Thursday, July 20, 2006

A specious argument

"If a woman cries rape, then it must be true because no woman is willing to subject herself to such humiliation unless it were." This is the logic that women's advocacy groups put forward in any such incident.

I don't know. This argument just strikes me as specious.

This argument is premised on the supposition that all women are virtuous and unwilling to face humiliation except under the most extreme of circumstances. This supposition is simply not true.

Not all women are virtuous, at least, not in this day and age. It's entirely possible that a woman will cry rape for extortion or for revenge or for love of another man or for her children or for just plain spite. Women are complex, just as all human beings are complex.

Social stigma no longer carries the sting that it once did, either, at least, not in this day and age. Sex doesn't have the same exchange rate it once did and rape victims are hailed as heroines for coming out with their story. Media attention and a ready support group, what more can one ask for?

Sitting in a jail cell in Bulacan is a young quadraplegic, without use of his hands or feet, poring over chess books while spit drools from his mouth. Two men have to carry him to the bathroom. What was he accused of? Rape. Those strengthless hands, which could barely hold up a book, were supposed to have pointed a gun at his friend's girlfriend and forced her to have sex with him. Go figure.

But the accusation has to be true, right? He deserves to be in jail, right? Because if a woman cries rape, then it must be true because no woman is willing to subject herself to such humiliation unless it were.

Following this argument, why bother with a trial? A woman's accusation is already as good as condemnation. An accused rapist is already guilty. Of such are witch hunts made.

Let's stop with this outmoded psychology. Let the physical evidence speak first and foremost.


  1. And the fact that the rapist looks better than Hans Montenegro, most Filipinos doubt that "Nicole" was really raped. But if it was the black guy whom she accused of raping her, I'm sure Filipinos would have a different opinion on the matter.

  2. On the other hand, that shouldn't be used as the basis of judgment, either.

  3. In most rape cases I've read, this is the opinion held by the Supreme Court. Actually, it's more than just obiter now; it's doctrine. It can't be helped, unless the SC puts some serious thought on the viability of this argument. While I am inclined to agree that it is rather sweeping to suppose that when women cry rape, it must be true, but our courts are hampered by jurisprudence. It is interesting to note that the law is supposed to protect the rights of the accused as much as possible and then have this doctrine that the cross-examination of witnesses be afforded the cloak of truth. Presumption of innocence v Presumption of the validity of witness' testimony. How do you reconcile the two? And our courts are not infallible.

  4. True enough, but I'm thinking more about the court of public opinion. I've heard this argument put forward several times. The follow-up to this is if the verdict comes out innocent, the judge is "unaware of women's rights" or something to that effect. Blah.

    Some questions, as I'm not a lawyer: Is a single witness' testimony valid by itself without corroborative evidence? Are the accuser and the accused considered witnesses?

  5. Well, coming from a female point of view, I agree that not all women are "virtuous" as you say. And it does seem "specious" to assume that women will not willingly subject themselves to the humiliation of crying rape.

    But we have to think of the context. If this were any other rape case then I tend to agree with you. But this is a case involving foreign military personnel. American military. Which means that it will garner huge amounts of media attention. If Nicole is lying about being raped, then what could she hope to gain from it? Is notoriety and the public outpouring of sympathy and support worth her reputation? If the victim were a little bit older, let's say in her 30s, then she might risk it. She is older, she is presumably married and has more or less lived a little. But at 22? Nicole has yet to begin her life. Why bother if she were lying?

    She is an educated young woman is she not? I'm sure she knows the enormity of this case and the international implications. She knows she is David to Smith et al's Goliath. If she were lying, then we can only assume she must be insane.

  6. Now, Sparks, I think you're stretching the assumptions about what "Nicole" thinks, especially with regard to the international implications. At 22, she's likely to be very confused, and with the rape case, even more so.

    Considering the context, it's even likely that "Nicole" may be egged on activist groups whose interests coincide with women's rights and an anti-US bent. Quite likely that they've taken advantage of an ugly situation (whether rape happened or not) to push their agenda.

    Then there's the matter of reputation. What's the extent of the damage here? "Nicole's" identity has been kept under wraps. We know nothing of her identity, nothing of her background. When this is over, she still has the chance to go back to a quiet life.

    In any case, the point of my original argument was in the general case. Plausible or not, "it must be true because she says it's so" cannot and should not be used as an argument.

  7. It should be noted that this is only legal presumption. It is not conclusive, so it can be overturned by controverting evidence. And yes, the accuser and the accused can be considered as witnesses if their counsels put them on the stand. More so with the accuser in rape cases because even though rape is now considered a public crime, it is still personal to some extent and therefore needs a personal victim who will attest to the crime.

    SC cases are mostly review cases and in review cases, the SC does not usually touch the finding of fact by the lower court. Therefore, if the lower court found that the testimony of the witness is credible, then the SC will have no choice but to accept it. The burden of proving witness' credibility then falls on the lower court during trial where evidence, both oral and physical, is admitted. Our justices/judges do not willfully make themselves blind to the law on account of public sentiment. We must believe that, or risk having people take the law into their own hands.

  8. Thanks, Jute, that was an enlightening explanation.

    When I said court of public opinion, I meant how public perception is influenced, not so much the legal courts.

    Your last statement makes me think, though. Can you say "Davao Death Squad?" And now it's being exported to Cebu.

  9. And here I thought the vigilante deal is a Cebuano idiosyncrasy.

  10. Oh, no, Jute, it was invented in Davao. Much to our shame. And some folks are actually proud of it.