Allegations of Sexual Abuse

False Allegations

Nick Wills

The Sunday Star Times
April 7, 1996

Why I'm wary of Rape Crisis
by Frank Haden

If all men are rapists, then it can be said with equal authority that all women are liars and therefore few rape convictions are safe.

Any reasonable person would come to this conclusion in the hysterical atmosphere surrounding rape allegations. We've had a high-powered symposium on it in Wellington, at which it was claimed one woman in five had been raped.

We had the exciting climax of the brilliant British television series Cracker, built around the characters of two particularly nasty rapists. In the High Court at Auckland, a 28-year-old man was jailed for nine years for raping a prostitute. In Wellington, the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of an Auckland man wrongly jailed for 15 months on the word of a lying woman; she claimed he orally and digitally violated her against her will while they were engaged in protracted voluntary intercourse in what the three judges drily observed was "a fairly robust manner".

And we heard on TV1's 60 Minutes the astounding story of a young woman who falsely accused Nick Wills, a fellow student at Waikato University, of raping her, no doubt with the same motive that prompts most false rape accusations: Fury at being ignored or rejected. Months later, she was exposed.

I've kept a wary eye on Rape Crisis. I know a lot of women do get raped, and deserve a fair go from the police and the courts. But after that 60 Minutes programme I will not raise a finger to help the Rape Crisis cause.

The rape symposium received an unmistakable message from the Chief Justice, Sir Thomas Eichelbaum. He said some judges feel the pendulum against accused men in rape trials has swung too far, that while rape is abhorrent the possibility an innocent man might spend years in prison is abhorrent, too.

But the system failed lamentably in the case of Nick Wills. He was wrongly held in jail when police ignored his rock-solid alibi and failed to investigate his accuser's claims properly. His good name was smeared, his career was jeopardised by a woman who made up a pack of intricately detailed lies, claiming he raped her, knocked her about and threatened to kill her. If it had not been for his parents and a determined lawyer, he would have been convicted and sent to jail for nine years.

The pendulum certainly swung much too far in favour of the complainant in his case. It swung so far a great injustice was perpetrated and an even greater injustice only narrowly averted.

Worse, much worse, was to come after the liar was convicted of making the false accusation. Rape complainants normally have their anonymity protected; when the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of the falsely accused Auckland man, who was named, it maintained the anonymity of the woman who accused him. In the case of Nick Wills, however, the judge specifically allowed publication of her name; she had put herself beyond the pale by concocting such a deliberate web of accusations. But then, astoundingly, she had her anonymity and her reputation restored by the machinations of the Rape Crisis lobby group. Her name was bleeped at every mention in 60 Minutes.

Then we saw Rape Crisis in its true colours. Toni Allwood, its national co-ordinator, tried vainly to defend its action in preserving the liar's reputation. The false accuser simply made a mistake, a youthful mistake, she said, and should be allowed to get on with her life. Some mistake! Some liar

Ms Allwood asked the 60 Minutes reporter what she felt the false accuser deserved -- hanging up by the heels? Tarring and feathering? Every man watching the programme shouted "Yes!", some silently but no less fervently than those with the freedom to express politically incorrect opinions.

That woman who falsely accused Nick Wills has no right to keep her good name. She knowingly, deliberately and calculatingly set about destroying the life and reputation of her target. But Rape Crisis is so obsessed with its implacable hatred of men, its fanatical belief all men are rapists, that one in five women is raped, it is unable to see any man is entitled to a fair go. Only women, it considers, are entitled to draw from the fountain of justice.

Ms Allwood should be aware that by taking this line she has done a good deal of damage to the cause of the very women she imagines she is trying to protect.