This article has been updated to include comments from Rep. Drake.
In the age of #MeToo, we’re supposed to believe all women when they make accusations of a sexual nature, but as I have shown time and time and time again, that is simply not true. Even when an accusation is proven to be false, via text or video evidence, the false accuser faces little to no consequences. Certainly far fewer consequences than the person falsely accused faces.
Alabama State Rep. E. Richard “Dickie” Drake (R-Leeds) is trying to change that. Earlier this month, Drake introduced AL HB544, a bill that would punish false accusations of sexual crime. As it stands, false accusers are only charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor. Drake’s bill would make it a Class C felony to “willfully, knowingly, and with malicious intent,” make “a false report of rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, or sexual torture.” The allegations would need to be proven false in order for the accuser to be punished.
The bill also makes it a Class A misdemeanor to “willfully, knowingly, and with malicious intent” make a “false report of rape in the second degree, sodomy in the second degree, sexual misconduct, sexual abuse in the first degree, sexual abuse in the second degree, indecent exposure, enticing child to enter vehicle, house etc., for immoral purposes, sexual abuse of a child under 12, or foster parent engaging in a sex act, etc., with a foster child.” Again, the allegations would need to be proven untrue.
In addition to the penalties for such felonies and misdemeanors (Class C felonies can result in one to 10 years in prison and Class A misdemeanors can result in up to one year in prison), those making false accusations may be liable for the legal fees of the falsely accused.
AL.com reported that Drake decided to introduce the bill after his friend’s ex-wife falsely accused him of child sexual abuse.
“If they make an accusation, they better make sure it’s true and make them think twice before they make a false accusation,” Drake told the outlet.
Media outlets are, of course, reporting this bill by claiming it would hurt victims of sexual assault.
AL.com claimed that “If the accused is found not guilty, the accuser would be responsible for paying the accused person’s legal expenses.” The outlet also spoke to the director of the Alabama Coalition Against Rape, who said this bill would keep victims from coming forward.
“It’s not solving a new problem,” she said. “It is a problem if someone makes a false report, and that’s rare. It’s an effort to silence men and women who are coming forward about sexual assault. It’s an effort to make them afraid to come forward.”
MSNBC suffered a similar freak out.
AL.com then repeated the misleading statistic that just 2% to 10% of accusations are false. As I have written several times previously, this statistic only applies to accusations that are proven false. Since it is difficult to prove a negative, this is a rare occurrence. The remaining 90% to 98% are not “true,” however. In fact, just 3% to 5% go to trial and result in a guilty finding, so using the same logic used to claim few accusations are false, one could claim on 3% to 5% are true. Everything in between is questionable. There are reports that are “baseless” or wrongly reported and those that lack evidence for an arrest. There are reports that don’t result in a trial (dismissed or pleaded) and those that go to trial but are found not guilty.
In a phone conversation, Drake told The Daily Wire that his bill would not punish accusers just because the accused was found “not guilty.”
“Just because you accuse someone and they’re found not guilty, doesn’t mean you will be charged and pay legal fees,” he said, adding that a not guilty finding may simply mean there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, not that there was enough evidence to suggest the accusation was false.
He added that, as the Wire reported, a person would only be charged if their accusation was proven false and made “willingly, knowingly, and with malicious intent.”
“It’s going to be hard to prove that, and I know that, but I know there are cases that were [proven untrue,” he told the Wire.
As examples, he listed The Scottsboro Boys (he is from Alabama, after all), the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax, and Brian Banks.
Despite the media’s false reporting, Drake’s bill is not about keeping victims from coming forward.
“I want victims to come forward with sexual allegations,” he said. “I’m just trying to stop the false accusations that ruin lives.”