Rape victim (shockingly) not believed by police, and then jailed for it – WTF?!

5 04 2009

This is absolutely outrageous, infuriating and sickening. Warning, this may make you want to vomit.

Sara Reedy, a woman in her early twenties, from Butler County in Pittsburg, was working as a convenience store clerk in Cranberry in July 2004 when a man entered the store, raped her at gunpoint, and stole $606.73 from the cash register. After the assault, she called the local police to report the incident and ask for help but the responding officers did not believe her story.

Why is there so much skepticism around rape victims’/survivors’ reports?  When are people going to get it through their thick heads that almost all the time PEOPLE DON’T LIE ABOUT BEING RAPED!!!!  Research shows that only 2% of rape reports are false.  Besides, there are definitely easier ways to ruin someone’s life or someone’s reputation than to cry rape.

People often may suspect victims/survivors for lying about their experience because their stories change, because they’re not crying or visibly upset, because they are crying and are acting too hysterical for it to be realistic, etc. The nature of a traumatic event like rape can make survivors block out certain parts of their memory of the experience and can make them remember different parts of their story at different times. So often times they may supplement their original accounts with details they remembered later on. Moreover, it is unfair to make assumptions based on the victims’/survivors’ physical presentation of him or herself. All victims/survivors respond differently; there is no uniform response to trauma. Furthermore, as this case demonstrates, the police are not always the most sympathetic, empathetic or competent people to report to.

Furthermore, Ms. Reedy’s experience was a stranger rape, which fits better into the mold of dominant (false) discourses about rape – that the perpetrator is a stranger who is armed and dangerous. Society perceives rape to be committed violently by a complete stranger and while this is often not the case, this describes Ms. Reedy’s attack. Therefore, shouldn’t the police have been more likely to believe her?

To continue with this awful story, in January 2005, Ms. Reedy was charged with making false reports to the police, theft and receiving stolen property. Consequently she was fired from her job and spent five days in prison while pregnant.

Isn’t that great? In addition to not being believed by the cops, she was also jailed when she was pregnant! And while she was in jail, her rapist went around raping more women. He, Wilber Cyrus Brown II, was caught raping a woman at a convenience store in August 2005, a month before Ms. Reedy’s trial, and admitted to serially raping several women. Immediately afterwards, criminal charges against Ms. Reedy were withdrawn. Way to go police for not believing a rape survivor, accusing her of making a false report among other things and throwing her in jail. You criminalized the innocent person and let the rapist go away scot-free to do more raping. Isn’t this going to encourage rape victims/survivors to come forward? Knowing that when a woman who was raped came forward, not only was she not believed but she was also sent to jail?!

Ms. Reedy filed a lawsuit against the police and “reached a settlement of $45,000 in February 2007 from an insurance company representing Butler County, which also had been a party in the federal suit.” While she received $45,000, how does this compensate for the overwhelming trauma that she suffered? Money can’t erase everything that happened or make it better. The police weren’t even held accountable for failing to believe Ms. Reedy, falsely imprisoning her, and not even acknowledging or apologizing for it!

The manager of the convenience store where the attack occurred, Jerry Andree, said:

The “whole situation was horrible and unfortunate but hindsight is 20-20. The police deals with hard circumstances all the time and it’s easy to second-guess. [This decision] shows that what happened didn’t rise to the level of the police being legally liable.”

“The police deals with hard circumstances all the time and it’s easy to second-guess”? Well, maybe the police should be better trained to properly and efficiently handle cases of sexual violence. Maybe the police should be better trained so that they don’t not believe a rape victim/survivor, turn her away without any further investigation of her story, and later put her in jail. The police need to be held accountable for their huge error and mishandling of the case here – this can’t just be dismissed as a “hard circumstance”!

My heart goes out to Ms. Reedy and her loved ones. Knowing that we live in a rape culture where a rape victim/survivor is not only not believed but also criminalized and jailed is truly despicable and disgusting. When are we going to start holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes instead of re-traumatizing victims/survivors who have already been through so much?