"An Unbelievable Story of Rape"
December 16, 2015 6:55 AM   Subscribe

An incredible story by ProPublica and The Marshall Project. What happens when police believe rape victims? What happens when they don't?
posted by trillian (42 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
Absolutely infuriating. What a nightmare. Thank God they caught him and she was vindicated.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:25 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Background on the blue about how women are treated by (mostly male) police officers when it comes to rape: "So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that."
posted by zombieflanders at 7:32 AM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have friends who are Criminal Justice professors, and I try to believe that they are training their students better. But it just seems like these things are so built into their profession. One big take home from this case is the same as this case: men who victimize vulnerable women are much more likely to get away with it.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:38 AM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]




I was sexually assaulted last spring by a stranger at a bar. When I got home and reported it to my husband, he called the police. And while they were very nice, and took the report, I was terrified of the two police officers in my apartment, when I was at my most vulnerable. It's really terrifying to have to report being a victim when you were just victimized. We need to treat women with more patience, and more respect.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:12 AM on December 16, 2015 [28 favorites]


Powerfully told. Kudos to the dedicated officers who caught this rapist. As for Lynnwood police, they said it themselves :

In a recent interview, Steve Rider, the current commander of Lynnwood’s Criminal Investigations Division, called Marie’s case a “major failing” that has left members of the department with a profound sense of regret: “Knowing that she went through that brutal attack — and then we told her she lied? That’s awful. We all got into this job to help people, not to hurt them.” Lynnwood Sgt. Rodney Cohnheim said of Marie, “She was victimized twice.”

Ironically, the audio link to Marie's story doesn't seem to be working. She still isn't being fully heard.
posted by bearwife at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


i have never reported my rapes because my history as a victim makes my story too hard to believe.
posted by nadawi at 8:32 AM on December 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


That story should be required reading at every police academy in the country. I'm glad things turned out OK for Marie in he end, but can only imagine the pain that could have been avoided if her complaint had been handled differently. The big twist in the story really caught me off guard.
posted by TedW at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


That was absolutely riveting to read. Of course what is so distressing, despite the "happy" ending here, is that the set of circumstances that led to Marie's story finally being confirmed was pretty much needle in a haystack, winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning level of dumb luck that can't be depended on in most cases. If the rapist didn't have a weird fetish about taking pictures of his victims and storing them on his computer, everyone involved in the first story would likely still think Marie was an attention seeking fabulist. $150,000 seems like a rather low payout for someone who the system failed so miserably.
posted by The Gooch at 9:13 AM on December 16, 2015 [28 favorites]


Man I'm just glad she's alive after that.
posted by graventy at 9:25 AM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Recently, Marie was asked if she had considered not reporting the rape.
“No,” she said. She wanted to be honest. She wanted to remember everything she could. She wanted to help the police.
“So nobody else would get hurt,” she said. “They’d be out there searching for this person who had done this to me.”


I don't know how I feel about not reporting my rape. Or my sexual assault. I do know that for the assault that I was a child and I thought it was my fault, or that it was normal, despite how sick it made me feel. I know that for the rape I was old enough where I probably should've known better, but I was also already in a really dark, suicidal place. I don't know if I could have withstood dealing with the police. Does that make it excusable? I really don't think it does but I don't know if I could have done it and made it out alive.

When I did tell friends about my rape years and years later one of them made it about himself and the other, while gently, still questioned me. Those were friends (were). So I can't imagine how strangers might react.

Five additional people were victimized because the police didn't believe her. I don't know if I could have handled reporting mine but I wonder pretty often how many other women might be hurt because of me. So I appreciate everything she went through. More brave than I'll ever be.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


haha ok well I definitely gotta go take a break now. stupid thing to read at work
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 10:14 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


prefpara: "Man Who Claimed He 'Fell' and Penetrated Teen Is Cleared of Rape Charges"

Literally Talmudic in its absurdity; there's a case in the Talmud popularly known as "the Diddler on the Roof" where a dude falls off a roof penis-first and penetrates an innocent bystander lying on the ground. There's a whole discussion about whether he's morally obligated to try to flip over on the way down to prevent the penetration (yes).

The Gooch: "$150,000 seems like a rather low payout for someone who the system failed so miserably."

Wild guess, it's the ceiling on what the municipal insurance policy will pay out without demanding a lawsuit go forward. You often see legal settlements clustering in the low six figures in smaller municipalities and other government bodies; it's usually near the top amount the insurer will approve without complaint or demanding litigation. All the local plaintiff's attorney will know what it is, or about what it is, and they know where to make their demands to get a settlement without having to go to court.

(I do not think this is bad thing most of the time; for a lawyer to be able to say to a client, "Look, we can probably get you in the neighborhood of $120k to $150k without going to court; if you want more than that, we will have to litigate and it may take three years before you see any money, and 1/3 of that money will go to me," gives the client a better basis for making decisions. And a lot of plaintiffs don't want the money nearly as much as they want the public admission of wrongdoing, and then to be able to move on with their lives without 3 to 5 years of litigation.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:16 AM on December 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


More brave than I'll ever be.

You survived your assaults. You were and are therefore very, very brave.

That other people are victimized is entirely the fault of the rapist, never of the victim. And there is no right way to respond to sexual assault except to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
posted by bearwife at 10:28 AM on December 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


until the system is significantly repaired, i don't think it's right for us survivors to blame ourselves (or for others to blame us) for not going to the cops. much like marie's story, the likely outcome is that no one is saved from our attackers and we are left even more harmed.
posted by nadawi at 10:48 AM on December 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


It is a sad testament that the individual and institutional failures of the Lynnwood police were entirely unsurprising to me, but the betrayal by the two people Marie should have been able to trust most was a real punch in the gut. (Though my lack of surprise in no way lessens my disgust and anger at the Lynnwood police.) At the same time, it is so good to know that there are people like Det. Galbraith and Sgt. Hendershot with the dedication, integrity, and skill to seek and find justice even where their colleagues have failed to do so.

I hope that Mason, Rittgarn, and the other officers who mishandled her case are haunted by their failure, not because I want them to suffer, but because I hope it motivates them to never make the same mistake again, and to stop perpetuating a cycle of treating victims as suspects.
posted by biogeo at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


This wasn't surprising, but it was very disturbing. I'm furious at the foster mothers, and the foster father.
posted by OmieWise at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Seconding bearwife and nadawi. Marie's motivation to help other potential victims is wonderful and admirable, but everyone is different, and everyone has different responses and needs after emotional trauma. I don't think you should feel any guilt or shame over doing what you needed to do. Please be kind to yourself.
posted by biogeo at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


What a read - and thanks be for officers like Det. Galbraith and Sgt. Hendershot. And all of the kindness in the world for all of the survivors in this thread and world.
posted by ldthomps at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


huh. i've been considering a move to lynnwood for a little while, simply because rent is a little cheaper (and was even considering that specific apartment complex), but have also had misgivings about moving to an area so reviled by so many locals for being sketchy as fuck. but... where i live now is sketchy. and the crime stats i was able to pull up for the areas i've been looking at made it seem like it's actually safer than where i live now -- fewer reports of crimes out there, lots of crime reports in my current area. seemed like a good choice. now i want to move to the damn moon.

i'm so glad that guy is locked up forever, but holy crap, the hell this girl went through. i hope her foster moms are properly ashamed of themselves for being such craven assholes.
posted by palomar at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder pretty often how many other women might be hurt because of me.

None. If any further victims exist they are hurt because a rapist decided to hurt them, and not because of you at all.
posted by jeather at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


This was a small detail, but a huge punch in the gut:

> “She called and said, ‘I’ve been raped,’” Shannon says. “There was just no emotion. It was like she was telling me that she’d made a sandwich.” That Marie wasn’t hysterical, or even upset, made Shannon wonder if Marie was telling the truth.

> When Marie called her . . . “she was crying and I could barely hear her,” Peggy says. “Her voice was like this little tiny voice, and I couldn’t really tell. It didn’t sound real to me.[”]

If she's calm, she must be lying; if she's upset, she must be lying.
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:05 PM on December 16, 2015 [50 favorites]


This is a great article about this horrifying case. I remember reading about the false-allegation charges a while ago but this is a great investigative piece.

This case shares a number of similarities including how probable the victim being found liable for filing false reports would have been had it not been for her connections/support/resources - and the "luck" that someone noticed similarities between cases in different jurisdictions.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2015


Later that day a meeting was called at the housing complex, with all of Marie’s peers gathered in a circle. Marie, as directed, told her fellow participants in Project Ladder that she had lied about being raped. They didn’t need to worry, she told the group. There was no one out there who had hurt her and no one who might hurt them next.

So are there any repercussions against this Project Ladder fuckup? I'm guessing not, because traumatizing a rape victim isn't as important as pretending you know what's best for people who really need a leg up in this world. I swear, every step in this is infuriating, but for some reason, this stuck out to me. "We're tough on these people we help," it seems to say, as a lot of these programs seem to say, because those who are most vulnerable, of course, should not be trusted.
posted by xingcat at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


bearwife, nadawi, biogeo, etc.: I know this... on a conscious level. on a subconscious level I think it'll probably always be there. so affirmations are always welcome and comforting. in other words: bless y'all

anyway sorry for introducing negativity into the thread, especially so early on. I hope it doesn't seem like I was intending to perpetuate the idea that I or other people are weaker/should feel guilty/etc. for not reporting. I know that's not the truth and it's being unfair to myself. It was more of a... this is the feeling this has left me with kind of thing. something I should probably be more careful about phrasing
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 12:37 PM on December 16, 2015


Dear suddenly,
Though folks here including me want you to know rape is the fault of the rapist, not someone who doesn't report, I also want to affirm that you are also welcome to share your own misgivings and complicated feelings about your choices.
You aren't introducing negativity.
The article was horrific (but a great post) and I am sure many people share your response and appreciate your thoughts on the matter. I do.
posted by chapps at 1:06 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


anyway sorry for introducing negativity into the thread

I truly don't think you did. I think you understandably wrestle with how to gain control over what happened to you. It is completely normal to self-blame, and in fact a hallmark of PTSD. If you could prevent this, you'd have the power back that your rapists took away from you , right? But in reality, you couldn't prevent it, and there is nothing for which to blame yourself.

I think your phrasing is fine. But it might help to talk through your experience in a safe and confidential setting, because that really does assist with regaining your sense of autonomy and control. Just a thought.
posted by bearwife at 1:08 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing that sticks out for me in this article is how a guy with very little experience handling rape cases was put in charge when there were already a much more experienced (with sexual violence cases) female officer involved.
Is this a question of rank or something that adds to errors in handling?
posted by chapps at 1:09 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


suddenly, and without warning, - i found nothing negative about your comment. i know those doubts well. a guy once said something pretty awful on mefi about the responsibility of victims to report and i shot off a fiery answer and then spent the next two weeks in a shitty ptsd funk. you're not wrong to react how you did and i'm glad you shared your reaction with us. <3
posted by nadawi at 2:24 PM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


One thing that sticks out for me in this article is how a guy with very little experience handling rape cases was put in charge when there were already a much more experienced (with sexual violence cases) female officer involved.

Chapps, the female officer investigating the case worked in a different police department, in a different state.
posted by Qberting at 2:54 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a study that MRAs like to cite by this guy Eugene Kanin (that's a PDF) that studied an unspecified police department's records that concluded that 41% of rape allegations were false. The MRAs, of course, are super-skeptical of any other false rape statistics, but they accept this study uncritically as proof that false rape allegations are the norm.

To anyone but an MRA, though, it's horrifying.

41%. Assuming this guy didn't just fabricate the study from whole cloth, there was and possibly still is at least one city somewhere in the US midwest where rape victims are being systematically intimidated and even threatened when they report their crimes.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:01 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:26 PM on December 16, 2015


Later that day a meeting was called at the housing complex, with all of Marie’s peers gathered in a circle. Marie, as directed, told her fellow participants in Project Ladder that she had lied about being raped. They didn’t need to worry, she told the group. There was no one out there who had hurt her and no one who might hurt them next.

So are there any repercussions against this Project Ladder fuckup? I'm guessing not, because traumatizing a rape victim isn't as important as pretending you know what's best for people who really need a leg up in this world. I swear, every step in this is infuriating, but for some reason, this stuck out to me. "We're tough on these people we help," it seems to say, as a lot of these programs seem to say, because those who are most vulnerable, of course, should not be trusted.

This is such a thing and it's so very fucked up. A friend of mine had moved into a shelter for victims of domestic violence (25 year marriage the details of which would give one nightmares) with her three children including a 2-year-old.

One night this friend had an emotional break and pulled the fire alarm in an attempt to scream, basically. Once it was discovered that she did it (she readily admitted to it) she and her children were kicked out without blankets and without being allowed to get any of their stuff. She was told that in three days time there would be a meeting of staff and they'd determine her fate. Meanwhile she and her three children (remember the 2-year-old) would have to sleep outside in Seattle during the winter. Fortunately she had a friend who used to live in that same shelter and she gave them a place to stay for those three nights.

But! When my friend was re-admitted she had to go in front of all the residents and staff and admit to what she had done and ask for forgiveness. There is absolutely nothing about this that I understand. Yes, victims of domestic violence have emotional problems that they probably haven't dealt with. Yes they (like anyone else dammit!) will do things that are regrettable even if trivial. But what the fuck is this embarrassing them in front of their peers bullshit? Haven't these people been beaten down enough already? Does "tough love" mean kicking someone when they're down?

Aargh.
posted by bfootdav at 5:24 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I hate when people take this group apology role, it is disgusting.

When you work with vulnerable people they do wierd things. They need help. Context is important, and responsibility is important but taking care and recognizing the emotional needs of people in your care is top priority.

The Project Ladder thing made me cry. WTF.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:31 PM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was trying to figure out the foster mothers' reactions because they were clearly committed to her and have an on-going relationship with her - these aren't people who were looking for an excuse to kick her out or mistreated her, and who carried on beyond the 18 year old threshold for her, seeing her as part of their extended family. I wonder if part of it was just the enormity of it in that moment, hoping that it couldn't be true, that it was her lying for attention and making a false report, than that she had been attacked and raped in the safety of her home. There was so little evidence, and the alternative construct of her having lied about this and being angry and unhappy at being caught in the lie, they would see as less painful for her than being a survivor of a second sexual assault.

Really really good reporting.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:03 PM on December 16, 2015


Man Who Claimed He 'Fell' and Penetrated Teen Is Cleared of Rape Charges

I legitimately thought i would never see someone successfully use the MTV defense in my lifetime.

Jesus fuck.
posted by emptythought at 6:50 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


When did or society forget how (forced) intercourse happens?
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:00 PM on December 16, 2015


suddenly, others have already said it better than me above, but to be clear, I agree. I don't think your comment was overly negative, and I think you expressed yourself well. I can definitely empathize with the disconnect between what you rationally believe and irrational but persistent feelings of shame.
posted by biogeo at 7:21 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great article. Thanks for posting.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:02 AM on December 17, 2015


This article was so well-researched and so (typically) infuriating.
posted by immlass at 9:30 AM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


So are there any repercussions against this Project Ladder fuckup?

I obsessively read all the original news stories about this and if I remember correctly, the victim also sued the housing program and got an undisclosed, confidential settlement. It's not mentioned in this recent article, I assume because she isn't allowed to talk about it.
posted by interplanetjanet at 11:53 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Really really cannot understand the foster parents. I would not doubt. And if I did doubt, I would keep it to myself.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:48 PM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


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