Thursday, December 26, 2013

Marie Severance false sexaul assault claim

Perhaps if we brought the focus of false reporting to the damage it does to those falsely accused, and not put all of the focus on the person who did the false accusing, it wouldn't be such a drain. And really, the punishment, if enacted in full, for the false report, is only the possibility of a year in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. That needs to be higher. If someone had been convicted, based on her false claim, would the punishment have been comparable?

The cynical side of me says that one of the main reasons that the rape crisis/domestic abuse shelters push so hard on the "believe the accuser," based on nothing more than the claim, is that they are aware of just how many accusations are false, and don't want the accusations looked at too closely. The empathetic me realizes that there are likely people who work at these locations who are genuine, caring, thoughtful people who want to help.

It's a fine line, and one we should all be concerned about. Help the accuser, but blind belief should have no place when it comes to accusations of this type.

Police say Marie Severance, who resides outside of Vermont, falsely reported that she was raped at the Main Street Park Gazebo in Rutland. Police say providing false information to law enforcement is a frequent reality.

"People lie to us all the time and sometimes that includes people who say they are victims," Rutland City Police Cpl. Sam Delpha said.

But police say falsely reporting a sex assault is rare. Police say the most common incident of false reporting is when people get pulled over for traffic violations, they'll show a fake ID or they'll give a name of a neighbor or somebody else they know, and provide their name and information.

False reporting wastes time and money. In this particular case, Delpha says 26 man-hours were used to investigate the case, which the department says is time they don't have. The Rutland Police Department is currently short five officers.

"It can be a drain," Delpha said.

And victim advocates say false reporting hurts real victims of domestic or sexual violence, who already have the odds stacked against them when it comes to getting justice.

"Many times the perpetrator has control over the victim, threatens the victim that if she calls the police, he will do her more harm," said Marianne Kennedy of the Rutland County Women's Network & Shelter.

Kennedy says real victims struggle with coming forward and making a report. They often feel like reporting the crime is not necessary or that they can't report it due to their domestic situation.

"Victims tend to minimize the danger because usually they are in a relationship with an intimate partner, someone they care for," Kennedy said.

Kennedy says the Rutland County Women's Network & Shelter works closely with law enforcement to guide victims on making reports to police. But police need the time to investigate.

"Certainly we need to devote our time to true reports of crime and help the true victims," Delpha said.

False reporting is a charge that carries up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, if the false report implicates another person.

If a victim contacts police about a crime, they do not have to file a report. Police tell us that victims can always come to law enforcement to ask questions. They are not obligated to make a report if they just want advice.