The Sexist

Victims Vs. Sluts: Hofstra’s False Rape and the Media

Last week's false rape accusation at Hofstra University has inspired a media storm unparalleled by most actual rape cases. The feeding frenzy has produced some helpful discussion—check out Emily Bazelon's piece at Slate for a thoughtful dissection of rape, sex, feminism, and the law—and a whole lot of unbridled misogyny.In "Crying wolf really hurts true victims of assault," The New York Post's Andrea Peyser rightly points out that false rape accusations can harm the reputations of real sexual assault victims. Peyser also personally demonstrates what else hurts victims: sensationalized media coverage of false rape accusations.

In the piece, Peyser refers to the accuser as a "venal vixen"and a "whore." She then links her to "a string of high-profile rape-criers who found brief fame, sympathy and the prospect of riches by claiming the worst." Peyser name-checks Crystal Gail Mangum (who falsely accused three Duke lacrosse players of rape in 2006) and Tawana Braley (who falsely accused a man of rape in 1987). That's three in 22 years. The conclusion Peyser draws from this stunning trend: "Who will believe a rape 'victim' now?"

Peyser isn't the only one calling the accuser names. Men's News Daily Editor Paul Elam writes that the accuser "cheapened herself by taking on five men willingly on a men’s room floor and lied about it later out of what little capacity for shame she had." On Urban Dictionary, "Hofstra" is now a synonym for "Someone who is infested with STD's"; "A slut/someone who sleeps around"; and "The act of being slutty." And at AntiMisandry.com, you don't have to falsely accuse a man of rape to be called a "whore"—in the wake of the false rape claim, simply remaining a feminist is cause enough to earn the label.

As the New York Post points out, there is evidence to suggest that the accuser lied in order to avoid being called these names. She didn't want to be labeled a "whore" or a "slut," "cheap," or "shameless," because she chose to have sex (though I'm betting she didn't anticipate "venal vixen"). Is avoiding slut-shaming a valid excuse for lying about rape? Absolutely not. Do false rape accusations hurt real victims of rape? Absolutely. But is a woman's false rape accusation a valid excuse for slut-shaming her? Absolutely not. And does slut-shaming hurt real victims of rape? Absolutely.

Lying about rape does not make you a "whore." It makes you a liar. And yet, critics have continually chosen to employ terms which shame the accuser not for lying, but for having sex in the first place. Some of the name-calling is a product of misguided outrage at a woman who committed a serious offense. The remainder is pure misogynistic release. They found an opportunity to scream "whore!" with impunity, and they seized it. When bystanders call a false accuser a "slut," they tell her that her reasoning for lying was on-point; when they call a false accuser a "whore," they tell her that her real crime was having sex, not lying.

When the accuser admitted that she was not a victim, she was instantly re-branded a slut. This false dichotomy—victim vs. slut—is not only applied to women who falsely accuse men of rape. It's applied to any woman who accuses a man of rape. That's why defense attorneys use a rape victim's sexual history against her in court—because people believe that women who say yes to sex in one situation would never say "no" in another. Conflating a serious crime—fabricating a rape accusation—for a normal human activity—having consensual sex—will not help eliminate rape, and it will not help eliminate false rape accusations.

  • Right On

    Seriously, I think what's getting lost in all this is that this ia a teenage girl. What she did was very, VERY wrong for all the reasons that we all know. But how many 18 year old kids (and I'm sorry I know she is legally an adult, but an 18 year old is a kid in my eyes) commit serious crimes in an act of pure fear and stupidity?

    And how many end up getting dragged through a national media blitz because of it and labeled as a slut or a whore?

    Think about it, people.

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  • TJ

    Spot on, Amanda, spot on. This is the point that keeps getting brushed aside. There needs to be more energy into understanding why she lied about it instead of assuming she is a slut. The goal should be to figure out a way to keep this from happening again. And, honestly, calling her a slut is pretty lazy. I think I'd be less offended if folks just called her stupid.

    Right On, I kinda agree with you and I kinda don't. Yes, she is a kid, but the fact that she lied about it (and the reason behind the lie) shows that she knew what she was doing was wrong. Even young children know right from wrong.

  • kza

    I guess there are a lot of idiots in America. Are the males in this story whores for having sex with 4 dudes?

  • Roger Z

    Amanda you are unbelieveably terrible in your assessments. First of all, in the three false-rape cases you name, each became a "media storm" when the media thought a rape actually occured. It wasn't until after the men's images and names were made public that we knew we were all scammed by a lying woman. And, may I add, journalists like yourself did not hesitate to demonize the men in each case.

    Secondly, no one called Tawana Braley a slut. Crystal may have been called a slut but not because she lied but because she was dancing before a group of men while inserting objects into her body.

    Danmell is called a slut because she had sex on a dirty bathroom floor in the presence of five men she just met that night. What would you call her?

    No one has called her a slut because she lied- it probably has more to do with slutty behavior. BTW, the men who had sex with Danmell are also sluts and whores, but not rapist. At least not that night.

    So what's the point of your article? That the media should not "storm" a rape case until we find out if the woman is actually telling the truth. Most men would agree with you here.

    People who say we should understand why she lied or shy we had a gangbang- are just plain crazy. If the boys had raped her, would we be concerned in why they lied about it or why they did it or would we just throw them in jail. Time for Danmell to be prosecuted.

    In each case listed, it is the false accusation of the female that made the case public. Don't blame the media- they had no way of knowing the woman way lying until the truth came out.

  • http://news.mensactivism.org/node/13742 Matt

    http://www.noclaimsdiscount.co.uk/news/art_display.php?show=200909213

    'Women lying about being raped to claim compensation: ] - Women in the UK may be accusing men of rape simply to get the thousands of pounds compensation. This can only have the effect of bringing into disrepute the action of reporting a rape and could make true victims even less likely to report the crime.

    Two recent cases have highlighted this sad state of affairs and show how the table may well be turned on women who falsely accuse men of rape.

    Sarah-Jane Hilliard had accused Grant Bowers of raping her and immediately applied for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. She was found out after investigations found that her story had been lies and her friend was unable to corroborate her story. Meanwhile Mr Bowers has been left traumatised by the events and claims to have lost his confidence. However, a recent ruling may well allow Mr Bowers to claim compensation himself.'

  • kza

    Who's to judge what makes someone a slut? How is it relevant if she is? Who gives a shit?

  • Nick

    What a bunch of crap all these white feminists throw at the wall just hoping some of it will stick. I was falsely accused of rape as well, and of course there was no evidence I raped her, but that didn't stop two police offices from coming to my home and trying to intimidate me. It very much is an US VS THEM situation, and the biggest problem is not only do most women in this country not have a problem with false accusations, but most men don't have a problem with them either. There is still this white knight syndrome that so many men still hold today, especailly when it comes to white women, that it is going to make it very hard for women to ever face serious time when they make false accusations.

    The best plan is to move some place where not every aspect of life has been overtaken by feminist theory. In closing the only reason these guys will not face hard time is becasue one of them was "smart enough" to tape the encouter. Otherwise they would have more than likely faced long prision sentences.

    When is my story "Wrongly Accused" going to appear on Lifetime? And no I don't hate all women, but the White, American, Female feminist is full of it.

  • KaFaraqGatri

    False claims not only harm real victims but they also harm the lives of the people that they accuse.

    While I am sure that all of these women are wonderfull people, they also accused these men of committing a terrible crime and then watched while their names got dragged through the dirt in a way that will change thier lives forever.

    But, from what you have written, it seems like you are saying that it is ok for these women to have committed this crime, becuase a) the men probably did something wrong in anycase and b) she was in danger of being called a slut.

    While I am sure these women are precious little flowers, they need to grow up, take responsibility for what they did and not commit crimes.

    Finally, what term would you use to describe a woman who cheated on her boyfriend by having sex with 5 men at the same time on the floor of a bathroom?

  • David Azzol

    The accuser needs to be sentenced to 5-10yrs and her name and photograph immediately released to the media.

    The objective of criminal justice is not to punish but to deter. Only when others of her immoral ilk see that such fallacious statements result in big time embarrassment and punishment, will the next Hofstra wanna be slut decide to face the truth instead of acting out her fantasies.

    BTW every male slut in this situation needs a videographer, because without that evidence they'd all be spending 5-10 on her "say so", instead of her.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    Article after article I have read about how these young men are scumbags and garbage and barely human for having consensual sex with this woman. That is a gross amount of shaming, yet I see few people coming to those young men's defense. It seems like it is completely fair game to slut-shame men for having group sex.

    Even though this woman lied because she did not want her boyfriend to find out she cheated, this article sends the message that it is perfectly acceptable for women to falsely accuse men of rape because when people call women names for lying about rape it proves why those women needed to lie.

    Just as it does not matter why rapists rape, it does not matter why lying women lie about being raped. All that matters is that it happens and it should be addressed. People should not make excuses just because the accused is female.

  • http://ncprevue.wordpress.com John M

    "Instantly" re-branded a slut? From what I have seen, the mainstream media has almost to a journalist refused to even name this woman (saving for Fox and a couple of others). How can you brand somebody if you don't even name that person? Makes for a pretty slippery name, so to speak.
    And the articles I have read have been hammering the men for engaging in a consensual sexual activity without even a "tsk, tsk," to the woman. Take Joye Brown's column (http://www.newsday.com/columnists/joye-brown/hofstra-rape-case-five-questions-stand-out-1.1458002). She upbraids the men for their actions but doesn't take time to realize that it takes at least two to tango.
    And no, I don't brand people who make false rape claims as "sluts". I brand them as liars and hope that the state will finally brand them as what they really are: criminals (for falsely filing a charge).

  • mongo

    I think the greatest harm being done to women by incidents like this is the readiness with which so many other women come to the accuser's defense, and fail to empathize with the lot of the accused. The absence of serious penalty doesn't seem to faze them, neither is there any recognition that a problem exists that needs rectifying - and now.

    More and more men are coming to the conclusion that women cannot be trusted in positions of power over them. Ndonye is not the only culprit here - the police, the DA Kathleen Rice, the media and the hordes of false rape apologists are doing a stupendous job of discrediting women as reliable wielders of power. However unpopular this message may be, the damage being done to women's image is too serious to be fobbed off lightly.

  • http://avoiceformen.com/ Paul Elam

    Lying about rape to the police doesn't just make you a liar, it makes you a criminal. And tagging the shopworn label of misogyny onto someone for criticizing a woman for having sex on a bathroom floor with five strangers is the most overtly sexist act in this whole affair.

    And it is not surprising when you consider the author postulates that men are geared to scorn women for any hint of sexuality. It's a notion, like many feminist notions, rooted only in vivid imagination and misguided groupthink.

    Men love sexual women, and often revere them far past the actual worth of their sexuality. It has always been this way.

    Are there sexual double standards for men and women in this culture? Sure. Women largely embrace those standards as much as men.

    But leave it to feminists to assert that men are the only ones in need of evaluation.

  • http://usobserver.com/archive/sept-09/driscoll-september.htm Lee

    Here is anohter story that is like this one. It just pisses me off as a woman, a mother and a victim of rape and sexual assault, it is extremely important to me for a woman to feel safe to report sexual abuse of any kind. I know firsthand the personal power that is regained when looking an offender in the eye and sending them to prison. Regrettably I have also learned that it is far too common for women to hide behind the claim of rape in order to avoid taking personal responsibility for their own actions. The classic he said she said is almost always swayed to the woman’s side, requiring little proof on her end of the alleged events; leaving the accused to fight for their life with little help due to the Rape Shield Law. My concern is that Kevin is not going to receive a fair trial due to the protections this “victim” has on behalf of the DA’s office. This isn’t the first time she has cried rape falsely and without your help it certainly will not be her last. Please, take the time to follow the link and read the story of Kevin Driscoll. (http://usobserver.com/archive/sept-09/driscoll-september.htm ) The time is now for something to be done, before another innocent life is ruined.

  • W

    Lee, there is a perfectly logical explanation for why, Rossow did what she did. It was the "rape culture" O_O. You know because she can't cheat on her husband without all those evil "patriarchy" worshiping men calling her a slut so she just has to claim she was raped. She clearly has very serious "mental issues."

    I mean "she was drunk...it was inside her...it kind of hurt...was it rape?" Of course it was rape! Forget the fact that it was illegal for her to even be drinking thanks to that slap on the wrist DUI punishment...she was probably too stressed from the last round of "slut shamming" that resulted in a previous false rape allegation and needed the calming relaxation alcohol can bring.

    Just ask the author of this blog, she'll tell you. The best way to stop atrocities like this isn't to give long jail term sentences to false rape accusers oh no...we gotta ignore that and make some super law to stop all this name calling.

    Once every man that calls a woman a slut or whore is put behind bars then the "rape culture" will be obliterated and false accusations will stop. Then we can focus on the rest of those evil rapist men taking advantage of women by forcing them to go to bars and get drunk and then using their psychic powers to make them believe they want to have sex when really, they don't.

    Yes the next step, which is the most important in stopping rape, is putting every intoxicated or sober man that has sex with an intoxicated woman IN...DA...SLAMMER. Shit why stop there? Let's go ahead and throw those cat callers up in there too. You know what? Fuck it let's just put any man any woman points at in jail. That will end all the world's problems.

    Whoa got carried away there with the sarcasm. On a serious note, posting that here is a genuinely thoughtful effort and it does help in a sense that every man or woman that comes here to refute the nonsense posted (myself not included because I'm not gonna waste my time) sees it and that adds a little more fuel to the fires of justice. Don't be surprised though (and I'm sure you won't be) if some "enlightened" feminist reads that article and gets another idea to further advocate for the protection of false accusers.

    If you yourself are a feminist then I guess when I read your post I was starring through a black hole in my laptop screen to an alternate universe where feminists actually believe in equality and justice. Either way, Kevin has got someone else on his side...and his little dog too!

  • Sarah

    Lee, I am disgusted and my heart goes out to Kevin and his family. I have heard more lately of all these girls filing false rape charges. What is this world coming to when a story like this can be reported and nothing will come from it except a guys life ruined. I have always been one that if a girl is raped the guy should pay to the fullest extent. But then what about the girls who do this? Are there no consequences for her actions? This is why most rape cases never get reported. We are afraid of the girls that do this and afraid we will be put into the same category. I have been is this situation and I was afraid to report what had happen to me. And this woman can just throw the word “Rape” around like nothing. Using rape as an excuse of why you were out cheating on your husband. This girl should face the same charges as this young man. The system needs to make a stand and if it is obvious that isn’t rape we should turn the charges on her. This would stop the lying women from using "Rape" for anything but the truth.

  • Lee

    Thank you all for your words of support. I am disgusted by this womans actions and even more frightened when I read other stories like this to see how common it has become for women to file false rape charges. It personally offends me and many of the women I know. Sarah, I definatley agree with you that these women need to be held to the same consequences as the men they accuse. It is unfortunate to the true victims, and I hope that someday soon, laws can change to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Not the other way around.

  • gspot

    "Last week’s false rape accusation at Hofstra University has inspired a media storm unparalleled by most actual rape cases."

    It's way unparalleled by nearly all false rape accusation cases as well. Hopefully it shows a turning of the tide in favor of getting tough on these awful women.

  • http://aol.com Oldguy

    I think the root of this problem is in the feminist belief that there are no bad women and that women never lie about rape (or anything) unless of course, they have very good and justifiable reasons (which men never have). Modern day sex assualt-sexual harrassment-domestic violence laws that are designed to protect women have in effect given every woman complete power over the men around her. One word from her that she is "scared" or "uncomfortable" or it was "unwanted" and the authorities must act and the men involved must pay. These laws would make sense if women indeed never lied or used their "power" inappropriately.

    But the fact is, and feminists will never admit this, there is a small percentage of women who are deviant-mentally impaired-greedy-criminal (I'll use the term "whacko"). These women do lie and can not be trusted with this kind of carte blanche power over men. Even if 98% of women would indeed never misuse their legal power, the other 2% of whacko women, which amounts to say 3 million U.S. women, are more than enough to clog the courts with false accusations.

    It would be a big help if people, including this author, would acknowledge that there are indeed some bad women too and that maybe the legal system should reflect the reality instead of feminist "clap if you believe" dogma.

  • Richard Aubrey

    The feminists' faux concern with "slut shaming" may have its uses. Problem is, not here.
    This moron didn't want her boyfriend to find out what she'd voluntarily accomplished. She wasn't afraid of slut-shaming, but of being found out to have breached an implicit or explicit undertaking of at least temporary fidelity. Or perhaps, minimally, no more than, say, two guys at a time.
    Whatever the case was, she was afraid her boyfriend would be upset.
    She needs to find a boyfriend who doesn't mind such things.
    Then she wouldn't have to lie.

  • tasbags

    I'm confused--why are so many commenters saying that Amanda doesn't think the female Hofstra student did anything wrong? Didn't they read the actual article?

    "Is avoiding slut-shaming a valid excuse for lying about rape? Absolutely not. Do false rape accusations hurt real victims of rape? Absolutely."

    The point of her article is a little complex, and probably hard to understand if you don't go slow. Here it is again:

    "But is a woman’s false rape accusation a valid excuse for slut-shaming her? Absolutely not. And does slut-shaming hurt real victims of rape? Absolutely."

    So obviously, Amanda's saying that it wasn't ok for the accuser to call the men she had sex with her "rapists," because it wasn't true. But guess what, it's also not ok for random people to call her a "slut," because she isn't. Why not? Because it's not ok to call anyone a slut.

    What "slut" really means, IMO, is "a derogatory word describing someone who likes to have a lot of sex." It's just a tool that's used to police other people's sex lives. And usually women's sex lives. Men who like to have a lot of sex are just seen as normal.

    I think Amanda's right--if we go around saying that women who like sex--and who maybe like it in sort of unusual ways--are gross "sluts," then we are encouraging the very wrong and dangerous culture that makes a very, very small number of women claim they were raped, when they weren't.

  • W

    @tasbags

    *face palm*

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  • http://ncprevue.wordpress.com John M

    kza, ask http://go2.wordpress.com/?id=725X1342&site=ncprevue.wordpress.com&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rethynk.org%2Fdid-he-really-say-that%2F rethynk.org about that. Or Joye Brown, who essentially did to the men what Paul Elam did to the woman (either side forgetting that it takes seven to tango nowadays). And there are people on the men's rights side who are focusing more on her lying than on what they did voluntarily, even though they may question having sex in a public restroom.
    But just as the focus should be on whether this woman lied as opposed to her having consensual sex, so too should the focus be on the fact that she could have destroyed these men's lives with a lie rather than on any rape victims in the future who may be harmed. My reputation as a man is not harmed by another man raping somebody;so why should a woman who has really been raped feel victimized by somebody who lied.

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  • Amanda

    so about a year ago my boyfriend & I were arguing mostly because of my mistake...but he called the police and basically the police told me he accused me of all sorts of things that were somewhat untrue (ie. I grabbed a knife to get him to listen to me, but was shaking and put it back...he told the police (or at least that's what he says)exactly that, the police said I tried to attack him with it. We had been fighting and I was pretty bruised up everywhere on my body (I am a petite woman,he is 6ft tall) - so he was not bruised much at all. The officer told me I would be spending years in jail unless something other than what I said (which was originally the truth)was untrue. I got scared & I lied that he tried to rape me, but did not want to press charges,which I didn't do (I never pressed charges) and all charges against me were dropped. I have felt terrible about this for a year now and feel like a monster. My boyfriend contacted me and wants to give me a chance and also wants to clear his name, which I think is the right thing to do. Will this get me in legal trouble? Any advice is helpful. I am thinking about also seeing a therapist, because I am ashamed of what I did.

  • girl

    It's kind of a shame that influential men like Paul Elam are shrugging this issue off as just another feminist piece of bullshit. We do live in a male-centered world, and "feminist" is not synonymous with "man-hater." What this article tries to say is not that men are disgusted by sexual women and thus the women need to lie in order to save their reputations. It is not even a critical look into the psychology of why women lie about it in the first place. This article only proves to show that if someone lies about rape it does not automatically mean they are a slut. This article also aptly points out that a woman's past sexual experiences, no matter how numerous or in what context (granted there was consent of all parties) have no bearing on whether or not her claim of rape is false or true. Whoever cannot wrap their minds around that idea really has no business weighing in on this discussion.

    Yes, some women are to be blamed for lying about rape; yes, some men (and some women) are to be blamed for acts of rape. The point of this article wasn't to place blame.

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