Once again, another politician has gotten it wrong when it comes to sexual violence on college campuses. According to Georgia Rep. Earl Ehrhart, House Bill-51 which he sponsored, will provide greater protection for the rights of the accused in sexual assault cases. Behind that logic is the subtle but too often heard implication that women are deceptively “crying rape”, and that there are large numbers of falsely accused who are being wrongly prosecuted.
Nothing can be farther from the facts.
False allegations of rape hold a disproportionate place in the public imagination. False allegations are nothing but statistical outliers and the bottom line fact that people not only believe them but continually dismiss victims is a sad reflection of the prevalence of rape culture in our society. Overall, 2- 8 % of reported rapes are false but over 40 - 60% of all rapes are not even reported. A DOJ study in 2000 found that fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes of collegiate women are reported to police, and that figure drops even lower for other forms of sexual violence. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, rape is the most under-reported crime, with an estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults never reported to police at all.
For every 100 incidents of rape that do get reported, maybe two to eight at most are false accusations, with possibly another 600 going unreported. That is the problem lawmakers should direct their energies toward solving.
One in five young women is assaulted during their college years. One reason the frequency of sexual assault on campuses continues to be high is that schools are in denial about the scope of the problem and too many have fragmented reporting channels. Unclear and conflicted internal disciplinary systems can compound victims’ suffering. Women in college have also identified fear of not being believed, not being sure whether what they experienced was a sexual assault and not wanting family or other people to know about the incidents as reasons for not reporting. This bill will increase those fears.
Our system too often fails victims of sexual assault – the campus justice system through Title IX provides a measure of accountability that would be stripped away under HB-51, and make it harder for victims to get justice. Under the Clery Act, another federal law that intersects with Title IX, a bill of rights for survivors of campus sexual assault requires colleges and universities to provide a number of protections such as notification of counseling resources and offering the option of reporting a case to either the school, law enforcement, or both. It also provides academic or living accommodations, such as changing dorms and classes. Schools are discouraged from burdening the survivor, instead of the perpetrator, with the responsibility to change their circumstances. Additionally, it requires that survivors be notified of the final outcome of any disciplinary proceeding.
Right now on college campuses we have literally no idea how many students are being sexually abused. That’s a far bigger problem than a few false rape allegations.
It is incredible how much concern this bill and its sponsors devote to something that is so rare it is practically irrelevant and inconsequential to any serious discussion of sexual assault.
Rep. Ehrhart’s concern for the families of the falsely accused is admirable. “I’m not going to sit with any more moms like that if I can help it. It’s the most wrenching experience I ever had,” he said.
How many victims of sexual assault and their mothers has he ever sat with?