Cringe moments

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There’s an intriguing revelation in a recently published YouTube video chat between two Canadian legal experts, speaking about the acquittal of a young male student accused of rape by another student. As part of their Not on Record series on false allegations, criminal defence lawyer Joseph Neuberger talks with legal researcher Diana Davison about the key motivation for the allegation in this case – namely, “a cringe moment”.

Davison explains that cringe moments are all about embarrassment, when people, usually women, are caught out in humiliating sexual situations. She reports that a common thread in many false allegations cases is young women realise they are facing a cringe moment but then decide the easiest way to cover themselves is to allege they have been raped. “You are aware people are going to hear about you and one of the ways to get ahead of the gossip is to say, ‘It’s not my fault. I was assaulted,’” says Davison.

Davison explains that the accuser of the male student they successfully defended was embarrassed after their sexual encounter because she shouldn’t have hooked up with her college roommate’s recent ex-partner. So, she alleged he had raped her despite multiple witnesses reporting she was all over him at the college party, grabbing him by his shirt and pulling him into the empty room, saying “Let’s go, let’s go.”

As Neuberger/Davison’s conversation reveals, the problem with hastily blurted out cover stories is they can so easily become unstuck. That’s what happened to the accuser in their case. She claimed she was too drunk to have consented to sex yet contradictory evidence emerged during the court hearings undermining her story. Funnily enough, as the case progressed a steady stream of her backers moved seats in the courtroom to sit with students and family supporting the accused. Luckily the judge seems to have had similar sentiments and the case was dismissed.

Here in Australia, it is not hard to think of an absolutely spectacular cringe moment, where the young lady in question risked public exposure which was bound to lead to a total media frenzy. How much easier to go public and blame it all on rape, be elevated to victim status and reap all the adoration and riches that then follow.

Men are always responsible

In the Canadian case both the accused and accuser admitted they had sex, but she claimed she couldn’t consent because she’d been drinking. As Neuberger and Davison point out, there’s a lesson here that should worry all parents, particularly those whose children end up going to university and staying in colleges. In Canada, as in Australia, all university students are now required to attend sexual consent courses where they are being taught that if young people drink alcohol and have sex, the young man is inevitably guilty of sexual assault.

Diana Davison explains: “Two people become equally drunk. One, the female, becomes less responsible for their actions and then other, the male, becomes doubly responsible – for her as well as him.”

That’s the message these young people are receiving – providing a ready-made out for any female student suffering a cringe moment such as finding themselves in bed with the wrong man at the wrong time, or ‘regret sex’ of any description. We’re already seeing these cases ending up in court – one I have been following was thrown out here just a few months ago.

It’s chilling how many teenage boys are being charged. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, males aged 15-19 show the highest offender rate for sexual assaults recorded by police. How come the impact on these youngsters’ lives is never discussed?

Cringe moment cases have such worrying implications, demonstrating that these scenarios can easily bring out the worst in young women. That should be enough to terrify all young men – and their parents.