What’s Fair Punishment For Lying About Rape?

The Hofstra University freshman who lied about a gang rape and sent four innocent young men to jail won’t spend any time behind bars herself. Last week, a prosecutor opted not to file criminal charges against Danmel Ndonye, 18, in exchange for her undergoing one year of mental health treatment and performing 250 hours of community service. Here’s what happened: A few weeks ago, Ndonye told her boyfriend she had been lured to a dormitory bathroom by five guys and gang-raped. Police arrested four of her alleged accusers and were on the hunt for the fifth. When a cell-phone video emerged of Ndonye having consensual sex with the men, she admitted she’d made the whole thing up. In the understatement of the year, the Long Island District Attorney Kathleen Rice called Ndonye “a deeply troubled woman.”

No kidding! She’s also lucky she’s only 18, since she’s skirting harsher punishment because of her age. In a statement, District Attorney Rice said, “Because of the youthful offender provision in the law, a misdemeanor charge doesn’t hold this girl accountable and it wouldn’t require that she get the treatment that she needs.” [myFoxNewYork.com]

Ndonye’s a lucky girl not to get any jail time. But is her punishment fair?

As a woman, I can’t identify at all with what it feels like to be a man falsely accused of rape. It’s totally out of my sphere of reference, but it must be hell.

Honestly, though, I get more worked up when I think about what Ndonye just did for women’s reputations because I do understand what it’s like to be afraid you won’t be believed if you are raped. Women and girls have always feared not being believed when they report rape or sexual abuse; they get accused of trying to get attention, extorting money, or having “asked for it.” Just think of all the women who aren’t believed when they accuse famous sports players (Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger) of sexual assault! Fear of not being believed surely accounts for why the Rape And Incest National Network (RAINN) says 60 percent of sexual assaults aren’t reported to the police (according to a statistical average over the past five years) and why, of the 39 percent of raped reported to police, there is only a 16 percent chance the rapist will end up in prison. So, congratulations, Ndonye, you just made it that much harder for women who have actually been raped to be believed.

Of course, locking her up in a jail cell won’t change that and it’s not really fair to put the weight of that stereotype all on her shoulders. Justice may indeed be served better if Ndonye has to do her community service by helping women who really have been raped.

Still, I do have some sympathy for Ndonye, based on my curiosity about why she lied in the first place. Why didn’t she just fess up when she was confronted by her boyfriend about it? He told the New York Post she lied because “she probably felt like, ‘They’ll think I’m a slut.’” I’m probably alone in feeling this way, but it’s really troubling to me that in our culture being called a slut is considered something so horrible this chick would nearly send five innocent men to jail over it.

What do you think? Is community service and therapy a fair punishment for someone who lies about getting raped?