The XX Factor

Men’s Rights Activists Do Not Prove Their Point

Occidental says it received more than 400 false rape accusations from “an off campus group of trolls”

Occidental College

Occidental College has a lot of work to do to make its campus safer for students. In September, the school settled a major lawsuit with students who claimed that Occidental completely mishandled their reports of sexual assault, and the school has also admitted that it underreported the number of allegations of sexual assault on campus. In an effort to improve, Occidental set up an online form in 2012 so that people could report, anonymously, tips about sexual assaults they witnessed or endured—information that the school could then keep track of. Because the form is anonymous, information submitted can’t be used to start any legal proceedings—an accusation has to be formally filed with the school for that—but if the accused is named in the online form, the dean of the students office “will meet with that person to share that the person was named in an anonymous report, review the Sexual Misconduct Policy, and inform the person that if the allegations are true, the behavior needs to cease immediately.”

Then the “men’s rights” forums on Reddit found out about this, and because, in the paranoid fantasies of online misogynists, the world is teeming with women eager to destroy a man’s life by falsely accusing him of rape, they decided to try to crash the system by flooding it with false rape reports. After all, nothing bespeaks your interest in preventing false rape reports like filing some of your own.

Well, how did the scientific experiment run by the geniuses at the men’s rights subreddit work out? Occidental confirmed to Gawker that “an off campus group of trolls” submitted more than 400 false rape accusations. Number of men’s lives destroyed by these evidence-free false accusations from anonymous users? Zero. Brilliant work, activists, though perhaps not in the way you intended. To be fair, this experiment is still young, and the possibility still exists that some of these false rape reports will turn into men being unfairly railroaded. However, if that happens, that will still not prove these dudes’ point because the false accusations will have come from these men. (Men like SirSkeptic, who exclaimed in a popular comment on the Reddit thread, “I’d like to see one sent with the name of every member of the Dean of Students Office as the offender. Hey, it’s anonymous and no evidence is required.”)

The embarrassment of all this has finally sunk into the diamond-plated skulls of the “men’s rights” subreddit, as David Futrelle of the misogyny-monitoring blog Man Boobz reports. To his credit, the forum moderator, named sillymod, did initially ask people not to spam Occidental, but now the subreddit has devolved into a storm of finger-pointing and conspiracy theories about outside forces being responsible for the incident in order to make them all look bad. 

Meanwhile, in the real world, the facts remain unchanged: False rape reports are relatively rare, constituting only about 2-8 percent of reports filed with law enforcement. False accusations, where the accuser names a real person instead of just saying “some guy in the bushes jumped me,” are even rarer.