Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tampa Police's Rape Story Has Inconsistencies

From Tampa Bay Online story titled Police Can't Verify Woman's Rape Report At Gasparilla '07 about the woman who was arrested by the Tampa police on an outstanding warrant after she reported rape:

On Jan. 27, 2007, the woman, then 21, told police she had gone to the Gasparilla parade on with friends, then walked alone to her car to fetch her ID. She said a man dragged her into some bushes on South Howard Avenue, forced her to the ground, raped her and took her panties, the report states.

The woman called a friend and reported the rape. The friend insisted the woman call police, but she refused, so the friend called for help, police said. [...]

The report describes a March 1, 2007, meeting at Moore's office, where Detective Melanee Holder outlined the inconsistencies and "a few other facts that could not make any sense if this crime occurred," the document states.

Holder explained the lack of DNA and other physical evidence, and suggested the woman had filed the report "to make her friends feel guilty for leaving her and letting her walk to her car alone."

The police detective's suggestion which gives this woman a motive to lie is disproven by a key verifiable fact given by the police. This alleged rape victim didn't want the police called and she wasn't the one who called the police.

What this suggestion does communicate is a motive for the Tampa police to view every little detail which doesn't give them exactly what they get from the ideal rape case as if that detail were damning evidence against this woman. The now-dismissed lawsuit this woman filed against the Tampa police after she was jailed provides the Tampa police with further motive.

This is the type of inconsistency often used against those who report rape. The reality is that all the police have proven is that they cannot verify the original report. This happens in many real crimes, but you wouldn't know this by the statements made by Tampa police officials.

I've previously blogged about what it means when there is a lack of DNA evidence.

One of the details which was mentioned in this story was that this woman didn't give up the shirt and bra she was wearing. I've been with rape victims when the issue of surrendering their clothes comes up and this was almost always a major issue. Not wanting to lose your clothes, which you will likely never get back, after you've been raped is a natural response. This can relate to their feeling of having even more taken from them and it can relate to the loss of privacy which might feel as obvious to the victim as going home in a hospital gown.

These rape victims' reluctance went up for pieces of clothing which the victim knew couldn't possibly contain DNA from their rapist(s). To turn this natural response into incriminating evidence that no rape occurred is incompetence at best and negligence at worst.

If surrendering clothing became a standard practice in all personal crimes because of advances in forensic analysis and if this meaning were assigned to every non-sex crime victim who didn't surrender everything they were wearing then many victims of non-sex crimes could be easily described in a way that would make them look guilty of filing a false police report.

If the police are this sloppy when they are making public statements then their approach to the actual investigation is unreliable. There is no credible evidence that the Tampa police didn't do exactly as they were accused of doing: Assume this woman was a liar the moment they learned that she had an outstanding warrant and stop investigating this report as if it could be genuine and begin an investigation where the alleged rape victim was the only possible suspect.

This woman's decision to retain a lawyer and have that lawyer be her liaison between her and the Tampa police is positioned as evidence of this woman's likely guilt when it is evidence that the Tampa police violated this woman's trust by jailing her. From that moment on she rightfully doesn't trust them to respect her legal rights and to continue with a good faith investigation of a reported rape.

After learning she was jailed, if I were raped in Tampa, I'd absolutely call a lawyer before calling the police.

The police have admitted that they don't have enough evidence to charge this woman with a crime, but they are clearly communicating that they have enough evidence to publicly treat this woman like she has already been proven guilty. The problem is that if you don't have enough evidence to charge someone with a crime you don't have enough evidence to talk about them as if they have already been convicted.

For all those who call these types of police statements wrong when they are made about alleged rapists who haven't been convicted you must call these types of statements wrong when the target of this PR war is an alleged rape victim. If you don't then you don't have a problem with this tactic, only with the selection of who is the target of this tactic.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:27 AM   0 comments links to this post


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