“Make them think twice before they make a false accusation.”
The Alabama state legislature introduced a bill last week that would criminalize falsely reporting sex crimes, AL.com reported Wednesday.
The bill, introduced by Republican State Rep. Dickie Drake, would make falsely accusing someone of a sexual crime a Class C Felony and carry a 10-year prison sentence. If the accused was also proven innocent, the accuser would be responsible for that person’s legal fees, according to the report.
If passed, the bill would add an extra layer to existing law that already criminalizes making a false police report.
But opposition to the legislation could prove to be fierce. Kathleen Connolly, director of the Alabama Coalition Against Rape, said that the bill could dissuade legitimate victims from reporting sex crimes.
“It’s not solving a new problem,” Connolly said. “It is a problem if someone makes a false report, and that’s rare. It’s an effort to silence men and women who are coming forward about sexual assault. It’s an effort to make them afraid to come forward.”
Critics also contend that sex crimes are already underreported. Citing the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, the report notes that three out of every four sex crimes goes unreported. But according to a 2010 study, between 2 and 10 percent of all rape allegations are proven false.
Drake, who told AL.com he had a friend falsely accused of rape by his ex-wife, said the legislation is meant to make people that would report fake crimes think twice before doing so.
“If they make an accusation, they better make sure it’s true and make them think twice before they make a false accusation,” Drake said.
The case highlights tensions that have arisen following the #MeToo movement’s admonishment of society to “believe women” when they come forward to claim they have been the victims of sexual assault.
Those tensions boiled over last fall during the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexually assaulting her when the two were teenagers in Maryland.