Actual Rape Victim Jailed for “False Report”

by Cara on April 3, 2009

in courts, law enforcement, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, violence against women and girls

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.

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{ 44 comments }

1 frau sally benz April 3, 2009 at 9:47 am

This is absolutely ridiculous! So now in addition to the ridicule, harassment, doubt, etc. that rape victims are already subjected to, they have to consider jail as a possible consequence?! What a wonderful country we live in…

The most problematic part of this story is the fact that they arrested her instead of doing any real investigating. It would at least make sense (though it’d be no less insensitive) if they tried to investigate, didn’t come up with anything and then arrested her. But the fact that they completely skipped those steps is incredible to me.

I quickly want to point out that this also goes to the problem of trusting the police. Why would you report anything – especially sexual assault, violence, or harassment – if you might be arrested yourself?

2 Ashley April 3, 2009 at 9:58 am

This is ridiculous. Can we start a letter-writing campaign to have the officers who did this fired, and to get the PD to have their officers trained (by Joanne Archambault) in sexual assault response? I’m not big on retaliatory action, but these guys simply are not qualified to be police officers, and they shouldn’t be in that position. I would be happy to post to SAFER blog as well…

3 Cara April 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

Ashley, you’re far more up on the whole “organizing” angle than I am, but if you’ve got some ideas, email me and we’ll talk.

4 abyss2hope April 3, 2009 at 10:08 am

This is definitely a false accusation, and as you did, we need to label these types of wrongful arrests based on investigator bigotry and incompetence as false accusations so that it reflects the reality that false accusations related to rape are too freguently made against those who have been raped.

Cranberry Manager Jerry Andree is wrong in his assessment of this lawsuit dismissal. It proves nothing except that police malpractice is too often dismissed as a mistake.

Using Ashley’s example from the WAM workshiop, we can work to change these system by asking for police procedures to change so that a full investigation must be done before an alleged victim is treated as a suspect. Then we can’t stop asking until we get what we ask for.

The reason I would report if I were raped in my town is that I know that my police force has well-trained investigators and I would know not to report to anyone but one of their trained investigators.

5 abyss2hope April 3, 2009 at 10:15 am

Thanks, Ashley for commenting. I will gladly help spread the word about any call for action.

Here’s my post on a report that’s a must read for anyone who wants to know more about bad practices because of assumptions about false reports.

6 SunlessNick April 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

And people have the gall to wonder why more victims don’t report.

Almost half the women I know have been raped or sexually assaulted – that I know of (and not counting women I’ve encountered online at sites like this). Not a single one has reported.

This is a fucking sick travesty.

7 OuyangDan April 3, 2009 at 10:50 am

I am fucking speechless. And that is saying something.

I will gladly pass on and support any call to action.

8 Maggie April 3, 2009 at 1:08 pm

ditto on the letter-writing campaign. I’d be happy to contribute as well.

9 KA101 April 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm

First thing they taught us to do in undergrad: when a rape victim reports the rape to you, BELIEVE THEM.

Cranberry Twp contact info:
Jeffrey Schueler, Director of Public Safety Jeff.Schueler@cranberrytownship.org 724-776-5180 x1408

Jerry Andree, Township Manager
Jerry.Andree@cranberrytownship.org
724-776-4806 x1108

[Can't find the solicitor yet. Working on it.]

10 KA101 April 3, 2009 at 2:11 pm

OK, found the solicitor at work (she isn’t in the township directory). I’d take a wild guess that Vicki.Beatty@cranberrytownship.org might reach her in her solicitor capacity.

[Requesting guidance: would posting the work info be overly broad? At some level this legwork feels like stalking.]

Found via Shakesville, incidentally, and cross-commenting these back there.

11 Brandy April 3, 2009 at 4:01 pm

This makes me feel ill. Alas, I wish I could say I was surprised by the police reaction, but I’m not.

Recently a man followed me around a store, litterally like a foot away from me. Then he started masterbating at me after shoving beer in his pants, saying: “oh yeah mama OH YEAH”.

I was going to tell the clerk at the store, but I was actually afraid he would attack her or me (since he was standing, again one foot away from me), so I waited until I left and called the police.

Their response? We can’t do anything about beer runs.

Beer runs. Cause the following and masturbation a threatening behavior didn’t even clock in on their radar of shit to care about.

When I mentioned the masturbation they said: so what, what do you expect us to do. YOU ARE WASTING OUR TIME.

Ok. Fine. He didn’t attack me, but he might the next woman. Maybe that is what it takes before they care. A

Nope.

A woman at my university was recently attacked (not by the same guy). She went to the cops with her case, and they made her write an apology letter to her abuser.

12 amandaw April 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I was reading the P-G at work during break, as I normally do (or did; today was my last day) and came across this. And, OMG. I couldn’t comment any further, because, you know, work (I was actually terrified Tumblr would post my work addy and I’d have to delete it when I came home).

But I noticed the exact same things you did and I hoped anyone reading it would understand WHY this is so disgusting. Just so incredibly disgusting.

I knew you’d notice it, Cara, and I’m glad you wrote about it. And I hope something is done about it.

13 amandaw April 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm

And I still can’t get over the “hindsight” comment. Yes, police deal with sick, disturbing, challenging stuff every single day. That does not mean that they are therefore excused when they do something stupid, cruel, and disturbing themselves. There is nothing in this world that could justify their decision — six months after the fact, please note — to file formal charges against this woman and take her to jail. This is not a poorly-thought-out split-second reaction. This is as meditated as it gets. They don’t cede responsibility just because they’re police. If police can’t be trusted not to decide to throw a VICTIM in JAIL because their job is too stressful, then please answer me: why do we have a police force at all?

14 Cara April 3, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Whoa. Thank you for that comment, Amandaw, because I was so angry reading this that I didn’t notice the dates the first time around. I thought that they just arrested her right away. Which of course I still thought was incredibly horrific. But.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

15 Meowser April 3, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Something similar happened in Beaverton, OR (one town over from Portland) a couple of years ago. Only in that case, it was a 17-year-old-girl and her assailants were over 18. Nice to know that wasn’t a freak occurrence. (eyeroll)

So, I guess we can look forward to this spreading out to other crimes too, yes? Seeing people who can’t manage to get anyone convicted for stealing their cars, holding up their businesses, or breaking into their houses get thrown in jail, too, since anyone whose attorney can’t prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is lying that it ever happened at all?

Or will it happen only to the women?

16 abyss2hope April 3, 2009 at 7:03 pm

On how this happens, the answer is malpractice. Too many cops believe that if they can’t find undeniable proof that a rape happened then they have discovered proof that the report was false.

If they used this same standard of proof in non-sex crimes most people who report their cars stolen would be arrested. A car that is never found would lead to the owner of that car being arrested.

17 AshKW April 3, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Disgusting. But of course, she should have known better than to try and report a rape, because all women are whores and want it anyway, right? Where do I sign up to get these assholes fired?

18 Rubra April 3, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Yeah, I didn’t notice how far apart the dates were, either. In that case, you can’t even chalk it up to the cops being stressed and on the spot or whatever bullshit thing they’d probably otherwise argue. It’s just pure hatred for rape victims, and wanting to shut us up so they have more time for fucking doughnut runs. Fuck fuck fuck.

19 jason Nolan April 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

Why is it that our culture’s going so ‘blame the victim’ so quietly and suddenly over the past few years? This is obviously the worst I’ve heard, but the police seem to have lost it. Tasering people for not acting right, or making them feel vulnerable (as happened in canada recently where a guy had a stapler); he died. Without proof in triplicate, there is no such thing as ‘false reporting’. I’m flummoxed.

20 karak April 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm

This is just so fucking bizarre. And the scariest part is she was about to go to court. And may have spent time in JAIL for this!

21 supersoygrrrl April 4, 2009 at 3:49 pm

i was wondering if anyone had the actual statistics on the number of women who file rape reports that actually turn out to be false. i thought i heard it was some ridiculously small number like 2% or something but i could be wrong.

and then i was wondering what the percentage of people who file false reports for other crimes -like burglary, insurance fraud, etc. are in comparison. i’m willing to bet they’re much higher but no ones going around being like “OH, SO YOU WERE BURGLED, HUH?! YEAH RIGHT, YOU’RE UNDER ARREST.”

does anyone know where i could find statistics to compare for different crimes?

22 Ista April 5, 2009 at 6:18 pm

And people wonder why I didn’t report it when it happened to me…

23 Brianna April 5, 2009 at 7:54 pm

This is absolutely disgusting. No wonder rape is so under reported! How the hell do these people sleep at night!

24 MiddleageLiberal April 5, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Horrible treatment.

The report is poor on why the suit was dismissed. It is possible that the settlement she took included (even if she didn’t think it had) the people she sued. In some states a settlement and release of one of several joint wrongdoers releases them all. That doesn’t excuse the cops but might explain the court’s action. The news report didn’t say.

25 Annie April 6, 2009 at 4:09 am

supersoygrrrl, the false report rate for rape is around 2-6% (depending on the source), which is about the same as most other crimes (theft, assault, etc).

I’d be interested to know if these cops had ANY justification whatsoever for assuming her report was false. Was the security tape missing, or was it unclear what was happening on the tape, or were they not off camera for “long enough” or something? I’m just having trouble imagining any person who claims to be a police officer simply assuming that a victim is lying without any evidence proving his point. I mean, isn’t the whole point to protect and serve?

26 SunlessNick April 6, 2009 at 6:44 am

was it unclear what was happening on the tape,

If they attempt to claim that over something that happened at GUNPOINT, they’re even worse scum than they already look.

27 Bonny April 6, 2009 at 7:15 am

I read in the article that she was jailed while she was pregnant. Was that the rapist’s child? That would add a whole new level of horror to the story.

28 Lynn McElwee April 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

I went and read the article. I think what you’re leaving out is that they suspected her of stealing the money taken in the assault and robbery. That is, they thought she stole the money herself and then used the rape as part of a cover-up story. I’m not trying to justify the police actions, but that changes it a bit for me. The story just doesn’t make sense if you don’t include that explanation. It would help to know something about the woman’s background – had she been in trouble with the law before, etc. It might explain why they were skeptical about her story. Again, I’m not excusing anything, but just speculating that there might be more to it, something that might explain why their investigation led them to think she was lying.

29 Cara April 6, 2009 at 11:39 am

Lynn: Somehow I find the idea that “police think that women who have been ‘in trouble with the law before’ must be lying about rape and are therefore unrapeable” counts as “more to it” to be almost even worse than what’s already going on here.

The thing is, you might be right. It’s entirely possible that the woman did indeed have a history of legal trouble, and police thought she was lying on those grounds.

But that’s not an explanation. It only compounds the problem. And that’s the only reason it would be important to know.

30 Lexi April 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Jesus. This happened fifteen minutes from where I grew up. I’m never raising children back there now that I’ve read this.

31 E.M. Russell April 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm

I can just imagine this happening in another situation.
Victim: Help, I’ve been stabbed! It was attempted murder!
Police: Are you SURE?? Are you sure you didn’t just try to commit suicide and later regretted it and are passing the blame onto someone else?!?
Please, try using a little Occam’s Razor.

32 curtis April 6, 2009 at 11:37 pm

This woman should file a slander suit for two reasons:

The police falsely accused her of making a false accusation.

The police falsely accused her of having consensual sex with a rapist.

33 Sonya April 8, 2009 at 5:23 pm

This makes me ill on so many levels. What I am seeing is a backlash against women. Men are feeling threatened because they are falling off their little pedestals and are now fighting back in any way they can. I am so sick of the misogynistic bullshit I could scream. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t encounter some of it whether it be through friends, family or complete strangers. What the fuck is wrong with men????

34 Marcella Chester April 12, 2009 at 8:13 am

Several people asked about statistics and comparison data. One of the problems with many statistics related to false and unfounded reports is that they most often measure investigator bigotry and the differing actions which are taken based on that bigotry about false reports rather than the actual number of false or unfounded reports.

For example, if this woman had been a man with the same general reputation and demeanor who had reported being held up at gunpoint (with no rape) would the same cops arrive with the same level of skeptism? Would that man have been charged as if he had stolen the money?

IOW how much did the, “women lie about rape” narrative influence those investigators’ perceptions of the evidence which was present or absent.

Here’s my summation of a report on how assumptions about false allegations can taint investigations and police generated data.

This report highlights how rates can go down significantly after cases are reviewed to see if there is either, 1) a clear and credible admission by the alleged victim that the rape never happened or 2) strong evidential grounds for labeling a report as false.

35 Marcella Chester April 12, 2009 at 8:47 am

@Annie For many cops it is the lack of expected evidence or behavior which is incorrectly seen as evidence which proves the report of rape to be false.

I go into some detail about this in a post I wrote last year: What a lack of DNA evidence proves.

36 Nancy April 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I am a rape victim who is currently a convicted felon after reporting my rape, I was accused of intimidating/misleading a police officer and filing a false police report. My life is forever changed as I have lost the right to my professional career, face doubt and had to listen to my attacker and his wife testify in court that I had ruined their lives. The female judge who listened to them intended to send me to a correctional facility for 2 years, but my lawyer talked her down to 2 years of probation. Yet none of it really matters my life as I know it is over, thanks to the state of Massachusetts and police officers who I won’t name. My attacker is a very wealthy man and I am not a wealthy woman- I don’t have to think hard about how he got the upper hand in this. Every DA and detective I dealt with was a man and questioned my motive for being in closed quarters with this man from the beginning-never mind that I had to have surgery for the vaginal lacerations he inflicted upon me!

37 abyss2hope April 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Nancy, my heart breaks for you. Those who claim to be against false allegations yet who ignore or deny cases such as yours prove that they are not reliable.

38 Megan May 1, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Here’s the address and phone number for the Cranberry Police and Sheriffs Department, for those that wish to write a letter:
2525 Rochester Road
Cranberry Twp., PA 16066
724-776-5180

And here is Vicky Beatty’s law firm’s name, address, phone number, email, and website:

Campbell, Durrant & Beatty, PC
555 Grant Street, Suite 310
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Contact: Vicki Beatty, Esq.
(412) 395-1280
vbeatty@cdblaw.com
http://www.cdblaw.com

39 Mark May 2, 2009 at 12:03 am

Utter bullshit. But expected from the fascist police state we live in. Don’t trust them to protect you. Trust them to fuck you whenever they can.
Learn how to protect yourselves!

40 Julia August 7, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Thank you for this post. Just saw it in the blogosphere. Sorry for the late comment. Just wanted to say thank you.

41 Beatriz-Maria August 18, 2009 at 2:40 pm

This scares me. A lot. I’m only in high school, and have been asked to do a report on a book about rape. That’s how I came across this.
The statistics tell me that all I have to do is think of 2 other girls I know, and one of us have been or will be a victim of rape or attempted rape.
And if we try to report it, we will get in trouble. Such as the stories of Nancy, (Your story made me cry), and Brandy and Ista, and of course, Vicki.
I’m only a little girl, but allow me to help in any way I can.

I’m moving to Japan whenever I get the chance- did you know that the rape statistics over there are 20 times less than here in America?

42 Tina January 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I was just raped on Friday night. The police are already questioning and accusing me of making it up because there are some inconsistencies. Why the f@@# would i make it up? THe cop is a female!

43 Cara January 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Tina, I’m very sorry that someone did that to you. You’re not alone.

Have you checked to see if there is a rape crisis service in your area? If you’re in the U.S., the Rainn website has a list of local services. Just type in your zip code. These types of services are often able to provide short-term counseling and support, and also help in dealing with law enforcement, and their victim-blaming and rape apologism. If you’re outside the U.S., let me know and I’ll see what other info I can find. I think that they would likely be able to help you with what you’re dealing with in terms of law enforcement right now.

I’m very sorry they’re doing that. The rape wasn’t your fault, and this isn’t either. I wish you all the best.

44 Alexandra Signorile-Cote March 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Jeez, I came across this while looking for something else. I can believe this happened, but I don’t want to. This is awful beyond imagining, and some of the comments here are just as infuriating. Not the comments themselves, but the stories told in them. An apology letter?!? Oh, yes, but of course, according to men’s groups, and they must be right because they’re men, 40% of rape reports are false. And that statistic is collaborated by nothing. Oh, and don’t forget, we don’t need feminism anymore because, of course, women have so much more power nowadays. I talked to one person who said that “Feminism has long been blind to the cosmic sexual power that women hold when they run a household.” Cooking and cleaning. Yup, that’s power!

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