This week, the Washington Post ran a story exposing the obscene lack of journalistic ethics that went into creating Rolling Stone’s exposé of a fictional rape on the campus of the University of Virginia. Using writer Sabrina Erdely’s notes – released through court documents – the Post showed how truth took a backseat to a juicy story.

Erdely’s notes reveal how many red flags she and her editors had to ignore to get this story published. They were apparently not troubled by the “victim’s” refusal to name her attacker or to come up with any witnesses who could back up her claims. They were not bothered by the fact that she had no scars from being raped for hours on a bed of shattered glass. They didn’t find it odd that the “victim” herself alluded to a television show’s plot that bore some direct similarities to her own tale. And they didn’t listen to UVA students who told them that the “victim” had changed her story several times.

As far as this specific story is concerned, there’s no real reason to put Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely through the wringer again. Anyone with a decent memory will remember this sad work of fiction, and they will judge the culprits appropriately in the future.

Rolling Stone’s reputation may not be a serious concern for the nation, but the factors that led to this fabrication must be addressed.

One of those factors – liberal media bias – has been well-documented.

The other, though, should not be overlooked.

It’s the trend of exempting rape victims – and only rape victims – from the same standard of scrutiny that we apply to every other person who accuses someone of a crime. The reason for the trend is clear: it’s an overcorrection from the days when rape claims frequently failed to stick, even when there was abundant evidence. But an understandable error is still an error.

You’ll hear feminists minimize the frequency of false rape accusations, just as you’ll hear them scoff at the level of harm done by them. Even when they acknowledge that people are having their lives ruined, they insist that it is better to snare a few innocent men than to let a single rape go unpunished.

If you or someone you love has been raped, that argument probably has a certain amount of emotional resonance.

But our rule of law does not bend to vengeful emotions, no matter how human and forgivable those emotions are. And innocent people should not be forced to pay the price for someone else’s crime.

Okay, but the feminists don’t agree. Here’s why they should.

By loosening the standards of plausibility for rape victims – by gradually shifting the burden of proof in rape cases from the accuser to the accused – we will inevitably see a rise in false accusations. Following the current trend, those accusers will not be punished when their stories are discredited. Which, in turn, will also inspire more false accusations. Eventually, we’re going to be right back at that place where a woman yells “rape” and everyone says, “Sure, sure, honey.” And then – emboldened by a culture that is strongly skeptical of rape claims – actual rapists will feel more secure than ever.

When your big solution to a national problem involves turning the basic foundation of our criminal justice system upside down, you probably need a different solution. Don’t correct an injustice with another injustice.