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 that are reported are false; 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 someone reports a rape and later recants it, he or she is often assumed to have falsely reported the rape, and is punished. The perceived liar is punished because he or she no longer wants to go through with the process, most likely in fear of losing and being exposed. In reality, he or she is telling the truth and is just giving up the fight. This may be because the victim doesn’t want to subject his or her life to judgment by outsiders. These outsiders include police officers that are investigating the crime reported. When investigating a rape report, it is common for officers’ brutal judgment to further contribute to flawed reports. 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 victims into saying things that can be misconstrued, forcing them to appear as though they are lying.
Sara Reedy’s experience symbolizes the consequences of the harshness investigators often express toward victims. The authorities punished Reedy after she was attacked, even though she was completely innocent. In July of 2004, 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. At the hospital, a detective questioned Reedy. Reedy wasn’t the picture perfect victim, so the detective was quick to make judgments. Instead of taking time to sympathize and hear Reedy out, the detective discredited her and accused her of stealing the money and inventing the story as a cover-up, despite the incriminating evidence that was found at the scene of the crime. In fact, when he first interviewed her, the detective asked Reedy how often she “used dope” and where the stolen money was, insinuating that she was at fault. Since they believed Reedy was lying, the police charged her with theft and filing a false report. The officers’ unsympathetic attitudes and insensitivity sent Reedy to jail. A year later, Reedy’s attacker struck again. Fortunately he was caught, and he subsequently 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 not have endured more trauma.
In another tragedy, an innocent young woman was punished and humiliated because of the lack of sensitivity and understanding in investigating police officers. In August 2008, the 18-year-old woman was attacked in her apartment that was part of an at-risk youth program in Lynnwood, Washington. The attacker broke into her apartment, gagged her, used shoelaces to bind her hands together, and raped her. All of the evidence was left at the scene; the shoelace, the gag, and even the sheets of the woman’s bed. In addition, there were injuries to her wrists and genitals. She did what she thought was the right thing by reporting the crime to the police. However, the unnamed woman said that detectives Jerry Rittgarn and Sgt. Jeff Mason didn’t believe her story. Instead she felt they were compelling her to recant her story. Again, the investigators were quick to judge the woman without sympathy. The woman felt as though she was in the wrong, and that she had no choice but to follow the instruction from the authorities to recant her report. Even though she knew what happened and had the physical trauma to prove it, she was wrongly instructed to pretend like the nightmare never happened. Following these instructions resulted in being fined $500 and charged with filing a false report. The innocent woman was punished for listening to the authorities’ insensitive instructions. 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. In reality, the woman was just showing signs of traumatization. She was gagged and raped by a man; it’s very likely she may have 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 mouth.” Two and a half years later, a man was arrested in Colorado for several rapes when police 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. If the police officers had trusted her integrity and studied the objective evidence gathered, the 18-year-old would never had to go through more trauma.
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 he or she wasn’t raped, or capable of raping someone. In fact, if someone is under the influence, he or she is 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. Plus, they completely ignore the fact that men can be rape victims too, and they do not explicitly mention reasons as to why they would falsely report a rape. In either way, the police department acts ignorantly by dismissing women’s integrity.
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.