Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On False Rape Accusations And The Media

The case of Julian Assange, the Wikileaker, is in the media right now. Assange had been accused of rape by two women in Sweden, but he is no longer a suspect. The New York Times writes:

But one of Mr. Assange's close friends in Sweden, who said he had discussed the case in detail with Mr. Assange and one of the women, said he was "absolutely sure" that what was involved were personal animosities and grievances that flowed out of brief relationships Mr. Assange had with the women.

The man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issues, said that the volatile mix that led to the two women's seeking criminal charges against Mr. Assange involved his celebrity in Sweden and the ill feelings that erupted when the two women discovered they had been competing for his attentions.

"This wasn't anything to do with the Pentagon," he said. "It was just a personal matter between three people that got out of hand."


Something odd has happened in the U.S. media and rape during the last few years. Which famous rape or sexual molestation cases can you easily remember as being covered? The Duke lacrosse player case? The Roman Polanski extradition case? The Al Gore and masseur case? And now this.

Let me drag my friendly alien (perhaps familiar to you from my feminism-series) from outer space for a short visit. It has a giga-brain and can absorb all media writings on the topics of rape and sexual molestation in one second, and it has done that now.

Time for me to ask that question: Dear alien, based on your study, are most rape accusations on earth false?

What do you think it answered?

None of this is good news for anyone who has actually been raped. Public opinion cannot but be affected by this continuous bombardment of false accusations, or accusations not proven right.

Yet I do see reporting of absolutely proven and horrendous rapes in the media, too. Their coverage lasts a day or two and then sinks back into oblivion only to resurface for another day or two during the trial. They get nothing like the coverage of cases where the accused is a Famous Male Celebrity.

And that is probably the explanation to the utterly bizarre media bias where possibly false accusations of rape and sexual molestation get many times the coverage of real rape accusations.

This bias is a dangerous one. It will make seeking help and justice harder for those who have been raped.