Girl who falsely accused father of rape should be charged
Rape is bad. I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with me there. But I need to get it out of the way first before you assume I take rape lightly.
More than 10 years ago, Cassandra Kennedy, a little girl from Kalama, Wash., accused her father of sexually assaulting and abusing her. The story she gave her teachers and police was consistent with what was expected from a traumatized 11 year old. There was some physical evidence. She worried for her safety in her broken family. It didn’t take long before her father was behind bars, branded a child rapist.
The thing is, Cassandra lied.
In a startling turn of events, Cassandra called Washington police to tell them her dark secret: she had put an innocent man behind bars simply because she was upset with him. Her father had never touched her. He had spent nine years in prison, shouldering the burden of a label he should not have carried, because she had been unable to work out her burgeoning resentment of him in a healthy manner.
Although her father, Thomas Kennedy, has been released from prison following her admission, the issue is hardly clear-cut and finished. Washington prosecutors have decided against filing charges against the younger Kennedy, as they worry that doing so may make actual rape victims too afraid to press charges or report their assaults.
I’m going to put this as tactfully as possible: that decision is garbage.
Cassandra may have been a child when she made her accusations, but she was hardly an innocent one. According to reports recently made public, Cassandra got the idea to frame her father from a friend whose stepfather was sent to prison on similar charges. Cassandra used her knowledge of sex (learned both from television and from her own experiences starting in the second grade) to her advantage, telling police and prosecutors what she knew they wanted to hear. She lied with malicious intent and she got away with it.
Some justice should come to her father. Regardless of what happened, he still spent almost 10 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The one who did this to him should face consequences.
There’s not much scummier than a rapist; someone who falsely accuses someone of rape is only marginally less scummy. It does more than change the way society sees you. It ruins your reputation, rids you of your right to privacy and, in cases such as this, can destroy years of your life.
According to Margaret DiCanio, a writer specializing in social issues, the generally accepted statistic is that 2–8 percent of all reported rapes are false. The reasons behind falsely accusing someone of rape—or any crime, really—are complex, and in most cases they relate back to some resentment on the part of the accuser. This certainly fits with the Kennedy case.
Cassandra stated that she was “upset” with her father when he and her mother divorced. She felt like he didn’t love her or the rest of her family anymore, and she wanted an excuse not to have to deal with him. So she chose to falsely accuse him of rape.
In theory, Cassandra could be charged in Washington for filing a false report, a crime punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in county jail. Considering the damage she has done to her father’s life—damage which will likely never be repaired—this is actually a very conservative punishment.
And as for the prosecutors’ concerns that charging Cassandra could discourage rape victims from reporting crimes committed against them, that is a legitimate worry. The majority of rapes are not reported at all. However, making an exception for Cassandra tramples on the rights of those facing false accusations. Can we really afford to set a precedent for allowing false accusations of rape to go unpunished?
Frankly, I’m more concerned about the recourse available to those falsely accused of rape. In today’s society, these people are guilty until proven innocent, and even if they’re acquitted, the accusations can follow them for the rest of their lives. If exceptions are made and filing a false report becomes less and less punishable, someone is bound to take advantage of the leniency.
All accusations of rape should be taken seriously and be thoroughly investigated, but should those accusations turn out to be false, the perpetrator—the one who faked being a victim for his or her own purposes—should have to deal with the consequences. It is no less than an attack on the character of the accused, and the accused should feel safe, and not judged, should they seek to file charges against them.
Cassandra deserves to be charged with filing a false report at the very least. Her actions, however young she was when they were performed, put an innocent man in prison and ruined years of his life.
False reports should be taken seriously for what they are. If we allow these crimes to go unpunished, it’s only going to make things worse.