False rape accusers: to sue or not

Shannon Williams

There has been a lot of talk about rape allegations as of late, particularly in the sports arena.
Recently at the forefront of most sports-related scandals were the charges against Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston, who won the Heisman trophy, was accused of raping a fellow student. The accuser said she was heavily intoxicated and had a “broken memory,” however toxicology reports showed very little alcohol in her system and no drugs. In addition to Winston’s DNA being found in the accuser’s underwear, there was also second DNA found on her shorts – allegedly from her boyfriend.
Throughout the ordeal, Winston said the sex was consensual and there were even witnesses who corroborated his story.
After a thorough investigation, a Florida prosecutor said there was not sufficient evidence to take the case to trial. Earlier this month the charges against Winston were dropped and the case was closed.
So what’s next?
As I mentioned earlier, Winston went on to win the Heisman and now he’s focusing on his NFL career and possibly being the next Bo Jackson by including baseball in his professional sports plans. But that’s not all. Winston’s attorneys are also considering the possibility of suing his accuser.
And they aren’t the only ones. Apparently there is a growing number of men falsely accused of rape who are suing their accusers in civil court. The basis of their cases is defamation, as these men seek to clear their names, revive/save their careers, or simply want to hold the false accuser responsible for her actions.
So should false rape accusers be sued or is doing “eye-for-an-eye” actions a way to truly redeem the person who was wrongfully accused?
Before you answer the question, here’s something to consider. Data from the FBI in 2012 showed that over 87,000 forcible rapes were reported – down 7 percent from the number of rapes reported in 2008. And of the annual rapes reported, between 2,000 and 7,000 are false reports.
Do those statistics alter your opinion?
For me it doesn’t.
I think the decision to sue an accuser should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Here’s the dilemma: reporting rape can already be a challenging, scary and humiliating thing for true victims to do, so I don’t want to make that decision even harder for a person by boldly advocating civil suits against accusers. On the flip side, I understand the frustration and even reasoning falsely-accused individuals may feel.
I hate to straddle the fence, but with this circumstance, I have to, as making an informed decision would be very case-specific.
It seems many legal experts are as divided on the issue as I am. I’ve read various reports and even conducted informal surveys among attorneys I know and the response was almost 50/50 down the line.
Those in support of it felt counter-suing the accusers is the only way to reduce the number of individuals who are wrongfully charged and sentenced in this country.
“We can’t forget the thousands of men and women who have gone to jail for rapes they didn’t commit,” said one local attorney. “Some people have even lost their lives as a result of being falsely accused. Lest we forget Emmitt Till? Remember the backlash the Duke (University) lacrosse players received after they were accused or rape, only to find out the woman lied and recently killed her boyfriend.”
Those who oppose suing the accuser generally believed nothing truly would result from the suit.
“Not only will the falsely-accused individual spend money on something that probably won’t make a difference in their lives; they may also receive criticism for being insensitive or harping on the past. They should just move forward with their lives,” said another attorney.
So what do you think about this issue? Tweet your response to @IndianapolisRecorder or send us a message on Facebook at Facebook.com/Indianapolisrecorder.

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