Editorial: Mean girls victimize us all
Raise your hand if you were personally victimized by a mean girl.
The Tina Fey-penned Lindsay Lohan movie “Mean Girls” is the mother of a thousand memes. It’s one of those movies where people of a certain age can just start sputtering lines at each other and it puts you right back into the first time you saw it, or right back into the halls at your own high school, navigating cliques and dealing with the popular kids who ran it.
It’s funny because it’s exaggerated but it’s also a little bit real.
It’s not funny for a boy who is being homeschooled in Butler County.
Where the characters in the movie lied and manipulated each other casually and with consequences that were wrapped up in two hours to a happily ever after, that’s not what Michael and Alecia Flood say happened to their son. In a federal lawsuit filed this week, the couple demand justice for false claims of indecent assault, simple assault, criminal trespass and harassment that five girls either levied or backed up in two separate incidents.
These claims had consequences. The boy went to juvenile detention. He was kicked off the baseball team. He was kept on house arrest.
Three of the girls later admitted to lying, according to the suit. They were not charged for it. That’s part of the suit, too.
This is exactly the kind of case people point to when a high profile sex crime is alleged.
See, they say. Girls lie. Girls are devious. Girls are mean.
They aren’t wrong. Some girls do lie. Some girls are mean. But just as they caution that every man is not a predator and can’t be assumed to be an attacker, and that everyone accused of a crime has to have a presumption of innocence, we have to answer back the same about the accusers.
Some girls do lie. It’s true. Other girls tell the truth. Most girls tell the truth. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates between 2-10 percent of reports are “false.”
The wide range in those numbers is because not every police department follows the FBI guidelines for what is false versus what is unfounded. An unfounded report may be one of those just made up, yes, but it may also include those where not enough evidence was found to charge someone, or the victim decided not to prosecute, or because the case didn’t move forward in other ways.
And that is why girls that lie hurt everyone.
They hurt the boy they lie about. They hurt his parents. They hurt their school and the justice system. Maybe more than anything else, they hurt all of the other girls and women who will be dismissed as liars simply because they made an accusation, and hey, girls lie.
Girls who lie make it possible to reduce every real story of victimization to a “Yeah, if it’s true” dismissal. They make a predator’s motives less important than those of the person reporting a crime, and all of it comes together to make it less likely that a sexual assault will be reported.