If, like you seem to be suggesting, you forget the math and go with your feelings, then most likely you will jail many innocent men, and let many guilty ones go free, because your feelings are just not that accurate.

    Most people tend to see math and statistics as something that only matters to academics (and possibly politicians), and I get that: math is hard, and politicians will lie about anything to get elected, including statistics. But if you want to make informed decisions about public policy (not to mention your own life), then you pretty much have no other option.

  31. sheaf24 says

    Bugmaster, 32

    While I strongly agree with you that having accurate probability estimates is absolutely vital n any decision, there has to be acknowledgement that probabilities change with strategies if you are withn a legal context. If you decide that only x% (x small) of accusations are false and based on this treat accusations as given facts you are opening your system towards sociopathic abuse, since anyone can abuse others with real effects and there will be situations where this will be advantagious. Hence this legal change will cause a change in prevalence of false accusations.

    Under this light systems with a lot of evidential inertia, like “innocent until proven guilty” have a lot of appeal, since they do not strongly confer power to people keen of abusing the system, but at the same time (hopefully) deter risk averse offenders from commiting the crime. Though under a view of offenders being impulsve, which is common among people with ASPD, the deterrence offered by such a system is probably not an effective way of dealing with crime. I suspect keeping tabs on likely offender groups (read psychopaths) is, though I cannot completely reconcile that with the non utilitarian remnant of my moral views.

  32. StillGhenganger says

    @Ally 25
    Coming back to what you said, do you mean that 92-98% of rape complainants are sincere, or do you mean that 92-98% of the accused are actually guilty? In the first case your numbers make much more sense. 2-8% is still an underestimate, for the reasons that DavidS and I keep repeating, but it might not be that far out. I have always believed that the vast majority of people who report a rape have suffered a devastating experience and believe that the person accused deserves his punishment (whether he has actually broken the law is a different question).

    But surely you can see that it is dangerous to say ’92-98% of accusations are true’ if you do not have good reason to believe that 92-98% of the accused are actually guilty? And that ‘good reason’ I really cannot see.

  33. mildlymagnificent says

    Coming back to what you said, do you mean that 92-98% of rape complainants are sincere, or do you mean that 92-98% of the accused are actually guilty?

    I can’t speak for Ally, but I took it as the complainants being sincere. There are plenty of times when people report a specific crime, not just rape, but the details and evidence mean either that a different charge should be laid or no charge of any kind is likely to succeed or can be made at all. The police don’t charge people with premeditated murder when the initial report of the event tells them that the only options are accident or manslaughter no matter how sincerely the victim’s family believes it should be murder, but they still collect information and evidence from them and from other people involved and use that to pursue the legally viable charge/s, if any. (I suppose the option in the case of a death is that the family might be satisfied by a coroner’s finding of accidental death even though they think someone ought to be held accountable in some way. Unfortunately there’s no non-trial equivalent for rape and other sexual assaults.)

    I think the correct presumption is that “92-98% of the accused” should at least be interviewed.

  34. Ally Fogg says

    Yep, as Mildly says, a sincere allegation can never be called a false allegation, as normally understood.

  35. StillGjenganger says

    @Mildly,Ally,
    OK, this is beginning to make sense. I was starting to worry that Ally was either more biased or more obtuse than I would have thought possible ;-). And to be fair, the words ‘one could be somewhere between 92% and 98% certain that it was a truthful report’ could be taken either way. But because this is such a critical question, I think we should be extremely careful and precise in our language. A lot of people, both MRAs and feminists would take ‘only 2-8% of reports are false’ to mean ’92-98% of the accused ought to be in jail’. So how about dividing rape reports into ‘malicious’ and ‘sincere’, when we speak about the accuser. and ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ when we talk about the events, to avoid giving misleading impressions? This is especially important because a sincere report (according to Lisak) may well contain important falsehoods, added either to protect the accuser or to make the story more believable.

  36. says

    I wonder what percentage of posts here start with “its not often I agree with Lucy but…”

    Watching a bunch of men discussing a 6% range in the probability of a rape allegation being true is really not pretty.

    each allegation has a victim behind it, and whether that person is a victim of an actual assault or a victim of something in society that has twisted them into the kind of person who makes a false allegation, then some sympathy and understanding needs to be brought.

    Where I disagree with Lucy is that this nitpicking isnt (IMO) a symptom of male autistic tendencies but an attempt to dismiss the actual numbers of assaults by mentally moving them all into the 2-8% catagory.

    She or he wasn’t beaten black and blue therefore 2-8%, she or he was intoxicated so 2-8%, if we drill down hard enough gentlemen we could probably get 60 or 70% of rape allegations into the 2%-8% catagory. It will hardly be a problem that needs dealing with then.

  37. Adiabat says

    StillGhenganger (34):

    Coming back to what you said, do you mean that 92-98% of rape complainants are sincere, or do you mean that 92-98% of the accused are actually guilty? In the first case your numbers make much more sense.

    Not really. Since the 2-8% figure is for those that are shown to be false we still don’t know how many others were insincere yet couldn’t be shown to be false. The same issue with Ally’s use of the figure remains.

    If Ally is correct that this misuse of the figures is common consensus in the field of criminology then that calls into question the field itself, or at least the people working in it. Perhaps the degrees being offered aren’t offering a suitable grounding in statistics for the people who then go to work in it? Maybe the Home Office (who have a stake in them producing good quality work) could offer some remedial classes to bring criminologists up-to-speed, to enable them to do their jobs properly?

    Danny Butts (38):

    Watching a bunch of men discussing a 6% range in the probability of a rape allegation being true is really not pretty.

    You’ve misunderstood what is being discussed at a very basic level.

  38. says

    You’ve misunderstood what is being discussed at a very basic level.

    No I haven’t.

    I’m watching men desperately interrogating the statistics so that they can claim women are out to destroy men’s reputations through “insincere” claims of rape.

  39. Holms says

    You’re wathing a couple of men do that – the usual MRA-leaning suspects – while the rest rebut them.

  40. StillGjenganger says

    @Adiabat 39
    You are right in principle – and I said as much in my comment to Ally anyway – but the error is likely to be much less important. First because we have cut out the potentially important group of cases where the accuser is sincere but the accused is innocent anyway. Second because once we are discussing sincerity rather than truthfulness it no longer follows that the more sincere accusers we have, the more accused are guilty. As long as we can agree that there is an important group of cases where the accuser is sincere but the accused is innocent anyway, we can discuss the two points separately and avoid the highly unpleasant discussion of exactly how many accusers could be classed as malicious.

    @Danny Butts
    I see no gain in attacking the sincerity of rape accusers, or in paranoid fantasies that women are out to get us. But I do think it is important to base our decisions on a clear and correct idea of what is actually happening, including roughly what percentage of those accused of rape is likely to be guilty.

  41. fairyvexed says

    Boy, a lot of guys are really desperate to accuse women of lying about rape……but they could give a shit about, say, insurance fraud. Of course, I see several people committing an error and an omission: omitting police malice and denial on the part of men who might be “innocent.”

    Numerous researchers—–Koss, Lisak——have found that actual rapists will do anything to avoid the “r” word. They have a nice, socially-approved definition of rape that is limited to dark alleys, twelve-year-old virgins, and men and boys who don’t get convicted because they have bright futures. They have this cozy idea that what they’re doing isn’t rape. They are desperate to keep this delusion——and apparently there are lots of other people who want the same thing.

    Meanwhile, the same cops who coldly murder black men treat women…..well, they treat women an awful lot like some of the men in this thread.

    In Lynnwood, WA., the cops decided they didn’t believe that a woman had actually been raped. She was arrested, tried, convicted. Then a couple of years later, cops in Colorado arrested a rapist named Marc O’Leary. He had a nasty habit of taking pictures of the rapes he committed.

    Among the pictures on his camera were photos of him raping the woman the cops in Lynnwood called a liar. I’m sure he thinks he’s “actually innocent.”

  42. Adiabat says

    Danny Butts (40): I quoted you above where you claim that ‘a bunch of men [are] discussing a 6% range’ yet that hasn’t been what the discussion has been about. At all.

    Your inability to understand what the discussion has been about means that your further assertions (derived from what must only be an ability to read the minds of people thousands of miles away) are worthless, as they would be based on your misunderstanding.

    StillGjenganger (42): You’re right that the error will be less the more we restrict the definition in ways that ensure that it is less. But even then we still have no idea of the size of the ‘insincere yet couldn’t be shown to be false’ group. Due to the difficulty of showing that they are false it could be a multiple of the 2-8% figure. Then again, the police may be very good at rooting such cases out so it may not have a big effect on that figure. We just don’t know.

    However I agree that breaking down the categories is helpful. I read a study a while back which showed a good proportion of what police were thinking as ‘falsely accused’ cases were actually remembered incorrectly or a case of the victim misidentifying her rapist.

    Fairyvexed (43): Yawn, standard SJW tactic of misrepresenting people who either disagree with them or close to showing that one or more of their claims are false(and more pretend mind-reading!). The hyperbole in this particular case is almost funny.

    Also see the isolated incident presented to emotionally manipulate the debate through rare but tragic cases and to attempt to claim a general trend (while of course leaving out similar miscarriages of justice which would work against their particular claim but which would also need to be considered along it to form a conclusion on any systemic-wide oppression by the police), as well as the attempt to appropriate the oppression of poc.

    This stuffs just getting old.

  43. says

    Holms @ 41

    Yes, you are right that there are people rebutting the men who are trying to minimize the numbers of women who are raped, or maximize those who are making false allegations and my comment wasn’t aimed at them.

    StillGjenganger @ 42

    But I do think it is important to base our decisions on a clear and correct idea of what is actually happening, including roughly what percentage of those accused of rape is likely to be guilty.

    Why! why is it so important to you and those of a MRA bent that the percentage is so important, when anyone being reasonable can see that whatever the exact percentage is it’s still less than 10%. And as someone else has pointed out, by their very nature these approx 5% of false allegations are being investigated by the police.

    I really cant get exercised over 30% of rapes go unreported.

    Adiabat says @ 44

    Due to the difficulty of showing that they are false it could be a multiple of the 2-8% figure

    your move mush.

  44. says

    it should have read

    I really cant get exercised over less than 10% of false reports when more than 30% of rapes go unreported.

    seems that the best way to delete lines of text is to use the less than followed by the more than symbols.

  45. sheaf24 says

    Butts

    Why! why is it so important to you and those of a MRA bent that the percentage is so important, when anyone being reasonable can see that whatever the exact percentage is it’s still less than 10%. And as someone else has pointed out, by their very nature these approx 5% of false allegations are being investigated by the police.

    Prove your statement against the objections raised in this thread, primary among them that provably false accusations are a subset of false accusation which could be proper.

  46. sheaf24 says

    Butts, sry for messsed up quote:

    Why! why is it so important to you and those of a MRA bent that the percentage is so important, when anyone being reasonable can see that whatever the exact percentage is it’s still less than 10%. And as someone else has pointed out, by their very nature these approx 5% of false allegations are being investigated by the police.

    Prove your statement against the objections raised in this thread, primary among them that provably false accusations are a subset of false accusation which could be proper.

  47. StillGjenganger says

    @Adiabat 44
    You are right – we do not know. But we need to form some kind of reasonable estimate to work with. Now if you ask me, 2% has to be too low. If you take the cases police count as false and exclude everything a declared feminist academic thinks could in any possible way be true, you are bound to end up with a clear underestimate. But it could easily be 4-8%. It could be more too, but since we have no information to say it is, why argue? There are arguments the other way, too. Most people who report a rape seem to be pretty hurt in some way, which suggests that they are not making everything up. Also, a rape investigation is a very stressful process, with uncertain prospects of getting a conviction at the end. And most people are generally pretty honest. 4-8% ought to be close enough for government work. Insisting that malicious accusations are so very common, without evidence, is offensive to many and guaranteed to ruin any reasonable debate. And once it is accepted that a sincere report is possible even if the target is innocent, we do not even gain anything by it, in the argument.

  48. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny Butts 46
    I’d agree that false allegations are surely less than 10%. Incorrect allegations, that is where the accused is not guilty after all, might be as high as 20%, though no higher, I’d say. When some misguided people claim the number of incorrect allegations is around 0.2%, and even more serious people suggest ‘maybe as low as 2%), I think that is a difference worth noting.

  49. StillGjenganger says

    @Dannu Butts 46
    Say that it makes no appreciable difference to the total number of rapes, but is a factor of ten difference in the likelihood that a rape suspect is guilty.

  50. says

    StillGjenganger

    If you’re going to argue that someone making a report of rape can be sincere but incorrect,
    I have no option but to wonder what the weathers like on your planet.

    sheaf24:
    um, no. I’ve just stated that I am uninterested in the precise % of false accusations, so why would you expect me to jump through your hoops?

  51. sheaf24 says

    Butts:

    um, no. I’ve just stated that I am uninterested in the precise % of false accusations, so why would you expect me to jump through your hoops?

    Because you made ths statement:

    […]anyone being reasonable can see that whatever the exact percentage is it’s still less than 10%.

    I think noone being reasonable can make this definite conclusion based on the data presented so far.

  52. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny 52
    Rape depends on intent from the perpetrator (as Ally points out above). If someone reasonably believed that he had consent he is not a rapist, but the distinction could quite legitimately be lost on his victim. People might have a wrong idea of the law, e.g. that ‘if you have drunk 8 units you are necessarily too drunk to consent’. And there are people who wake up and cannot remember anything but are sure they were raped. Sincere, no doubt, but always correct? And that is without counting those who embellish a basically correct story with falsehoods that makes it more credible (See Lisak link, above). Just possible that their embellishments might take them over the line from not-rape to rape?
    None of these can be all that common – as I said I would guess 20% combined is the absolute upper limit – but you can hardly say they are too fantastic to consider.

  53. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny 53
    Come on. The question (that police, jurors and MPs need to consider) is “Out of 1000 people accused of rape how many are actually guilty”. Which depends on how many accusations are incorrect (or malicious). Are you trying to discuss this or are you taking the piss?

  54. sheaf24 says

    Gjenganger 51

    I guess this is a typo, but the factor 10 difference is about the likelihood of someone being innocent (of rape) not guilty.

  55. says

    StillGjenganger

    Sorry but on my planet rape depends on the consent of the parties involved. Many men have sincerely believed they had consent and did not “intend” rape but a jury has rightly seen it the other way, and in your following examples the law is clear that in those circumstances a rape has happened.

    And the “line”? really? at what point can you embellish the statement “I did not consent to sex”? If someone has sex with someone who did not consent to it, they are a rapist.

    So in law, if its those examples take you from 2% to 20% you don’t actually understand what rape is.

    Sheaf,

    The data presented so far is that somewhere between 2-8% of rape allegations are false. The other numbers are presented by a bunch of rape apologists, paranoid that women are out to steal their money and their tinkles. I don’t feel bad for taking no fucking notice of it.

  56. StillGjenganger says

    In UK law, at least, rape requires intent, and it is enough to exonerate you that if you reasonably believed that you had consent.

    I appeal to Ally for confirmation.

  57. says

    StillGjenganger

    “Come on. The question (that police, jurors and MPs need to consider) is “Out of 1000 people accused of rape how many are actually guilty”.

    No its not. Its the question that MRAs think is important because that deflects attention from the actual instances of rape.

    The fact is that the police have considered it and said its about 8%, a study into their estimate came to the conclusion that they were ignoring some relevant facts and suggested that the real figure is 2%.

    If you think MPs should be considering it then why don’t the MRA approach one of them to table as private members bill? You may well have 2 recently elected MPs that would be sympathetic. I heard one MP pushing Homeopathy earlier, so there’s another who is obviously inclined to time wasting bullshit. however, don’t be surprised if the general reaction is why is Parliament wasting its time on the question that “some people think the rates of false accusations are small and others think its very small”.

    And jurors should not be considering anything but the facts in the case before them. If a judge heard that a juror was talking about the % probability of a rape being a false accusation based on published studies, they would rightly throw them off the jury.

    Which depends on how many accusations are incorrect (or malicious). Are you trying to discuss this or are you taking the piss?”

    No , I’m pointing out that there are very few people who give a shit whether the figure is 2 or 8 % or more, and universally those that do are MRA rape apologists.

  58. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny 62
    You are wrong, but I refer you to the previous posts – we have discussed the point you raise at great length already.
    I am not MRA, but I have no objection to being a ‘rape apologist’ – by your definition.

  59. says

    Me @ 38

    “Watching a bunch of men discussing a 6% range in the probability of a rape allegation being true is really not pretty.”

    yes, that was the point I was making.

  60. 123454321 says

    Danny:

    “I’m watching men desperately interrogating the statistics so that they can claim women are out to destroy men’s reputations through “insincere” claims of rape.”

    I think you’ll find they’re simply after the truth.

  61. says

    Wow, Ally writes about an article dealing with rape culture at UVA, and ALL OF SIXTY-TWO COMMENTS SO FAR resolutely change the subject to a cowardly whinge-fest about (totally unproven) false-rape-report statistics. Even I am surprised at how eager this crowd are to avoid the subject. I’m just gonna be totally evil and talk about the original subject of this thread — which I figure is the appropriate thing for me to do, since I actually went to UVA, and since I have good reason to find the allegations in the RD story to be totally plausible.

    First, my entire first-year class was greeted by beaming UVA staffers welcoming us into a culture that explicitly promised to include more-or-less unlimited drunkenness (“part of the UVA Experience!!!”). It was part of UVA’s appeal, as one of the great American party-schools, and it was an unofficial promise that the officials made very little attempt to debunk or diminish. That alone doesn’t prove rape-culture, of course, but we all know that limitless alcohol is one of its foundations.

    Second, the very first thing we all expected to get rid of when we first moved from our parents’ houses to a college dorm, was all those stuffy grownup rules we’d been chafing under since we turned twelve — especially the rules against sex. So as soon as our parents had left and we’d unpacked our bags, the first order of business was to troop off to the girls’ dorms and start chatting up the girls to begin the process of getting laid. Again, this doesn’t prove rape-culture in itself, since (AFAIK) none of those clumsy courtship attempts resulted in actual assaults; but again, you see the beginnings of the sense of male entitlement (and haste and desperation) in the relentless and routinized random meetings (sort of an early form of speed-dating), which the girls were subjected to without first being asked.

    Third, there is a bridge across Emmet Street, from the first-year dorms on the west side to the student-union and dining-hall on the east, which was a main route for students going to dinner from their dorms. One evening shortly after the start of every fall semester, at least a hundred guys would sit on a slope overlooking that bridge, and loudly judge the appearance of the female pedestrians. Again, nothing I’d call harassment, and it didn’t seem that threatening (to me at least), since the guys on the hill weren’t close enough to do anything threatening; but again, the attitude of male entitlement gets a little more entrenched in an unchallenged public ritual.

    Then there’s the frat parties themselves. The frat parties I went to were packed to the rafters, and the beer and (strong) mixed drinks flowed freely, and personal restraint tended to get quietly kicked aside, right along with anyone who got too drunk and passed out on the stairs. Taking a girl to a frat party and getting her drunk was pretty much considered the standard path to getting laid. No one in authority spoke too loudly against it. Rape and sexual harassment weren’t widely talked about in general back then.

    Also, I never actually heard of any “gang-rapes” — the word I heard was “train,” either a verb or a noun, which I understood to mean several guys getting one girl (a.k.a. “babe,” “baby,” “hosebag”) drunk and, well, nudge, nudge, say-no-more. I was never privy to the specifics of when, where or how often — but I never heard any objections either. It seemed to just be assumed that drunkenness = willingness. Respect for the rights, dignity or safety of female students wasn’t all that high among the student population in general, and was much lower among frat guys. My impressions were strongly corroborated by a UVA staffer who spoke to NPR regarding this RS story, who said that guys in frats and team sports had very little respect for women.

    Then there’s this thing called Easters (or at least there was), a week where all the frats along Rugby Road had even more crowded parties, and they all spilled out and merged onto the street itself — one big amorphous drunken hazy street party with zero theme, security or traffic control. What could possibly go wrong?

    I don’t know if “Jackie” really was gang-raped at that particular frat-house; but I have no doubt that such things did happen, and that once led to a frat-house bedroom, a girl is pretty much physically trapped and unable to scream over the normal noise of even a relatively small frat party. And while I can’t speak from direct experience, it seems totally plausible that someone who has been gang-raped could easily get certain crucial details wrong in her memory. Rape is traumatic, and traumatic events tend to mess with one’s mind. So no, inconsistencies in her story do NOT diminish her credibility. She was an ordinary student, not a Treadstone operative.

    So yeah, I find the RS story totally plausible, both in its general thrust and in its particular story. And I find it suspicious how quickly and concertedly people piled on against it after it came out. concerted pile-ons like that tend to be organized by people like Karl Rove.

    And one more thing (so far): as another article on this subject pointed out, journalists do stories about all sorts of other crimes without having to get the criminals’ side of the story; so why can’t we talk about a widespread rape problem without asking the rapists to comment?

    PS: I also don’t consider it plausible that a woman would have consensual sex with a guy, then knowingly file a false rape report just because the sex wasn’t good enough. Normally, a woman in that situation would simply get away from the guy and not waste any more time with him. ACTUAL RAPE VICTIMS choose not to go to all the trouble of filing charges, so I find it pretty absurd that anyone would go that route for even less reason. (And since she’s legally adult and away from home, there’s less likelihood of her being coerced by her parents into such action.)

  62. sheaf24 says

    Raging Bee,

    How in the world is talking about what you are interested in cowardly. This is absurd.

  63. sheaf24 says

    … no it isn’t. Disruptive maybe… sometimes much more constructive than the original subject.

  64. says

    And jurors should not be considering anything but the facts in the case before them. If a judge heard that a juror was talking about the % probability of a rape being a false accusation based on published studies, they would rightly throw them off the jury.

    Yeah, that’s what we have trials for: to figure out what DID happen, not what this or that study said was X or more percent LIKELY to have happened. I’ve served on two juries, and neither one wasted any time arguing about the probability of a certain kind of allegation being false. Our job was to figure out whether the particular charges in front of us were true, without regard to how much percent of the time similar charges turned out not to be true. If you go that route, you’d probably get equally good results weighing the defendant against a duck.

  65. RavenR says

    @Raging Bee

    Inevitably, given the developments of this story that have come out over the past few days, the possibility, and I stress possibility here, because despite the disintegration of Jackie’s narrative, it’s entirely possible that she’s the victim of some traumatic event ( friends of hers have said that they’ve come to doubt her version of events, but still believe that she’s been the victim of something traumatic) that this could be an instance of a false allegation . It’s not the central theme of Ally’s piece, but he mentions false allegations several times during the article, so I don’t think it’s inappropriate or cowardly to discuss them here. Discussion doesn’t have to be limited to one aspect, and Ally hasn’t voiced any discontent that posters are broaching false rape statistics, indeed he’s participated in that debate . I see your point that the vast majority of comments here have focused on false rape statistics rather than the damage that the RS article has done, but it’s hardly irrelevant to talk about this subject, particularly as the author explicitly mentions the 2-8% figure.

  66. sheaf24 says

    Bee,

    Determining whether something happened is a probability judgement. You can make this judgement explcit by acknowledging this fact or you can muddy the waters and decrease your accuracy.

    As for cowardice: Disruption has none of the psychological antecedends of cowardice.

  67. Ally Fogg says

    For what it is worth, I don’t think discussing estimates of false allegations are off topic here, but I also think it is the wrong focus.

    The point I was trying to make in the OP was that the proportion of reported rapes which are false is irrelevant to any judgement on this case.

    70-odd comments later, that is still my position.

  68. sheaf24 says

    Ally

    any rudimentary knowledge of baysian probablity theory shows you to be just wrong. Base rates determined reliability of estimates. The most reasonable way of getting to base rates is to consult studies with valid methodology. Your throw in about extraordinary evidence made me cringe when I read it.

  69. Bugmaster says

    Danny Butts brings up another good point (once again, by illustrating its opposite): it’s really important to keep politics out of policy.

    In politics, including the social justice kind, the goal is to win followers to your side. In order to do that, you need to polarize the discussion as much as possible. It’s all about Us (the side of truth and justice and light) vs. Them (the evil inhuman minions of darkness), and if you’re not with Us, then you must be one of Them. It doesn’t really matter if Us are progressives or conservatives or men or women or whomever, the technique works either way. It is very effective, and if you are trying to build a movement, it would be arguable irresponsible not to use it.

    If you are concerned about policy, on the other hand, then you need clear measurable goals. Since we humans are not omniscient, this always involves reasoning under uncertainty; and since we are not omnipotent, we need to carefully ration our resources. In practice, this means using math, but it also means rejecting the black/white, good/evil dichotomy.

    The two approaches are in obvious conflict, but the conflict may be irreconcilable, because without gaining followers to your cause you can’t really do anything; but the rhetorical techniques involved in doing so will prevent you from effecting real change. For example, when someone says, “actually, I think the breast cancer rate among women is closer to 10%, not 12%”, the natural response is, “how dare you minimize the suffering of women by quibbling about percentage points, you monster !”, but such a response will drown out any efforts to reduce the false positive rates of your cancer test (which, as we’ve seen from my previous example, is critically important if you want your test to be useful for anything).

    I’m not sure if there’s a good solution to this problem. It seems to be possible to compartmentalize your organization at least to some extent, by splitting it up into “campaigning” and “policy” branches, as our political parties used to do. This way, people like Lucy and Danny Butts can join the “campaigning” branch, where their brand of fire-and-brimstone outrage can bring in the donations and recruits; and meanwhile, the policy branch can use these resources to get on with useful work. But, unfortunately, it looks like over time the campaign branch tends to inevitably take over. Work isn’t “sexy”; outrage is, and so are donations…

  70. says

    It’s not the central theme of Ally’s piece, but he mentions false allegations several times during the article…

    Yes, and it’s never relevant or helpful here; it’s just a lame dodge. An 8% chance of a false rape report means a 92% chance the report is at least not a deliberate lie — which means that all allegations must be at least taken seriously and seriously investigated, and all victims be treated respectfully, so more victims will be willing to go to trial and get a decision by a trial, which is the most reliable way to separate truth from falsehood.

    Seriously, if you or your son was accused of rape, would you want a prosecutor saying “You better take a plea deal, there’s a 92% chance you’ll be convicted”?

    There is very real evidence of entrenched rape culture at UVA. The probability of rape charges being fabricated, high or low, does not refute or invalidate any of that evidence. A specific charge of rape would be proven or disproven with evidence and testimony, not by probabilities.

    And on the other side of that coin, when prosecutors decide they CAN’T make a particular case stand up in court, probabilities do not — or at least they bloody well SHOULD NOT — inform such decisions.

    We’re talking about evidence and contributing factors for rape-culture at certain universities. The probability of false rape charges, high or low, is a totally different subject. So is the validity of such calculations, which is, at best, highly suspect.

  71. Archy says

    @40 Danny B

    “I’m watching men desperately interrogating the statistics so that they can claim women are out to destroy men’s reputations through “insincere” claims of rape.”

    I’m more concerned that innocent people are getting screwed over because people are afraid to be skeptical. There are SOME women who DO want to destroy reputations and harm men, it’s been proven in a court of law quite a few times, there are women whom get jailed for it. It’s a nasty issue in divorce/family courts too.

    @43 fairyvexed

    “Boy, a lot of guys are really desperate to accuse women of lying about rape……but they could give a shit about, say, insurance fraud. ”

    Insurance fraud usually doesn’t send innocents to jail, or result in massive career damage, vigilante bashings/killings of innocents. Chalk n cheese..

    Just so my views are clear.

    -Accusations without enough evidence aren’t criminal if they are genuinely made. Accusations against the wrong person because of mistaken identity are horrible but mistakes can happen. No jailtime, support the victim to find the appropriate person or at least help with trauma, etc. Help the accused get their life back.

    -Accusations made purposely against someone the accuser knows is innocent, even if to deflect blame off themselves (eg someone cheats on a partner, says it was rape instead), these types of accusations should carry jail-time unless there is some extreme circumstances like they fear being killed for the truth.
    -Accuations made against innocents out of malice definitely need jailtime.

    This thread is a bit over the place but of the last 2, especially the last one (false accusations with mallice), is that all of the 2-8% or is 2-8% including the lack of evidence and mistaken identity ones as well?

    At no point do I want any stats used to discredit or scare off legitimate victims, I’d be horrified if that happened. That’s why only the wilful false accusers should be jailed, not people forced into it by others (eg when a parent pushes a child into making a false accusation).

    “No , I’m pointing out that there are very few people who give a shit whether the figure is 2 or 8 % or more, and universally those that do are MRA rape apologists.”

    I care about if it’s 2% or 8%, That is still a lot of people. Am I an MRA rape apologist for caring about people being harmed for no good reason? These terms of “MRA rape apologist” get thrown around so much, they’re becoming simply just “you worry about stuff that I don’t think you should, therefore you’re a bad person because this other issue is farrr worse”.

  72. StillGjenganger says

    @Raging 77
    Actually i agree with your comment.Only one exception:Probabilities do matter, because juries have to judge what is plausible and what is not, and that is a probability judgement. I would assume – and hope – that group sex more easily leads to conviction than one-on -one sex, just because it is less likely that a women would spontaneously decide to take on six guys. That is why progressive people are so worked up about ‘rape stereotypes’: They think that police and juries have their probabilities wrong and are too reluctant to convict as a result. We do need to ensure that people have the right idea – we just have to agree what the right idea is.

    By the time the investigation or trial is finished there hopefully is so much evidence that we no longer rely much on intrinsic probabilities. But we can never be free of them altogether.

  73. StillGjenganger says

    Maybe I confuse people, talking about probabilities. But Bayesian probability is not about how many sixes you get when you roll a pair of dice. It is a general rule about how strongly to believe in things, and how to apply evidence to decide. In that sense, ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ is just another probability measure. And the rules apply in the same way to past and future, unknown and unknowable. So one would ask about the probability that Liverpool will win the 2015 FA cup, that a giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, or (if you did not know) that Bonn is the capital of Germany. Or the probability that ‘Jackie’ was raped by the man she calls Drew.

  74. 123454321 says

    “The probability of false rape charges, high or low, is a totally different subject.”

    …which is a subject that gets completely fucking ignored as the outcome of treating the subject would benefit innocent men, and there’s no priority there, is there!.

  75. Holms says

    It has been suggested, multiple times, that there is no major motivation for a ‘don’t falsely accuse people of rape’ awareness raising campaign (as opposed to the current ‘learn what consent really means’ push) because a) it is redundant given that we already teach honesty, and b) there is much less false rape than actual rape.

  76. says

    Since we’ve all obviously been reading Richard Carrier and see Baye’s theorem as the bees knees this month, lets go ahead and apply it to a rape trial.

    Members of the jury, there were no witnesses to the alleged rape and its basically his word against hers. The prior probability that this woman has falsely accused this man of rape is 2%. Now go away and bring in your verdict.

    Jesus, I don’t think that men are all on the autistic spectrum, but I strongly believe many of us aspire to be.

  77. 123454321 says

    The number of reported rapes has grown significantly over the last few years according to Ally and the sources, by several-fold. What has caused this? If these reported rapes are down to social massaging and successful awareness campaigns which have led to the breaking down of barriers for women who are now far more comfortable with coming forward and speaking out, then that is a great achievement and something which I would strongly support. However, shouldn’t we be mindful of the fact that the rise in reported rapes also aligns with the same timeline showing a significant rise in alcohol consumption and binge-drinking by women? I’m not saying for one moment that women shouldn’t be able to go out and have a drink, but surely there is a potential for more false allegations to exist amongst this demographic and potentially we might expect to see a rise in false allegations which were disproportionally high based on anger, regret, revenge and actions made as a result of surrounding social behavioural expectations/condemnation etc. If this is true, then there are lessons to be learnt by all, not just men! I think alcohol has a lot to answer for!

  78. sheaf24 says

    I just had a chuckle about Butts believing Richard Carrier is the source of Bayesianism on the web. The more likely influence is the lesswrong community, though in my case it was tertiary education in math. Anyone should read “probability theory and the logic of science”.

  79. sheaf24 says

    Gjengjanger,

    So one would ask about the probability that Liverpool will win the 2015 FA cup, that a giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, or (if you did not know) that Bonn is the capital of Germany.

    The Bonn example is confused. Even if you “know” Bonn not to be capital, this s nothing more than a strong probability judgement based on much evidence. “Knowing” is not a qualitatively different state from “not knowing”, but both are on the probabilistic continuum.

  80. says

    I’m more concerned that innocent people are getting screwed over because people are afraid to be skeptical.

    Again, that’s why we have to make it easier for victims to go through the court system: so more charges will at least go to trial, which is one place where people are NOT afraid to be skeptical. I really don’t see what your problem is here — the best way to protect the innocent is have reliable trials, and you can’t have those if victims are bullied or deterred from filing formal complaints.

    Probabilities do matter, because juries have to judge what is plausible and what is not, and that is a probability judgment.

    No, it’s an EVIDENCE judgment. It’s the evidence relevant to the particular case that tells us what’s plausible, not some dodgy abstract probability calculation that has nothing to do with the particular charges in question in a particular trial.

    Seriously, what color is the sky in this country of yours where abstract probability calculations are considered admissible evidence?

  81. says

    …but surely there is a potential for more false allegations to exist amongst this demographic and potentially we might expect to see a rise in false allegations which were disproportionally high based on anger, regret, revenge and actions made as a result of surrounding social behavioural expectations/condemnation etc.

    Do you really think that false charges made by a drunk woman “based on anger, regret, revenge and actions made as a result of surrounding social behavioural expectations/condemnation etc.” would have any chance of standing up to investigation, grand-jury hearings, and a full-blown trial? How diabolically clever do you imagine these drunk angry frustrated woman really are? I have news for you: that graphic-novel where an army of evil dykes enforces their totalitarian misandry through a unifying telepathic network is FICTION.

  82. sheaf24 says

    Raging Bee

    What d you imagine evidence judgements to be other than refinements of prior probabilities with observations? You can of course use some everyday understanding of the word and ignore the powerful calculus people have devised for being more correct, but your gut judgements will produce incorrect internal states that will lead to real world misery.

  83. says

    …but your gut judgements will produce incorrect internal states that will lead to real world misery.

    Since when was looking at evidence a “gut judgment?”

    Also, I’d just like to note that we’ve now exceeded NINETY comments, and I’m the only one saying ANYTHING about either original topic of the OP: the original RS article or events at UVA. This is nothing but deliberate, and desperate, avoidance of an important subject; and it speaks volumes about the honesty of the commentariat here. What a fucking joke.

  84. sheaf24 says

    91,

    How you look at evidence can make it either a gut judgement or you can try o be precise. Its up to you.

  85. says

    And trying to be precise means discounting out of hand a lot of dodgy, dishonest, discredited “calculations” of probability that don’t say jack shit about any particular case at hand.

  86. says

    RB @ 91

    Your right of course. Thing is I completely agreed with the OP, however being British and having the reserve that goes with I am not one to cheer-lead for the writer

    “yay go Ally! yeah great piece!”.

    Therefore, I can really only react to what I disagree with in the comments section, which is a bunch of men trying to minimize the prevalence of rape because menz stuff.

    Of course , one of the ways to cut the incidences of rape is to get get rapists put away, and that wasn’t helped by the rolling stone piece.

  87. 123454321 says

    Raging Bee, the point I was trying to make is that the apparent exponential increase in female alcohol consumption over the last few years could mean that the increase in percentage of false allegations may be greater than the percentage increase of legitimate allegations. In other words, the problem surrounding false allegations could be getting worse, not better, and like you say, it’s a problem in its own right, and i think it needs addressing, regardless. By the way, Raging Rat, I never said that allegations of this ilk would stand up against a full-blown trial, because if they did get to the police and trial, guess what, they’s be false allegations. Doh! Nice little teeny-style tantrums, by the way! Pleeeaaazze keep it up for our amusement! You’re such a hoot!

  88. says

    RB @ 89,

    For Christ sake don’t tell 123 etc that his view of women being an

    “army of evil dykes enforces their totalitarian misandry through a unifying telepathic network is FICTION”

    its the only thing that keeps him in his basement not out…erm… interacting with them.

  89. says

    We know that there are now sufficient doubts about the accuracy of the original Rolling Stone cover story that the magazine editor has effectively retracted it.

    Your choice of words is a bit fishy. Care to discuss which parts were actually retracted? I’m sure it’s only a partial retraction, otherwise you wouldn’t be using the vague qualifying adverb “effectively.”

    And no, no one was betrayed by “sensationalism.” The rape victim here was betrayed first by the frat-boy who led her into a violent attack, and then by a college culture that discouraged her at every turn from seeking any kind of justice. And the reading public (especially other rape-victims) are being betrayed by people who look for imperfections in a story to use as another excuse to disregard every subsequent story of rape or rape-culture they hear.

  90. sheaf24 says

    Raing bee,
    Dodgy? Based on your ample expertise? Don’t make me laugh.

    Dishonest? Discredited? This got to be a joke.

    Last chance to be taken seriously:

    “Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.”

    Prove this statement or disprove it using bayesian probability calculus. I wont hold my breath.

  91. says

    Sheaf

    I’ve got a prior probability for you. That you’ve never actually been on a jury is close to 100%.

    If you tried that kind of sophomoric reasoning in a real life jury situation , you’d be told to go and sit in the corner until the judge had time to come and speak to you.

    You may have a tertiary education but that’s not a lot when you’re dealing with grown ups.

  92. says

    …problem surrounding false allegations could be getting worse, not better…

    COULD be? Can you point to any reputable study showing that is IS getting worse? Like maybe, Oh, I dunno, increasing numbers of trial transcripts showing rape-claims being proven to be deliberate falsehoods? All I see so far is some vague correlation (and given your past performance, I’m sure it’s useless to ask for a citation), and we all know what correlation doesn’t prove.

    …the apparent exponential increase in female alcohol consumption over the last few years…

    Do you even know what the word “exponential” means? Given how much female alcohol consumption I witness way back in the ’80s, “exponential increase” would mean more drunk women now than the actual female population!

    Oh, and for the ten zillionth time, STOP BLAMING WOMEN’S BEHAVIOR FOR MALE VIOLENCE, YOU HALFWIT!

  93. sheaf24 says

    Butts,

    While you are correct, this is not a prior probability, betraying that you know nothing about the topic. You are also correct that I would not agree with most judges decision, gven that judges are bad decision makers and there is evidential support for this proposition, like racial bias etc. It is a sad fact that we pay people without even rudimentary training in rational decision making and give these decisions any weight but this is a completely different matter.

  94. Bugmaster says

    @sheaf24 #86:
    Yeah, I personally learned about Bayes’ Theorem in CS class. You cited LessWrong and math education, Danny Butts heard of it from Richard Carrier… It’s curious how this theorem pops up in all kinds of places, almost as though it was some sort of a fundamental concept or something 🙂

    The state of innumeracy in America (and maybe Britain too, I don’t know) is kind of sad.

  95. Adiabat says

    StillGjenganger (49):

    You are right – we do not know. But we need to form some kind of reasonable estimate to work with… 4-8% ought to be close enough for government work

    Yes we do need an estimate to work with, but I don’t think if we lack one we should just invent one that ‘feels right’ to you, or anyone else. Our intuition is a sorely lacking instrument in this area: it wasn’t too long ago that feminists were declaring the Total figure to be around 0.1% (though if you bring that up with them today they “were always at war with Eastasia”).

    Any estimate should be derived statistically, and since we only have figures (2-8%) for a subset of the Total reports, those that are shown to be false, with another subset that cannot be determined through normal means (the false reports that aren’t shown to be false) we are left with an Inverse Problem that can likely only be handled using Bayesian statistics.

    So we take the information we do have and construct a model based on what we either already know or is at least open to study. We can start to build our model with perhaps looking at the Police’s ability to detect deception (in studies such as http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1068316X.2014.935777#.VIb4jmhFCM8) and perhaps use these to estimate that the Police are only discovering 70% of false accusers for their 8% stat. That alone makes our total between 2.6% and 10.4%. Then we build on this with other assumptions and studies, perhaps looking at the tendency to ‘no-crime’ due to workloads.

    (Of course the above is very rough, thrown together in minutes to illustrate a point; Inverse Problems in science have been continually refined for decades, and only now we’re seeing confident results.) A key point is that the assumption above regarding police detection is thoroughly debatable, new information can be added, flaws found in our assumptions and studies designed around them. Other factors can be added to refine the model either way, all the while we’re avoiding the ‘offense’ you mention in your post because we’re not discussing “malicious accusations” but the accuracy of a statistical model. It’s how genuine progress on the issue can be achieved.

    sheaf24 (86):

    I just had a chuckle about Butts believing Richard Carrier is the source of Bayesianism on the web.

    I read it and wondered who the fuck Richard Carrier is, as I learnt it through a need to understand how we can detect Dark Matter in Gravitationally Lensing systems and his name never came up for some reason…

    Raging Bee (66): They should turn your life into a movie: Modern day puritan chooses to go to a party college and decides that everyone else there is having fun wrong by getting drunk and trying to have sex with each other. Culture Clash! Hilarity ensues.

    Of course we’d have to change the ending for Hollywood: Something about the protagonist learning to relax, have fun and enjoy life. The real ending is just too depressing, and there’s no journey or development of the main character. Boring.

  96. says

    (the false reports that aren’t shown to be false)

    …a.k.a. (the people we’ve chosen to call liars who haven’t been shown to be lying)

  97. Bugmaster says

    @Danny Butts #99:
    Actually, you can estimate the prior probability of someone having been on a jury by learning that there are, on average, 1.5 million jurors impaneled per year, out of about 300 million US residents (this does not account for population growth, but should suffice for a rough estimate). Set yourself a date range, say 10 years, and you can calculate the chances of an average person having never been on a jury. I got something like 95%, but I did it in my head so my math could be off. Note that, in the real world, probabilities can never reach 0% or 100%, because we are not omniscient (as well as other reasons).

    If you want to estimate the probability that some person has never been on a jury, you need to collect some evidence. For each piece of evidence, you need to collect the probability that the person has been on a jury given this piece of evidence, as well as the probability that the person has never been on a jury, given same. This may cause you to discard some evidence as worthless. For example, P(jury|brown hair) is probably the same as P(!jury|brown hair), and thus a person’s hair color won’t tell you much one way or the other.

    Once you go through the math, you’ll end up with a probability estimate that will be very rough, but still better than your gut feeling.

    The neat thing about gut feelings, though, is that you can actually use them as evidence. To do that, you write down your gut feeling every time you have one about something, and later, when you know the outcome, you write down whether it was correct or not. This lets you estimate the probability that your feelings are actually correct. Over time, you can train yourself to adjust your confidence in these feelings, which is very useful — because, let’s face it, no one has time to bust out the calculator every time they need to make a decision.

  98. says

    well you guys can base your prior probability on what you like, I base mine on the fact that Sheaf is obviously out to show the world how clever he is and is therefore just out of university. The chances of him being called for jury service would have been slim in this time frame and the chances if called of being selected, negligible based on personality alone.

  99. says

    So anyway, anyone actually want to comment RS coverage of a probable rape or are you all just going to engage in penis measuring competition that illustrates just how insecure MRAs are?

    I was pretty revolted by the way that numbers were being thrown around to minimize rape, and pissed off with myself for being drawn into it, but now the children have arrived I can see why RB thinks you’re all scum.

    I’m out of this particular ball pit.

  100. sheaf24 says

    Butts, I am in university, go figure.
    And you keep misusing the word prior, presumably not showing the world how smart you are.

  101. sheaf24 says

    And none of the people you argued with are MRAs. You seem not to be involved in a cosmic fight against evil after all…

  102. Sigil says

    Ally

    You yourself have covered the organized mass false accusations via DV statistics, you have covered the organized mass false accusations via the omission of the female component of sex criminality in stats., you have covered members of the same group advocating for false accusers.

    The woman who gave this story for rolling stone has turned out to be a tumblr feminist, who is obsessed with rape activism / hysteria.

    A recent spate of rape reports in american colleges where not made by the alleged victims but by third party feminists.

    False accusations and hoaxes are normal for these people.

  103. StillGjenganger says

    I know that I started these discussion (sorry – but it did look interesting in the beginning) but I really think that any further arguments on probabilities, Bayesian or otherwise, ought to go to the open thread. That holds especially for people who feel strongly that this thread ought to concentrate on the main point of the OP.

    Raging and Adiabat, I have answers for you on the open thread.

  104. says

    If you have answers for me about the actual UVA story, then post them here. If you have answers regarding all this probability-of-false-rape-stories bullshit, I’m not interested.

  105. StillGjenganger says

    @Raging 113
    Fine. This discussion has surely lasted long enough. But for someone who really is not interested you have sure spent a lot of against on arguing against this probability bullshit.

  106. 123454321 says

    RB: “STOP BLAMING WOMEN’S BEHAVIOUR…”

    Yeah, that sounds about right, RB. Let’s all stop blaming women and NEVER focus on training women to evolve and improve their behaviour because we all know that women as a group can’t be held accountable for anything whatsoever. Collectively, they are all absolutely perfect and all of society’s wrongdoings must strictly be put down to the actions of men, and all men, collectively, therefore, must pay the full penalty price and be held fully accountable as a group of men, for everyone else’s actions because they are…well..men! So when we are dealing with proven rapists – who I agree, by the way, should all be shipped to an Island somewhere in the middle of the deep blue and left to their own devices – let’s make sure we refer to them as MEN and not rapists, cuz it doesn’t matter that only a very tiny proportion of the population are rapists, we must always remember to refer to rapists and child molesters etc as MEN, not rapists or child molesters or women – let’s not forget that! And we must always try to forget that female on female and female on male rape occurs and contributes as a fair chunk of the statistics. And let’s always remember to let female school teachers off for shagging young boys whilst remembering to bang up any bloke teacher who does the same. And let’s just sweep the growing false rape allegations under the carpet while we’re at it, ok. So yeah, shhhhush everyone, please remember that even in the year 2014 it’s still absolutely taboo to EVER suggest applying improvements amongst the female population or to blame women as a group for their collective behaviour, just as you said right there, Mr. Goodie-two-shoes-fart-breath-fuck-wit.

  107. Adiabat says

    Raging Bee (104):

    …a.k.a. (the people we’ve chosen to call liars who haven’t been shown to be lying)

    My word, the stupidity… I literally just facepalmed when I read your post.

    Obviously you’ve struggled to follow the entire discussion above, which I suppose is fine, not everyone can follow such a discussion. But then you seem to hold such strong views on things that you haven’t even understood…

    I can only blame myself. It’s why I find myself still coming back to this blog; the FTB regulars who comment here are just so weird and I’m fascinated by just how abnormal your psychologies are. I don’t think I’d ever argue so passionately and fervently about something I haven’t understood, and then the unbridled superiority complexes and patronisation on show… It’s among the best entertainment on the web.

  108. mildlymagnificent says

    Let’s all stop blaming women and NEVER focus on training women to evolve and improve their behaviour because we all know that women as a group can’t be held accountable for anything whatsoever.

    No. Let’s take a step back and first look at training people who are more likely than the general population, women and men alike, to deal with allegations of rape. People whose job requires them to do so.

    Look at this fairly ordinary item (ordinary as stories about rapes go). http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2014/12/09/a-rape-victim-explains-why-she-didnt-report-it/

    (The thing I find noteworthy about this item is that it’s not on Pharyngula or Feministing or Mammoth or any other well-known victim friendly blogs, but even there, a couple of people disclosing rapes that happened to them. And, surprise, surprise, that they didn’t report.)

  109. sheaf24 says

    Mildly,
    The suggestion that mammoth is a victim friendly blog is bizarre. I can remember well when all the regulars broke in a fit of science denialism at the cdc data.

  110. mildlymagnificent says

    Mildly,
    The suggestion that mammoth is a victim friendly blog is bizarre. I can remember well when all the regulars broke in a fit of science denialism at the cdc data.

    Well, I certainly wouldn’t invite you over there just now. There are half a dozen women (if not more) who’ve mentioned/discussed their rape/assault experiences just in the last 24 hours. Most, of course, didn’t report, but they range all the way from didn’t mention it for most of my life all the way through to convicted rapist still in jail serving a long sentence. Even those who’ve – eventually – discussed it in certain, restricted circumstances still haven’t told their mother/sister/families/friends even after decades.

    Come to think of it, I’m not quite sure how or why a discussion – good, bad or indifferent – about CDC statistics or research methods would have any link to care and concern for individual rape victims anyway. Or did I miss something?

  111. StillGjenganger says

    @MildlyMagnficient 117

    No. Let’s take a step back and first look at training people who are more likely than the general population, women and men alike, to deal with allegations of rape. People whose job requires them to do so.

    Exactly right (and it is more than mildly magnificient that you can remain so calm and constructive in the middle of this debate).

    The difficulties put in the way of people who want to report rape are clear and well explained by now, but there is one or two entries on the other side of the ledger as well.

    It is clear that minors, mentally vulnerable people or those who were drunk and drugged when events took place find it hard to get a hearing and can be effectively excluded from protection. On the other hand testimony from this kind of people is seen as less reliable across the board, not just in rape cases. Could we agree that this kind of testimony does, at the least, offer some additional problems?

    It also seems obvious that after a severely traumatising experience, people can find it hard to deliver a clear, consistent, and complete explanation of events. But it is also true that inconsistencies, changing stories, and provably false details is the normal (often the only) way to identify a false story. This does present a dilemma. Your link shows very clearly how even moderately suspicious questioning can easily push people who are not doing well in the first place to give up on reporting a rape. But can we agree that the police does have to consider the possibility that the story is not reliable, and that the relevant questions do have to be asked at some point – even if the initial interrogations might not be the right time?

    Yes, the system needs changing to support people who have been raped, but preferably not at the expense of putting innocent people in prison. You could certainly argue that protecting the rights of the accused is not the biggest problem for the system at the moment. But considering how wildly partisan and paranoid many debaters are (you have Women Against Rape, to name one,. my side has a number of crosses to bear), it would be reassuring to hear that those rights will still get due consideration as the system is changed.

  112. mildlymagnificent says

    On the other hand testimony from this kind of people is seen as less reliable across the board, not just in rape cases. Could we agree that this kind of testimony does, at the least, offer some additional problems?

    Yup. And the best thing is good training for interviewers. You don’t need to be a trained therapist to be able to get a reluctant or traumatised person to steady their nerves enough to open up – a bit – about the events. Challenging them or questioning aggressively or dismissively is not a productive approach.

    I wish I could find the link I referred to earlier, but one thing the detectives commented on after their training was that they recalled cases where the evidence from the victims they had previously dismissed could have been assembled more gradually and become useful – if they hadn’t dismissed them as unreliable because of the way they’d behaved. (A lot of them had preconceptions about how “real” victims behave so they’d dismissed what they said just because of their “inappropriate” demeanour, whether that was numb, mumbling, depressed, or randomly giggling, nervous laughter, whatever. The biggest problem though was that they’d never heard of the “fight, flight or freeze” responses to assault. They, apparently, in the face of dozens and dozens of women having told them that they’d “frozen” presumed that it wasn’t rape because they hadn’t screamed or fought back.)

    The big problem with this whole issue is that the issue arises long, long before there’s any possibility of testimony, unreliable or otherwise. It’s really about how police respond to victims in the first few minutes to hours of the victim reporting. Though I’ll grant that many people who get as far as a prosecutor report problems with them as well. There’d be fewer of those problems if the police approached prosecutors with a better attitude. And they’ll only get that if they deal with complainants better.

    Getting victims past the first hurdle in a way that eases, or at least doesn’t exacerbate, their trauma would make them more likely to favourably report on their interaction even if the matter couldn’t be taken further. It really should be just like the way police take reports of minor thefts and vandalism. They want the reports so they can get a clear picture of what’s happening in the neighbourhood even if they think they’re unlikely to catch the culprits. (Though the attitude should be a bit more supportive. My own feeling is that a lot of rape and assault victims would be a bit happier with a more matter of fact acceptance that their report is of something real rather than an ordeal of defending accusations of dishonesty.)

    and it is more than mildly magnificient that you can remain so calm and constructive in the middle of this debate

    I’m not so much calm as numb. I’ve never had to deal with rape myself, but I’ve been over and over and over the same sort of ghastly debate about domestic violence which I have been through personally. And have had to deal with men, both face to face and online, telling me that I deserved it, that my second husband should use it to “keep me in line” and that I’m lying about it and every other vicious, stupid, thoughtless remark you can imagine. I feel sort of obliged to carry some of the weight for rape victims, who need extraordinary courage just to admit that it’s happened, let alone face the same sort of disbelief plus nastiness plus dismissiveness that we other victims also get.

  113. StillGjenganger says

    @Mildly 121
    All very sensible. And it ought to be possible to do a lot without significantly weakening people’s legal safeguards. Just do not ask me exactly how. I guess we are up against the usual things – resource constraints, a police desire to cut short investigations that are unlikely to bear fruit without spending too much time, the inherent difficulty in proving some kinds of crime – and yes, various kinds of bias.

    Getting victims past the first hurdle in a way that eases, or at least doesn’t exacerbate, their trauma would make them more likely to favourably report on their interaction even if the matter couldn’t be taken further

    Yes, absolutely yes. I am afraid that in the nature of things many rape victims can never get the satisfaction of a conviction, and that the process will always be stressful for people who are terribly stressed already. But if we can get as many results as safely possible, making sure that the rest at least get a hearing and feel some support from the system would be a step forward that would merit a fair few extra resources to achieve. It sounds more like a social works goal than a police goal, which may be why police forces are slow to take it on board, but it would definitely be worth while.

  114. StillGjenganger says

    @Mildly 121
    Politics apart:

    domestic violence which I have been through personally. And have had to deal with men, both face to face and online, telling me that I deserved it, that my second husband should use it to “keep me in line” and that I’m lying about it and every other vicious, stupid, thoughtless remark you can imagine.

    Sorry about that. That is a hell of a weight to have to carry.

  115. mildlymagnificent says

    Gjenganger. Not so much anymore. Thanks for the thought anyway.

    I no longer work with or see the face to face shitheads. The online ones? They’re usually annoying, but I have the great privilege of 1) never having had children with that man 2) never having been seriously injured or hospitalised by the violence and 3) it was a loooooong time ago. (I no longer have the nightmares, even when I have a temperature. For several years they were my completely reliable indicator that I was really sick rather than just tired or under the weather. But even that phase is ended. Though I wouldn’t want to test my reactions by ever seeing him again.)

    Having distance from that makes it easier for me to do stuff on behalf of people who don’t have that distance from something even worse.

  116. says

    Let’s all stop blaming women and NEVER focus on training women to evolve and improve their behaviour because we all know that women as a group can’t be held accountable for anything whatsoever…

    It’s amazing how simple and obvious suggestions, like not holding one person responsible for the violent acts of another, can evoke such ridiculous and unhinged reactions from the MRA crowd. And the one sentence I quoted above was the most intelligent part of number-boy’s latest meltdown. The rest of it would be comedy gold, if I hadn’t already heard it so many times before. Call it comedy tarnished bronze, I guess…

  117. sheaf24 says

    Come to think of it, I’m not quite sure how or why a discussion – good, bad or indifferent – about CDC statistics or research methods would have any link to care and concern for individual rape victims anyway. Or did I miss something?

    Discussion?
    It was as much dispassionate discussion as you will find on Stormfront.

  118. says

    So, sheaf, you’re comparing us to Nazis because we care about the issues being discussed? Kindly take your phony Vulcan schtick and shove it back where it came from.

  119. sheaf24 says

    RB, you care about issues being discussed?
    Your track record n this thread strongly indicates otherwise.
    Live long and prosper.

  120. 123454321 says

    “Live long and prosper.”

    Are you sure about that? I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Buzz off’.

  121. mildlymagnificent says

    sheaf

    Discussion?
    It was as much dispassionate discussion as you will find on Stormfront.

    Hang on. Are you talking about that post of David’s where he – eventually – changed his mind … because of the commenters telling him he was wrong.

    Either we’re not talking about the same thing, or your impression is out of date. The one I’m thinking of there were a few discussions and disclosures by some women about experiencing sexual assaults, including rapes. Also including some men talking about having been assaulted by women (or maybe women talking about men they knew disclosing stuff to them. That happens too.) If we’re talking about the same item, I don’t recall anyone blaming or shaming any victims. Generally, people who do that get called out PDQ and then banned if they don’t walk it back.

  122. sheaf24 says

    mildly,

    no i am not talking about that. I was talking about their first sniff at the cdc data where the overall vitriol was so dense that you could cut it with a knife. In the end egalitarians won exchanges on other parts of the web and it became less fashionable to be completely dismissive – though the overall tone you will be confronted with is still very bad.

    The problem with Futrelle is that he cultivates an in group vs out group mentality by having a website dedicated to mocking others, sometimes at the expense fair representation of other points of view. I do ot think this is productive. I suspect the only thing reading his blog will do is cluttering up your availability heuristics.

  123. Marduk says

    There is something predictable about this ‘debate’.

    The reasons are obvious, its because you’ve got two sides drawing up to fight each other.

    Cathy Young in Slate:

    “False rape accusations are a lightning rod for a variety of reasons. Rape is a repugnant crime—and one for which the evidence often relies on one person’s word against another’s. Moreover, in the not-so-distant past, the belief that women routinely make up rape charges often led to appalling treatment of victims. However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.”

    And there you have it. In the battle between myths in the end nobody comes out looking good or with any dignity.

  124. says

    There is something predictable about this ‘debate’. The reasons are obvious, its because you’ve got two sides drawing up to fight each other.

    By Jove, you’re right — people disagreeing with each other is a predictable feature of debates! Stunning insight, if I do say so myself.

    And there you have it. In the battle between myths in the end nobody comes out looking good or with any dignity.

    And there you have it. A person who has no interest in the substance of a debate tosses out a vague quote with no reference or clarification, and then proclaims that no one won or said anything and no one has any dignity.

    I’ve seen better flounces, but I’ve seen worse too…

  125. Holms says

    Cathy Young in Slate:

    “False rape accusations are a lightning rod for a variety of reasons. Rape is a repugnant crime—and one for which the evidence often relies on one person’s word against another’s. Moreover, in the not-so-distant past, the belief that women routinely make up rape charges often led to appalling treatment of victims. However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.

    And there you have it. In the battle between myths in the end nobody comes out looking good or with any dignity.

    Pure strawman, go away.

  126. StillGjenganger says

    @Holms 134

    feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.[…]

    Pure strawman, go away.

    Hyperbole, certainly, and maybe a bit clumsily phrased. But considering we have Women Against Rape insisting that no woman should ever be charged for false rape accusation, and lots of people (like Jessica Valenti) pushing the idea that people who say they have been raped should be believed without reference to any available facts – well, not taken completely out of thin air.

  127. Carnation says

    @ Adiabat

    Says the veteran of Genderatic and the particularly idiotic GamerGate useful idiot.

    I wonder if you’re actually Sid, having sat and passed A level English.

  128. says

    There’s a bit of an “excluded-middle” fallacy here. “Take women seriously and don’t disregard their stories out of hand” =/= “Women never lie.” The number of people supporting the former position is probably far greater than that supporting the latter.

  129. Marduk says

    134.

    Thank you for the insight Captain Obvious.
    I’m intrigued by your ideas and would like to know if there is a newsletter I can subscribe to.

  130. Marduk says

    StillGjenganger

    I actually meant it as “a curse on both your houses” style thing but obviously you can find someone who will say anything if you look hard enough:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/06/no-matter-what-jackie-said-we-should-automatically-believe-rape-claims/

    Maybe Holms and Raging Bee can tell us how “no matter what” means in that context.

    Its not a new idea, Catherine McKinnon describes this as the “methodological secret” of feminism.

    It must be said though, not all feminists believe stuff like that but they certainly get accused of it (which is the point, you have two lots of people raging at phantoms).

    For those still battling, interesting piece from Yoffe:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/12/college_rape_campus_sexual_assault_is_a_serious_problem_but_the_efforts.html

    The calculation of “one in four” is quite remarkable to say the least.

  131. StillGjenganger says

    @Marduk 139
    I did actually get that (just that nobody was attacking the ‘myth that women lie’ part). The point is of course that we need to get beyond fighting about which side is lying how much. Now that is not something I can easily do, but consider posts 117 and 121 by Mildly. Constructive, useful, nothing that depends on disbelieving one side or the other. So, it can be done. We just need more of it.

  132. Bugmaster says

    @Marduk #139:
    The article you linked to says,

    We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. … The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might defriend him on Facebook. … But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly. … The cost of disbelieving women, on the other hand, is far steeper. It signals that that women don’t matter and that they are disposable — not only to frat boys and Bill Cosby, but to us. And they face a special set of problems in having their say.

    Believe it or not, I actually appreciate the author stating her point of view so clearly. It includes both factual claims (“false accusations are rare”, “errors can be undone quickly and painlessly”), as well as value claims (“devaluing women is more costly than demonizing men”). The claims are clearly stated, which means that we can discuss them without resorting to slurs; and, in the case of value claims, we can at least understand where each side is coming from, even though consensus may be impossible (since core values are immutable and are not subject to debate). I think we need more articles like these, regardless of whether or not we agree with the views expressed within them.

  133. Archy says

    “errors can be undone quickly and painlessly”

    There’s nothing that undoes the errors unless it’s a sealed case and 100% anon, even still the stress to the falsely accused has already turned them into a victim and has done harm. The instant someone is falsely accused they’ve already lost trust for that person and it may very well lead to trust issues with future people of that group the accuser belongs to eg, a falsely accused man may very well be legitimately afraid the next time he is with another woman just as many people become afraid of their next partner in any type of abuse.

    We can believe that nearly all rape accusers were raped but you can be skeptical on who did it to them, how it happened, when, etc especially if the victim has memory issues. The law is meant to be skeptical and investigations into it will never ever automatically believe the victim.

  134. Holms says

    #139 and 141
    I’m actually mostly on board with the excerpts in post 141, with the following modifications:

    “We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.”
    That is, that the accusation is sincere until demonstrated to be dishonest, NOT that the accused is automatically guilty.

    “Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.”
    Note that the author does not state that false accusations or errors ‘can be undone quickly and painlessly;’ only that they can be undone if cleared quickly. The point remains that there is less damage in believing false accusation than there is in disbelieving a rape victim.

    Other than that, my only quibble is that the gendered language rubs me the wrong way, even if it is accurate more often than inaccurate.

  135. StillGjenganger says

    @Holms 143
    Fair enough. Just bear in mind that that will leave e.g. me fighting against you, suspicious of anything you say, and unable to reach any agreement, let alone consensus. It sure would be nice if we could get beyond that.

  136. mildlymagnificent says

    “We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.”
    That is, that the accusation is sincere until demonstrated to be dishonest, NOT that the accused is automatically guilty.
    “Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.”
    Note that the author does not state that false accusations or errors ‘can be undone quickly and painlessly;’ only that they can be undone if cleared quickly.

    Some of that comes down to the legal system you’re dealing with. I just saw today (yesterday?) a report of a committal hearing in a rape case and both the victim/witness and the defendant are not identified. The only reason the item made it into the newspaper was that the magistrate was closing the court to journalists rather than merely forbidding identifying the parties as they usually do. (Sorry can’t find the report.)

    In a place like the USA, the omigodfreezepeach crowd would kick up such a fuss that that would be pretty well undoable. (We get some of the same stuff here – “public’s right to know”. I think most people here would say that the defendant’s right to not be publicly pilloried for no reason would trump that when the case is at a stage where it might easily be thrown out or discontinued and/or the details of the prosecution’s case might tend to identify him/her.) The same thing applies in small communities where everybody knows one, or both, of the people concerned regardless of what the press do and don’t do. But it’s worth considering such issues in the conduct of the e.a.r.l.y. stages of such proceedings.

    My own view is that a sensible, supportive (not necessarily sympathetic) demeanour on the part of the police would be a lot more likely to get good results. Sometimes that result will be the complainant admitting that she felt obliged to report as rape because of pressure / threat of violence* from family or partner. Or that she’s recently been under psychiatric care and she’s run out of her medication and not fully connected to time, place, general reality**. Other times that would mean that the complainant would be less (just a bit, but enough) stressed and therefore give more accurate, more coherent, or just more information. Which then means a smoother path to a more likely to be successful arrest and prosecution.

    * Which of course gives the cops something else to worry about, but at least the rape investigation is closed sooner that it would have been with a different approach.
    ** One thing that everyone, cops especially, should bear in mind. Men and women who suffer from mental health problems are much more likely to be rape victims than the general population. As is anyone else with obvious vulnerability (like being young, disabled, intoxicated and all the rest.)

  137. says

    The instant someone is falsely accused they’ve already lost trust for that person and it may very well lead to trust issues with future people of that group the accuser belongs to eg, a falsely accused man may very well be legitimately afraid the next time he is with another woman just as many people become afraid of their next partner in any type of abuse.

    Notice how the above assertion automatically assumes the accusation in question is false. How, exactly, is this known from the beginning? How can it be ascertained at all?

    Yes, there can be harmful consequences for a man who has been accused of rape. There can be similar harmful consequences for ANYONE accused of ANY crime. It sucks and it’s not fair, but it’s inevitable in any society. So does that mean that all accusations should be automatically discarded, to avoid possibly harming someone who is innocent? Or does it mean we need to have the fairest and most reliable system we can get for trying such accusations, separating the guilty from the innocent, and punishing the guilty? If it’s the former, then we have no system of justice at all. If the latter, then we pretty much have to accept that persons accused of crimes will, inevitably, suffer some damage, at least until the matter is cleared up by some sort of clear ruling; and quit using that as an excuse to avoid any accountability.

  138. StillGjenganger says

    @Raging 146

    we pretty much have to accept that persons accused of crimes will, inevitably, suffer some damage, at least until the matter is cleared up by some sort of clear ruling;

    That is perfectly true. Just like we have to accept that you can suffer dreadfully from other people’s behaviour without anyone having broken the law, that many victims of crime will never get the confirmation they deserve, and that there can be legitimate reasons why your word is not credible enough to win a court case, even when you happen to be right.

    There is plenty of pain to go around, everybody can get a share. Could we stop knocking the ball back and forth across the net and try to think up something that can, as best possible, take account of the problems of both sides?

  139. says

    Could we stop knocking the ball back and forth across the net and try to think up something that can, as best possible, take account of the problems of both sides?

    Um, yeah, it’s called “encouraging victims to come forward, treating their stories seriously, investigating honestly, and having fair trials, without looking for excuses at every turn to blame or disregard the victims out of hand.” I believe that option was already mentioned upthread at least once.

  140. Adiabat says

    Carnation (136): “A veteran of Genderratic”. I like that, it’s a cool description. Though I’ve made more posts here than I ever did over there. And many of my posts consisted of challenging unfair characterisations of feminists when I thought a poster was just making up a strawman (sometimes I was wrong about it being a strawman – to my surprise), arguing with MRA’s as to why I don’t consider myself one, and agreeing with a second wave feminist who posted there. That said, I liked Jim who hosted it and most of the regulars there. They were often insightful and much more tolerant of dissent, and more willing to have a debate, than the regulars over here. I think it’s a shame that they closed it down.

    P.S I’m also loving how much I’ve obviously gotten into your head in my time here. You’re positively obsessed with me; cyber-stalking me and trying get my attention in every thread I comment in. It’s cute.

  141. Holms says

    #144
    Fair enough. Just bear in mind that that will leave e.g. me fighting against you, suspicious of anything you say, and unable to reach any agreement, let alone consensus.

    Why? There is still the presumption of innocence for the accused and the burden of evidence lying with the accuser, and it remains there there is a requirement for there to be enough evidence to bother proceeding to trial in the first place. Those requirements are not waived by my saying that we take the accusation to be sincere until shown otherwise.

    Other than that, I’m not sure what your disagreement might be. Perhaps you might elaborate?

  142. Lucy says

    Archy

    Me: “What was that I wisely said before about men all being on the autistic spectrum?”
    You:
    “Because you’re sexist”
    Here

    “and love to troll people?”
    I do it’s true, but I ain’t trolling on the autistic point. When I look at men I see autistic lesbians who’ve let themselves go.

    “People debate statistics because it does matter to some degree. If the rape statistics aren’t valid in a debate then are legit-rape stats also invalid? If it is men that debate statistics more, maybe these men are interested in facts above baseless opinions.”

    Imagine you’ve all had the debate. You’ve put the necessary weeks and months in on every sexual assault article with the other male amateur internet statisticians. You’ve worked your little socks off and now, somehow, you’ve got the magic number, the statistic to end all statistics. Not only does it incorporate the annual constant of female dishonesty, but the algorithm incorporates the annual constant where the perfect storm of opportunity to put it that dishonesty into practice will be achieved. Eureka! You’ve got the formula.

    So as I say, imagine that that’s been done. What would you do now? What would you say?

    So pretend that and just do and say it anyway.

  143. Lucy says

    Bugmaster

    “Ok, so it is more likely that Lucy will say something like, “math was invented by men to oppress women and so was cancer”, but hopefully we can get past that for now.”

    No, I say maths. Mathematics has an s on the end see.

    Maths was invented by men. It is used to oppress women. Rape stats dance-offs being a case in point.
    Cancer might not have been invented by men, but it’s definitely exacerbated by them.

    The figure for the actual number of rapes by men of women and girls each year is somewhere between 1 and 4 billion. Now the question is, what are you gonna do about it?

  144. Bugmaster says

    @Lucy #153:
    Thanks, your comment totally brightened up my day 🙂 Believe it or not, I do enjoy a good troll; it’s always nice to watch a master craftsman at work.

    That said though, you’ve got to be careful:

    The figure for the actual number of rapes by men of women and girls each year is somewhere between 1 and 4 billion.

    You are coming perilously close to using maths here. Which, after all, was invented by men to oppress women…

  145. Archy says

    ” So does that mean that all accusations should be automatically discarded, to avoid possibly harming someone who is innocent? Or does it mean we need to have the fairest and most reliable system we can get for trying such accusations, separating the guilty from the innocent, and punishing the guilty?”

    You have the justice system where someone makes an accusation, where the accused remains 100% anon and only gets publicized when found guilty. This could be limited to some crimes like sexual crimes which false accusations cause far more harm than someone falsely accused of stealing a car. You also need the false accusers to be given a heavy sentence to deter it, since it is a crime and can cause a lot of harm to a person.

    “Notice how the above assertion automatically assumes the accusation in question is false. How, exactly, is this known from the beginning? How can it be ascertained at all?”

    Umm, because the accused will, or should know if they have raped someone. I’ll make it easier. Let’s say they’ve never ever had sex, he’s never touched her in the example. He knows 100% his innocence, knows it’s a false accusation.

    “quit using that as an excuse to avoid any accountability.”

    The only people I’ve seen excuse something to avoid accountability are those who argue against punishment of false accusations, by using the excuse it MIGHT scare off legit victims.

    We can believe a victim is harmed automatically, we can believe they’ve suffered something, the thing that isn’t automatically believed is who did it (since we work off innocent until proven guilty). Keeping the accused anon should prevent most of the issues of false accusations that don’t reach the conviction stage.

    And can people stop comparing false accusations of theft and false accusations of rape? I’m yet to hear of people falsely accused of theft being beaten to death, or losing their jobs and being ostracized by a community. Sexual crimes hold a huge emotional stigma unlike many other crimes. A worker who steals from a day care center even won’t get 1/100000th the level of hate as someone who harms a child at the daycare center.

  146. Archy says

    Forgot to add @Raging Bee to previous comment.

    @Lucy
    “I do it’s true, but I ain’t trolling on the autistic point. When I look at men I see autistic lesbians who’ve let themselves go.”

    How, exactly….does an autistic lesbian behave? I am completely lost by this reference?

    “So as I say, imagine that that’s been done. What would you do now? What would you say?

    So pretend that and just do and say it anyway.”

    The number is always evolving, every year it changes (some stats are yearly I believe, or every 2 years). I would say that there’d be less discussion of false accusations once decent measures are put in place to deter them happening. Although I am glad to see some who do it are being jailed for it, just as I am glad to see rapists go to jail for their crimes too.

    Question for all. If a willing false accusation of rape of someone would get that person an equal sentence + addition to sex offender registry like the “rapist” would have gotten…would this scare of legitimate victims? I say willing as in they purposely do it, not people who mistake the identity, or are forced by another person to accuse, basically someone never raped by the accused.

  147. mildlymagnificent says

    Gott im himmel!!

    When I look at men I see autistic lesbians who’ve let themselves go.

    This blog is one of the more depressing places for me to visit on my usual rounds. This is the very first time I’ve laughed out loud at any comment here.

    But it’s real pearler on the intersectionality front.
    Ableism – autistic.
    Sexism + LGBT prejudice – lesbian.
    Classism and/or gender policing appearance – “let themselves go”.
    How you managed to omit racism from that foetid stew is a bit of a mystery.

    The Feminist Hivemind HIgh Council’s Education sub-committee might be sending you a letter reminding you you’ve not yet completed your term as Probationary Feminist and you’d better get busy on all that overdue homework.

  148. Holms says

    Lucy, are you aware you are basically a gender-flipped MRA (all negative connotations fully intended)? Comments of yours in previous threads featured ‘male rapists bad, female rapists excellent’, proposals for genetic engineering for men, and now apparently men are responsible for exacerbating cancer/. Presumably while we collectively twirl our huge waxed moustache while adjusting our monocle.

  149. mildlymagnificent says

    Now, now Holms. Ally’ll be along any minute wagging his finger at us for piling on the personal comments.

    Though really. That one was a bit of a sitting duck.

  150. Marduk says

    The story has moved on a bit now.

    1.
    New DOJ figures out last week:
    http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5176

    The rate is 0.2%, rising to 0.6% by survey self-report if you include attempted, threatened and other forms of sexual assault. Interestingly, men constitute 17% of victims.

    2.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/u-va-students-challenge-rolling-stone-account-of-attack/2014/12/10/ef345e42-7fcb-11e4-81fd-8c4814dfa9d7_story.html

    This is just getting sadder by the minute now. What is emerging here is that she was lying about the frat guy who is a composite creation from an email account and a photograph of someone from her High School and the person the lie was aimed at was “Randall” himself (one of the three friends). Its hard to avoid the conclusion that the ‘chemistry student’ frat guy’s messages Randall received were sent by Jackie herself.

    It looks like something definitely did happen that night. If you pretend you are going on a date with someone for the benefit of someone you live with, you do actually have to leave and go somewhere, whatever happened, happened then. I can totally picture it, depressed and unhappy she walks off into the night to find something to do where nobody she knows will be. Its just she put herself in a terrible position where she couldn’t tell the truth about it given the complexity of the story at that point. What a mess, and then someone who isn’t interested in the truth interviews someone who has backed herself into a corner where she can’t tell the truth but isn’t exactly lying either.

    This all makes a lot more sense to me now anyway.

    We all make mistakes and the “my girlfriend who you don’t know” ruse is hardly the worst thing you can do, its silly and doesn’t actually work but thats about it. To have that coincide with something terrible is awful. It actually makes me feel more sorry for Jackie, not less.

  151. Marduk says

    Also worth pointing out that while 0.6% is a lot lower than 20%, its actually nearly twice what people who actually read the studies that are published rather than “fact sheets” thought. So absolutely a serious problem, far worse than was previously imagined and it would seem to me something that should result in serious and sustained institutional change.

  152. sheaf24 says

    Note on the comparability of the NISVS with the NCVS

    Definitions of rape and sexual assault.
    The NCVS,
    NISVS, and CSA target different types of events. The NCVS
    definition is shaped from a criminal justice perspective
    and includes threatened, attempted, and completed
    rape and sexual assault against males and females (see
    Methodology
    ). The NISVS uses a broader definition of
    sexual violence, which specifically mentions incidents
    in which the victim was unable to provide consent due
    to drug or alcohol use; forced to penetrate another
    person; or coerced to engage in sexual contact (including
    nonphysical pressure to engage in sex) unwanted sexual
    contact (including forcible kissing, fondling, or grabbing);
    and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences that do not
    involve physical contact.
    4
    The CSA definition of rape and
    sexual assault includes unwanted sexual contact due to
    force and due to incapacitation, but excludes unwanted
    sexual contact due to verbal or emotional coercion.
    5

    So the lower incidence rate is largely a matter of definition. I find it striking that “being forced to peetrate” which to my knowledge is criminal in several legislation was not asked for.

  153. 123454321 says

    “Cancer might not have been invented by men, but it’s definitely exacerbated by them.”

    Lucy talks shit again…..yawn…

  154. StillGjenganger says

    @Holms 151
    OK, I was a bit combative there – for all I try to be reasonable I am also part of the problem. But do have some problems with what you say.

    On treating rape complainants as sincere I actually agree with you (always depending on exactly what you are saying). It is not that obvious, between the 4-8% who can be proved to be insincere, and the unknown fraction of the rest whose statements contain important falsehoods but quite likely have been raped. False accusations are not exceedingly rare, whatever the article quoted says. But accepting the sincerity of accusers could get us out of the dilemma where you have to either brand the accuser as a malicious liar (if you think the accused is innocent) or brand the accused as an evil criminal (if you think the accuser is sincere and suffering). Also, accepting people’s sincerity and to some extent validating their experience might be the only thing you can do for people who have been raped where it is not possible to prove it.

    “Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.”Note that the author does not state that false accusations or errors ‘can be undone quickly and painlessly;’ only that they can be undone if cleared quickly. The point remains that there is less damage in believing false accusation than there is in disbelieving a rape victim.

    This is much more problematical. Rape accusations cannot generally be undone, only dropped. Consider the DSK case – case dismissed but no certainty either way and the man’s career in ruins. It is definitely possible that he deserved much worse, that is not the point, but that will bever be settled. Or consider the Eleanor de Freitas case. The man accused suffered rather more than ‘being unfriended on Facebook’ and is now putting microphones in his apartment because he worries about being alone with someone with no way of proving his innocence. That case did get cleared up, but it took some quite unambiguous texts sent by the accuser the next morning (“best sex I ever had”, possible long-term prospect, …), and a six-figure sum spent on a private prosecution to prove it.

    I wonder what you, or the article writer actually mean by saying that you do less damage by false accusations than by not believing the accusers. That the needs of women take precedence over the needs of men? Or that we need not care about those men because the sum of suffering is smaller if we favour the women? The big damage here is the rape. It is not that obvious that the additional harm of not being believed is necessarily worse than the damage from a false and undisprovable accusation. There is no perfect solution here, and whatever we do there will pain to go around for both sides. But casually dismissing the sufferings of one side (as the article writer does) is not likely to lead to anything useful , or acceptable.

  155. says

    Sheaf24 and Marduk:

    The NCVS have for quite some time been criticized for methodological weaknesses in measuring sexual violence victimization. Compared to other surveys the NCVS appears to under-report the number of rape victims – NCVS only found about 15% of what the NISVS 2010 did for the year 2010 (the last 12 months).

    The National Research Council have established a panel called The Panel on Measuring Rape and Sexual Assault in Bureau of Justice Statistics Household Surveys which was tasked with coming up with improvements for the NVCS.

    Earlier this year they published their report: “Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault”.

    Including “made to penetrate” as a victimization categories were not one of the proposed solution. In fact the issue of male victims were complete absent from the report. A rape threat is categorized as attempted rape while having a forceful PIV intercourse with a man without his consent is not considered rape at all.

    So int he future f the BJS allocate enough funds to implement the propesed changes we might see a much smaller gap in the victimization rates for rape and sexual assault for women between the NCVS and the NISVS. The gap for male victims will probably not decrease as much considering how the NRC panel’s report completely ignored that issue.

    I wrote a bit more in detail about this report in this blogpost: http://tamenwrote.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/male-victims-ignored-again-estimating-the-incidence-of-rape-and-sexual-assault-by-the-national-research-council/

  156. ledasmom says

    Lucy, as an autistic parent of two autistic sons, I would very much appreciate it if you stopped using “autistic” as a term of disparagement; I’m not sure if it’s worse that you’re insulting all men or that you’re using autism to insult them, but either way it’s vile.

  157. proudmra says

    Cathy Young is correct, of course. The presumption of innocence really does mean that our system would rather have a hundred rapists go free than to lock up even one based on a false accusation. It’s only in recent years that this has been condemned as ‘outrageous’ and ‘unfair to victims’ rather than pointed to with pride as a sellilng point of our justice system.

  158. Spoonwood says

    “The presumption of innocence really does mean that our system would rather have a hundred rapists go free than to lock up even one based on a false accusation.”

    No. It just means that it’s better to let a rapist go free than to lock up someone on the basis of a false accusation. It only concerns one person, NOT a proportion of people.

  159. Jacob Schmidt says

    The presumption of innocence really does mean that our system would rather have a hundred rapists go free than to lock up even one based on a false accusation.

    No one actually believes this. The innocence project puts the numbers at 2.3% to 5%, i.e. much larger than the 100 to 1 ratio by which you’ve defined the presumption of innocence. Indeed, 100 to 1 would be an improvement.

  160. proudmra says

    It would indeed be an improvement. So why are rape-crisis peddlers trying to move us in the opposite direction, AWAY from justice?

  161. Holms says

    They aren’t, with very few exceptions. Here’s a handy rule of thumb: the more outrageous the rhetoric, the more likely it is that you have a zero-traction, non-mainstream feminist in mind.

  162. Marduk says

    Holms, fair enough on the face of it but then I begin to wonder. What is this sensible “mainstream” feminism? It isn’t practised by tumblr users (presumably the single largest identifiable group of feminists) and it isn’t practised by New Statesman or Guardian writers either at this point. I can go along with the idea that the RadFemHub inmates are barking mad (e.g., http://witchwind.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/utopia-what-would-a-womens-society-look-like/) but then I try to locate the moderate and the progressive and I can’t quite figure out who they are or where they’d be. The silent majority should consider saying something occasionally to let us know that they exist at all. You can’t blame people in the absence of that discourse existing.

  163. mildlymagnificent says

    tumblr users (presumably the single largest identifiable group of feminists)

    Tumblr? Really? That might be so for some people, but there are plenty of feminists who spend plenty of time and effort on the internet who never choose to use tumblr. I’m one. I suspect it’s partly a generational thing.

    The only times I ever get onto tumblr is as a result of a link, never otherwise. As for feminism on tumblr, I mostly see remarks from other women/feminists dismissing them, laughingly rather than scornfully, mainly as “baby feminists” or at least not as educated/ developed/ experienced feminists. Unsurprisingly, considering the huge number of tumblr users, there are a few good ones – which is statistically inevitable – but I do no more than occasionally look at stuff that others link. I certainly wouldn’t bother engaging some of these overly enthusiastic but woefully underdone young feminists. Most of them will get there in the end.

    For the tumblr and other not-there-yet developing feminists, I have quite a bit of sympathy. For those of us 2nd wavers in the 70s, we got our feminist education out of the public eye – by reading and discussing books and in women-only, supportive meetings. If we went a bit off the rails in our thinking, there were only our friends and supporters to witness it. Nowadays, if you’re on tumblr or u-tube it’s all done in the glare of full international public spotlights. Not comfortable at all, let alone supportive.

    I try to locate the moderate and the progressive and I can’t quite figure out who they are or where they’d be. The silent majority should consider saying something occasionally to let us know that they exist at all. You can’t blame people in the absence of that discourse existing.

    It’d be a bit of a challenge to find feminist folk who meet anyone’s, let alone your specific, personal standards of “sensible” or “moderate” or “progressive”. Old-hand feminists like me definitely fit into the leftie, radical, liberal category as most Americans would think of it. But pretty tame or pedestrian by a European or British standard.

    You’d do well to think through what ~exactly~ you think a sensible, moderate, progressive feminist would believe and what political / public activities such a person would engage in or approve of. Like a shopping list. Then see if you can find such a person or group identifying as feminist. If that person turns out to be someone that other feminists dismiss as anti-feminist or a particular-peculiar-wildly-off-base-brand of feminist, you need to rethink how well your shopping list lines up with feminism generally.

  164. Marduk says

    MM

    I know what I’d prescribe, I’m seeking to describe. i.e., what is actually out in the world, not what used to be out there and I’d like to see again.

    It seems to me that feminism’s fourth wave has become very Americanised. Rather than having any relationship with the political left and in particular the liberal, progressive left, it is instead hampered by a weird American pseudo-ideology cobbled together in its place. We’re talking here about an authoritarian movement based around a mash-up of academic art theories and identity politics. This is what they make do with because they are (a) still scared of left wing politics, esp. socialism (b) enthusiastic about right-wing politicians like Hilary Clinton. Hence the reliance on ‘cultural criticism’ in the place of any real values, which is what, when you get past all the yelling, the various -gates are about at the moment. That stuff was never really supposed to escape the symposia and the colloquia.

    As Orwell said of the proles, being without general ideas they can only focus on petty specific grievances. As far as I can tell, the orthodoxy is that the presumption of innocence, in cases of suspected rape, should end. I see very little disagreement. Similarly, after a liberal trajectory lasting hundreds of years, it is time for the return of repression and censorship. This is understandable, without the general ideas, they have no reason to especially value what they would cast asunder. Its a very complacent view of the world but they won’t be told otherwise.

    One can be patronising about tumblr feminism but these days nothing is earned, you just have to shout louder. The Laurie Pennys and Jessica Valentis are in the driving seat now. Older feminists might be unimpressed but they sure aren’t expressing it and they seem to have little or no influence at this point. Maybe there are some things about modern media they don’t understand.

    I’d like to agree with Holms, I’m a liberal lefty not a right wing stormtrooper. But I just cannot, I don’t believe its true.

  165. Anders says

    Those false reports again – I do not think that in the current climate we can count on a level-headed estimate. Too much bias, ideology, and fuzziness – and too many cases where we simply do not know. But it is safe to assume that there are more false accusation than we WANT there to be.

    What I react against is the habit to quote false reports as a percentage of overall reports. That makes estimates like that of Kanin at 40% seem misogynist, as if the result is that women lie. Nothing could be further from the truth. Assuming that the vast majority of rapes by men of women go unreported, false reports are a FRACTION of rapes. And as a false report is abusing the privileged victim status a woman rightly enjoys, rape is abusing the physical strength a man enjoys.

    When you think about it that way, what is actually amazing is that we still insist on assuming that false reports are rare. Is this not exactly the deification of women that held them back from taking strong roles in the public sphere in the first place? Sugar and spice indeed.

    I would love to see the day when we start condemning rapists and false accusers rather than genders…

  166. StillGjenganger says

    @Aders 175

    1) Kanin and his 40% is an extreme outlier compared to other numbers people get, and his methodology has been criticised quite a lot. It is hard for me to see how you are justified in relying on him, unless he just happens to confirm your preconceived ideas. As for me I just do not find it believable that 40% of women who report rape should be driven be deliberate malice – which is what ‘false’ means in this context.

    2) The percentage of actual reports that are false is the number we need to consider, when we want to judge how much belief or scepticism to bring to bear on any individual report. No way around this.

    3) A much more important and undecidable question is how many complainants have suffered some devastating experience, but are giving partly false accounts, and what that means as to whether their experience ultimately counts as rape. Jackie, for instance, seems to have suffered a ‘bad experience’, as the Rolling Stone article says. To that extent we can accept that she is being sincere. But (as Ally says) every single verifiable detail in her account has been disproved, so though she may well have been raped, it remains a mystery where, how, and by whom. In less extreme cases much of the story will likely be true, but it could still be a question which parts are not, and what the changed version does to our (or the courts’) evaluation of what happened. Which again will feed into the discussion of just how much pushiness etc. in compatible with consent – which is fairly hotly disputed. There may be room to argue that quite a lot of rape accusations should not lead to conviction. But then 1) fairly few of them do, and 2) there is no evidence that I know of to estimate the correct number.,

  167. sheaf24 says

    The percentage of actual reports that are false is the number we need to consider, when we want to judge how much belief or scepticism to bring to bear on any individual report. No way around this.

    Give that you define false as maliciously false, e need to consider the number of incorrect allegations not just the number of false allegations. In several studies this number seems to be substantial take for example: http://www.urban.org/publications/901505.html

    In this case we get a very robust lower bound on these number, which is not encouraging at all.

  168. says

    The percentage of actual reports that are false is the number we need to consider, when we want to judge how much belief or scepticism to bring to bear on any individual report. No way around this.

    That’s funny, I never hear that said about reports of any other type of crime — only rape. Just to take one example, how many “suspicious package” reports turn out to be nothing at all? Does that stop the cops from advising everyone to “see it, say it,” or from taking each new report seriously?

  169. says

    When you think about it that way, what is actually amazing is that we still insist on assuming that false reports are rare. Is this not exactly the deification of women that held them back from taking strong roles in the public sphere in the first place?

    Taking women seriously and not automatically calling them liars is “deification?” What a fucking joke.

  170. StillGjenganger says

    @Raging 178
    Rape is the only crime I can think of where there is a fierce debate about how many crimes go unreported, about how we can increase the reporting and convictions rates massively, about the need to believe the complainants even if there is not enough evidence to lead to conviction. Also where there is a strong push to have the accused punished one way or the other, by private initiative and ostracism if not by the justice system, whatever the available evidence. That makes the degree of belief important for rape accusations in a way it just isn’t for other crimes.

  171. StillGjenganger says

    @Sheaf 177

    Give that you define false as maliciously false, e need to consider the number of incorrect allegations not just the number of false allegations.

    You are right of course. But I was arguing against Anders, who claimed that the right approach was to compare numbers of false reports with total rapes rather than reported rapes. Which is certainly wrong.

  172. says

    Rape is the only crime I can think of where there is a fierce debate about how many crimes go unreported, about how we can increase the reporting and convictions rates massively, about the need to believe the complainants even if there is not enough evidence to lead to conviction.

    You must not be “thinking” all that much. I’ve heard very similar things said about spousal abuse, child-abuse, home break-ins and muggings; and when it comes to violent crimes and big-time drug-dealing, there is indeed “a strong push to have the accused punished one way or the other, by private initiative and ostracism if not by the justice system, whatever the available evidence.” Ever hear a famous jurist named Rhenquist complaining about how we’re not executing people fast enough?

  173. StillGjenganger says

    @Raging 182.
    Touche’, I was exaggerating the language a bit. So:

    spousal abuse, child-abuse: The same situation, yes. And pretty much the same discussion about how much you can trust an unsupported allegation, and how many complaints are real.

    home break-ins, muggings, violent crimes and big-time drug-dealing. Very different. Violent crimes generally need corroborative evidence, like, you know, traces of violence, before they are hotly pursued. In muggings and break-ins there is not a huge number of people who accuse a specific individual, nor a major political campaign that demands that these specific accused should be put behind bars, on the unsupported word of their accuser. As for major drug dealing, those crimes do not depend on an individual victim report, so the problem does not arise.

    You can probably pick a few nits in the wording of this one too if you try. But regardless, claiming that rapes are no different from other crimes (so that discussing false accusations at all is proof of bias) is either deceit or wilful stupidity.

  174. says

    In muggings and break-ins there is not a huge number of people who accuse a specific individual, nor a major political campaign that demands that these specific accused should be put behind bars, on the unsupported word of their accuser.

    Yes, there is: a person can be convicted of such crimes based solely on witness testimony, as long as their story is not seriously contradicted by evidence.

  175. Anders says

    Ghenganger:
    Kanin is an outlier simply because most studies of this nature have been careful to keep the incidence of false accusations low, for mostly noble reasons. But the upwards of 15% of sex offenders exonarated based on dna in a system with high requierements for a guilty verdict as a percentage of all convictions ( for most of which dna would be irrelevant as the defendant would agree that sex took place), speaks volumes about the scale of a problem that is trying to correct injustice with injustice. I have read even hugher figures, but all in small scope settings and nithing that i would submit as conclusive. In the wake of millions of women responding to last years horrors, the New Delhi Center for Women, the main lobby, felt compelled to declare publicly that over half of rape allegations are false (and they would only refer to those they know for a fact were false), making Kanins sample seem timid.

    My point, though, was that, perhaps emotionally, a figure like 40% of accusations are false are often erroneously seen as 40% of women lie about such serious issues. On the contrary – only a small fraction would lie compared to those suffering sexual assault. Morally, we have one group abusing their advantage, and another group abusing theirs – separate crimes, desastrous consequences.

    But it does of course mean we have to take false accusations seriously. The brilliant psychopath with a cogent story will, I suspect, get her victim convicted, but the majority of false accusations are not that insidious – they are acts of instant vengeance, acts of self fulfilment, acts to support feminism, acts to avoid taci fares – but not the tight narrative with details and the right emotions that would make a court convict in a he said she said scenario. We can and should catch these early, and the research on how to do it is there. But with a serious news outlet and the public taking the outrageous uva story at face value, i am not without reason worried that some of these more humble accusations could wreck lives (with or even without an eventual conviction).

    More reason and level headedness may also be a boom for male victims, far outside of the stereotypical victims we progressives tout out in misguided attempts to liberate people from gender roles. With studies on over 250 k Men showing similar or predominant female perpretation, abused men have little recourse – they do not fit the stereotype of a victim. Ridiculous notions such as predominant perpetrator – unimaginable in any other situation – shows a gender role conservatism that makes the Middle East, where female stem graduates thrive at levels far above liberal strongholds, sound downright progressive (though to be fair they would sneer at male victims of female perpetrators too).

  176. Archy says

    In the west, thieves generally don’t get socially ostracized or get vigilante mob justice on them. People accused of sex crimes, especially against children, have been hurt by vigilantes, etc even if they were innocent. I haven’t heard of much action taken against those accused of stealing, but when accused of sex crimes there seems to be a heavy desire for blood in many people.

    This is why other crimes are not comparable. I’ve never heard people talk openly about how a thief needs to have their genitals removed, or locked up on islands alone, etc but have heard that plenty when it’s a sex crime.

  177. Anders says

    That is not the only reason accusations of sex crimes are different. You are right, of course – throughout history, sex crimes have been punished heavily, sometimes on par with homicide, and often based on mere accusations. This extreme sensitivity has served an important purpose: to protect women from the physical strength of men.

    But there is something more insidious going on – something I hesitate to say for fear of being slandered as misogynist or, worse yet, an MRAM or masculist or one of those men who can’t get laid and go out in the forest to growl like an animal and chop wood with a vengeance. I will try, hoping that my adversaries will grant me the benefit of the doubt when I tell them I am neither – a happily married gay man with children and many female friends. If anything, I have a history of distancing myself from the company of macho, straight men, especially in groups – though, as I grow older, my respect for them has grown considerably.

    Here we go: While a male victim is seen as unmanly, losing status and gaining little sympathy except in egregious cases, ALL of us, MRAM, feminists, traditional Muslims, are inclined to sympathise with women. This sympathy, yes even perhaps added attractiveness (nothing makes a man feel better about himself than by being useful to a woman by protecting her – all men can tell you stories about physical near-confrontations with men aspiring to prove this role), is comfortable, with society, friends, everyone bending over backwards to lend support. Even very reasonable attempts to see nuances is dismissed wholesale as victim blaming. With billions spent on reinforcing public awareness on how horrific sexual assault is, coupled with a campaign to expand definitions to include attempted kissing and lingering looks, we are, I submit, not only encouraging victims to come forward, but also encouraging women to feel as victims in situations where they otherwise would not. In many of the cases I have come across, the purported victim did not even want the crime to be reported – they were more or less forced to report by concerned friends and family, or overzealous bureaucrats (the Assange accusers, for example, never intended to accuse Assange of rape – they wanted him to get tested after unprotected sex).

    With the immense sympathy, added attractiveness, even financial rewards (UK pays money to victims on the basis of allegation only; Brian Bank’s false accuser sued the school in which she alleged the event to have taken place for 1.5 million USD), ample public resources, and, in many cases, a damningly efficient way to get even on someone who you think has wronged you in some other way, why on earth would we be surprised if a tiny minority of women took undue advantage of such an opportunity? There is, by stark contrast, little incentive to falsely accuse someone of theft; the police will not spend resources if there is no proof available, the sympathy available to victims is tiny by comparison, and the accusation itself is a bother at most, not a potential career, life, and mental health-wrecker.

    So most striking is perhaps that there are so few false accusations. The opportunity makes the thief (in my native language).

    As a related aside:

    I was myself a victim of an incident that would qualify as rape even under a restrictive definition; I retracted consent verbally in the middle of the sexual act, and the perpetrator continued. I felt responsible, as I had invited him and initiated the act, engaging in the victim-self-blaming that we so often deride. But I did not go to the police for three reasons. I did not want to go through the ordeal of rehashing the situation over and over, even to sympathetic ears (and you can imagine how male rape victims are treated, if female ones are already often mistreated). I did not consider the incident serious enough to destroy the life of the perpetrator, with rape carrying severe minimum sentences and the mere accusation certain to secure job loss and ostracisation in a conservative society, and, most importantly, I did not feel victimised enough. It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience, but I wanted to simply learn from it and put it behind me. I sent him a mail explaining clearly how I thought he had abused me, though – but with no response.

    Would I have done the same if I were a woman? If I had, throughout my life, heard about how horrible rape is, how horrible victims feel, how even ostensibly mild infractions can scar victims forever? If I had both resources and sympathy from all sides at my disposal? If the mere hint at the event would cause all my friends to stand aghast and badger me to report? The answer, I submit, is yes.

    And that I have nothing against. What does concern me is the effect this crime will have on me as a result not of the crime itself, but of all the hysteria surrounding rape. It seems to me that I would either feel much, much worse, much more violated, or I would feel terrible because I am NOT feeling that way. While I of course would agree that much, much more needs to be done for male rape victims, in particular male victims of female perpetrators, it would be important to avoid the mistakes off the movement combating rape with traditional gender roles (male perpetrator, female victim).

    So there you go – I have now said things that would have made any public figure lose his (or even her) job many times over, coming close to Paul Elam (whom I detest because of his one-sided rhetoric, overly libertarian bent, support of gun control, unjust and simplistic interpretation of Sweden and the Middle East, atrocious attempts at satire, as well as complete refusal to recognise that the overwhelming majority of women are decent, just, and supportive of men). Feel free to swipe at me, although please avoid calling me a woman-hater.

  178. mildlymagnificent says

    ALL of us, MRAM, feminists, traditional Muslims, are inclined to sympathise with women. This sympathy … is comfortable, with society, friends, everyone bending over backwards to lend support.

    I’m a bit confused here. Your mention of gun control suggests that you’re from the USA. Have you never heard of Steubenville or of other cases of rape victims being driven from their homes or bullied on (anti)social media or being humiliated by judges in court proceedings? I’m very surprised if you have managed to avoid all of those instances. I don’t expect anyone to have done a major research project on the matter but ordinary familiarity with news reports should nudge your memory once you applied yourself to it.

    As for “traditional” Muslims supporting rape victims, when did that happen? The only time I can recall was from a couple of years ago when a Syrian bloke set up a site where men could sign on to agree to marry women who’d been raped by the local militia … in order to save them from the consequences of their situation of having brought dishonour on their families. There was no actual “support” within the families or the community at large apart from one outspoken – and unusual – imam urging them to lift their game. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/post/syrian-uprising-imam-tells-rape-victims-they-deserve-to-be-honored/2012/03/28/gIQAewdEhS_blog.html

  179. Archy says

    I guess that begs the question. Does society teaching women to fear rape so much actually worsen the effects of rape for women, than if they weren’t given that?

  180. Anders says

    Mildlymagnificent – to your questions.

    1. No, I am from Sweden, and I am generally libertarian but for gun control – more because of my origin than my ideology (but thanks for generously intimating that my English could pass as native).

    2. Having lived in the Middle East, I can only say that the picture Western media portrays is unnuanced at best, and downright islamophobic at worst. People detest rape; on the country side especially, men are lynched at the mere accusation. I am against this conservatism at least as much as you, feminists, or most Westerners (including the victim-shaming that is also rife), but the reports we hear are highly selective and pander to our stereotypes. Sad, for so many reasons.

  181. Anders says

    Archy: Perhaps the answer is no, but why? As a male rape victim, I was, pretty much, able to get on with my life relatively quickly. Perhaps I am repressing emotions, perhaps my character is resistant – I do not know and I in no way want to belittle those who suffer, sometimes tremendously. But I can’t help to think that the fact that I grew up as a man, learning to reject victimhood, to compete, to “man up”, while constraining in many, many ways, had something to do with my resilience. In college in the early 90’s, “correct” rape (men on woman) was on the agenda everywhere, every day. We learned that rape destroyed lives, that victims faced insurmountable obstacles. Had those campaigns been addressed at me, I would probably have reacted differently.

    I am only asking the question to which I honestly do not know the answer. I would like to hear how people think, reason, and feel, not wholesale “no”s or “yes”es or ideological generalisations. And I celebrate the progress our society has made in combating rape and do not for a second question the good intentions of the men and women engaged in the topic; and I think we all agree that we need to do much, much more for non-traditional victims as well (males).

  182. Archy says

    I think everyone can be equally harmed by rape, male or female. I have a slight guess that maybe, just maybe the genders get similar levels of pain in different ways. For men, the lack of recognition and repressing of feelings, expectation to man up may hurt them a lot, whilst for women the various issues like how much fear is pushed onto women about rape and how sexuality is tied up with virtue n purity, slutshaming, etc could hurt them. I doubt one gender is harmed more by rape on an individual level with emotional health, etc. This is an extremely loose barely theory though, just curious on if it’s a load of shit or if there might be something to it.

    I think there is potential for campaigns which push the idea that rape destroys lives (and often it does) could in fact worsen the effects of rapes and sorta I guess be a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    In no way do I want to start a pissing contest as to who is hurt the most in the world with regard to rape.

  183. mildlymagnificent says

    This is an extremely loose barely theory though, just curious on if it’s a load of shit or if there might be something to it.

    The basics are that we are all individuals and no one can predict how they themselves, or anybody else, will react to assaults or other traumatic events. From a looong distant past discussion about rape and different reactions to it, I remember one woman commenting that sometimes rape made a person angry, others found themselves traumatised beyond belief. For others, rape is just Tuesday. (To me that last one reeks of PTSD, but that’s just me.)

    The important thing is that we know, without a doubt, that many if not most rape victims will suffer consequences of varying severity, for varying periods of time. That may be unrelated to what an uninvolved observer might perceive as the severity of the assault. For many people, the sense of betrayal arising from a rape by a trusted friend or partner might be more damaging than the distance they might have from a much more violent assault from someone they didn’t know well or at all. But when we look at two specific individuals in those two situations, their reactions might be reversed, or some other responses entirely.

    My own feeling on this is that the more this is accepted in relation to women, the easier it will become for men to admit that they’ve been raped (by either a man or a woman). It’d be nice if all victims could be treated seriously and appropriately in all circumstances, but that’s probably too much to ask.

  184. collinmerenoff says

    Everyone arguing about what the percentage of false accusations is is missing the point. The point is that the percentage exists. That means there already is a fair way to adjudicate rape accusations that finds most of them true. And after almost 200 comments nobody realized this?

    This fight between Radfems and MRAs is nothing more than a circus act to prevent you from noticing that the answer has already been found. We as a nation must make our Enforcers — both academic and legal — implement it. Nothing else matters.

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