Thursday, May 14, 2015

First Convict the Perpetrator. On True And False Rape Accusations

Anti-feminists and MRAs frequently write about the fear of false rape accusations, the idea that a man's life can be ruined just on some woman's say-so.

Those  stories and Twitter messages see false rape accusations as a giant problem, perhaps amounting to half of all accusations!  That the best studies suggest rates much, much lower* doesn't make the smallest dent to the edifice of "known knowns" created in that alternative reality of manosphere,** because outside information is ignored there.

Given all that, I found this story about a sexual assault conviction fascinating:

Baltimore jury convicted a man Friday who had been acquitted in four previous sexual assault trials, a win for prosecutors who revived the discarded case in a bid to secure an elusive conviction.

Nelson Bernard Clifford, a convicted sex offender, was found guilty of two counts of third-degree sex offense. While the counts individually carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, prosecutors say Clifford faces an enhanced penalty — up to life in prison — because of prior convictions.

Prosecutors said that on Sept. 30, 2007, Clifford broke into a woman's home in the Barclay neighborhood, tied her hands with a belt and sexually assaulted her. Clifford also was found guilty of theft for stealing the victim's laptop and $45, prosecutors said.

Bolds are mine.  Get it?  This is the gist:

Clifford had gone to trial four times since 2010. In each case, the women said he broke into their homes and bound and attacked them. Each time, he took the stand and claimed that the encounters were consensual, and was acquitted of the most serious charges.

If this "perfect" type of sexual assault by a stranger  has such a hard time getting convictions,  what are the chances in cases where the victim knew the perpetrator? 

The specific reason why the legal system favored Clifford seems to be the inadmissibility of prior evidence in Maryland:

Prosecutors were dealt a setback before the most recent case, after trying to enjoin it with another to show a pattern. Clifford allegedly attacked a woman and stole her phone, which was left behind at the scene of a second attack four days later. But Chief Judge Alfred J. Nance ruled the cases be tried separately. On the witness stand, Clifford acknowledged leaving the phone behind, but jurors had no idea it was stolen from another alleged victim.

What makes this example crucial in the false-accusations context is this: Based on the way MRAs use the concept the three women who lost their cases against Clifford would have been counted among those falsely accusing someone of sexual assault.  After all, the court found for Clifford in each case.


*  The best estimates are between 2% and 8% of all rape accusations. 

**  And fascinating theories about the reasons why men should be the revered bosses of women, both viewed as classes.  For instance, I recently read that women should make sandwiches to men, because men built the cities (and presumably gave them freely to those women who made them sandwiches), and it takes a lot of sandwiches to build a city.

That's a good example of the nuttier manosphere arguments.  Note the view of all men as builders of cities, the view of women's contributions to civilizations as zero, the omission of who built the men themselves and so on.

It's in the same family as arguments that all women should make all men sandwiches because certain men died in the wars.  It's not the dead warriors who deserve the sandwiches, but anyone with the same y-chromosome.

Then never mind that women have been banned from the military, in the past had little say over whether countries would go to war or not,  and still face sexual harassment in construction jobs.

But none of that matters, because the point of those arguments is not gender equality but the perpetuation of male supremacy.