The Unintended Backlash: Defamation Lawsuits


And so it came to pass that a great number of men of fame, fortune and influence – Hollywood actors, producers, business executives, artists, authors, sports heroes, reporters and TV personalities – were rather suddenly and abruptly accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault or even rape from a deluge of different women.

In many cases, these allegations did not manifest themselves in the form of immediate complaints and reports to local law enforcement for criminal investigation and evidence collection at the time they allegedly occurred, but instead were announced in writing on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter by the purported victims to an audience of millions.  Notable also that most of these crimes allegedly took place months, years and even decades ago.

The #MeToo hashtag on Twitter prompted a global response from thousands of women across all social strata – sharing their personal experiences ranging from strange glances from “creeps” on the street, in the office and in the subway, to awkward compliments from men at work, to full-on groping, kissing and other direct, unwanted sexual advances, including forcible rape.

Against this wave of allegations has emerged a new level of feminist righteous indignation that has never been seen before.  These allegations have confirmed their long-standing claims of “rape culture” and “toxic masculinity” pervading society.  These men are already regarded as guilty until proven innocent.  Already tried and convicted in the courts of public opinion, with television news interviews of the victims and civil rights lawsuits.  Criminal investigation, evidence and witness collection, equal protection under the law and due process rights seem to have been discarded as an afterthought, replaced by envy, rage, retribution and feminist triumphalism.

Yet even now, during the thick of these social media trials, women and men have eventually begun to place their thoughts forward toward the potential and previously unconsidered aftermath.  What kind of new world has just been torn open?  What lies ahead for men and women now?

It is in all probability not a world women, and especially feminists, will like.

It’s not a little bit ironic how most of the alleged rapists and sexual assaulters are men who describe themselves as left leaning on political issues and identify as fully-fledged “feminists”.

As men now begin to take inventory of their own interactions and behavior with women at school, in public and at the workplace, and even in casual friendships or romantic relationships, they are coming to some rather disconcerting questions:

Perhaps I should avoid conversations and interaction with female co-workers and students to the extent that I can?

Perhaps I should not go to the evening dinner alone with my female colleague after our client meetings?

Perhaps I should not meet her for drinks after the internal business review meeting?

Perhaps I should not wait alone with her until her boyfriend and husband arrive?

Perhaps I should not walk her to car or to her apartment alone after dark?

Perhaps I should leave my office door open at all times for whenever a female colleague would enter it to ask a question or hold a conversation?

Perhaps I should reconsider hiring female candidates anymore, as they might become legal nightmare and ticking time bomb for the business?

This kind of pensiveness, however understandable or ridiculous, creates a new sense of outrage, indignation and new allegations….of “childishness”.

We’re not dangerous! You are!

But some men are just not seeing eye-to-eye with their accusers. They are not going along with it. And they are not apologizing either.

In fact, an increasing number of male students as well as male professionals are securing legal counsel and suing their accusers of such crimes for defamation.

And accusers are slowly discovering how public allegations without a police report, without formal criminal investigation, and without substantiated evidence may lead to unforeseen consequences. Serious legal and financial consequences:

Eric J. Rosenberg, an Ohio-based attorney who frequently represents college students accused of sexual misconduct, said he’d filed 20 defamation lawsuits in the past couple of years against accusers and settled nine of them. It used to be he only filed about one such lawsuit a year.

From this fertile soil of reprehensible behavior and associated claims an entire legal industry has arisen to take financial advantage:

Advocates fear that if defamation lawsuits continue to grow in use, victims will be scared back into the shadows, leaving more assailants to evade justice. Yet defenders of the accused argue the lawsuits are the only option to clear someone’s name after a false allegation, especially on campuses where they believe administrators presume guilt from the moment a sexual assault is reported.

“I never in a million years thought that I would be doing this kind of work, but it’s important to me to do it because my clients’ lives are being destroyed by false allegations,” said Rosenberg, who nine years ago founded a nonprofit to help sex-trafficked women. “I have zero tolerance for sexual assault, but there’s got to be a ramification for destroying someone’s life. Sometimes the only way to remedy the harm done in these cases is to sue the accuser.”

The accusation of high-profile personalities continues.  In November twenty-one year old University of Oklahoma star running back, Rodney Anderson, was accused of rape of a young woman who had been drinking. Anderson insisted to drive her home to her apartment. They apparently kissed, and then she remembered she started vomiting.   She doesn’t recall the rest.  Later on her friends apparently convinced her that she had been sexually assaulted and raped by Anderson, thought the victim did not remember it. Charges were filed against Anderson on December 4.

Today, the District Attorney announced that the rape and sexual assault charges will not be pursued:

Investigators say that they received information from some of the alleged victim’s friends and text messages that supposedly disproved her story.

Mashburn says that he does not believe the alleged victim had any malicious intent, and says that the alleged victim may have felt that things went too far, but he says she never expressed that to Anderson.

It should not be lost on the young men of modern-day America how easily and quickly the accuser of false allegations falls back into an unapologetic mode of “innocent mistake”, as shown above. Victims of sexual assault have the benefit of the doubt on her side. Why not use it?

“He does not believe the alleged victim had any malicious intent”.

Perhaps not. But nor did she possess any common sense or awareness regarding cause and effect of her allegations.

There is no evidence that she hasn’t already apologized to Mr. Anderson.

And yet what good would any apology from her do? A sexual assault and rape allegation is like dropping a nuclear warhead on someone’s life.  She can easily move on.  But there is no full recovery for the falsely accused.  The legal and reputational fallout cloud poisons everything for decades.

It’s not clear at this juncture whether Mr. Anderson intends to file any defamation lawsuit against his accuser.  One might argue that he should.  While all charges have been dropped, the accusation was lumped together with the Baylor University football (another Big 12 conference program) rape accusations and convictions a year earlier.  One might wonder whether the mere accusation of malfeasance will follow Mr. Anderson and affect his future football career and employment?

It is the opinion of this space that rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are crimes worthy of investigation and filed charges with sufficient evidence.  Alleged perpetrators – all of them – no matter how dispicable, are innocent until proven guilty under due process.  False allegations of such heinous crimes do irreparable harm to true, actual victims of rape and sexual assault, of which one is too many.  They also burden institutions, organizations and corporations unfairly with undue  legal costs, needless interruptions and potential organizational fallout (lost profits, layoffs).  Yet, we cannot lose sight of the importance of victims of such crimes, and do the extent that we can to bring all guilty perpetrators to justice.

But what about those who have been brought to injustice?

The answer is simple.

The false accusers of rape and sexual assault on social media must be sued into the stone age and face the same penalties, fines and years of imprisonment that the falsely accused would have, had they been convicted.

Only then will this flippant no-police-report, months-and-years-after-the-fact, social-media-tweet-allegation-business come to an end.

Allow the police and law enforcement to do their job.