April 20, 2005
by Wendy McElroy, email@example.com
On April 8, the president of the Brevard, Fla., chapter of the National Organization for Women was charged by the Florida state attorney's office with filing a false rape report and making a false official statement.
She could be imprisoned for one year on each count and forced to pay for the police investigation she incurred. The case has far-reaching implications for gender politics and for women who report sexual assault in the future.
The facts are as follows. On Nov. 17, 2004, part-time Rollins College student Desiree Nall reported being raped in a campus bathroom by two men. The Winter Park Police Department put Rollins on 'high alert,' advising students to remain indoors when possible.
The dean immediately dispatched a campus-wide email to assure students that extra security measures were being taken.
In a Sandspur article entitled "A Rape Hoax is No Way to Get Attention," Jean Bernard Chery relates how the incident impacted campus life.
"It was a nightmare for every female student and faculty/staff at Rollins. They were afraid to go to the bathroom or walk on campus alone after dusk....The incident prompted a candlelight vigil on campus in support of the alleged victim [then unnamed]," Chery wrote.
The police had reason for skepticism. Nall could not assist with composite sketches, offered inconsistent details and did not wish to press charges. An examination at a sexual assault treatment center after the alleged attack produced no evidence of foreign DNA.
Due to publicity and campus panic, however, a police investigation continued at a final estimated cost of more than $50,000. The report of rape was judged a hoax.
According to police, on Nov. 19,Nall phoned and asked to have the case dropped. When Detective Jon Askins questioned her original report, Nall reportedly confessed that she was "not a victim of a sexual batter." The police speculate that Nall, a vocal feminist, may have been trying to "make a statement" about violence against women. The alleged rape occurred during Sexual Assault Awareness Week, which was intended to highlight the issue of sexual violence against women.
Jeff Nall, Desiree's husband, has been speaking publicly on her behalf. He claims the charges will be appealed on the grounds that an attempted assault did occur. He denies that she confessed to lying. He claims she has been targeted by police because "she is a women's-rights activist."
He also distances NOW from the unfolding fiasco by pointing out that his wife became a chapter president only recently, after the incident. Moreover, according to one article in the Sandspur, he argues "that sexual assault cases such as this are not one of the platforms of NOW."
NOW apparently wishes to maintain distance as well. As of Monday, searching its website for the term "Nall" returns no results. After all, NOW has argued that women do not lie about rape. Catharine MacKinnon--a founding mother of the gender feminism that NOW promotes -- stated in her book, Feminism Unmodified, "The reason feminism uncovered this reality [of male oppression], its methodological secret, is that feminism is built on believing women's accounts of sexual use and abuse by men."