Thursday, July 28, 2011

Woman is victim of elaborate revenge plot, and the lessons for false rape cases

This isn't a false rape case, it's the story of a classic rush to judgment that is, in many ways, typical of the cases we feature here. It holds an important lesson for the kinds of cases we normally cover here, but you have to read to the end to get to it.

The New York Times reports that a woman named Seemona Sumasar accused her ex-boyfriend of raping her, and in retaliation, he concocted "one of the most elaborate framing plots" police had ever seen that left Ms. Sumasar's life in tatters.

"One night, Ms. Sumasar was pulled over by the police. Before she could speak, detectives slapped handcuffs on her. 'You know you did it,' she said one later shouted at her. 'Just admit it.'” Sumasar was charged with carrying out a series of armed robberies, supposedly based on credible witness statements and proof that her car was the getaway vehicle. A despondent Sumasar sat in jail for seven months, helplessly watching as she lost her restaurant franchise and saw her house go into foreclosure. 

Finally, the plot unraveled. It was, of course, all a lie.  Prosecutors defended their actions in proceeding against her by noting "that the web of false evidence presented by [the ex-boyfriend] was so detailed they had little reason to doubt it."

Anthony Grandinette, Ms. Sumasar’s former lawyer, said law enforcement was negligent, and he posited an explanation that is instructive for this case, and others: "Why would a tiny woman with no criminal record, who worked 10 years on Wall Street, randomly hold up people at gunpoint at night dressed as a policewoman?” Mr. Grandinette asked. 

That is a plausible explanation in Ms. Sumasar's defense, but it's also instructive for the typical false rape cases we feature here: the sort of explanation proffered by Mr. Grandinette is simply not readily available to the vast majority of men and boys featured on this blog.  When an ex-girlfriend, ex-wife, or acquaintance accuses a guy of rape, we never hear this excuse:  "Why would a guy with no criminal record, who worked 10 years on Wall Street, want to rape this woman?”  The widely held, albeit markedly dubious, presumption, which is actually a shared cultural tenet, is exactly the opposite--"men will hit on/screw/f*ck anything that moves."  And not just for consensual sex.  Professors, legal scholars, and people taken seriously by mainstream news outlets instruct us that rape is rampant and, in fact, "normalized to the point where men who are otherwise decent guys will rape and not even think that it's wrong." (Jessica Valenti)  Throw all that together and what you're left with is that the rape of any female by any male above a certain age is deemed plausible.

And that plausibility is why false rape claims are much more common than cases like Seemona Sumasar's.