Note: we are republishing this story to raise awareness about false accusation of rape. US-based studies estimate the prevalence of false reporting is between 2-10%. More on this here: https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_False-Reporting.pdf
Former West Point cadet Susan Shannon claimed that she had been raped by a fellow cadet in 1986 while they were at the military academy. Her claims came amid a storm of media scrutiny of the prominence of sexual assault in the military, sparking a criminal investigation into the Army career of the fellow cadet she accused of rape.
However, a Virginia court maintained that her claims were untrue, and found Shannon guilty of defamation. She was ordered to pay $8.4 million in defamation damages. A Fairfax County jury ruled in favor of retired Col. David “Wil” Riggins, who filed a lawsuit when he found out that he would not be considered for nomination for promotion to one-star general after Shannon’s post caught the attention of Army leadership.
According to the lawsuit: “The allegations of rape were investigated by U.S. Army [Criminal Investigation Command], and it was determined that there was no testimonial or physical evidence to corroborate Defendant Susan Shannon‘s statements concern Colonel David W. Riggins.”
The blog post, titled “Short Little Rebel,” claimed that Riggins raped her after she’d blacked out on campus after drinking beer at Eisenhower Hall. “I felt the need to tell the story about a rape of a soldier I personally know: that soldier is me,” the post read. “The man who raped me, Will riggings [sic], class of 1987, is now a Colonel in the Army. The rape is the reason I left West Point. So, while his military career is soaring, I left mine far behind.”
Riggins poked holes in Shannon’s story, stating in the lawsuit that cadets are never served beer on campus and, at the time, were not allowed to drink at all. He added that he did not own a car and couldn’t have had one on campus to drive her home that night, as per her allegations.
“When pressed on the details as to what happened, Susan Shannon does not state that she actually recalls the alleged rape by David W. Riggins,” the lawsuit stated. ”Rather, she only asserts that she woke up the next morning and concluded that she had sexual intercourse with someone the night before.”
In reality, the lawsuit stated, Riggins maintained that they had dated briefly before she left West Point to pursue medical school. The jury ruled that Shannon’s post had defamed Riggins, damaging his career and livelihood.
She was ordered to pay him $3.4 million in compensation and $5 million in punitive damages.
However, under Virginia law, the actual damages she will pay will probably top out at $2.3 million. Her attorneys are planning an appeal.
Sources: Army Times