Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Viral e-mail spreads false rape claim

As reported in marshallnewsmessenger.com:

Story of attack on girl in Hallsville nothing but a lie


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I get viral e-mails all the time, just like you, I'm sure. You know the kind of talking about. This season they are mostly political and about Barack Obama being from Mars or Venus, or both.

But I got one just the other day that was all about Marshall. Really. I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't gotten it yourself.

Just looking at two of these sent to the newspaper, there are about 100 different people on the e-mail list.

If those 100 each sent it to another 100, well there's 10,000 people right there.

The title of the e-mail will certainly get your attention: An actual attack near Marshall, TX — this is real!

Not only did the e-mail mention Marshall, also The Marshall News Messenger, although we were just referred to as the "Marshall paper" and there was an implication that we hadn't done our job properly.

If you've been one of the many recipients of the e-mail you know it is all about a purported incident on FM 449, during which a 17-year-old girl was returning home from a babysitting job.

One thing I know is correct is that the girl in question is indeed 17 years old — that is important.

On her drive home down the winding road, the e-mail says, the girl was stopped by a car completely across the road.

Immediately two other cars came up behind her and blocked her from from getting out in any direction. Of course, all the cars were driven by black males.

The e-mail says the men literally pulled her out of the driver's side window, forcing a "date rape" pill down her throat and "visciously tried to assault her."

The men then became spooked, the e-mail says, and they ran off, but not before they had pulled her shirt and bra off, broken her arm and pulled out patches of her hair.

The e-mail continues: "She drove herselve to the hospital in Marshall, still without her clothes. What a tough little cookie she was!"

The e-mail concludes by advising women to be careful — which, of course, is never a bad idea — and the writer says she is going to be "packing" from now on. I think that means carrying a gun, not taking a suitcase.

"Say a prayer for the young girl, her mother and family, as I am sure they've been very traumatized."

Yes, say a prayer for the girl and family, but not for the reasons you think.

Because the girl in question is not one "tough little cookie" she is one lying little cookie.

Because this event never happened.

It isn't true.

Not a single word of it.

Zippo. Nada.

Mind you, that is what the girl reported to the Harrison County Sheriff's Office, which then expended time and effort to investigate the case thoroughly.

I said earlier that it was important that the girl is 17 years old, because at that age in Texas you are no longer a juvenile when it comes to crime.

The girl has been charged with making a false report to a law enforcement officer.

It apparently is the only law she broke, but the damage she caused and the ruckus she stirred up goes far beyond that little misdemeanor.

It starts with using up the time of a sheriff's deputy.

You may not have noticed that our sheriff's office isn't exactly overstaffed.

Everytime someone makes up a story like this, hours that could have been spent working on real matters are wasted.

Then, of course, is all the unnecessary worry that has been generated in the community about it.

That worry and the suspicions aroused aren't going to go away immediately.

Some people will continue to believe the story.

I can almost assure you that the e-mails with fake information are going to continue to circulate.

Why did the girl fabricate all this? No one but she can say.

Often making up such stories is nothing but a way of getting attention.

Be careful what you wish for.

As far as the criticisms of the "Marshall paper" for not doing enough to report the story, the family thinks the little we did was too much. The girl's parents were in our offices Friday complaining story was the reason their daughter got arrested.

In effect: Our printing their daughter's lies to the sheriff's office was the problem, not the lies themselves. Go figure.

Like the e-mail said, pray for the daughter and her family. I'm sure their traumatized.

Link: http://www.marshallnewsmessenger.com/news/content/news/opinion/2008/08/06/080608_WEB_latham.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=7