Let’s protect both men and women from sexual assault

by Chance Page, Staff Writer

Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite several women alleging that he had sexually assaulted them.

Kavanaugh’s supporters in Congress, in the White House and in the public used a variety of excuses to justify his behavior, from suggesting that maybe Dr. Ford was indeed assaulted, but simply misidentified Kavanaugh as the assailant, to accusing the women of participating in a widespread conspiracy by the Democratic Party to undermine Kavanaugh’s conspiracy.

One consistent argument from Kavanaugh’s defenders, and others responsible for efforts to discredit sexual assault victims in campaigns like “#HimToo,” are their attempts to protect their sons from false sexual assault accusations in the future.

Instead of launching campaigns on incidents that are statistically very rare, they should instead help fight sexual assault against both women and men by teaching young boys what consent looks like, and how important “no means no” really is.

Only a small percentage of sexual assault accusations are false, and an even tinier percentage of men will face one.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, between two and ten percent of accusations are false.

However, the NSRVC states that in between errors in the studies making these estimates and the police departments that handle the cases, many allegations that end inconclusively are incorrectly labeled as false.

This might explain some of the higher estimates in the NSRVC range.

The amount of men who will potentially face false accusations is incredibly tiny.

Using the anti-sexual abuse network RAINN’s figure of 321,500 sexual assaults a year, as well as the estimate that about one-third of sexual assaults are reported and the two to ten percent false reporting rate, that leaves a range from under 2,150 per year to 10,700 per year.

Using the higher false reporting rate, this is a meager .003 percent  of the US population.

The above calculation wasn’t made to discredit the existence of false accusations, or say that the courts or the public should take accusers at their word without any investigation. But there are far more pressing issues than false accusations, such as how only one-third of sexual assaults are reported, or how only six of 1000 sexual assaults see the perpetrator convicted of the crime and imprisoned (according to RAINN).

Given the prevalence of sexual assault, the likelihood that the accusation is true and the potential consequences an accuser faces when coming forward, sexual assault allegations should be thoroughly investigated. Innocent until proven guilty means that the legal burden is on the prosecutor to prove that the crime happened, not that there shouldn’t be any investigation into a crime.

Additionally, men can be victims of sexual assault, too.

The male sexual assault victim support group, 1in6,  cities studies which suggest that 12 to 18 percent of men are sexually assaulted under the age of 18. 1in6 also notes that this might be an underestimate that men are even less likely to report or talk about it than women, and that only 16 percent of men who experienced documented instances of sexual abuse consider themselves to have been abused, compared to 64 percent of women.

Sexual assault is far too common an occurrence, and efforts must be made to defend both men and women from sexual assault, not impede the process of justice by protecting abusers.

We must focus on reducing the rate at which sexual assault is committed and increase the rate at which it’s reported, by ensuring allegations are investigated thoroughly, and consequences are severe for abusers when they’re convicted.

Such actions would help instill the belief in potential abusers that they’ll be caught, and convince victims that coming forward will bring their abusers to justice.