Monday, March 22, 2010

Ohio Judge Orders Teen Rape Victims To Take Polygraphs

First, a little background on polygraphs and rape victims.

The practice of requiring those who report having been raped to take polygraph exams used to be common and often was used as a barrier which victims had to jump in order to have their reports fully investigated. Since this was never a standard practice for all other crime victims this usage was discriminatory and gave investigators an excuse to not do a full and competent investigation.

A rape victim's refusal to take a polygraph exam was a handy excuse to declare a case to be an unfounded or a false report rather than being listed as an unsolved criminal report. This made police agencies look much better at rape investigations than they really were.

Many of the justifications for using polygraphs to determine what happened indicated that those wanting to use the polygraph exams were incompetent at their jobs or were clueless about the differences between consensual sexual actions and nonconsensual ones.

Polygraphs are not reliable enough to serve any investigative purpose. They are controversial even when they are used post-conviction and post-sentencing.

Where polygraph exams have been shown to be successful and reliable is in helping to coerce someone to give a false confession. Those who speak out against false confessions often are so focused on male suspects that they don't even consider that girls and women who recant their reports of rape may have been coerced into false confessions.

The use of the polygraph exam as a standard part of rape investigation procedures was central to the recantations which were listed in a study by Eugene Kanin which claimed that a rate of 41% recantations equaled a rate of 41% false reports of rape. Kanin didn't verify this transference but simply accepted it as fact. The number of verified false reports in this study was zero, but that doesn't stop many people from continuing to call this an objective study on false rape reports.

This background is why this Ohio judge's orders are so disturbing.

From the Cleveland Plains Dealer:

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Juvenile Court judge has ordered at least four teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault to submit to polygraph tests, baffling prosecutors and upsetting the victims.

Cuyahoga Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd ordered victims in separate cases to be examined after she had found their attackers delinquent, the Juvenile Court equivalent of guilty.

Floyd also ordered the teenage boys who were accused of rape and other sex crimes in those cases to undergo polygraph examinations as part of an assessment done before the teens would be sentenced.
This order violates the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) ban on polygraphs of those who report rape. The girls, who this judge has no authority over, have refused this order. Since this order related to pre-sentencing assessment this judge may use those refusals to not sentence the boys found delinquent or she may use them to give the boys inappropriately light sentences.

The very act of issuing this order causes harm and is deeply problematic as it supports stereotypes about the dishonesty of girls and women who report rape.
"The situation made no sense to us," the mother of a 16-year-old victim said in a message relayed through Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Director of Advocacy Ashley Hawke.

"I believe even more damage was done by the judge letting the perpetrator know she was ordering the victim to take the polygraph. He apparently took this to mean the judge did not believe her and he used this to tell their peers that the judge did not believe her and was ordering her take a lie detector test," the mother wrote.
Since harassment of teen rape victims is appallingly common and can have a devastating impact, this judge's order may be a direct contributor to increased harassment against the girls ordered to take polygraph tests.

If that harassment scares a rape victim who reported away from cooperating with the system those who do the harassment will likely feel smug that they were harassing someone who was lying when they were actually practicing witness intimidation.

This order if it is not struck down will have an intimidation effect on other young rape victims in this jurisdiction.

If this judge cannot make a reasonable assessment in sentencing a boy she assessed as guilty without a polygraph of the rape victim then she's incompetent and either needs more training or she needs a different job.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:39 AM   1 comments links to this post


At March 23, 2010 9:56 AM, Anonymous Melissa said...

Polygraphs do NOT detect lies , they detect stress. Someone who has been a victim of rape is guaranteed to fail because it stands to reason that they are under a lot of stress.


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