The #MeToo movement has given scores of women the courage to come forward about the sexual assault and harassment they’ve been subjected to by powerful men. The latest high profile accusation comes from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her in high school. While the #MeToo movement has led to some measure of accountability among some of the perpetrators of this abuse, it’s now facing backlash from both male celebrities and Republicans alike.
A common refrain from those who think the #MeToo movement has gone too far is that empowering women to come forward about their abuse will also lead to women making false assault claims to attack an innocent man.
Even though false sexual assault claims are vanishingly rare, this thread details the difference between credible and less than credible accusations. Author Sandra Newman has researched false rape accusations using journalistic accounts, peer-reviewed studies, and data from confirmed exonerations and she’s identified hallmarks of false rape accusations:
Based on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s account of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, Newman concludes it is, indeed, a credible accusation and not a politically (or otherwise) motivated “smear campaign” as some conservatives are claiming:
To recap, Ford claims a drunken Kavanaugh locked her in a room, forced himself on her, covered her mouth and turned up the music to cover her screams, and tried to remove her clothing while she struggled. She was able to free herself when Kavanaugh’s friend, who was present, jumped on to the bed sending the trio tumbling to the floor. Ford told her story decades later to a therapist in 2012 and to a couples’ counselor later, both of whom corroborated her story.
Newman goes on to explain what distinguishes a false accusation from a real one:
If like me, the phrase “grand guignol” isn’t in your vocabulary, it basically means having characteristics of sensational or horrific violence. Moving on.
Specifically, Newman notes in her research that false accusations are typically lobbed after consensual sex results in an unwanted pregnancy or after curfew violations, etc. In other words when a young woman gets in trouble and wants some sort of “out.”
And there you have it. If you’re someone who’s suddenly worried about a mob of overly empowered women flinging accusations willy nilly, this thread should go a long way towards allaying your fears. Although I suspect if you’re more worried about the #MeToo movement going too far rather than the rampant sexual assault it’s exposed, you won’t pay too much attention anyway.
It’s worth pointing out that being overly skeptical of sexual assault victims (i.e. discrediting them by pointing out they didn’t report them at the time) is one of the things that keeps women from reporting them in the first place.
If Ford’s alleged assault happened today, it’s possible she would have felt confident enough to report it, rather than living with the psychological damage it inflicted for decades. On the other hand, the GOP response is already giving to cover to at least one more alleged sexual predator:
About a year ago a woman came to me with a highly credible and deeply disturbing sexual assault accusation against a current senior government official. Over the past year, I have stayed in touch with her. She has been reluctant to come forward. Moments ago she sent me this text. pic.twitter.com/Wqo9Y818sk
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) September 16, 2018
(Not to mention the one in the White House.)