Many people object to any discussion about false accusations. These people consider the discussions an attempt to condone sexual violence against women (they never consider male survivors), downplay the severity of the violence, and to accuse all women who claim rape of lying.
The latter is the real issue. The opponents to the discussion worry that if people talk too much about false accusations it will keep female survivors from coming forward. Supporters of the falsely accused, however, worry that by failing to talk about the issue people will ignore just how easily an innocent person can end up in prison.
For example: Chaneya Kelly accused her father of rape 16 years ago. She claims that her mother, Charade, forced her to make the accusation:
“She repeatedly asked me, has my dad touched me,” recalled Chaneya. “I was like, ‘What do you mean, did he touch me?’ And she was like, ‘Did he touch you in your no-no spot?’ And I would repeatedly say no.”
Chaneya says the more she denied any abuse, the more irate her mother became – and even threatened her with a belt. According to Chaneya, her mother said, “If you don’t tell me the answer that I want to hear, I’m going to beat you.” To avoid a beating, says Chaneya, she told her mother that her father molested her even though it wasn’t true.
Police questioned Kelly’s father Daryl. Daryl claimed that his wife was doing drugs and set him up. Eventually police arrested and charged Daryl with rape, and a jury convicted him.
This is where things get odd. The police later removed Kelly from her mother’s custody as a result of her drug abuse. Six months later, Kelly recanted the accusation:
After her father’s conviction, authorities removed Chaneya from her mother’s custody, citing Charade’s drug abuse, and she was sent to live with her grandmother, Pat Thomas, a Pentecostal minister. It was there – six months after her father’s conviction — that Chaneya told her grandmother that she was never raped, and that the story had been born out of fear of her mother.
Grandmother Pat took Chaneya to Daryl’s appellate attorney, who videotaped her recantation, in which she says she learned words like “penis” and “vagina” from the prosecution team, and the mechanics of sex from pornography stashed under her parents’ bed. On the tape, she looks uncomfortable, mumbling short, hesitant answers like, “No,” and “I think so.”
Her mother, Charade, also submitted an affidavit to the court, swearing she threatened to beat Chaneya unless she said her father raped her.
The prosecutor argued that the recantation looked coerced, and the same judge who oversaw his original trial a year earlier agreed. He refused to vacate Kelly’s conviction.
How ironic that the prosecutor and the judge believed Kelly’s mother when she used drugs, but not when she got clean.
The prosecutor defends the conviction:
In an interview with NBC News, [Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips] strongly defended the integrity of the original prosecution, saying he trained his prosecutors “that truth is the most important thing,” and stressing that a jury had found Kelly guilty.
“The system says he’s not innocent, that the credibility of Chaneya was tested, that the issues surrounding her testimony back in 1998 were addressed,” said Phillips.
Phillips also said it was “not unique” for the victim of a crime like rape or molestation to want to protect the abuser by withdrawing an accusation. “It’s part of a dynamic that we deal with. Whether it’s sex crimes or crimes of domestic violence, that is not unusual.”
It is, however, unique for the parent who made the accusation to state they coerced the child into making a false statement. It is particularly unique for them to do it in writing shortly after the conviction.
Obviously the state has a reason to uphold the conviction. No prosecutor likes to admit they got it wrong, let alone that they were conned by a drug addict. However, it is unlikely that Kelly and her mother would repeatedly recant the accusation for nearly two decades if they were lying. There is nothing in it for them at this point.
These are the cases advocates for the falsely accused worry about. The state has no physical evidence that any assault occurred. They only have one person’s testimony, and that person recanted. If this is a lie, if Daryl did not rape his daughter, one must seriously look at how easily the system was fooled.
That is the danger and the fear. Not just that the accusation can be made and believed without any proof, but that there is little the innocent can do once convicted.