Sexual assaults occur in the
military as well as the civilian world. There is nothing in civilian society,
however, which duplicates the incomprehensible reaction of military officials
who lose all perspective when dealing with this problem
complainants are labeled "victims" even before legal proceedings determine that
a crime has been committed. Publicly named men accused of misconduct are treated
as "innocent until accused," and are rarely given the benefit of the doubt.
Victimology vs. Justice
It is a primary tenet of "feminist jurisprudence" that women
never lie when complaining of sexual abuse. This delusion is as ludicrous as the
notion that all women think alike.
Any man who states
the obvious, however, puts his career at risk. Even liberal Law Professor Alan
Dershowitz was accused of sexual harassment just for discussing in class
the possibility of false rape allegations. In 1993 Dershowitz told author David
Horowitz that he began videotaping classroom lectures on the subject
for his own protection, and that other experts in the field stopped teaching rape
law rather than take the risk. 1
to a report of the Defense Department Inspector General released in 2005, approximately
73% of women and 72% of men at the military
service academies believe that false accusations of sexual assault are a problem.
But military officials keep pretending that the problem does not exist.
Untruths Without Consequences
Linda Fairstein, a former head of the sex-crimes
unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office, has criticized the doctrinaire
belief that women never lie. Writing in Cosmopolitan
magazine, Fairstein quoted FBI statistics on unfounded claims of forcible rape.
These reports, she wrote, occur at rates as high as 9%, compared
to between 1.5% and 5% of reports submitted
in all other criminal categories. She continued,
"Having worked in this field for decades, I've found
this phenomenon especially painful to witness. Innocent men are arrested and even
imprisoned as a result of bogus claims, and the precious resources of criminal
justice agencies are wasted..[T]hese falsehoods trivialize the experience of every
rape survivor." 2
June 3, 2004, Washington Post article titled "Sexual Assaults in Army on Rise"
reported the results of a five year study of reports of abuse. The number of "unfounded"
cases tripled from 48 to 157 between 1999 and
2003. An Army spokeswoman could not explain why. It is time to find out.
Every allegation is different, and appearances often deceive.
Certain indicators should be investigated in order to separate truthful allegations
from fabricated ones. Primary motives for false reports, which are not uncommon,
include a) Jealousy or Revenge; b) Need for an Alibi; and c) Emotional Problems/Desire
for Attention. None of these should be a surprise.
Jealousy or Revenge
The phrase "woman scorned"
is more than a stereotype. Linda Fairstein described several cases in which women
"cried rape" in order to have revenge on former lovers. One involved a secretary
who accused her boss of assaulting her after hours. The tearful woman seemed very
credible-at first-but the man told Fairstein an entirely different story.
His admitted affair with the accuser was documented with a
paper trail of travel receipts over a period of two years. The alleged rape occurred
on the night that he refused her demand to divorce his wife. When Fairstein confronted
the accuser, she admitted to being so upset with her former lover that she wanted
to make sure he lost both his job and his marriage.
motivated by revenge are not uncommon. In a study done in a small Midwestern city
over a period of nine years, Eugene J. Kanin, Ph.D. found that
27% of recanted allegations (12 of 45) were filed for purposes
of revenge-usually after a real or perceived love affair ended. 3
Dr. Kanin added that because the suspect is always identified to authorities,
revenge cases present the highest risk of a miscarriage of justice.
An average of 41% of accusers over nine years
(45 of 109) recanted allegations of rape, even when facing possible penalties
for filing false police reports. These recantations did not follow prolonged periods
of investigation or interrogations that victim advocates frequently describe as
"second assaults." 4
Seeking more information
on the phenomenon, Dr. Kanin studied rape reports at two Midwestern universities
over the course of three years. Counting only those allegations that were officially
recanted by accusers, the study found a false allegation rate of 50%.
The police agency involved, headed by a female investigator, found that in this
group revenge was the motive for 44% of the recanted rape allegations.
b) Need for an Alibi
Sex crime investigator Fairstein compared alibi
allegations to Pinocchio's nose-a white lie that grows and grows. She described,
for example, a young woman who had traveled with a group and spent the night with
a co-worker after drinking with him in the bar. She was not in her room to receive
calls from her boyfriend, who instigated a search. This "victim" tearfully accused
her co-worker of raping and restraining her in his room. The man was taken into
custody, but a paper trail of receipts contradicted the woman's story. The accuser
recanted, and investigators recommended psychiatric help for her.
the military, one of the most egregious alibi allegations occurred in the aftermath
of the Navy's infamous 1991 Tailhook scandal in Las Vegas. Ensign Elizabeth
Warnick, known as "Belly Button Beth" because she allowed drunken aviators
to drink tequila from her navel, accused two of her colleagues of gang-rape. Her
accusations devastated the careers of the men, but Warnick admitted later that
she had lied to mislead her boyfriend about her own behavior at Tailhook.
The Navy's failure to prosecute Warnick for her blatantly false
allegation against male officers was an early example of "Double Standards
Involving Women," a phenomenon CMR identifies as DSIW.
Policies based on DSIW hurt women by creating resentment and distrust. Women in
the military are not responsible for DSIW, but they frequently get the blame.
c) Emotional Problems/Desire for Attention
The May 2005 saga of "Runaway Bride" Jennifer
Wilbanks, who fled her own lavish wedding and concocted a kidnapping
story to explain her disappearance, demonstrates a syndrome psychologists call
pseudologia phantastica. 6 The disorder, which is not
limited to women or rape charges alone, requires identification and treatment,
not unquestioning belief.
MSNBC commentator Tucker
Carlson faced this problem in 2001. A woman he had never met claimed
that he had drugged her at a Kentucky restaurant and sexually assaulted her with
violence. Many sleepless nights and $14,000 in legal fees later, the accuser dropped
the charges. Carlson survived, but the lives of many men falsely accused never
are the same. 7
The military is not exempt
from this unusual but disturbing behavior. At a recent Article 32 hearing to determine
the need to court-martial Spec. Cooper Jackson, civilian Ashley
Elrod testified that she made up a story about being raped by a Marine,
Cpl. Justin Huff. Elrod told the lie to Spec. Jackson, who is
accused of kidnapping and murdering Cpl. Huff, the alleged rapist. Spec. Jackson
allegedly cut Cpl. Huff's throat and set him on fire. Under oath Ashley Elrod
admitted making phone calls in which she lied to military men since she was 15
years old. "I have low self-esteem," she said. "I need someone to
talk to." (Navy Times, June 26)
rape accusations also have been filed to extort money from celebrities, to gain
sole custody of children in divorce cases, and even to escape military deployments
to war zones. All of these possibilities and more must be objectively considered
by investigators, without interference from victim advocates who wrongly insist
that women can do no wrong.
Investigation of the Crime of Rape
investigations are inherently difficult. Sex crimes usually occur in private,
with few witnesses. Alcohol dulls memories, and "he said, she said" stories are
frequently inconsistent. At the military service academies, personal conduct rules
that do not apply in the civilian world create a perverse incentive for alibi
These factors can be mitigated when authorities
apply the same investigative techniques that they do in other criminal cases.
Visible clues and patterns of behavior help to distinguish truthful allegations
from those that are false.
Charles P. McDowell,
Ph.D., of the U.S. Air Force Special Studies Division, has incurred the
wrath of victim advocates by spotlighting the reality of false accusations. Writing
in a publication of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, McDowell
ambiguity of many rape allegations is a genuine test of an investigator's ability;
an inherent conflict arises between the investigator's obligation to accept the
victim's complaint as legitimate and his obligation to remain open to the possibility
that there may be a 'hidden agenda.' " 8
McDowell recognizes that an investigator's questions can make
a victim of assault feel wronged again. This is especially so when investigators
who have been misled in the past betray suspicion when inquiring about sensitive,
The only way to minimize that
problem is to understand the dynamics of false rape allegations and, in the process,
learn the hallmarks of truthful accusations. This effort is essential not only
for women's sake, but to avoid grievous injustice to men who may be severely punished
for crimes they did not commit.
recognize "shorthand" cues that are not infallible, but are useful in assessing
the validity of complaints. They also recognize that self-esteem is a central
feature of human personality. Some people who fail to live up to their own standards
try to protect their self-image by denying wrongful acts or offering excuses.
McDowell analyzes how some accusers use false accusations as defense mechanisms
to protect self-esteem:
"They do so by selectively 'forgetting' what happened,
denying responsibility, projecting blame to someone (or something) else, overcompensating,
or by seeking escape in a world of fantasy..When a person falsely claims to be
the victim of a crime, an alternative reality is created. The focal point of that
alternative reality becomes the crime itself, reducing the role of the "victim"
to passive non-culpability." (pp. 59-60)
McDowell's article cites
findings from a 1983 study of 556 rape investigations in which 27% were found
to be false. Noting certain characteristics that set the two groups apart, McDowell
explained factors that are sometimes but not always present when questionable
allegations are made:
- Many people have
no understanding of what real victimization actually entails. "Their imperfect
understanding of rape is often transparent, raising the suspicion of investigators
who are sensitive to allegations that are either atypical or unrealistic."
- Some individuals try to restore self-esteem
and evade responsibility for their own behavior by fabricating claims of being
"lost, intoxicated, frightened, confused, or otherwise incapable of preventing
their victimizations." These stories are frequently rewarded with the "protected
status" of "victim," which enlists the support of friends and sympathetic
advocates. (p. 61)
- Medical literature acknowledges
that some patients make apparently credible but false complaints of physical ailments.
False reports of rape, however, are sometimes bolstered by bizarre scenarios or
self-inflicted injuries. Law enforcement people accustomed to seeing injuries
are usually credulous, but they can recognize questionable characteristics. Self-inflicted
wounds, for example, usually avoid sensitive areas or permanent disfigurement
of the body. (62-63, 67)
- Seventy-five percent of
confirmed rape victims in the study said they knew the assailant. About
half of the false claims involved a non-existent stranger, with another
third involving slight acquaintances. The essentially anonymous rapist effectively
absolves the complainant of responsibility and affirms her innocence. An unsolvable
case also shifts responsibility to the alleged offender and ultimately to the
- Genuine rape victims invariably are able
to provide detailed descriptions of the rape. Women making false allegations typically
are not clear in their descriptions. Some claim that they were unconscious or
had their eyes closed. Others provide exquisitely detailed accounts, described
with pleasure. Investigators must be cautious, but extreme under- or over-reporting
can be suspicious, especially if stories change.
acknowledges that investigators' questions might upset women who have been sexually
assaulted. In a discussion of ways to maintain rapport with women making questionable
allegations of rape, he recommends that investigators closest to the complainant
remain supportive, professional, understanding and non-judgmental. If unresolved
conflicts emerge, they should be raised by a supervisor who assumes and recognizes
the complainant's desire to be a responsible person.
accusers are relieved when disparities discredit their story because it is exhausting
to maintain a lie. Others react with outrage because they need to believe what
they have claimed, and fear losing control. In all cases, investigators should
work with families to provide emotional support
also notes that even those who are emotionally prone to make false allegations
can, indeed, be true victims of rape. All the more reason to maintain professionalism,
objectivity, and compassion when investigating sexual misconduct and rape. (pp.
Rape by Accusation
Author Warren Farrell, a former
board member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in
the 1970s, made an interesting personal transition from male feminist to an advocate
of equality that does not discriminate against men. In his 1993 book The Myth
of Male Power, Farrell examined the McDowell study and other available reports.
"False accusations are not a rarity," he wrote, "they are themselves
a form of rape, and a political hot potato. It will doubtless take a female politician
of enormous integrity to confront the issue."
armed forces need to find out why indicators of false accusations are so persistent.
Extreme feelings of guilt because some military women have been abused are no
excuse for denying reality. The first step in solving a problem is to first admit
that the problem exists.
1. Frank S. Zepezauer, "Believe Her! The Woman Never Lies
Myth," IPT Journal, Volume 6 - 1994. Also "David Horowitz's Notepad: The Intellectual
Terror in Our Universities," FrontPageMagazine.com, December 10, 2001.
Cosmopolitan, "Why Some Women Lie About Rape," November 2003.
Archive of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 23(1), 1994, pp. 81-91.
4. Kanin, p. 84.
Recanted allegations in this 9-year study varied from year to year, from a low
of 27% (3 out of 11 cases) to a high of 70% (7 out of 10).
5. Kanin, p.
6. Graham Reed, The Psychology of Anomalous Experience, Prometheus Books,
NY 1988. In the Penguin Book of Lies, pp. 527-529, quoted by The Heretical Press,
7. Fairstein, quoting Tucker Carlson's book, Politicians,
Partisans, and Parasites, 2003.
8. Forensic Science Digest, "False Allegations,"
Vol. 11, No. 4, December 1985, p. 56-76.