"So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that."
October 24, 2014 12:26 PM   Subscribe

While working within the Chicago Police Department, Rebecca Campbell (PhD, Professor, Michigan State University) was told by a detective that "most victims lie" about sexual assault. She, on the other hand, was certain that most victims told the truth. Wondering how both she and the detective could be so certain, she began to do the research to find out. Her work examines how the legal and medical and mental health systems respond to the needs of adult, adolescent and pediatric victims of sexual assault. [Warning for graphic descriptions of assaults]

When she asked how they can be so certain that victims are making a false report, police said:

"The stuff they say makes no sense."
"I see them hedge, making it up as they go along."
"They lie all the time. I can tell."
"No way it's true. No one would act like that if it's true."
"They can't get their story straight."

A fifteen year veteran police officer commented, "So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that. And then they say 'Nevermind. I don't want to do this.' Okay, then. Complainant refused to prosecute; case closed."

As Campbell notes, "What we know from criminal justice research is that we have a problem with case attrition. Most cases don’t move very far through the system. It’s happening very early on. And now we have some insight into how it’s happening, and we have some important clues about why it’s happening — that there’s something about victims’ behavior that the members of the legal community may not be understanding."

Campbell then turned to her own education in psychology, along with psychiatry, where they “study the neurobiology of trauma and victim behavior, and how trauma affects memory, cognition, and emotion."

As she examined the neurobiology of sexual assault, she noted that “there are many different regions of the brain that are impacted by trauma. [...] The first two are neural mechanisms that have to do with hormones and emotions that might be happening during the assault. The second two are neural mechanisms that have to do with encoding, processing, and the memory of the assault.”

By examining what happens inside the brain during a sexual assault, Campbell was able to explain 'strange behaviours' like tonic immobility ("essentially an entire shutdown in the body", also known as "rape-induced paralysis" - the reason a victim doesn't fight back despite knowing she 'should') and how stress hormones make it difficult for the brain to encode and consolidate memories (leading to fragmented memories and difficulty retrieving those memories, and explaining why police felt that stories were 'sketchy' or fragmented). Her research addressed "flat affect" and "strange emotions" from victims making reports.

Perhaps most importantly, her research demonstrated how law enforcement interview techniques can either help with memory consolidation or lead to secondary victimization.

Suddenly, the victims' behaviour made perfect sense...

Watch the webinar here and/or read the transcript here.

One victim said, "After years of blaming myself, questioning myself, feeling tormented, I now understand why I froze every time I was assaulted. It now has a name. I don't have to wonder why or what's wrong with me or why didn't I do anything. I can't tell you how much relief this article brings me. You must know how much your website and your work helps those of us who have suffered in silent torment and agony. You give us a voice. You give us compassion. You give us strength and hope. There are no words to express the gratitude I feel."

(When I saw her speak in 2014, she commented that she has a hard time getting permission to publish her presentations, statistics, and research publicly due to her funding sources.)
posted by VioletU (49 comments total) 190 users marked this as a favorite
 
As someone who disassociates this stuff is super important. I've spent so so much time I therapy to get my affect to match what people expect.

The long term issues mostly have to do with pain tolerance and medical providers not believing me when I'mhaving medical problems.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:35 PM on October 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


A counselor sent this to me a while back and I found it pretty informative and helpful for dealing with some of the guilt I felt. Thanks for posting.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 12:37 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


A fifteen year veteran police officer commented, "So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that. And then they say 'Nevermind. I don't want to do this.' Okay, then. Complainant refused to prosecute; case closed."


What great news. If this catches on with all police officers we will save lots of money presently being spent on our judicial system.
posted by notreally at 12:42 PM on October 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


This is really important work. Thank you for posting it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:43 PM on October 24, 2014 [14 favorites]


(When I saw her speak in 2014, she commented that she has a hard time getting permission to publish her presentations, statistics, and research publicly due to her funding sources.)

Can you expand on this? Who is funding her and why are they refusing permission to publish?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:46 PM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cops believe that everyone lies to them. They have reasons to believe this, but that doesn't mean they're always right.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:47 PM on October 24, 2014 [12 favorites]


One of the things I've been thinking about is just how many police forces we have. Every little town has its own, thousands of counties all have their own sheriff's department, and what are the odds that a significant proportion of them are going to have anyone trained to interview a traumatized victim of sexual assault? Perhaps with a little consolidation they could afford to have specialists available.

I realize that this doesn't address the main problem and I've no doubt that large cities with well-staffed law enforcement divisions aren't any good at this either, but seriously, we need some standards and you don't get there when every damn patch of ground can pretty much do law enforcement any damn way they feel comfortable doing it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:50 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cops believe that everyone lies to them.

Projection is a dangerous thing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:52 PM on October 24, 2014 [67 favorites]


I've been in jury selection pools where during voir dire the prosecutor basically took the "if you're arrested, you're guilty, because the police don't arrest the wrong person" line to see how you reacted. It's amazing to watch people cave to it and nod obligingly.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:54 PM on October 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


A fifteen year veteran police officer commented, "So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that. And then they say 'Nevermind. I don't want to do this.' Okay, then. Complainant refused to prosecute; case closed."

That is like a fucking gut punch not only to my being a woman, but to being a human being.
posted by Kitteh at 12:55 PM on October 24, 2014 [99 favorites]


Can you expand on this? Who is funding her and why are they refusing permission to publish?

Sangermaine, no, I can't expand. She came to my city to speak as a guest of the local Sexual Assault Support Centre. She stated that she was unable to provide us with any handouts from her presentation and, when asked, said that it was due to the way her funding was provided to her and who 'owned' the research.
posted by VioletU at 12:56 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]




I recently saw David Lisak present on these topics, and it is in fact critical information for understanding how sexual assault victims (and other victims of violence) respond and report. It sure isn't information most people get intuitively.

As for the police attitude . . . another thing going on is what I used to label, back when I was a sexual assault/domestic violence prosecutor, the "presumption of disbelief." There are some things so bad that people just don't want to believe them. They presume it couldn't be true because it is so dreadful that the event is so. Police are people too and it isn't surprising to me, now or then, that they tend to default to disbelief, particularly when they are newer to these ugly topics.

I'd add that the desire to disbelieve just underlines how terrible being assaulted is for the person who actually had to experience the awfulness.
posted by bearwife at 1:03 PM on October 24, 2014 [23 favorites]


One of the things I've been thinking about is just how many police forces we have. Every little town has its own, thousands of counties all have their own sheriff's department, and what are the odds that a significant proportion of them are going to have anyone trained to interview a traumatized victim of sexual assault? Perhaps with a little consolidation they could afford to have specialists available.

Having a gazillion police forces is a US peculiarity and most countries have a national police force instead, but I suspect only a small number of countries are doing a fantastic job in terms of handling sexual assault cases.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:07 PM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


You people deserve a better police force. We all do.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:08 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Who is funding her and why are they refusing permission to publish?

The transcript said her "current" research is funded by National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and I imagine that some information relating to police procedures and practices are considered sensitive information, as police fear that if people know everything about how they train and what they look for, then would-be culprits could get the upper hand and anticipate police tactics. At least, that was the case made for why the local police procedures manual wasn't fully available to the public.


[Police] presume it couldn't be so because it is so dreadful that is is so. Police are people too and it isn't surprising to me, now or then, that they tend to default to disbelief, particularly when they are newer to these ugly topics.

This is interesting, especially after hearing many cases, some first-hand, about how police and security professionals view the world through their experiences, where crime his more intense than as viewed by the public at large. A police officer may see a public park as a focal point for drugs and such, while a member of the public might feel comfortable taking their family their for a picnic.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:09 PM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's always astonishing (and a little bit hilarious in a shocked laughter sort of way) to me when people express disbelief that any rape victim of any age or gender would be wary of reporting the crime to a bunch of aggressively dismissive sneering men whose default response is to treat them like a criminal and a liar and a whore. You'd get better treatment telling a stranger on the street.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:12 PM on October 24, 2014 [132 favorites]


For comparison I find for example the Hampshire (UK) Constabulary's practices on rape and serious sexual offenses. Note the references to witness care officers and sexual offence investigation trained officers. Here's another for the Metropolitan Police (greater London, basically).

If I'm not mistaken all UK police forces are under the jurisdiction of the Home Office which means there's some common authority for setting standards. By contrast ours seem to be guided only by Supreme Court rulings.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:17 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


What great news. If this catches on with all police officers we will save lots of money presently being spent on our judicial system.

Oh, it's caught on.

cries quietly.
posted by el io at 1:26 PM on October 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


Alice Sebold recounts in "Lucky" how, while being interrogated by the police after being awake for something like 24 hours following her rape, they thought she was lying because she seemed a little off.
posted by kyrademon at 1:28 PM on October 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


If this catches on with all police officers we will save lots of money presently being spent on our judicial system.
It has totally caught on. Imagine the law enforcement expense if we had police who believed that "victims' rights" aren't limited to sitting on the execution of the murderer of their relative.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:08 PM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wonder if this research will ever convince the officer who has spent his career dismissing these women's testimony. I wonder how many hundreds of women have been denied justice because of this one individual's unbelief. If this officer ever comes to believe what Dr. Campbell's research has shown, he will suddenly have to face the fact that he has been a massive impediment to justice; that, through his ignorance and pride, he has been a force for injustice. I wonder if he or his buddies down at the precinct will ever see this research as anything but a personal attack.

Confirmation Bias, and Belief Perseverance are real, both in individuals and in complex systems. How many more people are going to be denied justice before the truth is allowed to improve the system?

goddammit, world, why are we so fucked up?
posted by DGStieber at 2:09 PM on October 24, 2014 [22 favorites]


This is beyond infuriating because the phenomenon is so well-known, so entrenched, so intrinsic, so fucking structural in the jargoniest sense of the word, all levels of the chain internalising and reproducing those sick patterns. Victims know they won't be believed, police know they're lying, and perps know the whole shitty system is set up to make it as unlikely as possible their acts will have consequences. Case closed indeed.
posted by Freyja at 2:10 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


A fifteen year veteran police officer commented, "So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that. And then they say 'Nevermind. I don't want to do this.' Okay, then. Complainant refused to prosecute; case closed."

Can everyone in here promise me that the next time we get anyone in any thread in here who asks "but if she was really assaulted why didn't she go to the police," that we will link them to this thread?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:25 PM on October 24, 2014 [110 favorites]


Cops believe that everyone lies to them.

Projection is a dangerous thing.


But it's no danger at all, to the cops.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:38 PM on October 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Cops believe that everyone lies to them. They have reasons to believe this

In this case, the main reason is societal and institutional misogyny. Just as black people are more likely to be disbelieved about everything, women are more likely to be disbelieved about sexual assaults, not because of some general, hard-bitten, tough cop sensibility, but because of specific individual and systemic biases against those groups. To generalise in this context feels like whitewashing.
posted by howfar at 2:40 PM on October 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


I wonder if he or his buddies down at the precinct will ever see this research as anything but a personal attack.

The research was done by a woman. I'm sure they've already dismissed it as being hysterical.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:47 PM on October 24, 2014 [12 favorites]


Shame me for not being linky if you like, but if you are interested in a formal, institutional aspects of this then Google for other stories on problems with the Reid technique.

NPR and Frontline have pieces, if you need something to listen to on the home commute.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:49 PM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cops believe that everyone lies to them. They have reasons to believe this, but that doesn't mean they're always right.

I have been with people who filed police reports, and have filed them myself. I have never seem an officer respond to a charge of theft, or burglary, or even complaints that someone is a public nuisance, by challenging the person, pushing them for seeming contradictions in their story, and then dismissing the charge based on a gut feeling that they must be lying.
posted by maxsparber at 3:54 PM on October 24, 2014 [40 favorites]


if you are interested in a formal, institutional aspects of this then Google for other stories on problems with the Reid technique.

Surely the massively overriding problem with the Reid technique in this context is that it's being applied to victims rather than suspects.

While the police obviously do need to assess the credibility of accusations somehow, the basis of the Reid technique is to proceed from an assumption that the person being talked to is guilty. The fact that the police seem to proceed from similar basis when interviewing (or, it seems, interrogating) sexual assault complainants is basically the root of the problem here.
posted by nicolas.bray at 4:44 PM on October 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


I wonder if the gender of the officer impacts if they take the charges seriously. If I was a women reporting rape, I'd demand to talk to a female officer when reporting the crime. It might help.
posted by el io at 4:54 PM on October 24, 2014


I wonder if the gender of the officer impacts if they take the charges seriously. If I was a women reporting rape, I'd demand to talk to a female officer when reporting the crime. It might help.

There was a situation here in Seattle recently where a woman took a photograph of a man who grabbed her ass in public and took it to the police. The female officer on duty wouldn't even look at it. Disgusted, she tweeted the photo out, and SURPRISE the guy was a level 3 sex offender violating his parole!

so alas no I don't think it would help. When institutional misogyny is this severe, women often feel like they have to go even farther than men in order to have a place within the institution.
posted by KathrynT at 5:16 PM on October 24, 2014 [47 favorites]


When institutional misogyny is this severe, women often feel like they have to go even farther than men in order to have a place within the institution.

Part of my job is challenging local authority decisions on homelessness. People who are homeless "intentionally" only receive very limited assistance, so the reason people left their last home is significant. My experience here suggests that female decision makers are at least as likely to disbelieve the accounts given by women fleeing domestic violence. Anecdotally, my feeling is that this kind of scepticism is, if anything, more pronounced among the women I encounter in these roles than men. But it's hard to know how much of that is my own cognitive bias at work. At the very least, selective attention (because it seems counter-intuitive) and confirmation bias seem like real possibilities, and my own unaccounted misogyny can't be ruled out (however much I'd like to do so!).

But yes, it certainly feels like reporting such incidents to women is at least no better than reporting to men. I'd be interested in data to clarify this.
posted by howfar at 5:40 PM on October 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


I wonder if the gender of the officer impacts if they take the charges seriously. If I was a women reporting rape, I'd demand to talk to a female officer when reporting the crime. It might help.

There was a reality-type show on cable about female detectives. I only watched one clip because in it, one of the detectives was on her way to investigate a rape case and she was exasperated at being called out to do so. When asked why--in the car, on camera--she said that she was sure it was going to turn out to be unfounded. When asked why, she said, "Well, the woman who was allegedly raped is in a wheelchair. So."

You generally don't make it that far in police work without adopting and mirroring the prevailing belief systems of those in charge.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 5:40 PM on October 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


I wonder if the gender of the officer impacts if they take the charges seriously. If I was a women reporting rape, I'd demand to talk to a female officer when reporting the crime. It might help.

Something I read recently (possibly linked on mefi somewhere?) about how changing the makeup of a police force to more closely match the population it works in doesn't make a huge difference in biased policing. Since police culture seems to strongly hold to an "us and them" - it didn't surprise me much.

A few years ago, woman reported being raped; the police didn't believe her so much that they charged her with filing a false report and she had to pay a $500 fine. Later, cops caught a serial rapist, and in going through his stuff, discovered her picture (among many others of his victims) on his phone.
posted by rtha at 6:22 PM on October 24, 2014 [18 favorites]


I have never seem an officer respond to a charge...then dismissing the charge based on a gut feeling that they must be lying.

So I, a white middle-aged "soccer mom", living in a small Canadian town, was nearly run over on my two-lane Main Street a couple of days after giving birth to my fourth child. I was crossing at the crosswalk at about ten am, on a clear autumn day, after waiting for the correct signal and pausing briefly for the first car to race into their left turn ahead of me (I had the right of way and had to pause or else walk into the side of the car). I'm a fast walker but the second vehicle also wanted to "beat me" across to save waiting the literal seconds it would take me to finish crossing. I had to use my hands on the centre of the hood of the SUV to leverage my momentum to get out of the path of the speeding vehicle. Immediately after, my city councillor (a neighbour from two door down) helped pick myself up from the gutter and lent me a pen so I could record the licence plate and description of the vehicle on the back of his business card.

I am articulate, polite, university educated, able to code-shift language (such as calling the SUV a vehicle, not a car), and familiar with police and legal procedures from my work; I presented as well-dressed, in good shoes, with no prior police involvement (he openly checked in front of me), and my ID showed an address that was known for being the most prestigious neighbourhood in town.

The police officer I spoke to outright called me a liar and said no one would just try to run over someone on Main Street. It wasn't until he spoke with the councillor, who verified my story exactly, that the officer deigned to take a report. (It went nowhere of course, but at the time I was really shaken that had the incident happened a week earlier I would not have been as nimble on my feet and may have lost my life and/or the life of my fetus).

So, yeah. Fuck the cops. I have no faith in them at all (not just this incident, but so many others I have witnessed while on the job).
posted by saucysault at 6:49 PM on October 24, 2014 [36 favorites]


By examining what happens inside the brain during a sexual assault, Campbell was able to explain 'strange behaviours' like tonic immobility ("essentially an entire shutdown in the body", also known as "rape-induced paralysis" - the reason a victim doesn't fight back despite knowing she 'should')

Oh my god. I've been quietly hating and ripping away at myself for years for freezing one of the times it happened.

Just yesterday, in fact, I was trying to write a comment about it in another thread on Metafilter and ended up writing a huge screed that I ended up deleting, because I found myself trying to justify, apologise for it, qualify, all sorts of things. And in the end I deleted the whole lot before posting because I was getting so mad and upset at myself for feeling those things - knowing it was incorrect that I did, that panic and fear reactions are unpredictable, but unable to stop doing it.

You have no idea what a relief it is to have a name for what I did, to have something real to hang my 'it wasn't something wrong with me that made me freeze, right?' feelings on, so that I can finally get rid of them.

I feel like i've been given a fucking axe to hack through them with, this is unbelievable.

[Edited because I forgot to paste in the quote I was replying to in the first place..!]
posted by pseudonymph at 9:10 PM on October 24, 2014 [33 favorites]


These links may be of further interest:

Sexual Assault Detectives' Justifications for Aggressive Victim Interviewing Methods: A Qualitative Study

Police Interviews of Sexual Assault Reporters: Do Attitudes Matter?

The studies linked above suggest a high correlation between detectives who believe "rape myths" and aggressive interviewing of victims. From the first article, rape myths include:

"It is the woman’s fault for being raped; rape is not a serious crime, there’s no harm done; women bring rape upon themselves; women secretly crave rape; it is not really rape if the victim knows the assailant; and a women’s appearance is associated with her being assaulted (Bevacqua, 2000; Burt, 1980)... Temkin (1995) If the woman is not a virgin before being raped, then she is most likely lying about being raped because if you consent to one man, you consent to all, and that women in reality like to be raped. Caringella (2009) includes... that women must have resisted and become injured by the attack for them to really have been raped."

So while some of the harsh treatment of sexual assault victims may fall under "cops just not believing anyone" it seems a large part of it is indeed due to misogynistic or ignorant attitudes toward sexual assault victims. However, (from the first article): "Studies have shown that training can be effective to improve skill level of detectives, positively influence their opinions towards women, broaden their perspectives on the different types of rape, and lessen victim blaming perspectives (Kinney et al., 2008)." So, in my personal opinion, it's really a community-wide problem. I think a lot of the ways sexual assault is generally handled is due to the unequal treatment of women in society. Obviously, things have gotten better through the years (after all, it's no longer lawful to rape your spouse!), but the harsh treatment sexual assault survivors receive occurs both in and outside of police departments for the same reasons.

Personal anecdote time...

I reported the abuse (that I have occasionally mentioned here) earlier this year and was lucky to not experience the traumatizing experiences that others have. I was very surprised to find that the detective assigned to my case was a decent guy and I did not feel like I was being interrogated. I think this was due to a few things: many details of the abuse were burned into my memory and I had a written account of what happened with me when I initially reported, the incidents themselves weren't "typical" rape situations and were somewhat sadistic, and I had a victim's advocate with me from a local nonprofit when I went to report. So, in other words, I likely appeared as someone who seemed credible and deserving of sympathy, a good victim.

I was very glad that my case was taken seriously and I was never treated with disrespect, but (slight derail) unfortunately, the real obstacle was the prosecutor's office. I just heard word today that they are declining to file charges due to lack of physical evidence (i.e. rape kit) and because there were no witnesses to the incident(s). (To which I say: when does a young woman who is raped by her first serious boyfriend -- who she just moved in with -- think, first and foremost, to immediately go get a rape kit done? And isn't it obvious that only the most desperate rapist will rape when there might be other people around to witness it?) And apparently, a recorded phone call of the person in question feeling "really guilty" about and making excuses for said incidents doesn't count for much either. I understand, but I do not think this is acceptable. I can only imagine the perpetrator feels very emboldened to know he can do it again without any consequences....

So I am full of ire today. Ire and despondence. This particular jurisdiction has recently had a lawsuit brought against them for false prosecution of a child sexual abuse case and I can't help but wonder if that has something to do with it.
posted by sevenofspades at 9:13 PM on October 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


It took me a long time to get through this because it's so upsetting, but thank you for posting.

I wonder if the gender of the officer impacts if they take the charges seriously. If I was a women reporting rape, I'd demand to talk to a female officer when reporting the crime.

Towards the end of the Q&A portion, a gentleman in the audience asks her a question about that. Her response is interesting but not conclusive:
Mark Kline: Hi. My name is Mark Kline. I'm from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. It seemed like some of the comments from the detectives that were interviewing these victims was very sexist. Did you have situations where female detectives were interviewing female victims, or was there a difference in the believability of the victim?

Campbell: Yeah. Several of the quotes that I showed you could be viewed and discussed in a lot of different ways or languages. I'm trying really hard in my work to work from the perspective of the benefit of the doubt and to try to remember why it is people go into any helping profession, be it nursing, be it medicine, be it law enforcement, be it prosecution, be it teaching. That there is an intrinsic motivation to that, and that over the course of time and a career, that there's a lot of things that start to wear that down and stereotypes start to come out. So yeah, I think, I can show you lots of data from law enforcement. I can show you lots of data from doctors and nurses that looks almost identical in terms of some very sexist attitudes, some very victim-blaming attitudes and the like. So when I say that this is one way that sexual assault case attrition happens, I think the other way is just plain old attitudes about this not being a real crime and not being one deserving of attention.

Now, to get to your question of is it different if we have female officers versus male officers. At least in my data, I see that there is either — in some studies I find no difference and in some studies I find worse when it's a female provider. Victims often want a female provider under the hope that there is going to be that sort of shared experience and empathy, except I'm not sure that's what gets tugged at in females in terms of empathy as in "There by the grace of God go I" and "I could be you" and "I don't want to think about being you" and "I can't be you, so I need to distance myself from you in any way I can. So you did something. I didn't do something. You did something that made this happen to you and I won't." So I've seen that a lot in female law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and I think again it's not necessarily about a desire not to help victims. It's a traumatic response to a traumatic situation. And so I think, again, it's sort of a training situation. But, again, I also do want to be clear, I've seen studies where it makes no difference at all, the gender of the provider.
The Q&A portion has some excellent material in it, especially where they talk about helping officers understand the neurology by comparing a victim's experience with the experience of an officer involved in a shooting.
posted by gladly at 9:24 PM on October 24, 2014 [12 favorites]


Absolutely there should be on-going training; but first there should be heavy screening of applicants to police forces and then the ongoing training and supportive atmosphere to reduce the traumatic effects on police officers and ensure they can continue to perform their job without bias.
posted by saucysault at 5:02 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Outlawing the maximum IQ requirements might help, too.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:05 AM on October 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


For the record, when I said that cops believe everyone lies to them, I did not mean to imply that rape victims are not treated worse than others reporting crimes, or that the cops' behavior toward them should be seen as normal. It shouldn't. My comment was trying to establish a sort of baseline. The aggressive-interviewing cops are going beyond normal cop behavior. It's not OK.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:29 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


A fifteen year veteran police officer commented, "So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that. And then they say 'Nevermind. I don't want to do this.' Okay, then. Complainant refused to prosecute; case closed."

I've been haunted for hours thinking about how many rapists were never brought to justice, how many victims learned the lesson that society did not care about them because of this man. It gets worse when I think about how many police officers think and do the exact same things. Fuck.
posted by a hat out of hell at 6:58 AM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


I got notified by MeMail that my comment about IQ read as hyperbole until the mailer looked it up, so providing a source. Not to cause a derail , just backing up what I said.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:39 AM on October 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


nicolas.bray, I suggested finding other stories about problems with the Reid technique because the controversy shows where law enforcement - and at high levels - has the gloss of science and process and quality standards on what is, essentially, BS that works for the cops because the cops always bat last.

It's like Dunning-Kruger but with a certificate to bolster the stupid. That's part of an institutional MO and balled up with how their us v. them attitude includes victims.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:52 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


My experience is that cops, judges and lawyers don't take accusations of abuse or rape seriously. The system at every turn is out to screw you again. Female officers can actually be far worse. They not only got to play in the Boy's Tree - House, they think they got to because they're somehow better than other women.
The absolute worst experience I had with a cop was with a female cop.

The males, even a couple of the 'bad' ones were decent. A couple actually were sympathetic and helpful.
My only time being randomly stopped by a female officer scared me worse than it should have just because of that experience.
God forbid, if I ever suffered a sexual assault, even if it were embarrassing as HELL I'd report a sexual assault to a male officer instead pf a female one, again just because of that experience.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:09 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Oh my god. I've been quietly hating and ripping away at myself for years for freezing one of the times it happened."

I'm very sorry to hear this. You have no reason to blame yourself. And you're not alone in doing so.

It's human nature to get caught up in "what if" and "I should have..." doubts and self-blame after many traumatic experiences, but this is especially true for sexual assault. Then you add to that the cultural forces that mean that family, friends, and others will interrogate survivors about their choices and actions, oftentimes explicitly blaming the survivor for the sexual assault which was done them, as well as just the pervasive cultural messaging that implies the same thing, and the result is the survivors of sexual assault are very likely to blame themselves, often to the point of self-hatred, for what was done to them.

This is a goddamn tragedy.

When I worked as a rape crisis advocate and met with survivors at the hospital, I personally witnessed scenes of police officers, family, friends, and far-too-often male partners implicitly or explicitly blaming survivors. And, more often to the point of it being the rule, not the exception, survivors themselves would express guilt, shame, and self-directed anger related to feelings of being responsible.

I've written about sexual assault and my experience being a rape crisis advocate, and I've talked about some individual things quite a bit, but perhaps I've not emphasized strongly and frequently enough the sad, simple truth that almost everything that is popularly believed about sexual violence is wrong. This includes things like what kind of people are and are not likely to be rapists, what kind of people (and in what environments) are and are not likely to assaulted, how both assailants and victims tend to behave during and after the assault, how police respond to reports of sexual assault, how it is (or likely to be) prosecuted, how survivors are affected by the assault over time, and much more. Truly, almost everything that I hear and see in popular discussion about sexual assault is just plain wrong.

And it's very significant that almost all of the ways in which it's wrong implicitly shifts responsibility from the assailant onto the victim, shifts suspicion away from the most common assailants and toward the least common, away from the most common environments and toward the least, creates a false standard for credibility that causes victims to be disbelieved, creates an egregiously untrue belief that false rape accusations are common and therefore that men falsely accused are just as likely to be the true victim as the accuser -- as you can see, all of this adds up to very strongly defending and reinforcing rape culture.

So about this one particular example -- this popular notion that victims of sexual assault are expected to physically defend themselves or flee -- well, it's a horribly damaging notion that's both factually and morally wrong.

It's factually wrong with regard to how actual people tend to respond to being physically threatened. The popular formulation of "fight or flight" as the response common to many animals under threat weirdly doesn't include the equally common third response, which is to be very still and/or play dead. Humans have all three responses and it's very common for people to freeze when threatened. What amazes me is that almost all of us have experienced this response at some point in our lives. Why in the world would we expect that rape victims have some sort of responsibility to fight back or to assess the situation and run when many of us know from personal experience that actually being in a physically dangerous situation often means difficulty thinking and acting, or weird and ineffective decisions and behaviors, and the like?

And this doesn't even deal with the fact that it's common in sexual assault for the assailant to find ways to coerce passivity from their victims -- death threats are common, so are threats to children.

It's morally wrong because it hurts survivors. All of this is why I so frequently argue against the very common and very popular emphasis on "self-defense". I understand that it empowers many people and help ease some anxiety, but that comes at a cost -- the cost being that many people who have emphasized self-defense preparation for sexual assault will not, when it happens, utilize a weapon or what they've been taught and then be doubly inclined to blame themselves later and to be left with years of self-recriminations and even self-loathing.

But also it's utterly fucking amazing and dispiriting how all anyone ever talks about is what women should and shouldn't do to avoid rape, what women should and shouldn't do when they are raped, what women should and shouldn't do after they're raped. We almost never talk about the goddam rapists, who are responsible for their crimes. We almost never talk about how to get rapists to not rape, how to change things in our culture to make it more difficult for rapists to rape and to get away with it. No, almost all we talk about are things that implicitly reinforce the idea that women are responsible for being sexually assaulted, one way or another.

And as for these expectations that even the police and prosecutors have about the emotional affect of people who've survived trauma -- I don't understand how it is that people who have experience with all sorts of people who've experienced trauma suddenly forget, when they're looking for reasons to disbelieve someone, just how widely varying is individual response and affect with regard to the trauma. Police officers and others have experience telling family members that, for example, someone has been killed in an accident. And they know that a whole lot of people have very deadened or otherwise non-stereotypical responses to this. But when they're talking to victims of sexual assault suddenly they expect every person to conform to some stupid stereotype.

Don't even get me started about memory -- the entire law enforcement and legal system are so fundamentally wrong about human memory.

Although it's the case that the way that law enforcement and legal system deals with survivors have greatly improved over the last thirty years, it's still the case that survivors are usually subject to hostile scrutiny from start to finish -- from the police to the prosecutors to the judges and juries. Survivors of sexual assault are still effectively treated as suspects and put on trial -- it's no fucking wonder that a large number don't report, don't press charges (when it's their choice in their jurisdiction), don't cooperate with police and prosecutors, don't testify. From the perspective of rape culture, this is the system working as intended. It's no accident that it's this way. It's horrifying.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:37 AM on October 26, 2014 [17 favorites]


I feel like the police are used to dealing with trauma (both their own and experienced by others) through denial and minimization. They take on a particular role in the cycle of abuse and violence in reflexively denying victims' accounts, that of an enabler, but they do this in numerous situations aside from victim accounts. The trick in moving beyond these roles is that they're deeply entrenched emotionally as coping mechanisms. The people doing this aren't able to connect feelings of empathy and see the role of their own behavior, how shutting down victims is more common and damaging than they realize. It requires recognizing the behavior, acknowledging it and letting go, which is a process. I think more comprehensive mental heath services all around would be a good place to start, and in particular mental health training for officers and any police who deal with the public.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Jeebus, the cops couldn't be any more dense, could they? After they've just been raped, women are supposed to act like men who just had their wallet stolen? WTF?

(When I saw her speak in 2014, she commented that she has a hard time getting permission to publish her presentations, statistics, and research publicly due to her funding sources.)

This comment is a bit cryptic. What are her funding sources and why do they hinder publication?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2014


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