Earlier this month, we wrote about the accusations against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), former head of the International Monetary Fund. The rape charges against him are likely to be dropped, but he has already suffered damage to his reputation, his finances and his future prospects as a result of the charges.
There are countless examples of famous people who will be remembered for allegations of rape despite being acquitted. For many of us, names like Kobe Bryant, David Copperfield and Michael Flatley are all associated with the memory that they were accused.
Defendants who were not already famous may have even more to lose from a false rape allegation because they were not known in the media until rape charges surfaced. In light of the recent doubts about DSK’s accuser, many have called for the end of the media parade known as the “perp walk.”
However, this may not be enough to protect the reputation of the accused. In a recent article, famous criminal defense attorney Roy Black wrote that those who are charged with rape should have their identities remain anonymous until or unless there is a conviction.
He points out that the media already censors itself when it comes to protecting the identity of the alleged victim. In addition to respecting privacy, news reporters and editors realize there are dangers associated with publicly naming an accuser.
Considering the dangers faced by the accused, there is a good argument to be made for keeping the defendant’s identity anonymous as well. If we are innocent until proven guilty, why should the defendant be publicly shamed while the accuser receives protections of anonymity?
Black also points out that false allegations of rape happen much more frequently than false allegations of other crimes. One study examined rape charges at two state universities over a three-year period. Researchers found that 50 percent of accusations turned out to be false. Another nine-year study of one city in the Midwest found that 41 percent of rape accusations were false.
Check back next week as we continue our discussion. We’ll talk about changes to the legal system that have made it harder for the accused to receive a balanced and fair criminal defense.
Source: salon.com, “Why we should protect those accused of rape,” Roy Black, 27 July 2011