#MeToo has been beneficial for victims of sexual assault for a tremendous amount of reasons- the most obvious being that it’s a step in the right direction in regards to justice against these crimes. It’s also been able to help the world understand the magnitude of the problem, ensure that victims aren’t alone and shouldn’t be ashamed, and challenge social norms by setting standards for decency, just to name a few.
However, the #MeToo Movement has frightened many men (as well as women with husbands and sons). Of course, there’s no rational reason to be afraid – a lot of them haven’t exhibited sexual misconduct for a second of their lives, much less raped anyone… But they’re scared. Terrified, even.
And they don’t seem to be fearful of being correctly accused.
Due to the Brett Kavanaugh case and the plethora of celebrities on both sides of sexual assault issues, there’s been a significant amount of attention called to false accusations. And with that, men are now afraid that women are going to falsely accuse them of sexual assault.
This is mostly because a lot of people believe that false accusations are a widespread, common problem. This simply isn’t the case though; they’re made out to be a much bigger issue than they actually are. In fact, there is no reliable evidence suggesting that false accusations of rape are significantly more common than false accusations of other crimes.
Another issue is that studies which are well-founded can be bent to fit certain agendas. Bret Stephens of the New York Times referenced one in the realm of reality, saying “False allegations of rape, while relatively rare, are at least five times as common as false accusations of other types of crime, according to academic literature.”
The study says that false rape claims rest at 5.55 percent (note: not 41), while the average rate of all studied crimes was at 1.16 percent. The study also states, however, that rape isn’t the most likely crime to be falsified- false robbery allegations were found at 5.78 percent.
You certainly never hear of false robbery claims causing a national stir. I don’t, anyway. Not fair of me to assume what circles you might be in.
This also brings up an interesting question: Why is it that we have a much more difficult time empathizing with and believing a woman who says she was sexually assaulted, as opposed to one who says she was robbed? According to the stats above, there’s no reason why this should be the case.
On top of that, there are several studies indicating that more than two-thirds of rape cases are never reported. This is an exponentially higher rate than that of other crimes (some say higher than any other).
Take this one for example. It states that far more than double the percentage of robberies get reported in comparison to rapes. So, though the numbers may be similar in studies, they’re only based on the cases that are reported to police. Therefore, the real percentage of false rape accusations is even lower due to the amount of cases that are never brought to public light, and thus not brought into studies.
So, we’ve established that cases of sexual assault are, at most, as common as other crimes, if not less common. Why else might people believe that false accusations are such a big problem?
The answer, simply put, is social media. There are powerful stories online about how people’s lives were ruined by this rare occurrence, and platforms like Twitter and Facebook are built to perpetuate the loudness of these stories.
Unfortunately, people are more swayed by these posts than research and statistics. However, it’s crucial to understand that though there may be a viral story out there about a woman who falsely accused, one rare example isn’t at all indicative of a wider trend.
One pathos-filled entry can stereotype every woman who says #MeToo, and place them in an undeservingly terrible light.
I also feel it important to note the obvious: women have it much, much worse when it comes to sexual assault. Not only are women the vast majority of the ones getting sexually assaulted, but in a lot of assault cases (especially high profile ones), women are attacked, threatened and embarrassed.
Their every move is scrutinized, they’re shamed for their sexual history, and they’re labeled as manipulative, paranoid, or just insane, regardless of whether their claim is based in truth or fiction.
So, to all the men out there who are scared of being accused and haven’t done anything wrong, I implore you to consider the following: women go through a lot just to report their assaults, and most wouldn’t risk their own reputations for a lie.
In addition, false accusations of sexual assault are not more common than false accusations of other crimes (especially robbery). One viral example circulating Facebook does not disprove that fact.
Don’t be afraid. Hold yourself accountable. Hold fellow men accountable. Don’t. Be. Afraid.
Because if you didn’t rob that house, you have nothing to fear… right?
Also published on Medium.