On Saturday, the girl told police a chilling story: four men in their late teens to early 20s had driven up to her in a Buick, forced her into the car at gunpoint, and driven around for hours, finally stopping in an unfamiliar place where two of them raped her. Coming on the heels of the brutal gang rape at Richmond High School's homecoming dance in October, her story raised terrifying questions. Could there be copycat rapists as there are sometimes copycat murders — men who witnessed or heard about October's rape and, instead of being disgusted, were inspired? Could an event like that poison a community, rather than spurring it to change?
Except: it looks like the second rape never happened. The girl who made the accusation now says she did have sex, but she wasn't raped, and she needed an excuse for why she was getting home so late that night. Her story no longer echoes the Richmond gang rape — now it's a repeat of the Hofstra freshman's false rape allegation in September. The Richmond girl is underage — police are investigating whether she may have been a victim of statutory rape — so she's likely to get a bit less vitriol than the Hofstra accuser. But if her second story is true (and police say surveillance cameras confirm the first is false), then she's likely to become the latest poster child for the idea that girls make rape up. And Richmond becomes not a rape cluster, but yet another place where rape and false rape allegations converge into a knot of mistrust and fear. In the coming days, everyone there would do well to remember what Amanda Hess wrote in the wake of the Hofstra scandal: "people concerned about rape and people concerned about fake rape accusations are both fighting against the same thing: rape culture."
Image: Students walking past a sign at Richmond High School, via AP.