Believe Her! The Woman Never Lies Myth
Frank S. Zepezauer*
ABSTRACT: Empirical evidence does not support the widespread
that women are extremely unlikely to make false accusations of male sexual
misconduct. Rather the research on accusations of rape, sexual
harassment, incest, and child sexual abuse indicates that false
accusations have become a serious problem. The motivations involved in
making a false report are widely varied and include confusion, outside
influence from therapists and others, habitual lying, advantages in
custody disputes, financial gain, and the political ideology of radical
Male sexual misconduct rape, incest, stalking, sexual harassment,
child molestation, pornography trafficking has, according to some
observers, become a problem so big that it demands a big solution, not
only the reform of our legal system but of our entire society. Yet the
increasingly heated debate over this crisis has focused primarily on how
these misbehaviors are defined and how often they occur. The estimated
numbers keep mounting. We hear that perhaps 31 million women are
suffering from some form of rape, 41 million from harassment, 58 million
from child sexual abuse, and all 125 million of them from toddlers to
grandmothers from a toxic "rape culture" that suffocates the
Much less discussed is how often an allegation of male sexual
misconduct is false. The question seldom enters the debate because,
presumably, it had long ago been settled. Pennsylvania State Law
Professor Philip Jenkins (1993), in a review of the "feminist
jurisprudence" which leads the sex crisis counterattack, reports
that in response to the question its proponents have established an
"unchallengeable orthodoxy." It is that "women did not
lie about such victimization, never lied, not out of personal malice, not from mental instability
or derangement" (p.19).
Jenkins is not the first to cite this will to believe. Wendy Kaminer
(1993) reported that "it is a primary article of faith among many
feminists that women don't lie about rape, ever; they lack the
dishonesty gene" (p.67). Eight years earlier, in 1985, John
O'Sullivan discovered a widespread defense of the belief that "no
woman would fabricate a rape charge" (p.22). Feminists themselves
admit as much. Law Professor Susan Estrich stated that "the whole
effort at reforming rape laws has been an attack on the premise that
women who bring complaints are suspect" (Newsweek, 1985, p.61).
feminists believe that even defending that premise is a sex crime.
Dershowitz (1993) reports that he was accused of sexual harassment for
discussing in class the possibility of false rape allegations.
Believing the self-proclaimed victim of sexual misconduct has thus
evolved from ideological conviction to legal doctrine and, in some
jurisdictions, into law. California now requires that jurors be
explicitly told that a rape conviction can be based on the accuser's
testimony alone, without corroboration (Associated Press, 1992; Farrell,
1993). Canada is proposing that a man accused of rape must demonstrate
that he received the willing consent of a sexual partner.
These new rules rest on the assumption that women do not lie because
they have no motive to lie. Consequently, as Jenkins (1993) states, the
question of the "victim's credibility" has now become
Is that credibility warranted, particularly as feminist jurisprudence
would want it established, as nearly automatic? Not if we consult recent
history. And if we do, we will find that we do indeed face a sexual
misconduct crisis, but not the one radical feminists now insist is
ubiquitous in our society.
False Accusations of Rape
Begin with evidence of false accusation of rape, the crime which has
become not only the metaphor for all cases of sexual misconduct but for
male sexuality itself. Alan Dershowitz (1991), for example, has further
harassed his students by telling them that an annual F.B.I. survey of
1600 law enforcement agencies discovered that 8% of rape charges are
completely unfounded. That figure, which has held steadily over the past
decade, is moreover at least twice as high as for any other felony.
Unfounded charges of assault, which like rape is often productive of
conflicting testimony, comprise only 1.6% of the total compared to the
8.4% recorded for rape.
Consult also a recent development, DNA testing, which is now becoming
routine in rape investigations (Krajik, 1993). Also routine is the
discovery that a third of the DNA scans produce non-matches. Consequently, a growing number of men are not only gaining acquittals
but are also being released from prison. As with all rape statistics,
these figures need careful scrutiny. Police investigators warn, for
example, that a mismatch proves innocence only when the DNA could have
come from no one but the assailant and its profile or makeup doesn't
match the suspect's. Even so, the DNA tests, primarily a prosecutorial
weapon, have now been added to the arsenal of defense attorneys, and
more evidence of false allegation is appearing.
Although useful, the F.B.I. and DNA data on sex crimes result from
unstructured number gathering. More informative, therefore, are the
results of a focused study of the false allegation question undertaken
by a team headed by Charles P McDowell (McDowell & Hibler, 1985) of
the U.S. Air Force Special Studies Division. Its significance derives
not only from its scholarly credentials but also its time of origin,
1984/85, a period during which rape had emerged as a major issue, but
before its definition included almost any form of non-consensual sex.
The McDowell team studied 556 rape allegations. Of that total, 256
could not be conclusively verified as rape. That left 300 authenticated
cases of which 220 were judged to be truthful and 80, or 27%, were
judged as false. In his report Charles McDowell stated that extra rigor
was applied to the investigation of potentially false allegations.
To be considered false one or more of
the following criteria had to be met: the victim unequivocally admitted
to false allegation, indicated deception in a polygraph test, and
provided a plausible recantation. Even by these strict standards,
slightly more than one out of four rape charges were judged to be false.
The McDowell report has itself generated controversy even though,
when rape is a frequent media topic, it is not widely known. Its
calculations are no doubt problematic enough to raise serious questions.
If, out of 556 rape allegations, 256 could not be conclusively verified
as rape, then a large number, 46%, entered a gray area within which more
than a few, if not all, of the accusations could have been authentic.
so, the 27% false allegation figure obtained from the remaining 300
cases could be badly skewed. Moreover, the study itself focused on a
possibly non-representative population of military personnel.
The McDowell team did in fact address these questions in follow-up
studies. They recruited independent reviewers who were given 25 criteria
derived from the profiles of the women who openly admitted making a
false allegation. If all three reviewers agreed that the rape allegation
was false, it was then listed by that description. The result: 60% of
the accusations were identified as false. McDowell also took his study
outside the military by examining police files from a major midwestern
and a southwestern city. He found that the finding of 60% held (Farrell,
1993, pp. 321-329).
McDowell's data have received qualified confirmation from other
investigators. A survey of seven Washington, D.C. area jurisdictions in
the 1991/2 period, for example, revealed that an average of 24% of rape
charges were unfounded (Buckley, 1992). A recently completed study of a
small midwestern city was reported by Eugene J. Kanin (1994) of the
Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Purdue University. Kanin
concluded that "false rape allegations constitute 41% of the total
forcible rape cases reported during this period" (p.81).
Kanin provides significant confirmation of McDowell's findings in
several ways. Kanin's subject, for example, covered a nine-year period
1978-87 during which rape had become a highly-politicized issue.
Members of the police department from which the data was taken
were therefore sensitive to the kinds of misperceptions about which
parties to the dispute had complained. The city offered a relatively
useful model: free of the unrepresentative populations found in resort
areas, remote from the extreme crime conditions plaguing large
communities, small enough to allow careful investigation of suspicious
allegations, but large enough to produce a useful sample of 109 cases.
The investigators also separated "unfounded" from
"false" rape allegations, a distinction sometimes blurred in
other reports. Moreover, among the strict guidelines used to determine
an allegation's unreliability was McDowell's requirement that only
unambiguous recantations be used.
Equally revealing were addenda following Kanin's basic report. They
reported studies in two large Midwestern state universities which
covered a three-year period ending in 1988. The finding of the combined
studies was that among a total of 64 reported rapes exactly 50% were
false. Kanin found these results significant because the women in the
main report tended to gather in the lower socioeconomic levels, thus
raising questions about correlations of false allegation with income and
educational status. After checking figures gathered from university
police departments, he therefore reported that "quite unexpectedly
then, we find that these university women, when filing a rape complaint,
were as likely to file a false as a valid charge." In addition,
Kanin cited still another source (Jay, 1991) which supported findings of
high frequency false allegations in the universities. On the basis of
these studies, Kanin felt it reasonable to conclude that "false
rape accusations are not uncommon" (p.90).
Alan Dershowitz's experience with an esoteric definition of sexual
harassment also raises questions about false allegations in this
newly-defined but widely publicized crime. Skeptical checking has
revealed that, as with rape, the percentage of unfounded accusations of
sexual harassment may reach astonishingly high levels. That was the
claim of Randy Daniels, whose confirmation for New York City's Deputy
Mayor was almost derailed by a sexual harassment charge he was able to refute.
To see whether his experience was relatively rare, Daniels checked with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He found that in 1991, the
EEOC investigated or mediated 2119 cases of sexual harassment and found
that 59% were determined to have no cause (Daniels, 1993, p. 1). Since the Hill/Thomas affair they have gone up
sharply up 64% in
one year but so have false allegations, remaining steadily in the plus
Child Sexual Abuse
This rape and sexual harassment pattern expanding definitions,
rapidly increasing accusations, intensely politicized publicity
campaigns, and significantly high percentages of false allegations
also appeared in still another arena, the agencies which deal with the
sexual molestation of children. With this kind of sexual misconduct the
credibility of a third party, the child, becomes a factor, and we hear,
in addition to appeals to "believe the woman" an appeal to
"believe the child." We are now learning that children can be
manipulated into supplying dramatic testimony of sexual abuse and that
in most cases the accusation originates not with the child but with the
mother. Thus the question of credibility once again focuses on women.
one lawyer put it, "For a lot of these people 'believe the child'
is just code. What they really mean is, 'believe the woman, no questions
asked"' (Stein, 1992, p. 160).
To keep this issue in perspective, note three significant facts.
first is that of the 2,700,000 cases of child abuse reported every year
less than 10% involve serious physical abuse and only 8% involve alleged
sexual abuse (Schultz, 1989). The second is that, contrary to the male
victimizer/female victim paradigm of feminist ideology, at least as many
boys as girls are victimized by child abuse, if not more. The third is
that the majority of child abusers are women, that the most dangerous
environment for a child is a home formed by a single mother and her
boyfriend, and the safest is formed by a married mother and a husband
who is the child's biological father.1
In many cases allegations of child sexual abuse occur in a nasty
divorce made nastier by a custody fight. It is now so common that it has received scholarly attention
and its own acronym, S.A.I.D. (Sexual Allegations in Divorce). The
consensus is that in "S.A.I.D. syndrome" cases the number of
such allegations increased so rapidly up from 7 to 30% in the
eighties that one scholarly team called it an "explosion."
Others, noting how often the guilt of the accused was assumed, used the
word "hysteria" and searched for analogies in the Salem and
the McCarthy witch hunts (Stein, 1992).
Another consensus is being reached: that the majority of these
allegations are false. Melvin Guyer, Professor of Psychology at the
University of Michigan, reports that "in highly contested custody
cases where the allegation is made, a number of researchers have found
the allegations to be false or unsubstantiated in anywhere from 60 to
80% of those cases " (Felten, 1991). Another investigative team
stated that of 200 cases they studied" about three-fourths have
ultimately been adjudicated as no abuse" (Felten, 1991). Some
studies have come in with a lower but still significant estimate. For
example, a 1988 study by the Association of Family and Conciliation
Courts said that sexual molestation charges in divorces are probably
false one-third of the time (Dvorchak, 1992).
Allegations of child abuse, both divorce related and in general, are
flying out so frequently that those who believe themselves victimized by
false charges have organized a nationwide support group, VOCAL
Of Child Abuse Laws), which now includes 80 local chapters. This group
refers its members to both informal and professional counsel, sends out
a newsletter, and offers access to a rapidly expanding data base. In
1989, its summary of relevant statistics cited 23 studies which reported
findings on both sexual and non-sexual child abuse. Among these, the
lowest assessment of false allegation was 35%, the highest 82%,
averaging at 66%.
Those joining VOCAL are finding that an even more dramatic form of
child abuse allegation is now sweeping the country. It originates with a
"recovered memory" of sexual atrocity, often involving incest
or satanic ritual abuse, usually made by an adult daughter against her father, and almost always discovered in therapy.
form of allegation made the headlines when celebrities such as Roseanne
Arnold, La Toya Jackson, and Suzanne Sommers declared they had suddenly
remembered a long repressed victimization. It is also claiming
celebrities among the accused, most notably Cardinal Bernardin of the
Roman Catholic Church, which was however later recanted.
In such cases the question of credibility applies not only to the
accuser or accused but also to the therapist as well as the therapeutic
technique and its supporting theory. Because cases of recovered memory
of abuse have surfaced relatively recently, skeptical criticism is just
now beginning to appear in the media although the underlying issues have
been under debate for decades. One result has been the formation of an
organization whose title already makes an assertion, the False Memory
Syndrome Foundation. Thus to VOCAL we can add FMSF
among the acronyms
coined in response to the false allegation problem.
It appears to be widespread. The FMSF reported that within two years
of its founding in 1991, it had built a file of 12,000 families who
believed themselves victimized by accusations prompted by false
memories. Eleanor Goldstein (Goldstein & Farmer, 1992) estimates
that the actual number of involved families reaches into the tens of
thousands. She also cites data from the National Committee for the
Prevention of Child Abuse on the highly inflated estimates of
victimization. Contrary to statements that one in four women have been
abused prior to the age of 18, retrospective surveys reveal great
variations, from 6 to 62%, which means, Goldstein says, "that we
don't have any valid statistics at all" (p.2).
How many of those reports of remembered child abuse, whether in the
high or low range, were false? Several sources suggest that they may
match figures on false allegations in reports of rape and sexual
harassment. The National Center for Child Abuse reported that false
allegations, which were 35% of all claims in 1975, had by 1993 reached
60% (FMSF Newsletter, 1993).
Other sources suggest that the kind of child abuse caused by satanic
ritual cults is almost totally a myth. There may be a satan and he may
have followers but, contrary to widely held belief in the mid-eighties,
they did not surface all over middle America. Where accusations actually
led to trials, as in Jordan, Minnesota and in Los Angeles in the
McMartin Preschool Case, prosecutors suffered embarrassing defeats.
extensive New Yorker report of a Washington State case reveals that at
least one conviction was indeed achieved. However, after a careful
analysis of the facts, the writer concludes that it was a grievous
miscarriage of justice, one more ghastly example of the recovered memory
theory gone amok (Wright, 1993).
With regard to recovered memory cases which do not involve satanism,
other indications point to a high number of false allegations. A strong
phalanx of professional opinion has raised significant doubts about the
veracity of long repressed memories even within a carefully disciplined
therapeutic context. For that reason emphatic warnings are now being
issued against their being used in a courtroom not to mention a press
conference without persuasive corroboration, which, it appears, is often
missing. Some mental health experts make the point more pungently.
Paul Fink, head of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein Medical Center said,
"If a therapist says 70 to 80% of patients remember abuse, I say
the therapist ought to be a shoemaker" (Sifford, 1992). Dr. Richard
Ofshe, a member of the FMSF professional advisory board who exposed the
proliferating fallacies in the Washington State case, stated that
"the incidence of cases in which repressed memories correspond with
facts about abuse is as common as Siamese twins joined at the head"
(Brzustowicz & Csicsery, 1993, p.8).
Motivations of Accusers
Even so, reasonable doubts about a woman's veracity in all these
often sensationalized sexual misconduct cases do not necessarily mean
that she has deliberately lied. She may, for example, have suffered from
confusion, a problem now proliferating as the definition for sex crimes
becomes increasingly complicated and inclusive, leaving all parties
struggling with questions about definition and propriety. Or she may
have been affected by emotional instability or mental illness, which one
study reported was a factor in 75% of false allegation in divorce cases
(Wakefield & Underwager, 1990). In some cases a woman or her defenders might
exaggerate a misdemeanor into a felony or, as happened in Washington
state, translate bad parenting into sexual misconduct.
In addition, there has been a tendency to emphasize what a victim
felt rather than what happened. Thus, a woman can truthfully say she
felt raped, abused or harassed by behavior which is actually
non-criminal. Moreover, the woman's feelings are often influenced by
outside parties with whom she has confided friends, family members,
social workers, therapists, clergymen, rape counselors, lawyers,
political activists any of whom can interpret her emotion as a sign of
With regard to recovered memory, evidence published by the FMS
Foundation suggests that the woman may be as much victimized by therapy
or by recovery movement" enthusiasm as by a perpetrator hidden in
her subconscious. Ericka Ingram, the primary accuser in the Washington
State case, had come under the influence of both secular and religious
counselors. Their intrusive encouragement helped to loosen a flood of
wild charges she leveled against her father and mother as well as two of
her father's colleagues. These realizations have led to an increasing
number of lawsuits now being filed by former patients against
incompetent or overzealous therapists. By the same token, among the
divorcing wives who file sexual molestation charges against their
husbands are some who have been coached by self-serving lawyers. Columnist Barbara Amiel (1989) stated that "a lawyer is coming
close to negligence if he does not advise a client that in child custody
cases and property disputes, the mere mention of a child abuse
allegation is a significant asset" (p.25).
In The Morning After, Katie Roiphe (1993) reported still another
cause of false allegations: political passions generated by activities such as the "Take
Back the Night" marches. She tells about "Mindy" who so
wanted to be a "part of this blanket warmth, this woman-centered nonhierarchical empowered notion" that she was "willing to
lie" (pp. 40-41). A similar story was told by a Stanford University
professor whose daughter was, he claimed, behind a conspiracy to murder
him. He testified that he had had a good relationship with her until she
attended an anti-rape rally. "She appeared to have gotten swept
up ... and
was experiencing great emotional distress" (Wykes, 1993).
These mitigating circumstances have often softened the judgment of
authorities who confront women guilty of misrepresentation. In the
Washington D.C. area, for example, police send women who lied about rape
not to the court room but to a counseling center. The Princeton woman
who accused a fellow student suffered no more than an obligation to
write a public apology. Because of these sometimes compelling reasons
for a departure from the truth, many officials hesitate to call a woman
But it appears, some women with little or no evidence do not hesitate
to call a man a rapist. It also appears that more than a few of them
have in fact knowingly and willfully lied. Regardless of the influences
working on Ericka Ingram, for example, there came a point when the
evidence openly confounded her story, leaving her with the choice either
to persist or recant. Because she not only persisted but further
embellished her story, Richard Ofshe called her an "habitual liar"
(Wright, 1993, p.69). Whether Anita Hill lied about Clarence Thomas
still cannot be determined, but David Brock demonstrated that in several
other matters she had indeed lied. And as Charles P. McDowell and other
rape allegation researchers have discovered, at least one out of four
women in their study population have openly admitted to having lied.
Such disclosures should encourage skepticism toward the now widely
held belief that, in accusations of sexual misconduct, women never lie.
The same skepticism should be activated when we hear its supporting
explanation: that filing such a charge is so painful that only a
truthful woman would proceed. That belief, although equally strong, is
equally suspect. The research that revealed how many sexual misconduct
allegations are false has also revealed how often these unfounded
accusations are strongly motivated.
The clearest example of compelling motive can be found in the Sexual
Allegation in Divorce (S.A.I.D.) syndrome. In such cases questionable
allegations multiply because the accuser has far more to gain than to
lose. Simply charging a divorcing spouse with child molestation
battering or spousal rape can turn a hot but evenly balanced custody battle into a rout.
cases, the accused husband must vacate what had been the
"family" home and submit to prolonged alienation from his
children. He also finds himself ensnared by both the criminal justice
and the social service bureaucracies whose conflicting rules of evidence
can deny him the presumption of innocence. In a process that only a
Kafka can describe, he must then devote his resources to defending
himself rather than pursuing the original divorce litigation.
Even then he may find himself in jail or in court ordered therapy
while his accuser has won de facto custody not only of the children but
of the house. Should he eventually win vindication, a process which can
literally take years, he may enjoy at best a hollow victory which leaves
him financially and emotionally drained, nursing a permanently injured
reputation and functioning as an "absent" father with a sparse
schedule of controlled visits. It is no wonder, then, that to express
the reality commentators have sometimes used dramatic language, such as
"the ultimate weapon" or the "atom bomb."
The impressive results that are so often easily achieved with false
allegations in custody disputes suggest the kind of temptations women
may feel in other situations. Among those found to have lied about rape
or sexual harassment, for example, a number of motivations have been
identified. The McDowell report listed those they uncovered in declining
order of appearance. "Spite or revenge" and "to
compensate for feelings of guilt or shame" accounted for 40% of
such allegations (Farrell, 1993, p. 325). A small percentage were
attributed to "mental/emotional disorder or attempted
extortion." In all cases, then, the falsely alleging woman had any
of several strong motives to lie. But, as with the S.A.I.D. syndrome,
the most common motive was anger, an emotion which prompts more than a
few embattled women to reach for "the ultimate weapon.
Although money gained through extortion ranked low among the motives
for false rape allegations, it appears to rank higher when sexual
harassment claims prove to be unfounded. A casual survey of some of the
suits that have been filed suggests why. In the eighties, successful
claims often brought damages in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. After the
explosion ignited by the Hill/Thomas case, not only the number of claims but
damage awards have skyrocketed. A clothing store cashier successfully
sued her employer for $500,000. Employees of Stroh's Brewery claimed
that the company's commercials, which showed the "Swedish Bikini
Team," constituted harassment and sued for damages ranging between
$350,000 and $550,000. In the famous locker room harassment case, Lisa
Olson was reported to have received a settlement ranging between $250,00
and $700,000. Damage claims and awards in the millions are becoming more
In some cases which were later proved to be false, the financial
stakes were particularly high. One lawyer was charged with coaching six
of his clients to "embellish or lie" about some of the
incidents on which they based a sexual harassment case. They had asked
for $487,000 (Gonzales, 1993). Eleven women from the Miss Black America
Pageant, after claiming that Mike Tyson had touched them on their rears,
filed a $607 million lawsuit against him. Several of the contestants
later admitted they had lied in the hope of getting publicity and
cashing in on the award money which would have given them around $20
million each (Farrell, 1993, p.328).
But where extortion does appear, the motivation may be political as
well as monetary not only in particular cases but in the growth of the
entire sexual misconduct crisis. Whether it is rape or sexual harassment
or divorce-related child molestation or recovered incest memory, many of
the investigators eventually mention the influence of ideological
feminism. Katie Roiphe, for example, found feminist politics at work in
the phony rape story invented by Mindy, the imaginative Princeton co-ed.
Norman Podhoretz, who wrote about "Rape in Feminist Eyes,"
attributes the current over-publicized obsession with rape to "the
influence of man-hating elements within the (women's) movement (which)
has grown so powerful as to have swept all before it" (1992, p.29).
As far back as 1985 John Sullivan attributed the overheated denial of
false accusation to attempts to defend the "feminist theory of
rape." And Philip Jenkins (1993), who reported the trend toward
automatically-assumed female credibility, stated that it was part of a
larger campaign to establish "feminist jurisprudence."
Whatever their motivations in particular cases, there is little doubt
that ideological feminists have achieved significant political gains
from publicizing the sexual misconduct crisis. Lisa Olson's feelings of
harassment may for example have been genuine, but as the focus for a
prolonged media event that established for female reporters an access to
locker rooms it was as unpopular with the general public as it was with
male athletes. The real Anita Hill may or may not have been lying, but
the Hill/Thomas affair propelled sexual harassment into a hot issue that
rapidly generated a subindustry of scholars, consultants, and
bureaucrats, prompted a "Year of the Woman" campaign that
helped several women into congress, and revived a flagging women's
The same spectacular results may follow from the Tailhook Scandal,
which, like Hill/Thomas, is raising serious questions about motive and
credibility. Whether Paula Coughlin's testimony will become as clouded as
Anita Hill's, her whistle-blowing has already scuttled the careers of a
still growing number of naval officers, not to mention the Secretary of
the Navy himself, intensified in-service anti-sexual harassment
campaigns, reinforced an already strong feminist presence in the armed
forces, and helped soften the military's granitic opposition to women in
combat. These incidents also helped to power a "Violence Against
Women" bill through congress which will channel still more millions
of government money into women's programs, not to mention winning
congressional validation of feminist jurisprudence. That's a lot of
political gain achieved by the words of a few women who suffered little
more than an affront to their sensibilities.
This growing gap between the anguish suffered by the victims of
traditionally-defined sex crimes and what is suffered by victims of
ideologically-defined crimes suggests that the crisis we face is not the
result of a sexual misconduct epidemic but of the crisis mentality
itself, an ever more hysterical vision of a "rape culture."
has a foundation in reality. In what has become a ritual disclaimer,
those who have exposed the surprising number of false allegations of sexual misconduct have also admitted the appalling number of genuine
accusations. And those who have attacked the incompetence,
self-interest, and zealotry that has denied the extent of false
allegation have also recognized the courage and energy that has exposed
the problem of honest allegation begging vainly for belief. They have
therefore applauded the effort to seek for this long ignored injustice
both social and legal remediation.
But that effort, carried too far and exploited too often, has
generated another gap: between our awareness of the now highly visible
victims of sexual misconduct and the almost invisible victims of false
allegation. The lesser known victims have their own stories to tell,
enough to reveal another long ignored injustice that demands
remediation. False allegations of sexual misconduct have deprived a
rapidly growing number of men and women of their reputations, their
fortunes, their children, their livelihood, and their freedom; have
wasted the time and money of countless tax-supported agencies; have
destroyed not only individuals but entire families and communities; and
have left some so desperate that they have taken their lives.
For that reason, in the current revision of our sexual misconduct
code, we must retain as a guiding premise the realization that women can
lie because we know that, for several reasons, more than a few women
have lied, more often than researchers into false allegation had
expected, far more often than "rape culture" ideologues have
admitted ... too often, in any event, to be ignored by our
jurisprudence, feminist or otherwise.
These assertions are themselves widely disputed. However, one of
the most extensive studies on the subject, by Strauss and Gelles (1990)
reports that for physical abuse, the rate is higher for mothers than for
fathers: 17.7% for mothers vs. 10.1% for fathers. They found that preteen boys are slightly more likely to be abused than their sisters
but that the pattern changes alter puberty. Strauss and Gelles, however,
also refer to some contravening studies that show higher rates for
Susan Steinmetz (1977/78) who has collaborated with Strauss and
Gelles, reported independently that "mothers abused children 62%
more often than fathers, and that male children were more than twice as
likely to suffer physical injury" (p.499).
David C. Morrow (1993) reports: "Drawing upon reports of the
American Humane Association, the Association of Juvenile Courts, the
National Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and the FBI's 1978
crime report, John Rossler of Equal Rights for Fathers of New York
State estimated that mothers commit over two-thirds of all child abuse, 80% of it in sole custody and none in joint custody
situations, while boyfriends and new husbands perpetrate most of the
rest. A similar study conducted a few years earlier in Utah by Ken
showed abuse 37% higher among single mothers than the general population
and 67% of all abuse in the doing of women of whom 80% are single mothers."
Diane Russell (1986) reports that of adult women in San Francisco who
reported one or more experiences of incestuous abuse, overall 4.5% were
abused by a father (biological, step, foster or adoptive). But the abuse
was much more likely to occur with a stepfather. Russell reports that
17% of the women who were raised by a stepfather were abused by him
compared to 2% of the women who were raised by a biological father.
indicates the greater risk to a girl of growing up in a household
without her biological father.
Thomas Fleming (1986) cites a Canadian study that concluded that
preschoolers were 40 times as likely to be abused in broken and
illegitimate families as compared to those in intact two-parent families.
The consensus thus appears to support the assertion that child abuse is much more common in single parent
families or families missing the biological father, that women are more often the abusers, and
that male children are more often the victims. [Back]
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| * Frank S. Zepezauer
is a teacher and writer at 1731 Wright Avenue,
Sunnyvale, CA 94087. [Back]