I just came across this story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (h/t), and I am absolutely fuming. A woman was raped at gunpoint while working for a convenience store, and reported her rape — as, you know, cops, the government, and well-meaning people are always encouraging her and other rape victims to do. Her rape was even “real” rape — since, you know, it was at gunpoint and committed by a total stranger and therefore lacking most sufficient “gray areas.”
But still, the police did not believe the victim. Worse, they didn’t just laugh at her, as many other victims report happening to them. They didn’t ask her if she really deserved it for X reason, or if she had sex with the gunman consensually and then just regretted it later. They didn’t ask her if she really wanted to press charges, because hey, this could ruin this man’s life, you know! All of these are outcomes far more than bad enough, and which still happen far too often, but didn’t happen here.
Instead, they accused her of a false report and put her in jail.
While she was in jail, her rapist went out and raped more women, and was eventually caught. Luckily for this first woman, her trial had not yet come up, and the charges were dropped. Unfortunately for the other women, you know, they were raped. And their rapes could have possibly been prevented if the first woman had just been believed and not locked up in jail.
So the first woman, she filed a lawsuit. As makes perfect sense. But now the case has just been dismissed, and it has been ruled that no one is liable for this woman’s false imprisonment (emphasis mine):
Cranberry Solicitor Vicki Beatty confirmed yesterday that a summary judgment was issued by the court on Tuesday, dismissing the case and lifting liability from all parties in the suit, including the township, its police department and its employees.
Ms. Reedy had reached a settlement of $45,000 in February 2007 from an insurance company representing Butler County, which also had been a party in the federal suit.
[. . .]
Cranberry Manager Jerry Andree said the “whole situation was horrible and unfortunate but hindsight is 20-20. The police deals with hard circumstances all the time and it’s easy to second-guess. [This decision] shows that what happened didn’t rise to the level of the police being legally liable.”
Yeah, you know what’s really easy to do? Even easier — much easier, in fact — than second guessing police actions? Not jailing a woman who has just reported rape because you don’t believe her. The first time around.
To take a page out of the book of Marcella’s usually spectacular analysis of all things rape apologist and denialist, these cops who were so concerned that this rape victim was “filing false charges” apparently had no problem filing false charges against her with absolutely no evidence to back up their claim. Clearly, “false reports” of actual crimes are taken much more seriously than real false reports by the police. Seemingly, it does matter that rather than doing an investigation, which likely could have verified her accusation rather easily, police instead failed to do that investigation and made their own accusation based on assumption.
Assumptions of what, I don’t know. How she was acting during reporting? How much physical evidence there was? Whether or not there was a sufficient number of impartial male witnesses present to the rape? It’s an interesting and even important question, but one that is not hugely relevant at the moment. Because the fact is that whatever the assumption was, it needs to be eradicated from law enforcement just like all assumptions regarding rape. Assumptions that just don’t seem to happen with any other crime. Eradicating one of those assumptions, even if it’s what drove the decision in this particular case, just isn’t going to be enough.
This woman has $45,000. Whoopty fucking doo. Though that sounds like a lot of money to a lot of us — and it is — I don’t see how that’s supposed to make up for this woman’s trauma. Not that holding the police force and the people who made this decision legally liable would have just gone and erased it all, either. But it would have meant a lot more. It would have been actual acknowledgment of what was done and the fact that it never should have happened, which cannot possibly be overstated, and a far more tangible step to ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.
The courts just denied her that acknowledgment and prevention of future injustice. Which makes twice now, that she was denied both of those things by our legal system.
And people have the gall to wonder why more victims don’t report.