Fighting False Allegations of Rape

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Fighting False Allegations of Rape

Last December a woman going by the pseudonym of “Joanie Faircloth” wrote in the websitexoJane website comments section saying the singer-songwriter Conor Oberst had raped her when she was a teenager.  

Rape Allegations Against Conor Oberst

Although Oberst denied the rape allegations, word spread fast and he brought a libel suit against “Joanie Faircloth” because she refused to retract the comments she had posted. Later, this past July, “Faircloth” admitted the rape allegation was false. She had lied in order to get attention.

Instead of taking his side, some people attacked Oberst because he took legal action against “Joanie Faircloth” in order to defend himself against the false rape allegations, which could have damaged or even ended his career.

False Rape Allegations

Recently, with this case and the Bill Cosby case, allegedly false rape accusations have become a hot news topic everywhere, especially in America. In the Oberst case, the Daily Dot’s Chris Ostendorf argued that Conor Oberst’s actions after being accused could intimidate real actual rape victims preventing them from coming forward. The lawsuit, in particular, promoted the idea that more often men were being accused falsely of rape, in spite of the fact that Conor Obserst was accused falsely.

Currently, our society is walking a fine line with regard to rape allegations. Do we do as Jessica Valenti strongly suggests, which is “believe victims en masse,” or take the less dangerous road of questioning each person who comes forward with rape allegations? Whichever road is taken, they both can damage innocent lives.

Definition of Rape

The definition of rape goes beyond just forced sexual intercourse. It also includes unlawful sexual intercourse or sexual penetration of the anus or mouth, as well as the vagina, of a person, by a sex organ, foreign object, or other body part, with or without force, if the victim does not give their consent or is incapable of giving their consent.

Frequency of False Rape Allegations

A common estimate of the amount of false rape allegations is about 2% of all reports of rape. The Slate website reports that the official data relating to what is termed “unfounded” rape reports by law enforcement (i.e., reports the police have determined have not taken place) is both conflicting as well as unclear because of the results from differing local procedures and policies. But based on the available data, there is an average of 8% to 10% of reported rape allegations that the authorities determine are “unfounded.”

However, not all of the reports classified by authorities as “unfounded” are in fact false. There are some cases where women who are actually rape victims are not believed, are pressured into recanting their statements, or just charged with falsely reporting a rape allegation which was then later actually vindicated. Situations such as these only serve to further the debate.

Gray Area of Rape Allegations

Where rape allegations are concerned, there is a gray area in some cases. These gray areas include what could be considered mixed signals, memories deluded by alcohol, and the misunderstanding of what actually constitutes a sexual assault.

Sometimes rape accusations are actually cries for attention or an attempt to cover up what might be considered an embarrassing moment. A case occurring in 2009 at Hofstra University is an example. A female student at the University claimed a group of men raped her. Later, when cell phone video surfaced, the accusation fell apart. The cell phone video showed she had consented to the sexual encounter. Many times rape accusations are made by a partner against their former partner to try and “get back” or “get even.”

Impact of False Rape Accusations

Although rape allegations are never something that should be taken lightly, neither are unfounded rape accusations. Even being falsely accused of rape, the results can have tragic consequences. For example, California football star Brian Banks spent five years behind bars after classmate Wanetta Gibson accused him of rape. When Gibson later contacted him and apologized, admitting she had fabricated the whole rape attack, he was later exonerated. A similar case involved William McCafrey in New York. After he served four years of a 20 year life sentence, his accuser, Biurny Peguero, confessed that injuries she had received was not due to McCafrey raping her but rather the result of a fight she had with several woman. Although both men eventually were released from prison, they had spent years behind bars waiting, and hoping, the truth about their rape allegations would be revealed.

Fighting False Rape Accusations

If you feel you have been wrongly accused of committing rape, you must take the rape allegations seriously. Even if you feel the allegations appear ridiculous, the consequences from them can be long-lasting. In addition to being sent to prison, you could face fines as well as loss of your job.

If somebody accuses you of rape, the first thing you need to do as soon as you are informed by the authorities of the rape accusation against you is contact a criminal defense attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC, who will then respond to the allegations and defend you against the rape charges facing you. A criminal defense attorney can also guide you and assist you with the steps necessary to proceed against the rape allegations.

Stay Away From the Accuser

Stay away from the person who is accusing you until you can legally defend yourself. Chances are an evidentiary hearing will happen that will permit you to state your side of the rape accusation case. Until this occurs, stay away from your accuser to prevent them from making any further accusations against you.

If you find there is not way to keep away from your accuser, due to child custody arrangements or employment, attempt to make sure a third party is present in order to act as your witness. Also, attempt to limit any communication between you and your accuser and try to encourage that all communication between the two of you are in writing, such as email or text messages. Any such communication should also include the statement of any facts. Do not under any circumstances attempt to use social media to contact your accuser (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram). Keep in mind the fact that anything you say or write will be able to be used against you in a court of law, as per Miranda Rights.

Control Your Emotions

It’s both an angering and frustrating thing to be accused of rape. However, you need to learn how to keep your emotions in check, which means taking responsibility about what your next steps are and learning how you can protect yourself. Don’t contact your accuser in an effort to defend yourself. It’s important to keep your head and emotions calm.

Assess Any Possible Motives

As you work with your attorney, try to discover what your accuser’s motive is for falsely accusing you of the rape allegations. Many times an ex who is jealous will attempt to get back at their partner for assumed slights. If you know, or believe, it was consensual sex, what other circumstances were involved? The use of drugs or alcohol may have caused either you or your accuser to be hazy when remembering the actual events. A criminal defense attorney has the ability to assist you to discover what motives may exist on the part of you as well as your accuser. Knowing this motive can help your criminal defense attorney if your case goes to trial, as well as during any negotiation processes.

Detailed Account of Events and Possible Witnesses

If possible, provide your criminal defense attorney with any detailed account revolving around the events that led up to the rape accusations. Tell everything to your attorney, including any details that you may not feel is pertinent. You never know what details could be helpful to your lawyer that will assist them in winning your case.

An important aspect to remember is whether there were any witnesses to the interaction between you and your accuser, especially if they can be used as an alibi. Do you have any character witnesses who can corroborate any motives of either you or your accuser?

California’s Rape Shield Law

Even if you have a witness, in California a defendant cannot legally introduce information about any previous sexual conduct of the alleged accuser in order to prove the alleged rape was consensual. In other words, a defendant is unable to present evidence from past relationships or previous sexual conduct in order to prove their accuser is making false rape accusations. These are part of California’s “rape shield laws” pursuant to Evidence Code Section 1103. They apply in the following offenses:

  • Rape under Penal Code 261;
  • Spousal/marital rape under Penal Code 262;
  • Rape in concert under Penal Code 264.1;
  • Sodomy under Penal Code 286;
  • Oral copulation by force under Penal Code 288(a); and
  • Forcible penetration with a foreign object under Penal Code 289

When trying to prove the sexual encounter was consensual, this can put the defendant at a serious disadvantage. However, there are some circumstances that permit a defendant the ability to introduce evidence without the possibility of breaking the California “rape shield laws.”

As a defendant, you will need to closely work with your criminal defense attorney in order to have evidence such as this admitted into your case. “Habit evidence” about your alleged accuser’s prior sexual conduct may indicate their testimony is not trustworthy. “Habit” refers to information about the regular ways of acting your accuser has in particular situations. This type of evidence is admissible since it shows your alleged accuser acted according to their “habit” on the particular occasion of the rape allegation.

Working with a Sevens Legal, APC, Criminal Defense Attorney

After you and your criminal defense attorney discuss specifics of the rape allegations against you, you’ll learn what your case’s strengths and weaknesses are, including risks about the possible conviction and punishment you may face if found guilty. Your criminal defense attorney will be able to negotiate a plea deal for you or decide whether the best course is to move forward to trial. Your criminal defense attorney will constantly work to ensure your best interests are met.

The criminal defense attorneys at Sevens Legal, APC, will use our experience to zealously defend you against your rape allegations. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.

Sevens Legal, APC
Criminal Defense Attorneys
3555 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 297-2800

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