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  1. disasterspark

    disasterspark Active Member

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    Women's rights in the 1930's.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by disasterspark, May 23, 2019.

    I'm writing a character who is a senior in high school. He was just about to graduate until a girl falsely accused him of rape. He didn't do it, but it ruined his life, and lead him down a dark path.

    But would a woman be able to do such a thing during the 1930's? I'm writing a sort of alternate version where a corrupt government takes over.
     
  2. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    I'm having trouble seeing how the heck falsely accusing someone of rape has anything to do with women's rights...

    But to answer the question, it also doesn't ring true because most rape victims, especially during that time period, kept it quiet for fear of scorn and public humiliation, so most didn't report it. Also, the parameters of the legal and societal definitions of rape and sexual assault have changed considerably over the past couple of decades. So for someone during that time period to falsely accuse someone of rape would be extremely rare.
     
  3. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You've more or less hit the nail on the head, here, Shenanigator.

    @disasterspark - If you want to get this absolutely right, you need to do your research—and ensure that you are researching the right thing. Rape laws, etc. Lots of circumstances will matter here. For example, is the woman falsely accusing the man in court, or just spreading false stories about him? (If it's the latter, what recourse would the falsely-accused man have to quell the stories?) You'll need to decide just how much you want to deviate from reality, if you are writing an alternative history. And also decide exactly where you are setting the story, as well as when. Laws and conventions differ, depending on where a person lives/lived.

    I'm afraid there isn't any shortcut to research, really, unless you want to write fantasy and make up your own rules. Do your research. And here's the good news. Research may well throw up ideas you haven't thought of, but you can use them to make your story more compelling and believable. Truth IS often stranger than fiction. :)
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
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  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think there are countless false-accusation situations that would be more plausible. Actual rape doesn’t result in serious consequences for the rapist all that often. A false rape accusation is less likely. One in the thirties is even less likely.
     
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  5. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    It’s plausible if the claim wasn’t public and the woman had a strong enough motive. Perhaps on bequest of her brother because he wanted his fiance? I agree with the above though. I don’t see false accusation made publicly - within a closed circle, or as mere rumour, yeah, I can see that.
     
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  6. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Contributor Contributor

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    It’s also not necessarily the victim who would be making the accusation. Look at the case of Emmet Till: a 14 year old African/American kid, who was lynched for allegedly learing at a white woman. The killers were aquited and years later the woman admitted she made up the whole thing, but that her husband and brother-in-law pushed her too. So, like Jannert said, circumstance will play a big part, so make sure you do all the proper research and get things right.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2019
  7. Friederich Kugelschreiber

    Friederich Kugelschreiber i can edit this now Contributor

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    To Kill A Mockingbird took place in the 30's, and apparently no one has questioned the reality of that story. Granted, the situation there is racially motivated, but I don't see it as utterly impossible that a girl might falsely accuse someone of rape. There were rape laws on the books, back then, and I assume they were used. Anyway, does it have to be rape that she accuses him of? If the others here are correct, maybe it would be better for her to just gossip his reputation to death, or something along those lines.
     
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  8. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    Due to social norms at the time, though, there would be no incentive for a girl to falsely accuse someone of rape. Virginity was still considered at that time a "must" for a girl to be considered to be marriageable, there were very few job opportunities available for women that would allow a woman to support herself, and reporting a rape would require her to admit in court that she was no longer deemed marriageable, and her reputation to be put on trial. In those days, there was certainly much more to be lost than gained by reporting a rape, which is why the racial context matters.
     
  9. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Likewise with the Tulsa Race Riot:

    "It is alleged that at some time about or after 4 PM, 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner employed at a Main Street shine parlor, entered the only elevator of the nearby Drexel Building at 319 South Main Street to use the top-floor restroom, which was restricted to black people. He encountered Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator on duty. The two likely knew each other at least by sight, as this building was the only one nearby with a restroom to which Rowland had express permission to use, and the elevator operated by Page was the only one in the building. A clerk at Renberg's, a clothing store on the first floor of the Drexel, heard what sounded like a woman's scream and saw a young black man rushing from the building. The clerk went to the elevator and found Page in what he said was a distraught state. Thinking she had been assaulted, he summoned the authorities.[1]"

    The police investigation didn't find an assault had taken place, and Page herself declined to press charges. However, the clerk's assumption and a sensationalist editorial in the Tulsa Tribune set off a series of events which saw Dick Rowland nearly get lynched, 35 blocks of "Black Wall Street" burned to the ground, and upwards of 300 deaths.

    OP, I think your best bet to make this work is to play the racial angle, given how hair trigger things could be in this era.

    If you don't go that route, I think the motives behind the accusation need to be very carefully thought out. As Shenanigator noted, social norms meant there was a lot to lose in making even a true accusation. Whatever those motives are, the benefits have to outweigh the risks.

    Not much comes to mind there. Maybe an affair with a married woman which gets outed, and she accuses him of rape to protect her own reputation. The social and legal consequences of adultery in this era would be worse than the stigma that came with being a victim, so there's a somewhat conceivable incentive for the accusation.
     
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  10. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    Basically, concentration camps.

    Really look into how the Great Depression would've impacted the family, and consequently the position of women in the household and in broader society.

    I've had an idea in my mental incubator for some time now that I imagine to be sort of like "The Crucible" but set today, and not dealing with witches but with more relevant issues. Of course, I need to bring something to the table, and not just rip off the homework of a great classic by changing some words and doing some rephrasing.

    If you want my advice - since it sounds to me like your idea may be similar in regards to the issues it is dealing with - have your story take place yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Or at least in the last couple years. Not in the 30s.

    And while there's a great big debate over rights in general right now, keep in mind that it doesn't entirely overlap with false rape accusations. It's like a Venn diagram. Pay careful attention to where they play into one another, and where they don't, so that your story resonates true with readers, rather than coming across as some reactionary political propaganda. The politics come second; focus on getting to the heart of the issues. The human elements, and the inner and outer struggles that the characters must navigate. The political issues spawn from that, so if you don't properly lay the groundwork, it'll seem hollow or heavy handed.

    That deepest core I'm talking about is why The Crucible is still relevant, by the way. Of course, if I'm not mistaken, it can be argued that Arthur Miller was commenting on McCarthy and the problems of his time.

    How can false accusations undermine genuine victims? This is a big question that I would advise you give some deep thought.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2019
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  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I’m wondering why the false accusation needs to be about rape ?
     
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  12. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

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    People make stupid decisions all the time without considering all the ways in which it could backfire. I would assume a lot of false-accusers today don't consider the monstrous negative impacts that will befall you if one is caught in a lie. Especially about rape. Especially with your name and face potentially being blasted on every television screen across the country because journalism today has no moral compass and follows no ethical code. "Hear ye hear ye, this here woman of New York is an evil deceiver. Let it be proclaimed as far and as wide as Seattle and Miami and Houston." Let alone the internet.

    If you think it'd present a difficulty of marriageability in the 30's, believe me, no guy knowingly wants anything to do with a girl who might wake up one day and arbitrarily decide to try and ruin your life with one of the worst accusations imaginable. An accusation that in this day and age doesn't even need to be proved true for it to destroy you. It's a similar kind of reputation destruction that happens with the word "slut".

    No girl wants anything to do with a guy who is accused of rape, let alone convicted. Rightfully so.

    No guy wants anything to do with a girl who is a malicious, sinister liar.

    I agree with you though that there really isn't a great comparison between To Kill a Mockingbird and a false-rape-accusation in the 30's.

    Now, To Kill a Mockingbird and a false-rape-accusation today? A lot more in common if one doesn't restrict themselves to examining it only through a racial lens.

    This is one of the many reasons why I concur with the other comments that it would be in the best interest of @disasterspark to consider placing his story in the present day. Of course, the OP also said he's writing an *alternate reality* of the 30's with a corrupt government, so... all I can respectfully say about that is to forget it; from what information the OP has made privy to us, there doesn't appear to be a need to construe this whole alternate reality when the present day provides a perfectly good setting for exploring these real issues.
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    :stop:

    We aren't having the incel debate here, okay, we just aren't - I will thread ban the next person/people to try and take this thread off topic.
     
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  14. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    For the OP, if the falsely accused crime has to be rape (which I highly suggest changing to another crime), you really need to study the social norms of the 1930s, as well as read and study the social impact aspects of the accounts of rape victims. The reason I recommend studying their accounts is because reading the social aspects of victims would help you better understand why it would be so unlikely that a woman in the 1930s would falsely accuse someone, and therefore would help you determine why someone would go against all of that so you could craft a believable character. (Personally, I think they'd have to be certifiably insane, there would be so much against them.) It simply wasn't a subject that was talked about, let alone reported.

    ETA: To give you an idea of how long these social norms persisted, this TV movie from 1974 is credited with changing human rights legislation for rape victims:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Case_of_Rape
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That said it did happen occasionally - theres a bit in Papillion (which was in the late 30s early 40s) where a warders wife is having an affair with a prisoner and when her husband catches them together claims it was rape not consential on her part... the prisoner gets sentenced to death if i recall correctly
     
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  16. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Is the idea that the characters had consensual sex and the girl later said it was rape? Or that they never had sex at all and the girl made up the rape story? The first scenario seems much more likely than the second, in that time period.
     
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  17. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that a false accusation of, for example, murder, would cause far more harm.
     
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  18. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    True.

    For the OP, setting will play a major role as well. As an example, the social norms and potential consequences in a small-c conservative Bible belt town in the US would be potentially different from an area with a large creative subculture.
     
  19. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    It's interesting to me that the same issues that make it so difficult to prosecute rape cases in our current legal environment--problems with proving intent, state of mind, what exactly happened in a he-said-she-said setting--also apply to prosecuting false accusations of rape.

    Like, with a murder, there's generally a body, or at least a person missing where a person should be. If there's a body, and if there's no natural cause of death, the prima facie case for murder is pretty clear. We may not know who committed the murder, but if there's a body with a knife in it, we can be reasonably sure that somebody did.

    Rape doesn't tend to be as easily established, except for in very violent cases of aggravated assault PLUS rape. Rape is a charge based on lack of consent - it's pretty rare for someone to consent to be killed, but quite common for someone to consent to sex, so there are extra challenges in a rape case that don't come up with other crimes.

    But the same applies to false accusations of rape. The same legal principles that protect rapists may also protect the very small number of people who make false rape accusations. Interesting.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
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