Sex-related crimes are the only ones in which accusers and victims are not named but the accused often are. The reasoning is admirable: There's a stigma to being a rape victim, so we should shield them as much as possible from that stigma.
That's why rape shield laws exist. They're meant to protect victims, but it's now becoming clear that the "victim" in many accusations is actually the accused. Activists often claim that the number of false accusations is between 2 percent and 10 percent. But these statistics refer only to accusations that are proven false. An equally small number of cases result in convictions, so following the same logic, we should also be claiming that just 2 percent of rape accusations are true.
And even then, rape is the number one crime in which DNA clears convicted people, so even a conviction doesn't necessarily mean the crime occurred.
Everything in between is unknown. Maybe the crime happened, maybe it didn't, but we as a society have decided that it is better to err on the side of caution (that is, to err on the side that someone might not be a monster) than to potentially lock up an innocent person. Desiring to reverse that, activists want to err on the side of assuming everyone accused is a monster.
There are major problems to this. First and foremost, it encourages false accusations. We've seen on college campuses that the presumption of innocence is no longer the norm, and colleges are expelling students even when evidence suggests they are innocent. (Note: that link contains numerous stories, including the student accused by Emma Sulkowicz, who was eventually found "not responsible" by his university.)
We've broadened the definition of sexual assault and informed young women that regret equals rape and that if they've had any alcohol before engaging in sexual activity they were raped. That, combined with an evisceration of due process rights, has led to a wave of lawsuits from accused students who were expelled or otherwise branded rapists without being subjected to the justice system.
But these cases are also spilling into the justice system, where the accused are getting investigated or even arrested based on little to no evidence. Once they are in the system, their name is splashed across the local media. In these cases, the accusation travels faster and broader than any news of the charges being dismissed or the accused being deemed innocent.
And we've seen so many reports recently where the charges are dropped but the accused's name makes it into the media, forever tarnishing him as an "accused rapist." Those who subscribe to the "listen and believe" mantra will never believe the accused is innocent. That's as bad as disbelieving every accusation.
Merely being accused of rape carries life-damaging consequences. Beyond the emotional trauma of being accused for something one didn't do, there are real world consequences: The loss of job and relationship prospects, support and the suspicion that hangs over one's life forever.
Employers often run a Google search on new employees, and if there's an article saying someone has been arrested or accused of sexual assault on campus, that person will likely not be hired. Even if several articles down the page show the charges were dropped, the initial searches reveal a potential rapist. No employer wants that.
In the United Kingdom, a falsely accused man has started a website for others who were cheated by the justice system.
"Don't get me wrong, I absolutely have sympathy for a system that encourages complainants of rape to come forward," the man, identified only as James, told the Telegraph. "But, on the other hand, we now have a system that can be seen as open season for those who want to make false allegations of a sexual nature."
He and other men who have been falsely accused are lobbying for changes to the U.K.'s laws regarding sexual assault. Their demands include changing the ruling in rape cases from "not guilty" to "innocent," increased sentences for false accusers and, above all, granting anonymity to the accused until after a verdict is reached.
The U.S. should also look into these changes.
Some might argue that other accused criminals have their names published. The first argument here is that it is only sex crimes where accusers/victims don't have their names published. Sex crimes are also unique in that the reasoning for false accusations includes revenge.
False claims of theft, for instance, usually occur for insurance money, and the suspect is unknown and unnamed. But false accusations of rape are often targeted against specific people, and that person's life is disrupted even if they are innocent.
I'm not saying we should name accusers, but because of the damage false accusations of rape bring, it's time to stop naming the accused, at least until after they are convicted.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.