Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Unfounded" does not mean a man should be deemed a "possible rapist" the rest of his life

In the news report below, the accuser's accounts grew more and more inconsistent and then she stopped cooperating with police altogether. The police properly are not charging her for filing a false report because there isn't sufficient evidence. This case furnishes a good example of an unfounded as opposed to a false claim. It is unfair to assume that the accuser lied in this case -- her refusal to cooperate may be accounted for by all manner of motivations (e.g., fear, anxiety).

Likewise, if she had named an individual in her accusation, it would also be unfair to taint him as a "possible" rapist for the remainder of his life merely because the claim against him was unfounded. It is often impossible to prove that an unfounded rape claim was, in fact, false -- often it just comes down to a swearing contest between two parties. That's just the nature of the crime.

But often some who preach that false rape claims are a "myth" will treat "unfounded" rape claims as if they were actual, or at least probable, rapes. As in, "unfounded does not mean it did not occur" -- with the vile implication that the man or boy accused probably did it. Little needs to be said to demonstrate that this breathtaking leap is not merely unfair and politically motivated but heinous and, indeed, immoral.

"Unfounded" simply means no one knows, and we all need to stop assuming.

HERE IS THE NEWS STORY:

Police close probe into rape

ASHEVILLE – Police could find no evidence to support a woman’s claim she was raped on a downtown street in May, and they now consider the report unfounded and the case closed, a police official said Wednesday.

The report prompted police to circulate a sketch of an alleged suspect and offer safety tips for downtown pedestrians, but police do not plan to charge the woman with filing a false report.

The woman told police she was walking on Broadway Street about 7:30 p.m. May 3 when a man forced her down Carolina Lane and raped her.

Investigators reviewed video footage from businesses around the scene and saw no evidence of the crime. Merchants and residents nearby said no one saw or heard anything, even though the streets were busy that evening for a festival.

When police approached the woman later and asked her to clarify her story and provide more detail on her whereabouts that night, she became uncooperative and broke off contact, police Capt. Tim Splain said.

“The story became more and more inconsistent with what she had alleged to begin with, and when we finally approached her with what we had found out, that’s when she stopped cooperating with us and refused to give us any more clarifying information,” Splain said.
Calls to the woman seeking comment were not returned.

Detectives did not doubt the woman’s report during the investigation, Splain said, but the woman refused to provide sales receipts from businesses she claimed to have visited before the incident or give other information that could support her account, he said.

Investigators ruled the case unfounded Aug. 1 after she refused to continue talking to police.

Police take all reported rapes seriously and try to be sensitive to victims who may have trouble initially remembering details of trauma, Splain said. Police want victims to feel safe talking to law enforcement, but cases that turn out to be unsubstantiated or false tie up critical investigative resources, he said.

Occasionally, alleged victims will admit they fabricated a report to cover up an infidelity or for other reasons, and police may charge them with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor offense, he said.

The woman in this case has not been charged with filing a false report because she stopped talking to police, and they have no evidence proving her account is true or false, Splain said.

Splain said he considers downtown Asheville safe, but “these kinds of things don’t help us when we have an unfounded report of rape, especially stranger rape. That causes a lot of concern, especially in the downtown area,” he said.

Link: http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200880806090