This is what’s known as corroboration, and when I worked in law enforcement, specifically in sex crimes, I spent much of my time corroborating victims’ claims. Sometimes, this is as simple as verifying the alleged assailant’s presence at the victim’s house or talking to a friend the victim disclosed the incident to after it happened. With the victim’s testimony corroborated, the burden then lies with the assailant to provide a defense and give contradictory evidence, if there is any.
But our post-Me Too era, which drums “believe all women” (no matter what) into our collective consciousness, changed things somewhat. Now, we’re urged to believe victims with minimal corroboration and to crucify alleged rapists before they step foot in court. The scales of justice might not have been level before, but they’re certainly not balanced now.
Victims don’t report rape and sexual assault for many reasons, and those who do report are put through the wringer of a system stacked against them, making true justice an elusive conclusion that’s hard to come by for many. Every rapist who exerts power and control over a victim should be punished accordingly, in an ideal world. But what about men whose guilt is decided before they’re ever convicted?
We can strive to provide true justice for genuine victims of horrific crimes while at the same time recognizing that false accusations should be taken as seriously as assaults that actually happened. The alleged accusers who are affected lose everything – their careers, their reputation and professional name, their livelihoods – while their accusers often face no retribution. We’re seeing this now, even today. It’s no secret that false rape accusations destroy lives. Text messages reveal that Lindsey Hill falsely accused professional baseball pitcher Trevor Bauer of rape. But the damage has already been done.
Lindsey Hill’s Accusations
Before June 2021, Trevor Bauer’s star was on the rise. Growing up in California, Bauer had a childhood affinity for baseball, so much so that he wanted to go pro. His parents paid for private coaching lessons, he practiced pitching in his spare time, and he was even bullied in school for being “obsessed” with the sport. Bauer later studied mechanical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles while setting unprecedented records as a pitcher, even taking them to the College World Series Championship for the first time in the team’s history.
Bauer was drafted to the Arizona Diamondbacks out of college, and from there, his trajectory only went up. Following his stint with the Diamondbacks, he played with the Cincinnati Reds, the Cleveland Indians, and finally, the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he signed a $102 million contract for three years. It was while he was with the Dodgers that his entire professional career ground furiously to a halt.
Bauer is well-known in the major league baseball community for his reputation, and what some would even call “abrasive” behavior. He has rivalries with a number of fellow players, including one he played with at UCLA, and is described by commentators as being “chronically online.” In the midst of the 2016 election, he was also vocal about his support of Donald Trump, drawing the criticism of many both on social media and in the major league sports world.
That reputation extended to his relationships with women. Prior to 2021, Bauer had two separate allegations of abusive behavior, but none of that began to touch the extremity of the allegations filed against him in 2021. A woman, later identified as Lindsey Hill, alleged in police reports that Bauer sexually assaulted her on two different occasions inside his Pasadena home. She also claimed that he physically abused her by choking her, punched her in the face, and sodomized her. From the beginning, Bauer said that his encounters with Hill were “rough sex” but consensual in nature. A video taken by Hill in bed with a sleeping Bauer, which he says was deliberately hidden during their subsequent legal proceedings, shows her smirking to the camera on the day she claims he raped her.
A month following her allegations, the Dodgers put Bauer on suspended leave, despite no formal charges being filed and Bauer never being arrested. During that time, he was banned from pitching in 194 games, cut down from an original ban of 324 games. In February 2022, prosecutors declined to file charges against him – presumably for lack of evidence. But the damage was already done. Bauer was dropped by the Dodgers (though he continues to receive the remainder of his pay from his contract) and didn’t receive signing offers from any other MLB teams. He now plays for the BayStars, a professional team in Japan.
Following the collapse of any potential criminal charges, Bauer filed a defamation lawsuit against his accuser, and she responded by counter-suing him. On Monday, their dispute was settled with no payment on behalf of either party to the other. As a condition of the lawsuit dissolution, Bauer is now able to speak about the alleged incidents and his accuser. What he has to share, which primarily consists of texts exchanged between Hill and her friends, exonerates him entirely.
“I already have my hooks in. You know how I roll,” Hill texted a friend early on in her and Bauer’s relationship, which was followed up with, “Net worth is 51 mil.” At one point, Hill’s AA sponsor asks her, “Do you feel a tiny bit guilty?” “Not really,” Hill replies.
Are False Allegations Really As Uncommon As We Think?
Lindsey Hill’s false accusations against Trevor Bauer were corroborated by the public before the incident as an official criminal case ever drew breath. Bauer’s reputation and his history with women played a part in convicting him in the court of public opinion.
At heart, we all want to believe women. We should be able to without fear or judgment. But as we’ve seen, believing a claim without any tangible proof is much more common than we like to believe. We’re told that false accusations rarely happen, if ever. That might have been true, once upon a time. But with the advantages the fallout of #MeToo has given women, making false accusations is just too good an opportunity to pass up for some.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center statistic that’s most commonly cited in these instances is that only between 2% and 10% of allegations ever made are fabricated. It’s this statistic that’s used to reinforce that we have to believe all women because, although false allegations happen, they’re happening somewhere else, to someone else. False, destructive, life-ruining accusations do happen, but not as often as you think – or so we’re told.
As much as false accusations are belittled for the greater good of believing all women, it’s likely that many of us personally know someone who’s been affected by these kinds of lies. Make no mistake, in these situations, the goal isn’t to get some kind of perceived justice or to right a wrong. It’s to use a system, whether it be the courts or social media, to burn an individual’s life to the ground and leave nothing behind.
It’s Time We Punish False Accusers
What remedy do the falsely accused have against a system that didn’t believe in innocent until proven guilty or convicted them in every other sense besides a legal ruling? At the moment, there are only a few options.
You can take the route that Trevor Bauer took, i.e., filing a civil lawsuit against the individual, but it’s going to cost you significantly, and there isn’t a guarantee your claim will result in any kind of remedy. Bauer knows this firsthand. “Regardless of the outcome in court, I’ve paid significantly more in legal fees than Lindsey Hill could ever pay me in her entire life,” he says. “I knew that would be the case going in. But the lawsuit was never about the money for me. It was the only way for me to obtain critical information to clear my name.”
Outside a civil setting, law enforcement may choose to file charges against the alleged victim for wasting police time or filing a false report. But this doesn’t occur often, and these charges are often misdemeanors and may result in a fine or probation, not an actual sentence of time in jail.
Suggesting that individuals should receive a sentence on par with what their alleged assailant would’ve received had they been wrongly convicted makes many people angry. We’re told that with as few victims that come forward now due to fear of not being believed, even fewer will report their assaults if we decide to punish false accusers. It’s convoluted, but this is a genuine argument against it.
But a system that would hold a man in prison for a crime he didn’t commit can’t ignore the criminal machinations of so devious a person that would place him there, knowing full well he’s innocent. False accusations have driven people to suicide. It’s dissolved their families, their ability to hold down jobs, put them through undue mental health struggles and addiction.
We can and should enable a system that makes things easier for victims, but we shouldn’t sacrifice the innocent as a penalty for doing so.
#MeToo did many things. It showed a world that had previously turned a blind eye to the horrors of harassment and abuses of power that so many have experienced. But it didn’t stop there. It only emboldened those who would take advantage of this kind of justice, and both victims and advocates of justice should take serious issue with anyone who makes an already dysfunctional system far more difficult for them.
False accusations ruin the lives of those we too easily believe to be abusers, rapists, and manipulators. But it also does a serious disservice to people who’ve actually faced these crimes. It tells them that their trauma and pain are so meaningless that they can be appropriated by anyone, anywhere to obtain money, notoriety, power, and recognition.
We should enable victims to speak up if they choose to do so. But we should also hold to account those who see rape, assault, and trauma not as an evil that needs to be wiped from humanity, but as an opportunity to be capitalized on.
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