Wednesday, May 30, 2007

If Robbery Cases Were Treated Like Rape Cases

I've been seeing bloggers use the fact that a rape case wasn't charged or was dismissed because of "lack of evidence" as proof that no rape occurred and also as proof of a criminal false accusation.

To understand this belief system imagine you report your TV and all of your electronics stolen. You even know who has your stuff. A man you thought was a great friend. But the man now claims to be the owner of everything you reported stolen. You have some, but not all, of your receipts but you didn't record your serial numbers or mark your equipment in any way. You only have proof that you once owned that same popular model of stereo. You can't find the receipt for your TV.

Friends who should know that you would never lie about something like this refuse to testify that you still owned the items you reported stolen or that the other person didn't own those items until yours disappeared. They like the man you accused and don't want to get involved. You don't have any evidence to back your claim that your possessions were stolen by a specific person except your testimony. There's a strong possibility that the perpetrator will walk free.

End of story, right? Not if the attitudes about rape cases were present in cases like this.

Because of your mistakes (not recording serial numbers or marking your items and losing one receipt), you now have no proof that the stolen items were ever yours let alone that they were stolen. That lack of proof will be used to justify people calling you a liar or crazy. Friends who previously heard you complaining about finances will turn that complaint into evidence that you are framing your friend. To all those who liked the man who stole your possessions, you become someone worthy of open scorn and wild accusations. They will say you must be vindictive since you are trying to ruin an innocent man's life. There will be calls for you to be prosecuted by people who say you are worse than a thief and deserve greater punishment.

You might even receive anonymous death threats.

You will be called a hoaxer. You may end up facing criminal charges for making a false police report. This situation will be used to imply that you are a cold-blooded liar if you are robbed again and report to the police. You will permanently be viewed as an unreliable witness.

You will hear people say that even if what you allege is true that the other person did nothing illegal. You let him into your home so you were just asking to have him steal all of your stuff. You were as responsible for what happened as the other man. If you are known to ever go out drinking people will speculate that maybe one of those nights you were so drunk you just gave him the items you claim he stole.

If these people are generous, they will concede that you have the right to feel robbed, but you are a liar if you report being robbed.

This situation favors the thief and even if you point this out, people will defend the unfairness because reasonable doubt means that the word of an alleged thief should always have more weight than the word of an alleged victim because the alleged thief is innocent until proven guilty and because we must abide by the reasonable doubt standard. By reasonable doubt they mean that it is reasonable to doubt everything you say.

Defense attorneys who discover that you were once charged with shoplifting at 11 will attempt to bring that up if the case ever makes it to court and will defend their client in large part by attacking everything about you. In effect, you will be on trial but with none of the legal rights the defendant gets.

When these types of robberies become more common than stranger robberies as the number of successful non-stranger thefts rise, people will either deny this or shake their heads and say there is nothing we can do to make a positive difference when all these crimes are "he said, he said" cases where there's a fifty shot of determining who is the real criminal.

Even when there is solid evidence such as surveillance video showing the alleged robber hauling your stuff away that will be dismissed or drowned out by the alternative theories.

If this were how all robbery victims were treated, what do you think would happen to the rate of reporting? And who would get blamed when the number of reports goes down if we stay consistent with attitudes about rape cases?

Yep, it would all be the victim's fault so we would have PSAs lecturing robbery victims and potential victims on appropriate behavior and telling them that they must report and face the attacks which we will let continue unabated.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:35 AM   3 comments links to this post


At May 30, 2007 4:21 PM, Blogger Ani Star said...

Hey, I'm Ani. I wanted to let you know that I've added a link to your site onto the side bar of my own. As a survivor I'm trying to connect with as many other survivors as I can, such as yourself. My main blog is at if you want to check it out. If its okay with you, could I add a link to your blog there also? If you'd like you can add a link to either of my blogs here. Thanks so much.

~ Ani

At May 30, 2007 5:11 PM, Blogger Aerik said...

Excellent post. These kinds of comparisons need to be put in people's faces much more often.

At May 30, 2007 6:57 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Ani, I've added you to my blogroll.

Aerik, thanks. I'm hoping that by shifting the problem away from the sex itself, people can begin to see the problem and begin to listen more.


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