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  1. kaylagrrl
    kaylagrrl July 23, 2008 at 10:12 am |

    Not only are you right about the flawed methodology of the study and the overall problems with using polygraphs in general, but the 2005 federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act EXPLICITLY FORBIDS the use of polygraph exams on victims. This document: does a pretty good job of further explaining both the prohibition AND the reasons why it’s not okay to ask (let alone force) a victim to submit to polygraphing to “prove” their victimization.

  2. sailorman
    sailorman July 23, 2008 at 10:12 am |

    But full and competent investigations take time which many anti-feminists view as an injustice even if the investigation exonerates the suspect. Rape victims might have to wait months or years to have their rape kits processed, but rape suspects shouldn’t have to wait even a single month.

    As I have written on myself–on my blog and yours–you are right on target on this. Better investigations improve accuracy. And accuracy helps EVERYONE, from rape victims (who are more likely to see the guilty party punished, though the conviction rate is still extraordinarily low) to the innocent (who are more likely to have their alibis substantiated.

    Re this:

    But full and competent investigations take time which many anti-feminists view as an injustice even if the investigation exonerates the suspect. Rape victims might have to wait months or years to have their rape kits processed, but rape suspects shouldn’t have to wait even a single month.

    I don’t know whether you’re making a judgment call or whether you haven’t read the arguments which distinguish between harm caused by delay of conviction versus delay of substantiating alibi. But while I agree with your conclusion, I think you’re missing the strongest target.

    The argument of the anti-feminists is that the primary harm of rape is a “lost cost;” the women has already been raped. In that view, a delay in prosecution, while it may have a negative effect on the woman at issue, is not significantly going to change her status. Conversely, the harm to an innocent accused who is actually innocent of the charges is ongoing: a delay in substantiating his alibi will actually have a large effect.

    Interestingly enough, this argument may be at least somewhat accurate, at least for the limited number of situations in which is applies (note my italics above.)

    The issue that they miss, though, is who gets helped or hurt. The delay in prosecution may be a small effect on an individual basis, but it is universally applied to the group of all rape victims. That’s a large effect en masse.

    Conversely, holding an innocent out there as a rapist is a large effect on an individual basis. But it applies to a much smaller percentage of people: only to cases where the women involved 1) go to the police; 2) get listened to; 3) file charges; 4) identify an attacker; 5)who gets caught; 6) and who is actually innocent.

    I think that’s a much stronger argument, though you may disagree.

  3. montauk
    montauk July 23, 2008 at 10:27 am |

    I just want to thank you for posting this. I belong to a listserv which routinely brings up false rape accusations (“Up to 90%!”) and I can’t tell you how useful this information is to me. And thanks in advance to all the commenters – like Sailorman – whose additional nuances will improve my arguments and awareness regarding this topic.

  4. SoE
    SoE July 23, 2008 at 11:06 am |

    I recently read a very interesting article about the research on false rape and abuse claims. There seem to be some patterns for those. False accusations often occur when someone wants attention or tries to cover up some sort of mistake. The accuser’s intention is not necessarily to have someone prosecuted but it usually starts when another person is shocked by the story and starts to get the story out. And that’s where it’s getting tricky because out of shame the accuser is rarely going to confess the lie and starts repeating it until he or she actually believes it.

    Am sorry I’m running out of time now but fast and thorough investigations by trained investigators are going to prove better than just declaring all women hysterical liars again.

  5. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers July 23, 2008 at 1:11 pm |

    False accusations often occur when someone wants attention or tries to cover up some sort of mistake.

    Interestingly, I would suspect that if you could actually analyze the pattern of false accusations, it would be *opposite* to the biases held by average citizens and the cops/court.

    For instance, I believe that a woman who has had plenty of consensual sex with multiple partners in her life is much less likely to lie about being raped than a Christian teenage virgin, not because I think the teen virgin *is* likely to lie about being raped — I don’t — but because if I knew for sure that one of them was lying, the one who will face enormous social stigma if she admits to having had consensual sex seems more likely than the one who is open about having and enjoying consensual sex. I mean, what benefit is there to a woman in lying about being raped? If she had consensual sex, and then said she was raped, what would she be trying to achieve? Escaping social stigma if she belongs to a subculture that would despise her for consensual sex *might* be a cause to lie about rape, but if she wouldn’t suffer any social stigma (or at least none she cares about), then why lie?

    Prostitutes seem *very* unlikely to lie about being raped, to me. Voluntarily entering the legal system, which you *know* treats you like shit because you’ve been through it so many times already, because a guy didn’t pay you? Bullshit. You don’t think the cops will protect you from anything, and certainly not that they’ll recover your property for you. A prostitute who says she was raped almost certainly was, unless there are complicating factors like mental illness, because you’d have to have been through something super-traumatic to be willing to subject yourself to the law after the law has tormented you so badly.

    The only cases where society thinks that a woman is probably lying where I agree she has motive are also ones where I believe the men have unusually high motive to rape. For instance, if there is a contentious custody case or a divorce or accusations of child abuse, the woman might say she was raped in order to have legal ammunition against her ex, or the ex might rape her to punish her for attempting to escape him or take “his” kids. A woman might claim a celebrity raped her in hopes of getting a financial settlement, but a celebrity might rape her because he thinks he’s above the law and can have any woman he wants. A mentally ill woman might be delusional and believe she was raped when she wasn’t, but a rapist might prey on a mentally ill woman because he knows she’s less likely to be believed. So I think in any case where a woman *does* have a motive to lie, and society imputes that motive to her, the likelihood that she actually was raped is also greater.

    Short form: if a woman had motive to lie, the man had motive to rape her, unless her motive to lie was escaping cultural stigma against consensual sex, in which case fundamentalists of monotheistic religions and married women are much more likely to lie than prostitutes and women who are open about multiple consensual liaisons. But our society assumes that the fundies and respectable married women are *less* likely to lie than the “whores and sluts”, and that just because a woman does have a reasonable motive to lie means she must actually be lying, overlooking the fact that if the guy did rape her he has a better motive for lying than any woman who complains of rape could possibly ever have. (Lying to prevent oneself from going to jail > lying to get revenge on someone/get money.)

    Even shorter: Women are almost always telling the truth about having been raped.

  6. TempAnon
    TempAnon July 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm |

    I flunked a polygraph test once, and in the process ensured that particular employer would never ask employees to take a polygraph test as part of a theft investigation again.

    Very large item went missing during business hours. Entire staff asked to take polygraph tests. Expert solemnly informs business owner I was the thief, based on the test results. Not ‘she knows something about it’ but ‘she was actively involved in the actual theft and probably acted alone’.

    The problem is I was not at work that day. The second and larger problem is I was doing an off site job, for the employer, and the employer had been there with us all day. This is leaving aside such minor details as the fact I could not shift the very large item without help.

    Employer fired polygraph expert and was ever after a vocal opponent of polygraph testing.

    Using polygraph testing to steer investigations is a scant step up from scrying in entrails.

  7. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl July 23, 2008 at 5:25 pm |

    Wow Temp. The scariest part is what would’ve happened if you HADN’T been off site that day.

  8. dananddanica
    dananddanica July 23, 2008 at 6:18 pm |

    it is difficult when talking about false rape/assault allegations to differentiate between someone who is lying or someone who is mistaken. That being said, people dont just use rape allegations to cover up an act or to gain attention, it is also used as a weapon in divorce and/or custody proceedings or to discredit someone. For me its similar to rape only in that I dont care what the stats are, how often or how rarely it happens, it should be punished very, very severely yet this almost never happens. I don’t get that. As far as discussing rape stats or more specifically false rape accusation stats, I also don’t get why some people want to hold on so tightly to either the 2% stat (a lot of feminists i talk to) or the 50+% stat (a lot of anti-feminists I talk to). One has never been actually researched and the other is generally derived from that study in the 80’s which i dont put much faith in (cant remember the researchers name).

    Is some of the op’s argument covered at least a little by the old sentiment of letting 10 guily people go free rather than one innocent person go to jail? It seems that is something that resonates with a lot of people.

    Would it also be wrapped up a little in how fucked up law enforcement and especially the prison system is?

    i like that quote from kanin but the thing is, rape is a commonplace (though not AS common as for women) experience of men, worldwide, its only that in the US the men who it happens to are othered, as they are prisoners and dont account for much in our society, heck its the only place or people left that you can make rape jokes about (unless youre mccain).

  9. Ways to End the World › The justice system as a way of knowing.

    […] is all by way of endorsing a post at Feministe by Marcella Chester on the importance of complete, rigorous — and therefore often […]

  10. perry mason
    perry mason July 25, 2008 at 6:55 pm |


    Read your Constitution, the right to a speedy trial is in there. King George could throw you into to the slammer for a long time in the old days. Or Gitmo.

    Want those days again?

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