This was originally posted at the Edmonton SlutWalk blog. Cross-posted with permission.
The organizers of this year’s Edmonton Slut Walk we were initially delighted to hear you would be covering the emergence of posters which mock a well-established and successful anti-rape campaign. Upon reading your article, those feelings quickly changed to horror that an ally would use their large platform to spread misinformation about rape and false rape allegations.
Though your piece did appear in the “opinion” column, that isn’t license to spread an opinion that makes the world safer for rapists and harder for victims, and inevitably that is what you do when you focus on the behavior of the victim versus the intent of the rapist.
In a piece by the CBC, who showed demonstrably more responsibly in reporting on the posters, acting Insp. Sean Armstrong from the serious crimes branch of Edmonton Police said that false allegations are “extremely rare”. Armstrong goes on to say “I was sexual assault detective for 4½ years and in that time I only dealt with one, and I dealt with numerous files. Many, many, many files,”. Additionally, police fear the posters will deter victims from speaking out. “We want to encourage people to come forward and report these horrendous crimes,” Armstrong said.
“Let’s be clear.” You, Ms. Simons, write, “any man who’d have intercourse with someone passed out cold or too drunk to stand or speak is both a criminal and a loser” well, Ms. Simons he is also a rapist, and we believe in calling a lemon a lemon. The number of women from all walks of life who have been raped and have spoken to the organizers of Slut Walk individually is a high enough number to make your skin crawl and those are only the ones willing to speak about their trauma. We don’t dance around this issue anymore.
False rape accusations are terrible and they are destructive to people’s lives, it would be ignorant to pretend otherwise, and you do highlight some of the problems that occur in these cases including sexual agency. Yet, what your letter and the entire mocking ‘don’t be that girl’ campaign miss is that one of the largest obstacles to justice and healing for sexual assault victims is excessive disbelief. This skepticism of sexual assault survivor’s regularly sees victims lambasted online and in their communities. In the real world, rape very often happens without witnesses, or physical evidence of non-consent. Many rapes go unpunished. Statistics that float around on the internet claiming 41% of rape charges are false are based on bad data that was unable to be verified by any secondary sources. Quite likely the reason you made no citation about the prevalence of false rape statistics is because they are difficult to pin down. Researchers are often counting different things. In Canada the data illustrates between 2-5%. Instances of false reports of auto theft are higher. Read more