Monday, April 23, 2007

Picking and Choosing

The Sunday Star Times has an article titled Apology for false rape complaint rejected. The woman who had given an allegedly* false statement about being raped had apologised to police and her neighbours. Except despite what the headline said some neighbours accepted her apology:

One neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Brian, replied to her.

"I just told her to keep her head up and be strong," he said.

He invited her to contact him if she needed support.

"Everybody needs someone to talk to."

Some neighbours were sympathetic to the woman's plight, but others were angry, he said.

Brian urged people not to judge the woman because no one knew the personal struggles she might be dealing with.
I'd just like a moments appreciation for Brian.
Victim Support Counties Manukau manager Michael Donoghue said the false complaint could make rape victims reluctant to complain to police.

"Our fear would be that genuine victims may feel like they won't be taken seriously," he said.
Again the passive tense is used to hire who is doing what. If genuine victims feel like they won't be taken seriously by police it's probably because a lot of police are misogynist assholes who don't believe any woman who has been raped. Police don't disbelieve all accounts of burglary because of one false report. The reason they disbelieve rape survivors, isn't because of false reports, but because of the rape myths they believe.

Now I haven't written about this case before, because I don't feel I know enough of the specifics. But there are two general points I'd like to make. The most basic point is that it's no more likely that people will lay false complaints of rape than false complaints of any other crime (the rate accepted by international researchers is about 2%). The more important points is often false rape complaints are from women who have been raped, and the account is inaccurate, but their experience is real. I hope this woman gets every bit of help she need.

* That's a revenge allegedly, I'm so sick of the 'alleged rape' construction.

9 comments:

  1. I have seen cases where someone has made an allegation or rape, or sexual abuse, and the account is incorrect (often attached to the wrong person, someone who is less scary to name I suspect) but yes there was abuse and/or rape, sometimes historic. I think this is an area that needs more research, and more training for police, so that they can sensitively handle rape complaints in a way that means if the original allegation isn't right then the rape survivor can still make the correct one and be believed. I hope that makes sense, I'm not sure I've written it out in a way that anyone else will understand!

    anon above, all charges are "alleged" (or at least supposed to be described as such) until someone has been found guilty in court. Often however the media drop the tag, even though they are supposed to include it. And can I also say, you are awfully angry for first thing on a Monday morning. I hope your week gets better!

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  2. Anonymous9:15 am

    rape statisitics are quite difficut beasts. for example there is where the individual drops the complaint, where the police decide not to procecute (without proving a false complaint), where the court finds not guilty and the false positive conviction rate.
    And then there is the matter of what the percentage is a percentage of (actual accusations, official complaints, complaints accepted for investigation, compalints deemed to be substantial, cases brought, etc).

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  3. Anonymous9:21 am

    > if the original allegation isn't right then the rape survivor can still make the correct one and be believed.

    maybe we should just make use of polygraphs? That would largely solve the trust issue.

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  4. Aaron1:24 pm

    A former flatmate of mine made a number of false complaints against me after I rejected her advances (her live-in boyfriend was away on business) and then I discovered that she had stolen my credit cards & cheque book (she was caught on CCTV using my card). It is hard to describe the absolute fear I carried with me until the matter was resolved. Ten years on I still have nightmares of being interviewed by detectives and being told that I was going to go to jail. I felt sick to the stomach when I heard about this case last week, I appreciate that the woman in this case may have "issues" but as I said earlier, ten years on and my experience can still come back to haunt me.

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  5. Well, that's unfortunate that you went through that, but what's your point? That women complaining of rape should be assumed to be liars until proved to be telling the truth? People complaining of other crimes aren't subjected to that, even though as Maia pointed out, the statistics for false reporting are similar for most crimes.

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  6. I think Aaron's point is that a malicious false complaint is devastating to the person who is accused. It also seem that his point is that when someone makes a complaint that isn't true, it has a ripple effect on people totally unconnected with the case.

    I dare say this is true for anyone who suffers, that when something comes up that reminds them of the past hurt it is painful.

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  7. Michelle10:33 am

    "That women complaining of rape should be assumed to be liars until proved to be telling the truth". That's how the legal system works, yes. I would be very concerned if it went the other way, no matter what the topic of the complaint.

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  8. Aaron1:04 pm

    Sofiya - I was not necessaraly making a point, however you seem to be making one - that the accuser is right until proven wrong and therefore the accused is guilty until they have proven themselves innocent.

    Our justice system uses the assumption of innocence for the accused person. As a victim of Assult, car theft & bruglary as well as fraud & and a malicious complaint - this is something I am comfortable with.

    Making a false complaint to the police is quite rightly seen as an offence (weather or not it is rape, theft, assult etc, etc) Given the prominence of the reporting of the rape complaint in the first instance it is hardly surprising the reaction when it turned out that the complaint was a fabrication.

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  9. "I was not necessaraly making a point, however you seem to be making one - that the accuser is right until proven wrong and therefore the accused is guilty until they have proven themselves innocent."

    No, I don't feel this way. All I want is for the police and society at large to be more respectful of women who complain of rape. You may not be familiar with what a rape survivor goes through when she reports a rape, but a great deal of it is devastatingly humiliating, and it's not helped by the second-guessing and name-calling that inevitably results, both in the police station and in the courtroom. Basically, I tend to believe women's complaints of rape, because I cannot imagine why any woman would put herself through the police and legal process if she was lying, because it's really, really not fun. When people complain to the police that their houses have been burgled, no one calls them lying sluts, so I'm not quite sure why rape survivors are treated with suspicion and scepticism.

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