When a woman accuses a man of rape, most of us, including yours truly, are quick to jump to conclusions. We empathise with the woman and look at the accused with a feeling of disgust. More often than not, we ignore the other side of the story - that of the man's. Not once do we consider to check the authenticity of the accusation and continue to fight for the woman in question. But what about the man? What if he is being falsely accused?
James Robinson, who was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a woman five years ago, talks about his struggle after successfully clearing his name in the case. Here is first-hand insight into what it’s like to be falsely accused of sexually assaulting somebody as told by Robinson.
"It’s like this.
Firstly, what was interesting, even unique, about my false accusation is that I knew it was going to happen. To explain, my accuser was a one-night stand who had taken to harassing me after I denied her a second date, turning up drunk at my flat and sending me abusive texts and voicemails. In the early summer of 2010 she stepped up the frequency of her visits. When I found her stood outside my home one evening in the pouring rain, intently watching my bedroom window, I told her that I was going to have to go to the police if the behaviour continued. She responded by telling me that if I did go to the police, she would tell them that I had drugged her and sexually assaulted her.
Unsurprisingly, I didn't go to the police straight away, but eventually the persistence of her harassment gave me little choice. It's a faintly surreal experience telling a police officer that, by the way, when you arrest her, she's probably going to tell you that I raped her, but I figured that my warning them at least would slightly discredit her if she went through with it.
Which she did. Two days later I had a phone call to tell me that Louise* had made certain allegations towards me, sexual in nature, that would have to be investigated separately to my own case, and that officers would be in touch.
I'd like to have the words to describe the full-body wash of absolute dread and nausea I felt at the moment, but I simply don't. In that moment, your entire sexual history comes into sharp focus and you are forced to analyse it.
By any standards, I had been sexually promiscuous up to that point. I frequented dating websites. I hadn't had a real relationship that could be considered steady or long-term. When I went on dates, they usually involved the concerted consumption of alcohol. I was happy to have intercourse after a first date. I enjoyed rough sex. Was I not, to all intents and purposes, just a tad predatory? Did I not sound a bit like a rapist would sound? I had exes with whom I did not get along what if the police spoke to them and they decided to do a number on me?
I was officially under investigation for just under six months, and I can tell you that in that time, I ran the full gamut of all the emotions you don’t want in a gamut – mainly pulverising fear, to the extent that I would not answer my doorbell if it rang, and impotent anger. My friends were angry too: the male ones angry for me, my female friends angry about her. It’s well documented that so few rape allegations result in a successful conviction; as far as my female friends were concerned, women like my accuser made the situation an infinitesimal amount worse. Some of them, it seemed, hated her more than I did.
But then I wasn’t thinking about her that summer, just about me. The stalking – understandably – had temporarily let up, and so I was left to stew on worst case scenarios. Logic told me that there was no way she could have a case against me, but when you’ve been accused of sexual assault, logic can sometimes be subsumed by dark imaginings. I knew from ex-convict friends what happened to convicted sex criminals in prison. I didn’t fancy the first night welcome I was told about, in which my cell door would be left open so that other inmates could come in and have at me for five minutes. An implausible scenario, perhaps, but then what the hell did I really know?
I withdrew from my social life. Outside of work hours and at weekends, I drank catastrophic, damaging amounts, with my curtains closed, or just got the hell out of London whenever I could and drank catastrophic, damaging amounts somewhere else. Suddenly, I had no interest in sex whatsoever, just stultifying amounts of drink.
I got the call to report to the Metropolitan Police to give them my statement on mid-October 2010. If you had seen me that morning, then I apologise for the sight of a man vomiting into a high street rubbish bin out of sheer terror. As it turned out, the police had more or less ignored the allegation against me: it was, I was told, one of the weakest the case officer had heard in 16 years. He had spent four hours with Louise and her duty lawyer the day before as they attempted to make it make sense.
Just consider that for a moment. The person who falsely accused me of sexually assaulting her was given free legal advice by someone who actively attempted to bend and shape her version of events until they actually made sense. She was also given access to counselling, to help her come to terms with an assault that never happened. I, obviously, got nothing. How angry would that have made you?
With me, the answer was “angry to the point that it felt like it would eat me whole.” My first relationship after I was cleared ended because I couldn’t control either the rage or the drinking, nor could I have sex with her with the abandon she desired because I was worried that I was hurting her. Every relationship since has failed, for two chief reasons: I can’t fully trust anybody and I get fuming angry over stupid, inconsequential things.
I no longer bother with romance, for the general benefit of womankind. Me attempting to form romantic relationships is like trying to paint with a broken arm.
I’m not quite sure what I could have done. In order to have her prosecuted for lying, I’d have had to have proved beyond doubt that I didn’t sexually assault her, which I couldn’t do, in much the same way that most rape victims can’t prove beyond doubt that they gave no consent. I have to live with the fact that a woman set out to ruin me, in a manner so low and loathsome I still can’t quite believe that it happened, and she pretty much succeeded.
And that’s what it’s like being falsely accused of a sexual assault."
* Names, including the author's, have been changed