I got to thinking about the Kavanaugh case and the #IBelieveSurvivors movement. As folks who follow my work know, I’m a data junkie. I don’t believe anecdotes. I want evidence, facts, data. I agree totally with what Robert Heinlein said:
“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”
So I went to the National Registry of Exoneration to get the facts about men mistakenly convicted of rape. The Registry contains a variety of evidence regarding 2,285 people who were convicted of a serious crime, and who were later exonerated when new evidence came to light. I filtered the database and got the data on all cases of men exonerated of rape, a total of 620 cases.
What I wanted to find out was WHY these men were falsely convicted. Was it mishandled evidence? Was it prosecutorial misconduct? Was it errors by the crime scene investigators? Here are the results:
More than half of the false convictions were because some jury thought that #IBelieveSurvivors was a good plan … more than half involved either perjury or false accusation.
And over 90% of the false rape convictions were from believing people who were either mistaken or were flat-out lying about what happened.
Now, please be clear. On my planet, rape is one of the vilest and most heinous of crimes. I have huge compassion for the victims of sexual attacks. And this is not only because they were attacked. I also have great sympathy for the problems that they face after the attack—in revealing what happened to friends and family, in going to the police, and in testifying in court. Each of these is a new trauma, a new indignity, a new reliving of the pain of the incident, and a new assault on the victim.
But in our justice system, we hold that it’s better for ten guilty people to go free than for one innocent to be imprisoned.
And in the 620 cases of people who were wrongly imprisoned for rape, the median length of time that they spent in a cage for something that they didn’t do was fifteen long, endless years. Fifteen years! One poor bastard was locked up for 46 years for a crime that it was later proved that he did NOT commit.
Next, please note … not all men falsely accused of rape have been exonerated. There are undoubtedly many more men who are doing time in prison for rapes that they didn’t commit than those 620 who have been exonerated …
In addition, there is another large group of men out there, wrongly convicted of rape, who have to suffer even after they get out of prison. They are followed after release and have to face a variety of regulations, restrictions, and even attacks for the remainder of their lives. Imagine being totally innocent and having this sign outside your front door …
This is why the hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors is both profoundly wrong and profoundly un-American. Mistaken identification, perjury, and false accusation are far too common. More than 90% of the mistaken convictions for rape occurred because the jury believed someone they should have distrusted.
In short, we shouldn’t automatically believe anyone—not men, not survivors, not women, not saints, not victims, not children, not priests, not doctors, not sinners, not teachers, every group of humanoids contains the usual number of people who, either deliberately or mistakenly, will bear false witness against someone else.
And this is also why I thought that Justice Kavanaugh should indeed have been confirmed. It doesn’t matter whether you believe Dr. Ford or not. At the end of the day, all that we had was her sole, uncorroborated, unconfirmed accusations … well, that plus sworn statements and public records showing that she was … mmm … well, let me call it “shading the truth” about her claustrophobia, about her fear of flying, and about the reason for having two doors on only one of her two houses …
We had no physical evidence. We had no contemporaneous outcry. We had no date when it was supposed to have happened. We had no one who backed up her story. We had no location. We had nothing but her accusation … plus the sworn denials of the four people she named as being there.
And in my America, setting her other deceptive statements totally aside, even if you firmly believe one single solitary person’s uncorroborated, unsupported, unconfirmed accusation, that is far, far from enough to throw a man in prison, or to ruin a good man’s name forever, or to deny him a job, even an important lifetime job.
Sadly, however, there were a number of Democratic politicians both high and low who were more than willing to do just that … which is a very scary fact. Vote, folks, vote … this is an important election.
Final conclusion? Having been falsely accused of a crime myself, I can only wish that it never, ever happens to you …