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Does Media Focus on False Rape and Kidnapping Case Really Help Anyone?Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
Where should police and courts draw the line on bragging rights?
(AURORA, Ore.) - Police are publicizing the conviction of an Oregon woman this week who filed what turned out to be a false report, stating she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted over a three day period by an unknown assailant.
Some may applaud this, and perhaps they are right, but I question the implications.
I have written extensively about an author named Coral Anika Theill who in her previous life, was a battered and abused mother and wife in rural Polk County Oregon. When she reported to the local authorities that she had been systematically abused and raped by her husband, they threatened to arrest her.
I know Coral would be repulsed to know that this woman's name was being blasted across every screen and print page in the state right now. What I referenced above is only part of her horror story at the hands of Oregon's law enforcement and justice system.
Coral's oppressors could not possibly have known that she would go on to write a book about her ordeal that would become an unofficial American PTSD survival guide, and I do believe that is a fair description, especially since the book has become very popular with Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The point is that police investigations are not always unbiased, and they are subject to error. I know of a recent situation in Salem where a restaurant owner assaulted an employee out of sight of witnesses. The deputy assigned to the case immediately made the victim feel uncomfortable for reporting the crime, and never brought any charges against the assailant.
That's because our system is frequently out of whack.
All crime victims roll the dice when they choose to call law enforcement in this country. Your level of service is basically dependent on how good of a day that particular tax funded servant is having. There is very little to expect in some cases.
And each negative story about police that the public hears, increases the reluctance of victims to involve the system. There is no area where victims are less likely to report crime than sexual assault.
A 1999 United States National Crime Victimization Survey shows that only 39% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police. A 2007 report from the UK indicated that between 75 and 95 per cent of rape crimes are never reported to the police.
In fact, CBS News reported that police weren't called for over half of all violent crimes in the year 2000. This is partly attributed to a more vibrant economy in place at that time, and also to an increasing reluctance to contact police.
The rate at which women reported rape to the police fell 19 percent in 2001.
I am not questioning the court's verdict, but I will cut to the chase and say that publicizing this story gives future rape and sexual assault victims the wrong message. If the woman in question made the story up then she needs some kind of help, and media publicity is not likely it.
On an extremely simple level, the message to women is that if they report being raped, they could end up in handcuffs, is it not? And never forget the financial side; the woman in this case will be repaying thousands of dollars in restitution.
Having to pay police back; I'm not sure this is a good idea. It seems like the practice could open the door to an endless number of problems.
In fact it reminds me of a scene in the rock-n-roll fantasy cartoon from the 1980's Heavy Metal that is set in the future, where you need a minimum payment for police before they will even think of investigating a crime.
Sensational news items like this, along with similar stories over the years, absolutely erode faith and could potentially influence women to not report crimes that have been committed against them. Perhaps it also gives false courage to potential and current sex assailants?
Of course "false rape" is a political issue, even a conservative cause of sorts. A quick scan of Google brings the headline, from FOX News: False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought. Rape should not be a political issue, but it is, and Oregon police and courts are certainly conservative.
False Sexual Assault and Kidnapping
In the news release, we learn that a Linn County Circuit Court convicted the woman for Initiating a False Police Report. They say, "multiple agencies investigated an alleged report she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted last summer."
It is further stated that police spent ten days investigating the reported crime, after the 28-year old woman went to the Albany General Hospital emergency room to report she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted over a three day period by an unknown male.
The court sentence included an order to repay over $8,000 to police agencies for costs incurred to investigate the original complaint. A press statement indicates that OSP detectives were called out in "the middle of the night" to initiate an investigation, then spent ten days investigating the alleged sexual assault. State Police detectives say they required assistance from Aurora and Scappoose police departments.
The woman had also been reported missing by family members to Aurora Police. The investigation determined that she consensually spent the weekend with a male friend and that led to the subsequent charges.
The woman in this case was sentenced in court to 36 months probation, 48 hours in jail, court costs, and she was ordered to pay $8,034.40 in restitution to OSP and Aurora Police Department.
It sounds like she screwed up, and I assume that this woman confessed to investigators that the story was concocted. If not, I would like to hear from the 28-year old woman in this story, my email is in my bio at the bottom of the page.
It is my opinion that most girls or women who come forward with stories of sexual abuse are not lying, but in the rare cases where that does take place, I still have to question how publicizing it helps. There is no falsely accused person to clear the name of, since she didn't try to accuse an innocent party.
I readily agree that it is the public's right to know how their money is being used, and the police and courts should be commended for saving taxpayer revenue.
But the risk to the credibility of people of any gender who are victims of any crime is big. Those who are 'on the fence' over reporting an incident to police, can hardly be encouraged by this case.
Maybe somebody from the law enforcement community will take the time to explain how the need to publicize this case outweighs the potential risk. I'm all ears. Keep your comments on topic and respectful and they will be approved.
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