Thursday, July 3, 2008

'He said-she said,' but only one of them is treated like a criminal -- can you guess his gender?

Here's the way things work: A young woman accuses a young man of rape. He denies it and accuses her of making a false claim. Thus, there are mutual allegations of criminality. There are no eyewitnesses. As with most such claims, the sole issue in dispute is a factual issue: did the woman consent? It is often a difficult question to answer because the act constituting rape is identical to an act that, under the vast majority of circumstances, is fundamental to human existence and is, in fact, desired by the woman. So here we have a classic "he said-she said" dispute. Nobody knows for certain what happened -- except we know that one of them has committed an act that is criminal: either rape or falsely reporting a rape.

Yet, only one of the two is treated like a criminal before a single fact is adjudicated.

If you have to ask which one, you haven't been reading this blog.

In the news story below, a 28-year-old married police officer, a veteran who answered his country's call to duty numerous times, has been placed on unpaid leave over an allegation of acquaintance rape. She says he's guilty; he says the charge is completely false. He was arrested and had to post bond to gain his freedom. Nothing has happened to her, and consistent with the double-standards common to rape claims, she retains her anonymity while his reputation has been besmirched and sullied by virtue of nothing more than an unsubstantiated allegation.

When will we, as a society, realize that there is something gravely wrong with a culture that allows a man to be deprived of his freedom and to have his reputation tarnished, often beyond repair, by nothing more than a female's naked accusation that he committed a vile crime? Must his humiliation be played out on an international stage while she remains shielded in anonymity? Must we treat him like a criminal, force him to pay money to buy his freedom, and remove him from his job?

Underlying all of it is the sense that false claims really are a "myth" so that the mere allegation of rape is sufficient to justify treating any male accused of this crime like a criminal. It is no stretch to assert that most people accept the logic that "he must have done something" -- because the alternative would make them altogether too uncomfortable.

The purpose of this blog is to make people uncomfortable. The truth is disconcerting. False claims not only are not a myth, they are common. Innocent men are being destroyed by false rape claims with a frequency far greater than we'd like to imagine.

In the story below, the police chief says this was an "isolated incident." I don't know which "incident" you are referencing, sir -- the alleged rape or the alleged false accusation? I suspect you mean the former and that even you have implicitly accepted that something "must" have happened. If so, you would do well to read the accounts on this blog to learn not to equate a mere accusation with a rape "incident." You denigrate countless innocent men who have been falsely accused of rape when you do that.


Policeman put on unpaid leave after woman’s allegations


FITCHBURG— A city police officer was charged with rape Thursday and has been placed on unpaid leave. Police Officer Robert Soroka, 28, was arraigned Thursday in Fitchburg District Court and released after posting $500 cash bail.

He was arrested earlier Thursday by Fitchburg police, Chief Robert A. DeMoura said yesterday.

The offense is alleged to have occurred Wednesday night, the chief said. The alleged victim is a 28-year-old woman who was acquainted with Officer Soroka, according to police.

Officer Soroka was one of six members of the department slated to be laid off next week amid budget cuts. Six patrolmen are being laid off at the start of the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Tuesday.

No court records on the rape case were available yesterday in Fitchburg District Court. The case is being transferred to another jurisdiction, Assistant District Attorney Joseph A. Quinlan said yesterday.

“As soon as we heard the allegations, we investigated — as we would do with any crime,” Chief DeMoura said yesterday. “This time it was a police officer.” He said it was a difficult situation for the department, but praised his officers for their professionalism.

“The good thing is, the department is moving forward,” Chief DeMoura said.

“This is an isolated incident.”

Officer Soroka was appointed to the force Sept. 11, 2006, and most recently had been working as a dispatcher, Chief DeMoura said.

The department’s civilian dispatchers were laid off last year because of budget woes.

Officer Soroka, who is married, was born and raised in Worcester and enlisted in the Army Reserve, first as a military police officer and later as a protective service agent, police said when he was sworn in Feb. 14, 2007.

He served eight years with the Army Reserve and was called to active duty numerous times, including to Bosnia in 1998 and the Persian Gulf region in 2003.

Yesterday afternoon, Edward P. Ryan Jr., a Fitchburg lawyer representing Officer Soroka, said a plea of not guilty was entered in the case. “He’s not guilty,” Mr. Ryan said. “We fully expect, at the end of the day, that he will be exonerated of these charges. In our view, these charges are completely false.”

“He is an outstanding police officer,” he said.

Mr. Ryan pointed out Officer’s Soroka’s military record, noting it included 11 months of combat duty in Iraq.

“He’s a good guy,” Mr. Ryan said. Karen Nugent of the Telegram & Gazette contributed to this story.