Sunday, March 22, 2009

After another local girl falsely cries 'rape,' columnist changes her mind -- now thinks false accusers should be charged

COMMENT: Of course they should be charged -- you don't treat an epidemic by ignoring it.

Trying to avoid trouble is a ridiculous reason to cry 'rape'

March 22, 2009
Kimberly A. Brehm

Do teen girls really believe it's easier to claim false rape to their parents and police than to face the consequences of their own dumb actions?

For the second time in less than six months, a south suburban teen has acknowledged lying about a sexual assault to avoid punishment.

In the most recent case, 19-year-old Heather Krueger, of Tinley Park, told police last week that she was attacked while on her way home from the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade. The assault, she said, happened in the 80th Avenue Metra parking lot in Tinley Park.

Within two days, though, she recanted her story and admitted fabricating it to deflect the wrath she would face from her parents after they learned she had been celebrating in true Irish fashion.

"She had been drinking, and she was afraid to go home to her parents," Tinley Park police Cmdr. Pat McCain said.

In September, a 17-year-old Palos Heights girl claimed rape after being kidnapped by a sandwich shop on Harlem Avenue. She told police she had been subjected to a three-hour attack at knifepoint before being released by her attacker.

After a $250,000 police investigation, the girl admitted to making up the story. In the two weeks before her confession, rumors ran rampant the girl was lying because she was trying to hide something from her parents.

"I think it's unfortunate when young people don't feel comfortable enough to go to their parents or whomever," a neighbor said at the time.

In an October column, I wrote that I felt sorry for the Palos Heights girl, especially after many in the community expressed outrage after learning she lied. The girl clearly had some emotional problems and needed sympathy, not anger or hatred. I mean wouldn't someone who would lie about something so private and violating as rape have some serious issues?

Many readers disagreed, saying she should have had to pay for the investigation or be held criminally responsible for filing a false report. Palos Heights police decided not to hold her liable, instead allowing her to do community service as her penance.

Tinley Park police are taking a different approach and have charged Krueger with misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

I know back in October I said the Palos Heights teen should be left alone to get help for her problems, but after further reflection and a heated debate with a well-respected colleague, I must say I support the decision of the Tinley Park police.

Teen girls never should be given the message that crying rape is a good way to get out of trouble, even if they are having emotional problems or can't face possible consequences of their actions. And filing a false sexual assault report because you might get caught drinking? I am sure a lot of teens went home Sunday and had to face the music after celebrating at the parade, but they didn't waste police time and resources searching for an attacker who doesn't exist.

In Palos Heights, many business owners were hurt financially, and residents lived in unnecessary fear for weeks.

"Every time I saw a black car (the description the girl gave police), I wondered if it was him," one female resident said after learning the attack never happened.

The owner of the sandwich shop where the girl was employed suffered financially, and his reputation was tarnished. Other nearby business owners also saw business decline as residents reacted to the news.

The false report also damaged the community's racial relations. The girl claimed her attacker had olive skin, dark hair and a heavy mustache. Many residents concluded the attacker was Middle Eastern, which stirred some underlying tensions.

And you can't forget about girls who really are sexually assaulted but are afraid to come forward because they're convinced no one will believe them.

Many people were damaged by the Palos Heights hoax, and there should be accountability.

And crying rape as a means of escaping a well-deserved punishment is not a message we want to send to teens. Girls need to know there will be serious repercussions.

Kimberly A. Brehm can be reached at