False Accusations Do Happen, But That’s Not An Excuse To Dismiss Rape


It's easy to understand why people would be pissed about what happened during a rape investigation in Texas this week.

After a bloodied, half-naked woman ran into a church and alleged three black men had kidnapped and raped her, the investigation ended with a shocking arrest on Wednesday.

The person in handcuffs wasn't a man, though.

It was the accusing woman herself – 18-year-old Breana Harmon Talbott – who admitted on Tuesday her story was all a hoax, the Dallas Morning News reports.

She even confessed to staging the cuts on her body. She admitted they were self-inflicted.


So yes, there were lots of reasons to be mad.

All at once, Talbott caused widespread panic in her hometown and prompted the police to put other investigations on pause... all so they could find her, and try to scapegoat black people while doing it.

That last point, by the way, was not overlooked by Denison Police Chief Jay Burch.

He said,

Breana Harmon Talbott's hoax was also insulting to our community, and especially offensive to the African-American community due to her description of the so-called suspects in her hoax. The anger and hurt caused from such a hoax are difficult and so unnecessary.

All in all, the story represents one the worst outcomes of a rape claim: the one that states the accuser made it all up. The fear of such a scenario makes it harder for the "real" victims to come forward. It also makes the public more skeptical when a woman, in particular, tries to speak up about sexual assault.

But there's a really simple solution to that fear: Everyone could just as easily decide to not make it harder for the "real" victims, regardless.

The reality that false accusations actually do occur does not force anyone to be desensitized to the seriousness of rape.

Mind you, this is coming from someone who understands just how damaging those false accusations can be. At their worst, false accusations can ruin people's lives.

Anyone could "fit a description," find him or herself in handcuffs and not have the resources to defend oneself... thus making it easier for a prosecutor to force a plea deal.

Plus, we can't forget the perverseness of racism in this country, especially when it comes to the idea of a savage black man trying to prey on white women.

After all, it was over 100 years ago that the mainstream movie, "The Birth of a Nation," sought to portray the Ku Klux Klan as heroes for protecting young white women from black men.

We can be mindful of these things, but also realize that when rape is actually dismissed and not handled with appropriate care, it can have similarly devastating consequences.

We can't ignore there are truly frightening stories that come from college campuses all over, especially when sexual assault isn't investigated properly. We've seen this several times, like the story of a football player at Baylor who was convicted only after as many as four women had accused him of sexual assault.

We also can't ignore the fact that the idea of men being entitled to women's bodies is so ingrained in society, even males who are supposed to be the greatest role models – like presidential candidates – brag about such entitlement.

Combine that entitlement with the inherent difficulty of proving rape – especially when an alleged victim is intoxicated and the person involved in the sexual act is alone – and there's no wonder why stories of sexual assault that occur with impunity are so common.

At the very least, the account of the woman whose life was affected because of a sexual assault claim that wasn't properly vetted doesn't appear any less common than the story of the man who was affected by a false accusation.

All in all, sexual assault is simply more complex than the usual crime is.

Although some accusations end up being false, no amount of lying from any woman should make us dismiss how serious and often sexual assault claims are made, as well as the terrible things that can happen when not enough people take those claims seriously.