Op-Ed: Student charged over false sexual assault accusation
A University of Arkansas student who claimed she was sexually assaulted will face felony charges for her false report, according to the Arkansas Traveler.
Police are charging junior Lindsey Sweetin with filing a false police report. Sweetin claimed she was groped by a stranger in a parking garage on Feb. 26. But witness testimony and video surveillance cast doubt on Sweetin's claim and she eventually admitted to lying.
"Individuals need to be held accountable for their actions," Capt. Gary Crain of the UA police department told the Traveler. "In this case, what was reported to the police did not happen, and therefore, just like anyone else who commits a crime, they have to be held responsible."
This was the second false report of sexual assault at the university in the past year. Previously, Julia Garcia, another student, had claimed she was raped in a different UA parking garage. Again, video surveillance proved she was lying.
While Garcia pleaded guilty, Sweetin pleaded not guilty and will go to trial.
Greg Piper, associate editor of the College Fix, brought up the point that had Sweetin or Garcia simply reported their alleged assaults to campus administrators, the likelihood of receiving any punishment for lying would have been next to nil. The clearest case of this is "Jackie," the woman who claimed in Rolling Stone magazine that she was gang-raped as part of a fraternity initiation. Her story was discredited, but she faced no punishment for her lies.
"Meanwhile, the false accusers whose identities are often shielded by their schools, who have the power to permanently ruin the lives of the real people they slander, will continue getting away with it, because to punish them would allegedly stop 'survivors' from reporting their incidents," Piper wrote.
A common claim among sexual assault activists is that taking action against false accusers would prevent real victims from coming forward. Capt. Crain made clear that false accusations won't make the police more skeptical of future accusers.
"We want everyone to know that this case is one case, and we're not looking back at something else that happened at a different time and trying to compare them," Crain said. "We go with information we have at that complaint."
Part of the reason accusers who go to campus administrators aren't punished for false accusations is that colleges and universities lack the means to prove whether an assault happened or didn't happen. And while pressure from the Department of Education makes it perfectly acceptable to find accused students guilty based on little evidence, finding that an accuser lied requires indisputable proof.
Colleges can get away with simply saying there was no proof a crime "didn't happen," and because some kind of sexual encounter happened, there's a chance it was non-consensual.
Until colleges and universities are given an incentive to find the truth instead of to find more students guilty, the prevalence of false or unjustifiable accusations will likely only increase.