Friday, April 18, 2008

Lack Of Supporting Evidence Equals False Rape Report?

For me the answer to this question is no. A lack of supporting evidence can happen in both false and true reports of rape. To move from unknown status to verified true or verified false requires evidence.

But for police in Bellingham, Washington the answer seems to be yes, a lack of evidence does equal a false rape report. Or at least that is the impression being created by all the stories I can find on the announcement by the police that a rape reported on March 2 never happened.

From KOMO Radio:

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Police say a woman made up a story that she was raped while jogging at a Bellingham park last month. Deputy Chief Flo Simon says there was no evidence from a hospital, crime lab or at the scene that the 39-year-old woman was attacked March 2 as she described. Simon says the woman, who still believes she was assaulted, was taken into protective custody Wednesday, a process that may include a mental evaluation.

If all the police have is lack of evidence that this woman was attacked while jogging at Little Squalicum Beach, I am bothered by the police stating that the woman made up the story. This may be their belief, but without evidence that details of her report are verifiably false, their statement is an unverified belief.

I didn't want to take the stories about the police's newest announcement about this case as complete so I went looking for more details about this case.

Before the police declared the report to be false, the Bellingham Herald ran a statement released by the alleged victim which begins with:

I do not know why today is the day that I decided to reach out to the community that has been stirred by my life, my tragedy.

It just happened over a cup of tea that still hurts with every swallow with my swollen face, a constant reminder of my worst nightmare. I am the girl from the newspapers.

A nurse is starting an IV, is eyeing the marks on my wrists where the zip ties held me prisoner through the unthinkable. As a nurse, I know what she suspects.

“I am the girl in the newspapers,” I blankly state.

“Oh honey!!!” Her tone changed, eyes softening, and she ran her gloved fingers tenderly over the broken skin. I flinched from the stinging pain.

This statement continues, but it also contains details which can be confirmed or denied in a way that is more than "lack of evidence." If this statement and others about this alleged crime have been proven to be false then the police statements should have made that clear.

I'll admit that the last quoted sentence doesn't ring true because I can't imagine a nurse trying to comfort a patient by running fingers over broken skin. However, I also know that those who compulsively exaggerate and even lie can be raped. If a rapist realizes that someone has this tendency it almost guarantees they will be able to get away with raping that person.

This is why evidence and not just lack of evidence is so important in rape cases.

By failing to distinguish between lack of evidence and disproven testimony, the police statements to the media about this case are clear deterrents to those who have been raped and aren't sure there will be evidence that the police will believe. It could also create the fear that a rape victim will need to recant to avoid being put under psychiatric care.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:57 AM   2 comments links to this post


At April 20, 2008 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure I understand your logic. I read the story in the Bellingham Herald. The police conducted a thorough investigation, put in a lot of overtime, spent thousands of dollars investigating her allegation. Certainly they did not rush to judgement and they did take her seriously. They did not turn up any hard evidence to corroborate the rape allegation. Are you saying that is not good enough to indicate the allegation had no merit? What kind of evidence would have indicated she was not raped? How do you prove a negative? Forcible rape leaves behind genital trauma, dna evidence. According to the Bellingham Herald, the hospital exam and the rape kit exam showed no such evidence. Are you saying that evidence which fails to support an allegation is invalid? Are you saying there must be evidence which disproves an allegation, and that is the only evidence that counts? If someone were to accuse you of lying about being a rape victim, does that mean you have to prove you are not lying or that your accuser has to prove that you are?

At April 20, 2008 2:39 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, first if someone were to accuse me of lying about being a rape victim, he'd better be my rapist to have any legal standing in which to give sworn testimony to support the claim that what he did was legal and not a sex crime.

Otherwise that person is baselessly slandering me either through malice or incompetence (belief that to be a real rape the perpetrator must use of knife or gun, for example).

A lack of supporting evidence -- as compared to evidence which clearly conflicts with the report to the point of disproving it -- is by its very nature inconclusive.

For the police to declare that something has been proven when the evidence is inconclusive borders on malpractice. If they believe that no crime happened then they need to announce it as an unproven belief and not as a fact.

Many non sex-crime reports end up being inconclusive. This can happen when an expensive ring is reported stolen and there is no sign of forced entry. There isn't undeniable proof of a theft, but there is no proof that the report is false either. It would be incompetent of the police to declare that the ring wasn't stolen unless they found proof that the owner sold the ring and then tried to collect insurance money.

Many people -- including investigators are quick to confuse these two in rape cases. And that is a very dangerous mistake which genuine crime victims pay for and which directly benefits rapists.

Not turning up any hard evidence to corroborate this rape allegation is not good enough to indicate that she was not raped.

However, if someone claims to have been stabbed and left to bleed to death and a physical examination proves that the stabbing couldn't have happened that is more than a lack of corroborating evidence, it is clear contradictory evidence.

Lack of DNA evidence does not prove that no rape occurred. To treat it as if it does is to support injustice through incompetence.

Genital trauma or lack thereof varies and this alone doesn't prove or disprove rape -- as those who claim "it was consensual" despite extreme genital trauma --will attest to.

If the police are to claim that it is a fact that no rape occurred then they need to talk about evidence which disproves the allegation.

The police and reporters need to stop confusing the public by saying the report has been proven false because there wasn't conclusive evidence of a rape.


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