Thursday, July 5, 2012

One man's take on a false rape claim

Phony claim never help real victims: I was among those bamboozled by the young lady who made a false claim of rape

Found here: http://www.fayobserver.com/articles/2012/07/01/1187765?sac=fo.local

By Myron B. Pitts

The girl, 14, reported to police that on June 21, a man in his 50s pulled her into the bushes in Linear Park behind the Headquarters Library and sexually assaulted her.

Police investigated the claim and found that the rape did not happen.

But I want to point out that the safety tips the police provided and which I wrote about last Thursday still apply, both to men and women. We must be aware of our surroundings, no matter where we are.
Assaults can and do happen in broad daylight. Last week in Winston-Salem, a woman having lunch in her car in a grocery store parking lot was startled by a man who brandished a weapon and made her move to the passenger seat. He drove her to another spot, where he raped her.

Real victims of assault are never helped by phony claims. It is already difficult enough for women to report to police such a traumatic experience. Only 16 percent of rapes are ever reported to police, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, making sexual assault the least-reported violent crime in law enforcement.

So I tend to give women and girls the benefit of the doubt when they have the courage to try to bring their attacker to justice.

And it's not that I didn't have some level of doubt in this particular case.

A man I interviewed, Arnold Wynn, explained to me how there were several people in Linear Park at the time of the assault. A concert was going on down the street in Festival Park.

Wynn, who goes to the park and library three times a week, seemed skeptical - though he never said he doubted the young lady's account. He just seemed to be puzzling out how and where it happened and how nobody saw anything. He and some of the other "regulars" I talked to asked about the suspect's description, to see if it was someone they had seen before. It wasn't.

After I interviewed another man, I dropped my pen and pad to my side and asked, "Is there any feeling around there that this may not have happened at all?"

He paused, then decided he did not want to follow me down that path. He said that in his view it is best to believe her, because too often women don't report rapes out of concern they won't be believed.

He is right, of course, and I felt like a heel for even bringing it up.

While I am annoyed that a girl would put a community on edge and waste police officers' time and resources, we should realize she is not typical and that most women alleging rape were, in fact, assaulted. Usually, it's by men they know, and often, the victims are young: 21.6 percent of victims are under age 12, and 32 percent are ages 12 to 17, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey.

A reader at our website asked: "I wonder what would make a 14-year-old make up a terrible story like this?"

Probably a young lady in need of some kind of intervention.

I try to see the blessing in things, and the one I see here is that many other teenagers' cries for help involve them harming themselves or others.

Let's hope her parents can get her the help she needs before she makes an even worse choice.

Columnist Myron B. Pitts can be reached at pittsm@fayobserver.com or 486-3559.

Comment under the story by JWshrecker: "One very clear and distinct truism is it is NOT a function of law enforcement to 'give benefit of the doubt' to anyone. It IS a function of law enforcement to investigate and resolve doubt."