At The End Of The Day, Feminism Is A War On Due Process

Stephen Baskerville Professor, Patrick Henry College
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Now that the University of Virginia “rape” case has been exposed as yet another hoax, it is time to start looking at other feminist-generated hysterias, which are just as dishonest and dangerous.  This case did not arise out of the blue, nor is it disconnected from other similar accusations of criminality perpetrated by radical ideologues. Rather, it is part of a pattern of ideologically driven witch hunts designed to criminalize innocent people and “empower” feminist operatives. The common factor behind all of them is a radical sexual political ideology driven – as all ideologies are – by resentment and the lust for power.

This is hardly the first time that false rape claims created a media sensation: the Tawana Brawley, Kobe Bryant, the Duke University lacrosse players. And when the charges are not proven, commentators of both left and right conjure up various excuses and blame various scapegoats: right-wing political conspiracies, left-wing reverse racism, corrupt prosecutors. No one dares to point the finger at the common perpetrator behind all these miscarriages of justice: a feminist activism industry aimed at overturning historic legal norms.

Now that the evidence pointing at them is overwhelming, the affair is being spun to whitewash false accusers. Cathy Young has collected a sampling of weasel words from the professional ideologues whose careers depend on rationalizing lies:

Amanda Marcotte blasted “rape apologists” attempting to “derail” the conversation with their talk of a hoax at UVA and asserted that Erdely’s story would have been attacked no matter how thorough a job she had done. (She even not-so-subtly insinuated that the “rape denialist movement” is driven by men who are themselves rapists.) The same themes were echoed in a rant by Katie McDonough in Salon, who grudgingly acknowledged that Erdely’s article was flawed but still denounced the criticism as “rape denial” and expressed resentment at “being expected to treat every person who says hey no fair when a survivor speaks or a damning report is published as if these are all serious and credible concerns.” On a slightly more moderate note, New York’s Kate Stoeffel fretted that all the questioning feels like “presumed innocence is a privilege reserved for purported rapists and not their purported victims” …

Some other feminists are quite openly suggesting that we shouldn’t let facts get in the way. “So what if this instance was more fictional than fact and didn’t actually happen to Jackie? Do we actually want anyone to have gone through this? This story was a shock and awe campaign that forced even the most ardent of rape culture deniers to stand up in horror and demand action,” writes Katie Racine, the founder of the online women’s magazine Literally, Darling, in an essay reprinted in The Huffington Post. (A mostly fictional story is beneficial because it proved to “rape culture deniers” that rape culture exists? Literally, darling, this may be the dumbest thing anyone has said about the UVA story.) And in Politico, UVA student journalist Julia Horowitz opines that “to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake,” since Jackie’s likely fabrication points to a bigger truth.  That is not journalism; it’s agitprop.

The significance of these responses should not be missed: They demonstrate very clearly that such cases are not aberrations, honest mistakes, mistaken identities, or overzealous journalism. They constitute a political agenda of professional zealots using criminal accusations against innocent people for political purposes. They are an open admission that patently false criminal accusations are an accepted weapon to advance a political cause.

For months, reputable journalists and scholars have been refuting claims of a “rape epidemic” and a “rape culture.” Yet the ideologues’ response is to conjure up ever more lurid scenarios, culminating in this preposterous fabrication.

The injustices are not limited to campus pseudo-courts. Those rightly calling for rape cases to be adjudicated in the regular courts should not be so naïve as to believe this is a panacea. The infamous Duke lacrosse charges were adjudicated in the regular courts. Though prosecutor Michael Nifong was eventually disbarred, this hardly vindicates the system. Nifong had willing accomplices throughout the governments of Durham and North Carolina: assistant prosecutors, police departments, crime lab technicians, judges, and the state bar, plus the media. No grand jury exercised its responsibility to restrain Nifong.

Moreover, his downfall occurred only after extensive and highly unusual media coverage; his fellow prosecutors’ first response was to circle the wagons around their colleague and defend his prosecution of knowingly innocent men, an open admission that he did nothing out of the ordinary and that they all use similar techniques to railroad the innocent. He was never criminally prosecuted for framing innocent people, nor has there been any subsequent investigation to determine how widespread are such attempts by prosecutors to frame law-abiding citizens.

“The Duke lacrosse case did not have lasting consequences for anyone involved” at the university, writes Stephen Henrick in the Northern Kentucky Law Review. “Duke amended its sexual assault procedures just two years later to erode due process rights for the accused.”

“If police officers and a district attorney can systematically railroad us with absolutely no evidence whatsoever,” commented one defendant, “I can’t imagine what they’d do to people who do not have the resources to defend themselves.”

“Any honest veteran sex assault investigator will tell you that rape is one of the most falsely reported crimes,” says Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman. “During my time as a prosecutor … I was amazed to see all the false rape allegations … You would have to see it to believe it.”

Rape accusations are only part of a much larger phenomenon, likewise driven by feminist ideology. “Today’s college rape panic is an eerie recapitulation of the daycare abuse panic,” observes Christina Hoff Sommers. “Just as the mythical ‘50,000 abducted children’ fueled paranoia about child safety in the 1980s, so today’s hysteria is incited by the constantly repeated, equally fictitious ‘one-in-five women on campus is a victim of rape’ – which even President Obama has embraced.” The few scholars who investigate one hysteria have been remarkably slow (or afraid) to notice parallels with others, but Hoff Sommers sees very clearly the similar role of ideology:

Once again, conspiracy feminists are at the forefront of this movement. Just as feminist psychologists persuaded children that they had been abused, so women’s activists have persuaded many young women that what they might have dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup was actually a felony rape.

Those cases were complete fabrications. But even now, few are willing to declare the same about the epidemic of false rape accusations, though understanding the political purposes behind this MO of accusation makes it very clear.

Accusations are the weapon against not only alleged “rapists” but also anyone who dares to question the accusations, who are likewise accused of being “rape apologists.” “‘Believe the children,’ said the ritual abuse experts during the day care scare,” Hoff Sommers points out. “‘Believe the survivors,’ say today’s rape culturalists. To not believe an alleged victim is to risk being called a rape apologist.”

Caroline Kitchens found herself accused by campus radicals following her exposé of their dishonest statistics. “Hardline gender activists … shout ‘victim blamer!’ and ‘rape apologist!’” she writes. “Many social scientists hesitate to broach the topic at all because of the moral fervor and stridency of the activists.” Compare the Salem witch accusations: “It took much courage … to speak out against the beliefs,” Paul McHugh writes in Try to Remember, “because the outspoken often quickly joined the accused.”

Other hysterias demonstrate how sexual radicals target the innocent, setting aside constitutional protections in order to punish at all costs:  “domestic violence,” “sexual harassment,” “bullying,” and again, “child abuse” – none of which has any fixed definition. Indeed, the absence of definitions for all these alleged “crimes” blurs the distinction between legal and illegal behavior, so that the law can be tailored to fit the accusation, making it impossible for citizens (or juries) to know if they have committed a crime and facilitating the desired punishment.

“Domestic violence” campaigns are even more dishonest: “a backwater of tautological pseudo-theory and failed intervention programs,” according to Donald Dutton and Kenneth Corvo in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior. “No other area of established social welfare, criminal justice, public health, or behavioral intervention has such weak evidence in support of mandated practice.”

As with “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment,” and “sexual misconduct” (no clear distinctions separate these vague terms), there is no fixed definition of “domestic violence” (and of course the law everywhere already criminalizes standard criminal assault). By the feminists’ own fluid definitions, “domestic violence” need not involve any real violence or physical contact; it can be “emotional” or “psychological.” None of the statistics purporting to prove a serious problem are based on convictions through jury trials or even formal charges; they are based on “reports” (again, accusations). Most accusations are connected with child custody in divorce cases, as the feminists’ own literature makes very clear, and most accused men are never formally tried or convicted but simply summarily punished with loss of children and forced therapy/indoctrination classes. Like the divorce industry itself, domestic violence is “an area of law mired in intellectual dishonesty and injustice,” according to the Rutgers Law Review.

Reminiscent of the campus tribunals, special quasi-courts bypass due process protections and punish without trial. Hundreds of special “domestic violence courts” now operate throughout the United States and Canada, circumventing the constitutional procedures of criminal courts and expediting punishments for matters that are undefined. Here too, proponents openly acknowledge that these courts exist not to administer impartial justice but to facilitate punishment: “to make [alleged?] batterers and abusers take responsibility for their actions,” in the words of New York’s openly feminist former Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

As with campus tribunals, there is no presumption of innocence, hearsay is admissible, and defendants have no right to confront their accusers. One study found there was no possibility that a defendant could be acquitted from a domestic violence accusation, since all individuals arrested received some punishment: fine, jail, and/or psychotherapy.

The child abuse hysteria to which Hoff Sommers alludes is likewise marked by peculiar adjudication procedures. Parents are seldom formally charged with crimes for which they can be tried, afforded due process protections, clear their names, and keep their children. Instead guilt is summarily “substantiated” (a meaningless term that has nothing to do with due process of law) by social workers who are then “empowered” to remove their children, without trial and sometimes with no judicial procedure at all.

The common law principle of “rule of law,” according to the great English jurist A.V. Dicey, means that “no man is punishable or can be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land.”  Yet feminist gender justice is based on ill-defined new offences, vaguely worded accusations, and irregular procedures administered in specially devised pseudo-courts.

Similar to calls now being heard concerning rape accusations, scholars like Stephen Krason urge that “child abuse and neglect should be treated as criminal matters to be dealt with in regular courts, where accused persons have the full range of due process and other constitutional rights.”

Edward Kruk of the University of British Columbia likewise urges concerning domestic violence that “Criminal prosecution of those family members who are alleged to direct violence toward any other member of the family would be more effective in holding accountable both the perpetrators of violence and those who falsely allege abuse than at present, particularly in those cases where allegations of abuse are dealt with exclusively within the family court arena,” he writes.  “The use of family courts as ‘quasi-criminal courts’ that do not have the resources to apply due process when abuse allegations are made,” endangers both freedom and family integrity.

Likewise, special “family” courts that exist mostly to separate children from their fathers and incarcerate fathers – always without trial – for unauthorized meetings with their own children is another example that accompanies a similar witch hunt for so-called “deadbeat dads.” This too has been repeatedly demonstrated to be a hoax, though the summary incarceration of fathers continues. “Advocates of ever-more-aggressive measures for collecting child support,” writes Bryce Christensen of Southern Utah University, “have moved us a dangerous step closer to a police state.”

In all these cases, ordinary citizens are shocked to discover that what amount to criminal accusations are not adjudicated by criminal courts with standard protections for the accused. And in each case, it is feminist ideologues who pressure officials to ignore constitutional protections because of the power they would lose.

Ignoring this dangerous pattern and allowing fear to silence our voices leaves us vulnerable to the next witch hunt and leads us to surrender our constitutional freedoms to those whose weapons are lies and accusations.

Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and author of Taken Into Custody:  The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family (Cumberland House, 2007). His book on sexual politics will be published next year.