The Penalty for Falsely Crying Rape: Prison

What Women Really Think
Dec. 8 2009 2:29 PM

The Penalty for Falsely Crying Rape: Prison

Biurny Gonzalez testified in 2006 that a man named William McCaffrey raped her after taking her for a drive late one night. McCaffrey was convicted and sent to prison for 20 years. The drive happened but the rape didn't. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to perjury Monday . She faces a prison sentence of two to seven years. She could also be deported to the Dominican Republic where she was born, though she is a legal resident in the United States.

What prompted the lie? Gonzalez says that friends she'd gone out with that night got angry with her - a fight among them broke a car window - and that " she wanted the group to feel badly ." Then "the lie became too big for her to back out of." But the guilt, apparently, became too big, too. McCaffrey has been incredibly gracious in commending Gonzalez for coming forward to tell the truth. Should Gonzalez have to do every day of prison time that McCaffrey did? Will this story help deter other women who might be tempted to make up a rape story, or will the harsh penalty scare the ones who falsely cry rape ( a minority, to be sure ) from coming forward?

Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.