False Accusations and Suicide: Some Headlines about the Effects of Finger-Pointing and Legal Abuse (Culled for the Empathically Challenged)

Posted on April 14, 2015

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One of the stories highlighted below concerns a young man who was falsely labeled a rapist by some bullies at school. He hanged himself. He was 16. Another concerns a man who spent a year and a half in prison based on a false accusation of sexual assault (among other false accusations). While the man was behind bars, his mother killed herself, believing her son was a pimp and a rapist.

A word to the wise: Only ask a rhetorical question if you know the answer…and it favors your position.

The question posed above by the zealous, young author of Not Sorry Feminism isn’t, of course, a question at all; it’s an indictment. She means how dare anyone think false accusations happen. What problematizes the writer’s rhetorical-question-cum-admonition is that it has a very obvious answer: The reason people think false accusations “happen” (so to speak) is that they do.

(It might alternatively be asserted that no one does believe false accusations “happen,” the same way no one believes rapes “happen.” Both are acts, and both have agents. If rape happens isn’t a construction a feminist could get behind, false accusations happen shouldn’t be, either. You’re a proponent of accountability, or you’re not.)

Worse than her question’s being problematic, because answerable, is that its answer isn’t one the writer wants to hear. Motives for false accusations, including of rape, are greed, malice, bullying, vengeance, jealousy, possessiveness, attention-seeking, mental illness, and cover-up, to name a few. They’re ugly, often petty, always destructive…and they can kill.

This post surveys examples of false allegations or deadly allegations or false and deadly allegations drawn from news stories. Here’s one such:

Unlike most of the rest, the first story glossed in this hastily cobbled digital scrapbook doesn’t include a suicide or references to suicide. It’s nevertheless a good starting point, because it’s old news.

The article’s from 15 years ago. Fifteen. Significantly, though, no half-hearted sleuth would find it a challenge today to turn up commentaries on the Internet, mostly from feminist writers like the one who introduces this post, that either (1) deny such a thing ever happens or (2) deny it’s a big deal when it does happen—and deny it’s a sign that a culture of false accusation exists and has for some time. (A story so uncannily similar as to be almost identical can be found here. It appeared in The Huffington Post less than 24 months ago.)

Consider: Where would six elementary school girls and a boy get the idea of framing their gym teacher as a molester, and where would they get the impression this conduct was okay (or “cool”) or that they’d get away with it and not face dire consequences? Should we believe the notion had no cultural influences and was purely a product of these honors students’ collective wicked imagination?

For accusing their teacher of groping them, the kids were suspended for 10 days. It’s likely the most traumatic part of their punishment was being detained by police and “fingerprinted, photographed, [and] booked.” Keep this thought in mind.

Keep this quotation in mind, too: “‘When they made the charge, that’s about 80 percent of the damage to your reputation right there,’ [attorney Paul F.] Kemp said. ‘Because even if you’re found innocent, people will assume you got off on a technicality. Or that there’s something there when there’s not.’”

Editorial intrusions end here; the remainder of this post is a series of Internet clippings (linked to the “complete stories”) from which readers may draw their own conclusions about the motives and effects of accusation, bullying, and legal abuse. The author of this post would only point out before absenting himself that an accusation that may induce someone to kill him- or herself need not be of rape and that one of the suicides chronicled below is of a woman who faced being tried for falsely alleging she was sexually assaulted (“In notes left for her family, she described her overwhelming fear of giving evidence…”).

The common denominator is accusation and public scrutiny and judgment, not being accused of a particular act, per se. Zerlina Maxwell and her ilk are categorically wrong.

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