Friday, July 18, 2008

Law enforcement officials actually admit that encouraging victims to report rapes leads to more false incidents -- when the victims are male

Imagine a world where law enforcement officials can be completely open and honest and acknowledge that false rape claims do exist; where they can admit that making it easy for victims to report sexual assaults and encouraging victims to come forward naturally increases false claims; where they don't try to pretend that false rape claims are aberrations, isolated incidents so rare that they can't be considered part of a trend.

In fact, as shown in the story reprinted below, such a world exists -- in prisons, where both the rape victims, and the false claimants, are male.

Prison officials readily acknowledge that making it easy for inmates to report rape increases false claims.

How refreshing! How downright liberating!

Why is it that where the population crying rape is male, there is no attempt to pretend that false claims are a "myth," a "bugaboo," the product of someone's imagination? Because in that environment, false claims haven't become embroiled in the feminist sexual assault stew where the very mention of "false claims" is deemed to at least border on misogyny and the full truth is never permitted to be uttered.

Law enforcement officials in prisons have got it right: yes, they take steps to make it easy to report rape, as is appropriate; but they understand -- they acknowledge -- that the consequence of making it easy to report rape is an increase in false claims. They are willing to tolerate this, and to work through it, to separate the true claims from the lies.

But they don't lie about it, and they don't pretend that every cry of rape is legitimate and inherently trustworthy.

It is tragic that such honesty about rape, and false claims, is not permitted outside prison walls.


Sheriff to enact jail safety measures

Thursday, July 17, 2008By MICHAEL ANDERSEN, Columbian Staff Writer

Today, Clark County jail prisoners can only report a sexual assault by flagging down an officer and asking for a piece of paper to describe in writing what happened.

Soon, they’ll also be able to report an assault by picking up the cell pod’s telephone and dialing “9.”

That’s one of several measures to reduce assaults in the jail that were outlined Wednesday by Sheriff Garry Lucas’ staff.

Last month, a report from the U.S. Department of Justice ranked Clark County among the nation’s worst lockups in terms of sexual assaults, conduct which can range from unwanted touching to rape.

Darin Rouhier, the sheriff’s finance manager, said there’s no question that Clark County has a significant problem: the county’s results were too far from the mainstream, with an estimated 9.1 percent of inmates reporting sexual assaults. That’s almost three times the national rate.

“You can’t chalk it up to sampling errors,” Rouhier said.

Only one facility surveyed had a worse estimated rate. Even if the survey was imprecise, Rouhier said, the county’s jail ranks at best among the worst one-quarter of lockups surveyed.

Inmates might be lying or exaggerating the number of sexual assaults. But that wouldn’t explain why Clark County’s inmates would lie more than anyone else’s.

“You’ve got to keep asking yourself: Why are we different?” Rouhier asked.

Other measures

The sheriff’s office’s initial ideas, presented in a work session with county commissioners Wednesday, also include:

*Scattering posters around the jail about how to report an assault.
*Sending jail staff through extra training.
*Keeping more precise records, such as whether reports of “sexual misconduct” are physical or merely verbal.
*Sharing further ideas with Multnomah County jail officials at a meeting this month.

Chief Administrative Deputy Ric Bishop said Wednesday that the jail is considering other measures, including staffing changes.

“These are short-term,” he said of the ideas floated Wednesday.

Bishop said that federal scrutiny of Clark County’s jail is likely to continue.

“We can expect in the next couple of years to see our friends from back East come and check in and see how we’re doing,” he said.In the last three years, inmates have reported only 11 incidents of sexual misconduct, Chief Jail Deputy Jackie Batties said Wednesday: seven inmate-on-inmate reports and four staff-on-inmate reports.

Of those 11, investigations found that five were unfounded, Batties said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Betty Sue Morris asked what the criteria were to conclude that a complaint is “unfounded.”

“Unfounded means that the incident did not occur,” Lucas replied.

“No, it means that you did not find that it occurred,” Morris responded.

Lucas then explained that an internal team of investigators conducts interviews and gathers evidence for the charge.If there’s evidence for a criminal charge, the prosecutor’s office will take the case, Batties said.

Attorneys startled

In separate interviews this week, three local defense attorneys who often work with prisoners all said they were surprised to learn that Clark County’s jail might have a sexual assault problem.

“I’m up in the jail approximately 130 times per year,” said James Sowder, who has practiced in Vancouver since 1980. “And I hadn’t really heard any complaints.“They tell me everything else,” he added.

Jan Anderson of Vancouver Defenders and Suzan Clark, an independent attorney, had similar reactions.

“I practice a lot in Multnomah County, too, and the clients there express a lot more fear,” Clark said. “I have not ever heard from (Clark County) clients that it’s a big issue. In fact, in general clients seem more fearful about going to prison.”

In this country, Rouhier said, perhaps 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

Bishop said that many inmates who are assaulted may not want to admit it.

“It’s a sensitive issue,” he said. “People are reluctant.”

Bishop also said the new campaign to encourage inmates to report assaults would probably lead to more false incident reports.

“We’ve been told to expect that from other facilities,” Bishop said. “And while that could occur, this is an important enough program that we’re willing to go through the process of people potentially abusing the system.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Morris said she was glad Lucas and his staff are taking action.

“You’re obviously taking this seriously,” she said. “And we thank you for that.”

MICHAEL ANDERSEN covers Clark County government: 360-735-4508 or