When the #MeToo movement went viral last year, opponents of the movement used false rape accusations as a counter-narrative. Recently, the #HimToo has been used by both male and female critics of the #MeToo movement to draw attention to instances of false accusation.
The #HimToo movement, if you can even call it a movement, is the #AllLivesMatter of the #MeToo movement. The way that #AllLivesMatter attempts to diminish the disproportionate amount of police violence black people face, #HimToo tries to take away the legitimacy of the #MeToo movement by drawing attention to the minuscule number of men who are falsely accused. The irony of the hashtag is that it was originally used to draw attention to male survivors of abuse, but around the time of the Kavanaugh hearings in early October, it was appropriated by critics of the #MeToo movement.
There is no harm in acknowledging that false accusations do happen. The problem lies in using them as a counter-narrative to the #MeToo movement. It creates a false equivalency between the two issues. When we continue to talk about harassment and false accusations in the same breath, it perpetuates the extremely harmful idea that women have used the #MeToo movement to “get revenge on a guy or give attention to themselves.” Statements like these show complete ignorance toward the obstacles survivors face when they come forward with their stories of harassment or abuse. Fear of reporting is so strong that only 12 percent of female college students ever report their assaults to the police. One of the dangers of using false accusations to discredit accusations of sexual assault is that it scares people away from taking action on their cases of abuse and harassment. Reasons for not coming forward are unique for each survivor, but research has shown that fear of not being believed is a key reason many sexual assault survivors stay silent.
There is very little research on how many accusations of abuse and harassment are false. One of the more recent studies used FBI data from 2006 to 2010 and found that “approximately 5 percent of the allegations of rape were deemed false or baseless.” This is on par with other kinds of crime. False accusations of rape are no more prevalent than false accusations of burglary. The reason people use these rare cases of false accusations to counter sexual assault rather than burglary should be blatantly obvious. It is the product of a culture where we are quick to question a sexual assault accuser and believe the accused.
If you want to talk about men in terms of the #MeToo movement, then let’s talk about the one in six men who will be assaulted at some point in their life. Because a man is more likely to be sexually assaulted than be falsely accused of it.