Rape and sexual assault are among the most heinous crimes a person may be charged with short of murder. Any type of sex crimes conviction carries serious penalties in Florida. A defendant is facing not only possible jail time, but also a lifetime of legal and public condemnation as a “sex offender.”
Rolling Stone Scandal Shows How False Rape Accusations Go Viral
Given the gravity of any rape accusation, it is imperative that law enforcement perform their due diligence before charging a suspect. Prosecutors must also be strictly held to their legal burden of proof: guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Unfortunately, in our social media-crazed age, people are quick to rush to judgment. There is an understandable, if legally misguided, view that we should “always believe the victim,” which can end up trampling on the constitutional rights of the accused. At the end of the day, a judge and jury need to see evidence beyond a mere accusation before convicting someone of a felony.
And while studies have shown that the majority of rape accusations are credible–or at least, they are not deliberate fabrications, there is increasing anecdotal and scientific evidence that false allegations are on the rise. On the anecdotal side, there was a recent report about a video where a passenger using a popular ride-sharing service verbally threatened to accuse the driver of rape following a disagreement.
Heat-of-the-moment exclamations are one thing. But then there are the false rape accusations that “go viral” and are willingly spread by the national news media. Consider the July 2014 report published in Rolling Stone magazine accusing several University of Virginia students of raping an unidentified female accuser. Although none of the accused students were ever charged with a crime, the uncorroborated accusation alone was enough to prompt a wave of stories decrying the purported “rape culture” on the nation’s college campuses.
Rolling Stone later retracted the story after acknowledging its reporter and editors never bothered to corroborate the accuser’s story. Cathy Young, a writer for the libertarian magazine Reason, noted in the aftermath of the Rolling Stone scandal that “[t]he willingness to treat uncorroborated narratives of victimization as fact may be partly due to sensationalism,” but also “reflects a climate in which any suggestion that a woman who says she was raped may be lying is often treated as ‘victim-blaming’ or ‘rape apology.’”
Have You Been Falsely Accused of Rape?
But false rape accusations do happen. A study authored by a group from the University of Massachusetts and Northeastern University in Boston found that “the prevalence of false allegations is between 2 percent and 10 percent.” That may not sound like much, but consider that each false rape accusation represents a potential criminal conviction for an innocent person.
This is why if you or a loved one is accused of a sex crime, you need to take it seriously. Do not assume it is a misunderstanding and that the police (and the press) will simply believe your claims of innocence. You need to speak with an Orlando criminal defense attorney who has experience in dealing with these types of cases. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150 if you need to speak with a lawyer right away.