The Washington Post ran an article in December titled No matter what Jackie said, we should automatically believe rape claims. Zerlina Maxwell penned the article following the fallout from media coverage of the University of Virginia fraternity rape case, specifically the revelation that the accuser’s story had many factual problems.
Maxwell, prompted by the numerous claims of false accusations in the U-VA case, wrote that a false accusation is not that bad for the accused:
The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might de-friend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching, consuming his books, or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. These errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.
She should tell that to Kirk Odom. As the Washington Post reported:
When he was first sent to the federal prison in Lorton, Va., for a crime he did not commit, Kirk Odom was warned never to tell other inmates about his rape conviction. If he did, the information could make him prey to inmates seeking vengeance.
It was 1982 when a fellow inmate walked up to him and whispered, “I know what you did,” Odom recalled. Two days later, Odom was raped in his cell. It would be the first of more than a half-dozen sexual assaults Odom would endure during two decades in prison.
Some 15 years later, Odom took an HIV test. It was negative. Months later, a fellow inmate again sexually assaulted Odom. After that attack, he took another HIV test. This time, it was positive. “I was devastated,” Odom testified Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court.
Over two days on the witness stand, Odom has been recounting his time in prison, his sexual assaults, his suicide attempts, his depression and his estranged family relations; all of that is attributed, he says, to his false imprisonment for a 1981 armed robbery, burglary and rape conviction. He is suing the District for emotional and physical pain and distress from his time at the Lorton prison.
Yet according to Maxwell this can be “undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.” How can the District of Columbia undo the rapes, the HIV infection, the suicide attempts, the depression, and the torn family relations? Odom certainly does not consider this an easy fix:
Odom now lives with his wife of ten years in southeast DC. He welcomed the ($9.2 million compensation) but added, “They can’t pay me enough money to give me back the years that I’ve lost,” as he tries to reconnect with his adult daughter, reported the Post.
“I’m just kind of continuing to move on with my life. It’s hard, but we’re working on it together, which is a good thing,” he said.
And the abuse Odom suffered does not only affect him. According to the Post, Odom’s South African wife was denied citizenship by the Department of Homeland Security because of his rape conviction.
Many people like Maxwell love to paint false accusations and wrongful convictions as victimless crimes. They will admit these acts are bad, if prodded and pushed enough, but rarely do they acknowledge the true horror of what happens. Odom is sadly and oddly one of the lucky ones in that there was DNA evidence to exonerate him. For many innocent men and boys accused of rape there is no physical evidence to exonerate them, either because the actual criminal left no traces, the police destroyed the evidence following conviction, or there was no evidence to begin with because no crime happened.
The latter one is particularly important. What happens when a woman accuses a man of raping her if they had consensual sex or if he never touched her? If there is a conviction, how does that man prove his innocence? What evidence could he possibly present to show no crime occurred? How many men and boys are facing this problem?
We do not know, and that should frighten us.
Every time I write about false accusations, some feminist emails me and accuses me of lying about supporting rape victims. Those feminists fail to see the point of my concern. I want actual rapists in prison, not innocent men. There is no amount of listening and believing victims of any crime that would ever justify locking someone away for a few minutes, let alone 20 years, for a crime they did not commit or one that never happened.
Perhaps I am alone in this, yet I would rather no one believe me or any victim of a crime than an innocent person go to prison. What happened to me already happened. There is no amount of arrests or punishment that will ever change that. However, it is possible to completely avoid placing innocent people behind bars. It has not happened yet, therefore we have time to prevent it. The moral thing to do is not to lock away some innocent man until you figure out his actual guilt or innocence and then pay him $10 million 20 years later when you get it wrong.
The moral thing to do is to never have imprisoned him in the first place.