While the incidence of false reports is rare, the media explosion and national conversation surrounding sexual violence make false reports seem as if they're a common occurrence. And while most women will not falsely accuse someone of rape, sexual assault or harassment, the explosion of the false-report narrative makes it seem as if they might.
And when a prevailing social view exists that women lie about assaults, society turns its back to current survivors or creates a more difficult environment for victims to come forward.
How, you might ask?
For one, social attacks on women in general over false narratives paint women as deceitful or vengeful.
Politicians and male-supremacy groups often rush to demoralize women, namely feminist or activist women who support survivors, as misandrists who seek to tear down "good men" simply because they hate men.
Certain politicians also claim that the devastating results for accused men in false claims call for reform in how sexual misconduct proceedings are handled.
The concept of "due process" is a large part of the American legal system. While a vague term, it refers to the fair treatment of the plaintiff and accused during legal proceedings. Many in our current political sphere think that sexual misconduct cases fail to acknowledge due process and unfairly advantage the victim.
Therefore, many groups and politicians think policies that crack down on survivor narratives in sexual misconduct cases will protect and save innocent men from false accusations.
This type of thinking is evident in Betsy Devos' proposed changes to Title IX proceedings, where the accused would have the ability to publicly cross-examine plaintiffs, and plaintiffs would require additional evidence. Processes of this type are said to be more in line with traditional notions of due process proceedings in other crime settings.
However, many of these new rules politicians and male supremacy groups may advocate for are less about proper legal proceedings, but rather making proceedings more difficult for plaintiffs.
And while these "due process" reforms MIGHT benefit the less than 2% of women who create a false claim, they'd have disastrous effects on victims.
One tool advocated for in Devos' plan is the cross-examination, which grants the accused or a third party to interrogate a plaintiff in a public setting. For a victim, this would mean forcing them to recollect the series of their trauma or be forced face-to-face with their perpetrator, which could create further mental health complications or make them suffer through additional trauma.
Further, our brain's reaction to and processing of traumatic events is not linear and can resurface in staggered events, or feel blurry. It is scientifically proven how the hippocampus has a difficult time processing and storing trauma, meaning that even if a victim were cross-examined, they might not be able to provide the recollection that the accuser's attorney is looking for.
Traditional forms of evidence are also difficult to obtain in the instance of many sexual misconduct cases, especially pertaining to intimate partner violence. Situations such as rape or sexual assault within relationships often have little or no traditionally incriminating evidence since the abuse occurred within the context in a relationship and most likely in a private setting.
The current legal system already makes it incredibly difficult for victims to come forward and often denies them justice even with substantiated claims and collected evidence.
And making it even more difficult for victims to get the justice they deserve means that fewer victims will come forward.
Most victims already don't come forward and find other ways to cope with the reality of their abuse since they often know there's limited hope for cases like theirs.
Even fewer victims coming forward would mean that many more women would be subject to the abuse of a perpetrator, or be forced to live in a relative state of silence for the rest of her life.
So for the very few women who weaponize the current social discussion of assault and use it to make a false claim, they directly hurt those who are most impacted by sexual violence.
The media's bastardization of the severity of sexual misconduct and violence cases promote the increase into anti-survivor support rhetoric, which as I've illustrated, could have disastrous effects on real survivors everywhere.
In this modern era we live in, we should be focusing on creating reformative measures that center on believing women and creating a better-focused set of due-process proceedings that acknowledge the biological and systemic effects that sexual violence has on women.
And for those who are concerned about the men who are victims to false-narratives, they deserve their fair share of protections and proceedings, too.
Women who go through with false-claims and later fess up to the slandering and abuse of the men they've accused also should face consequences.
Despite the rarity of these women, the livelihood of the men they've accused and all the survivors who fight against sexual violence lose their voice by virtue of a false narrator's lies.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it's of the utmost importance to first consider the millions of women impacted by sexual violence first. They bear the brunt of the blame, trauma, and abuse, and we should be focused on creating a world and legal system that helps instead of tearing them down.