The woman who cried rape

False sexual assault accusations are a feminist issue

Published December 10, 2009 12:01AM (EST)

We've all heard various renditions of the story of the woman who cried rape. It's often dubiously told by men from behind bars, but sometimes it comes straight from the accuser herself. This week, a new version that falls into the latter category is making the rounds: On Monday, 27-year-old Biurny Peguero of New Jersey pleaded guilty to perjury after her false allegation about a gang rape sent William McCaffrey, an innocent man, to jail. He served three years of a 20 year sentence before she came forward with her confession.

It all began in September 2005, when Peguero went out drinking with friends. In the wee hours of the morning, she ran into McCaffrey and he invited her to an early-morning party. She ditched her pals and drove off with him -- but when they started blowing up her cellphone, presumably wondering where she had gone, she had McCaffrey drive her back to meet up with them. That did nothing to diffuse the situation, however: Upon her return, Peguero and her friends got into a physical brawl that involved hitting and biting. One woman even kicked and broke her car window during the clash. At one point, it's unclear why, one of her pals asked whether the man Peguero had disappeared with had raped her; she said "yes" to garner sympathy, according to court documents.

From there, news reports suggest that the lie spun out of control or something -- but such life-destroying dishonesty doesn't (casual shrug) just happen. Before she fessed up, it took repeatedly telling her story to police, lying to a grand jury, testifying during a rape trial, sitting through the falsely accused's brutal sentencing and twiddling her thumbs for three years while an innocent man sat behind bars. It was only upon guidance by a Catholic priest that she decided to turn herself in. Now, she rightfully faces a maximum punishment of seven years in prison.

Feminists are often characterized as applying the "guilty until proven innocent" rule to rape cases and the "innocent until proven guilty" standard to allegations of a woman crying rape. But mark this feminist's words: Some women lie about sexual assault and some rapists go free -- but the response in either case shouldn't split down gender lines.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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