Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, you've been falsely accused

Despite our fondest aspirations, Christmas is marked less by peace on earth and goodwill toward men than by bruised feelings, horn honking, and at least a vague feeling of dread. Both emotions and alcohol tend to flow a little too freely on the run up to the big day, and all our modern day angst is magnified under the Christmas snow globe. In short, it is the perfect season for the nastiest of human dramas, like suicide, assault, and false rape claims.  This blog, of course, is dedicated to giving voice to victims of false heinous sex allegations, and we call our holiday offering, "Merry Christmas, you've been falsely accused," only because we couldn't come up with anything better.

Regardless of your troubles this holiday season, they probably can't compare to those of some of the men featured here:

▲On another Christmas Eve not long ago, an innocent man and a woman named Michelle Anne Taruka Grafton, 19, a student, had a brief liaison but spent most of the evening watching television with the man's flatmate. Later, the police came for the man to question him about an alleged rape.  Grafton had claimed the man forced into a car, tied her up, and repeatedly raped her. While the police were investigating, and while the innocent man's life was left in a state of terrified anxiety over a pending rape charge, Grafton hopped on a plane and went away on holiday to Australia for a month.  When she finally bothered to come back, she admitted her lie.  When the story was reported, the newspaper interviewed Director of Rape Prevention Education, Dr Kim McGregor, who said: "We treat people who have made false allegations with compassion because there's always a question mark over other issues being played out."

▲Another Christmas Eve, police were given a false tip that a rapist was hiding in a certain home. The tip was a lie. The police got their signals crossed and broke down the front door.  In the confusion that followed, they accidentally gunned down the innocent 84-year-old man who lived in the home with his elderly wife. He, of course, hadn't raped anyone. The wife was taken to the hospital in shock and later died of a heart attack.

▲On another Christmas, John Chalmers, 47, was beaten by a man who was under the wrong-headed belief Mr. Chalmers had raped his sister.  Mr. Chalmers suffered brain damage and had to relearn how to do everything.

▲Another Christmas, Northern Ireland footballer Jonny Evans was arrested, held in custody, and accused of raping a woman at a boozy Christmas party his team held at a posh hotel. Jonny was cleared, but it forced him to grow up fast. "It made me a lot more wary of people," Jonmy said.  The experience showed him how men can easily become victims of false allegations.  Jonny said it was "scary" how anyone could be arrested based solely on someone's false allegation.

▲Another Christmas, Gail McMahon, 25, a mother of four, had gone to a bedroom with a 23-year-old man after asking him for a Christmas kiss. Afterwards, she alleged he seduced and raped her. Eight days later, she withdrew the claim, saying she had done it "for a good laugh and giggle." The judge told McMahon that her false cry of rape led to an innocent man being arrested, interrogated and made to give intimate samples.

▲Another Christmas, Diane Kay Sharping, 44, told police a man attacked and raped her while she was looking at Christmas lights.  A university nearby sent out an alert to students. When police questioned Sharping a second time, she admitted that it had not happened.

▲Another Christmas, Sharon Donohue lied that she was raped after she was abducted in a shopping center parking lot where she was doing Christmas shopping.

▲Another year, the best Christmas gift then 25-year-old Andrew Bond got was the surveillance video that proved his rape accuser was a liar.  Months earlier, a woman with whom he'd had a one-night stand cried rape, and when police got to her, she was a mess. Her makeup was running, her clothes were dishevelled and her underwear had been ripped to shreds. 'I've been raped,' she said in a voice that reflected her distress.  The police came for Andrew at 4:50 a.m. He was arrested, stripped, made to wear a disposable white paper suit - his clothes were taken away for examination - and locked in a cell. "I felt embarrassed and degraded," he said. "All I could think of is: 'Who is going to believe me?' Whenever I read about such cases in the paper I always thought: 'It must be true.'  It never crossed my mind that a 'victim' might be lying, until now." Being locked in that cell was very traumatic. "I kept pressing the buzzer and saying 'let me out.'  I was very distressed and in tears. I think I was having a breakdown." By now, the police had broken the news to his parents.  When he was charged with rape, the young man broke down and cried. Andrew's life was torn to shreds -- he was forced to leave the university where he was studying.  He had to sell things to stay afloat financially. For months, the police didn't bother to check CCTV footage taken where Andrew lived. Then, just before Christmas, Andrew himself remembered a video camera in his building. Police watched it. The tape revealed that Andrew was the victim, not a brutal rapist. Andrew was filmed entering the building with a female companion with shoulder-length hair and knee-high boots.  They chat and cuddle in the lift on the way to his 11th-floor apartment.  About an hour later, the woman leaves the flat. She looks composed and relaxed. She is neither crying nor fleeing in terror. Next we see her getting into the lift. The security camera is behind her. In the reflection of the elevator's metal walls, she can be seen pulling something out of her handbag. She begins to tear at it with her hands. It is a pair of knickers, in fact. The same ones she claimed had been ripped during the struggle. Police dropped the charges against Andrew. The young woman was not charged, and she retained her anonymity. Merry Christmas, Andrew.

▲Melanie Duell called police in the early morning hours one Christmas, claiming she'd been raped.  The man she named was arrested and held for ten hours. He was finally cleared weeks later when she admitted he wasn't the man who attacked her. Duell's attorney said Duell was an inadequate and vulnerable young woman who found if difficult to cope and who had been put under pressure by her family at the time.  She said Duell did not commit the offence out of revenge or because she was bitter and twisted but added: "I acknowledge this was a grave, grave error of judgment and she knows that."

▲A 21-year-old told police that three men dragged her into a car and one raped her on the back seat one Christmas day. It was a lie.

▲Another year, Jan Falkowski, a 46-year-old successful London psychiatrist, was brought to his knees by Maria Marchese, a deluded stalker who launched a four year hate campaign - with thousands of anonymous texts, phone calls and emails, and dozens of death threats.  Finally, she was arrested, but then, the police decided there was not enough evidence to proceed and the case was dropped. Falkowski was furious. At his office Christmas party, it all came to a head. The phone rang. It was her, treatening to kill him. Once again he reported her to the police.  That's when she fabricated rape claim against him. She told the police that Falkowski had drugged and raped her years earlier. To support her claim, she produced underwear supposedly soaked in his DNA.  Falkowski was arrested, charged with rape, and in accordance with standard practice, suspended from his job while police investigated. Marchese alerted radio and newspapers who headlined the case: "Top doctor charged with rape." Even Falkowski's friends abandoned him. Then, it was discovered that Marchese's underwear sample contained not just his DNA but the DNA of one of Falkowski's women friends whom Falkowski hadn't even met until a year after the rape supposedly occurred. The police realized they'd been conned. Marchese had rifled through Falkowski's dustbins and stolen a used condom.

▲Another Christmas, Austen Donnellan was cleared of raping a fellow undergraduate, with whom he had previously said he was besotted, after a drunken Christmas party. During his trial, Austen told the court that his accuser had kissed him passionately on the dance floor and undressed him when they returned to her room at the halls of her residence. She claimed she was raped. The judge told the jury that a woman who is drunk can still consent unless she was so drunk that couldn't understand what is happening to her.  The jury took just 35 minutes to acquit Austen.

On behalf of Steve and Pierce, FRS wishes the community of the wrongly accused and all our readers a very Merry Christmas.