False Rape Allegations: How It Can Ruin Lives And Affect Real Cases

Survivors of sexual assault and violence now speak out about their personal experiences. While it is great that they are finding the courage to open up about very intimate details of their lives, this has also created a culture that can foster false allegations.

During a time when all allegations of sexual misconduct are taken very seriously, false allegations can prove to be devastating. Accusations of sexual assault such as rape or child abuse are very serious and should never be taken lightly. The problem is that far too many people use accusations of sexual assault for their own gain.

Recently there is news of fake rape charges by women in Madhya Pradesh. Women are part of an alleged gang where even lawyers and police personnel are supposedly involved. These women have allegedly lodged 4-5 FIRs against men to get the compensation provided by the government in case the women are from ST/SC group. Otherwise, in the name of compromise and out of settlement a hefty monetary package is sought from the men or the women turn hostile in court.

It’s not that these types of cases happen only in one state, it might be the case in other states as well and also I’m not reporting such cases. I want to discuss the repercussions of such a false accusation. In August 2021, Delhi High Court expressed worry over the ‘alarming increase’ of false rape cases being registered “only to arm-twist the accused and make them succumb to the demands of the complainant”.

Destroys a life
The person who is falsely accused of a sexual offence (whether major or minor) may well never recover from the serious damage to their reputation. An accusation of sexual misconduct worse than sexual abuse has the potential for the career of the accused. The accused loses his honour, cannot face his family and is stigmatised for life.

We all know anonymity is not accorded to the accused, however, it is to the complainant. So, even when accusations are proven false, people often have the thought of the accusation in the back of their minds. That means that the falsely accused person will have lifetime repercussions because of a lie.

Also, the accused in such a scenario will likely have to pay for a good specialist defence team, which can be an expensive affair.

Double-edged weapon
According to people who work for the right of men, there is no dearth of cases in which fake allegations are levelled against men for ulterior motives. They say their helpline remains flooded with such complaints in which the real victims are men.

“Laws are like double-edged weapons. If they are made to protect the rights of a person, they can also be misused to throttle the liberty of opponents,” the Delhi court had observed while acquitting the man of rape charges in a case in 2008.

Just like false dowry charges, false rape charges can be used by a woman and her family to accuse and silence the other party.

Such charges are used as revenge
Women are used as weapons for revenge, according to the men’s rights activists. For example, if there is a property dispute between parties and allegations are levelled through women. Such allegations tarnish the image of a man and so are one of the most commonly used weapons for such rivalries. Men even if they have not committed any sexual crime tend to bow down to save their reputation.

Women making false charges should be punished
Women making false rape allegations to settle personal scores need to be prosecuted and punished, a Delhi court has observed, saying such matters cause intense misery and humiliation to the accused which continues even after acquittal in the case.

Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhat while acquitting two Delhi youth from the charges of gang rape in 2014, directed the court staff to lodge a complaint against the woman with Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for making false allegations.

“It is very difficult, nay impossible, to restore the lost honour and dignity of a rape accused after his acquittal from the court. They are never compensated for the emotional distress, humiliation and pecuniary damage suffered by them,” he said.

False rape allegations: The downside
When talking of sexual misconduct we cannot forget #MeToo movement. There is no doubt about the impact of the movement, it changed the way employees interact with each other in the office, the way managers treat their employees, and the way organizations handle sexual harassment and allegations of misconduct. But there is a downside too. Men, in general, are afraid to mentor women at work, fearing what will happen if they meet behind closed doors without a third party present.

Similarly, in cases of sexual assault, there are chances that women who are true survivors will face doubt and will have to fight harder to prove rape charges (as it is rape charges are hard to prove as it happens between closed doors or two people). But cases like what happened in MP will definitely affect hearing outcomes.

But we do need to keep in mind that when a woman accuses someone of rape, it’s not just the man’s reputation at stake it’s the woman’s too. And it is not just one woman but it is the entire womankind who goes to trial. This is why most of the time women are reluctant to report rape or sexual harassment. It takes courage on the part of a woman to come out about her abuse. False cases of sexual abuse are a huge setback for women’s cause. Let’s hope false rape charges are far and less in between and women who are true survivors will get justice.