Friday, August 28, 2009

Just what does it take to be arrested for rape?

Not much.

The following well-reasoned article by Andrew Scott from the Pocono Record should send a chill up the spine of any Y-chromosome-bearing human being and the women who love and care about them. It underscores what we often say here: virtually any male above a certain age can be arrested, charged, tried, and convicted for a rape he didn't commit if a woman is intent on destroying him, and if she's a good enough actor. That's right, gentlemen: your liberty, your life, rests on the goodwill of our female population not to target you for rape. The fact that there are not far more false rape claims only underscores the good will of most women. We have seen innumerable cases where false accusers were deemed completely credible and told compelling stories -- good actors, if you will. The fact that some decide, of their own volition, to recant, is scarcely consolation to the men and boys whose false accusers don't recant. The sad reality is that you have little control over whether your life will be destroyed by a false rape claim. The pendulum has swung too far.

Victims' words alone can be enough in rape cases

By Andrew Scott
Pocono Record Writer
August 28, 2009

Two recent Monroe County cases of false rape reports pose the question: What evidence is necessary to charge or convict someone of a sex crime?

The victim's report alone is all, authorities said. No physical or DNA evidence is needed.

"Police can charge a suspect based on just the alleged victim's statement if that statement is convincing," said Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Michael Rakaczewski, who prosecutes the county's sexual offense cases. "A jury can find a defendant guilty on just the victim's testimony alone if the jury believes that testimony beyond a reasonable doubt."

Lack of physical evidence can result from the accuser, due to fear, shame or other reasons, not reporting the incident until days, months or even years afterward. Lack of DNA evidence can result from the accused having worn a condom.

In many cases where there is no such evidence, it all comes down to the defendant's word against the alleged victim's and whom the jury finds more credible, regardless of whether or not the accused truly committed the crime.

In cases where the accused is acquitted or the accuser admits to lying prior to a district court preliminary hearing, the accused usually a man) must live under public stigma, despite his name being cleared, said attorney Thomas Sundmaker, who has represented clients charged with sexual offenses.

"You're never innocent," Sundmaker said. "You're just not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Also, people who admit to lying about being raped make it that much harder for legitimate rape victims, whose credibility is damaged as a result, Rakaczewski said.

People lie for various reasons, such as wanting attention or to "get back at" someone, Sundmaker said.

Since July, police have reported two cases in Monroe County of women falsely claiming they were raped.

Brandy Phy, 22, of Tobyhanna, pleaded guilty in district court Aug. 14 to falsely reporting being raped in her home in July after a police investigation found her allegations not based in fact. Phy has been ordered to pay a fine and court costs totaling $1,204.50.

Police said East Stroudsburg University student Laura Gruver, also 22, of Bethlehem, has admitted lying about being raped Aug. 13 by a man with a knife on campus. Police said Gruver admitted lying because she had been having personal problems and not doing well in school.

East Stroudsburg Magisterial District Judge Michael Muth's office is mailing Gruver a citation for filing false reports and summons to appear in district court for a hearing scheduled for late September.

Police said Gruver initially reported that she was walking to her car in the ESU parking lot at about 11:15 a.m. Aug. 13 when a man with a knife grabbed her from behind, forced her into the bushes and raped her.

Both Phy and Gruver initially gave police physical descriptions of suspects they claimed raped them.

"Imagine what would have happened if the police charged men who fit those descriptions and those men had to suffer the humiliation of being publicly identified as alleged rapists, only to have the women later recant their statements," Sundmaker said.

Rakaczewski said police have no choice but to do their job, act on the information provided to them and conduct thorough investigations. Police are trained to be able to tell how credible accusers and suspects are when interviewing them.

Rakaczewski added that, under a recent change in state law extending the statute of limitations, a person who is sexually victimized as a child has until age 50 to report the crime.

"I personally don't agree with that," Sundmaker said. "It opens up too many doors."