Women are Liars and Cheats, Right?
Falsely reported rapes are, unfortunately, a reality that is a part of rape culture. However, only 2 to 8 percent of rapes are falsely reported; a statistic that is little known to the public. Of those that know this statistic, many do not believe it is true and insist that far more rapes are falsely reported. Part of this thinking is the dilemma of recanting a rape report. When a woman or a man reports a rape and later recants it, they are immediately assumed to have falsely reported a rape and are punished, either socially or legally.
In legal terms, there are many reasons to why a rape is believed to be a false report. The Philadelphia police department’s response as to why 52% of rape reports were dismissed as “unfounded” explains some reasons: “The victim reports while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (although studies have shown that in 55 percent of rape cases, alcohol or drugs are involved; in acquaintance rape cases, that number is sometimes as high as 80 to 90 percent). Young women report rape to cover up truancy, pregnancy, lost money or sexual precocity. Adult women report rape to cover up infidelity, indiscretion, lateness or pregnancy. A rape is reported so that the survivor can obtain an abortion or the morning-after pill free of charge. Women report rape to ‘obtain revenge’ on a man who has ‘done her wrong,’ or to make her partner ‘feel guilty’ after a ‘lover’s quarrel.’ Girls lie about rape all the time, for reasons ‘known only to [themselves].’” All of these reasons are accountable, and there are indeed instances where false rapes are reported. However, for the Philadelphia police department to find over half of the rape reports as false or improbable is unfair; there are holes in their reasoning. For starters, finding a rape to be unfounded because alcohol was involved is absurd. Just because someone is drunk or high doesn’t mean they weren’t raped, or capable of raping someone. In fact, if someone is under the influence, they are found to be unable to give proper consent. In addition, the Philadelphia police department disregards the accuser’s credibility by saying that “girls lie about rape all the time” for unknown reasons. These reasons may be that she is mentally ill and needs further assistance to help her deal with her illness. Or, the girl may not know what constitutes rape and may be mistaken. Either way, the police department acts ignorantly by dismissing women’s integrity.
The Philadelphia police department’s ignorance presents another issue in disbelieving rape reports, which includes the harshness police officers and investigators may portray when interviewing the accusers. Often times, when victims report a rape to the police they are quickly questioned without sensitivity and sympathy. The brash attitudes of the interviewers may pressure the victim of rape into saying things that can be misconstrued, forcing them to appear as though they are making up facts and are lying. For example, in July of 2004 Sara Reedy was sexually assaulted at gunpoint while she was working at a local petrol station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The attacker stole money from the cash register, forced himself on her, and then left. The detective who interviewed Reedy didn’t believe her and accused her of stealing the money and invented the story as a cover-up, despite the incriminating forensic evidence that was never tested. Reedy was charged with theft and filing a false report and was jailed. A year later, the Reedy’s attacker struck again and was caught, and actually admitted to assaulting Reedy. If the police hadn’t been ignorant to Reedy’s situation and didn’t jump to conclusions based off of judgment of appearance, Reedy would have never been degraded, jailed, and would have not gone through more trauma. Plus, her attacker may have not struck again.
In another instance, in August 2008, an 18-year-old woman was gagged, bound, and raped in her apartment that was part of an at-risk youth program in Lynnwood, Washington. After reporting the attack to the police, the unnamed woman said, “detectives Jerry Rittgarn and Sgt. Jeff Mason didn’t believe her. Claiming police coerced her into recanting her story, the woman was charged with false reporting and fined $500 when she later tried to insist the rape did happen.” Then, two and a half years later, a man was arrested in Colorado for several rapes, when they found pictures of the Lynnwood woman, as well as her ID card in his possession. He was found guilty and is serving a 327-year sentence. In order to find the young woman’s horrible experience true, her attacker had to strike again. The only reason she recanted her story was because of misperception on her part and lack of compassion on the investigators’, which caused the young woman to feel pressured and in the wrong. Based on the report, the young woman was portraying signs that she was lying, like not looking the police officer in the eye and inappropriate body language. When actually, she was just showing signs of traumatization. She had just been gagged and raped by a man; she probably felt uncomfortable opening up to a man in authority, like a police officer. Especially if that man in authority was showing signs of disbelief and was putting “words in her moth.” If the police officers had trusted her integrity and studied the objective evidence gathered (injuries to wrists and genitals, sheets, shoelace used to bound her hands, and the gag), the 18-year-old would never had to go through more trauma.
Matchar, Emily. “’Men’s Rights’ Activists Are Trying to Redefine the Meaning of Rape.” New Republic. 26 February 2014. Web. 9 November 2015.
Hallett, Stephanie. “Do Women Lie About Rape?” Ms. Magazine. 7 April 2011. Web. 9 November 2015.
Walters, Joanne. “Sara Reedy, the rape victim accused of lying and jailed by US police, wins $1.5m in payout.” The Guardian. 15 December 2012. Web. 9 November 2015.
Carter, Mike. “Woman sues after Lynnwood police didn’t believe she was raped.” The Seattle Times. 12 June 2013. Web. 9 November 2015.