Commenter EEB wrote this in the comments on one of Jason’s (Lousy Canuck) posts. With her permission, Stephanie Zvan reprinted it here as a guest post because more people need to know that this can and does happen. With permission from Stephanie (and intimated permission from EEB) I am adding this story here.
OK. In all of these discussions the past few days, on various blogs and various inter-related topics, I’ve been thinking about saying this. I never felt it was quite the right place, or time. But I think now is the right time. This might be egotistical, and I’m sorry, but I feel it needs to be said.
[Putting a big TRIGGER WARNING for graphic description of rape & aftermath, victim blaming.]
I was raped three years ago. Almost exactly: the beginning of August 2010. It was a violent, stranger rape, as I was walking home from work. I honestly had no fear about calling the police. My dad’s a cop. I was in shock, mostly, but certainly not thinking that making a report was going to be worse than what had just happened to me. Plus, there was so much physical evidence–deep tissue bruising on my arms, burns on my labia, tearing that went from my vagina to my anus–it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be believed.
Two male detectives arrived at my house. I stammered out a request for a female detective; it was denied. (I learned later that they violated procedure by not accommodating the request.) They made me go through what happened. I was in excruciating pain and dripping blood but they didn’t want to take me to the hospital just then, and said the hospital “wasn’t ready” anyway. So I described the rape. Then they asked if I was taking any drugs. Well, just my medication. I thought it was strange that they literally spent more time asking about my mental health history and the types of medication I took, instead of the rape, but at the time, again, I was in shock, and not thinking much.
Long story short: I submitted to an invasive physical exam, described the rape more times than I can count. They didn’t wait for my rape counselor, that I requested, another thing I found was actually against the law. (But when she arrived, she kicked major ass. And really helped me through the process; I don’t know what I would have done without her. A rape kit is extremely invasive, and I was already in terrible pain, but she was able to get me through it.) The black light (to look for fluid/blood/etc) was broken, so I tried to approximate where he had kissed me, licked me, so the nurse giving the exam could swab those areas. (This will be important later.)
Oh, aside: the hospital wouldn’t provide Emergency Contraception, although I did get a few pills to keep from getting STDs. Not AIDS, however–I was told the procedure was to only provide AIDS prevention if you already know the rapist has AIDS, which seems a little hinky, as it’s not exactly a question I could ask during the rape). The detective, who drove me to the hospital, refused to stop at a pharmacy on the way home, so I could get Plan B for myself. He said he “didn’t feel comfortable” with that and I should “wait for my parents” even though I was 24 and alone at home. Guess 24 is too young to make the decision to try and prevent becoming pregnant with my rapist’s baby!
Over the next few months, I submitted to multiple, horrific “interviews” that really felt like “interrogations” as time went on. I was also dealing with a serious medical condition at the time (I almost died; my intestines ruptured, but was almost certainly not a result of the rape, just bad timing). But I still believed in the system. I still didn’t want the man who raped me on the streets. I did everything they requested, answered every invasive question (the were really focused on my mental health history!), even got on the ground and acted out the rape for them, with the head detective on top of me acting out the part of the rapist. Not only was I absolutely hysterical by the time we were done, I’m positive that aggravated my PTSD for a long time after.
And after all that, I was called in for an “interview” to discuss “a new lead in your case”. They didn’t let my rape counselor in the room–again, against the law, I found out later! For about an hour (I think; my sense of time was not that great) they were no longer even pretending to be supportive. They accused me over and over of making it up. They had very flimsy “evidence” (which I won’t go into because it’s both complicated and ridiculous) but mostly it was their “instinct”.
Because I have a mental illness. Because I was hospitalized after attempting suicide. Because I “claimed” I had been sexually assaulted in the past. Because I was crazy, and he was sure I was just looking for attention. He had a bipolar ex-wife, you see, and she made his life a living hell. He told me how he understood mentally ill women, and how we need to create drama. How we’re liars, and we crave attention.
And over and over they accused me of lying. Alone in this tiny room with two large, angry men, I was doing everything I could to keep from having a panic attack. I couldn’t respond to what they were saying; again, I think I was in shock. And they threatened me with jail time, with a felony on my record, destroying my family, public humiliation (he threatened to call the papers–something he did anyway, because, quote, “the community needs to know there was no threat to public safety”). They said I would be charged with a false report, with terrorizing the public (there was a public awareness campaign initially after my attack, though I didn’t have anything to do with it. After the rape, I did everything I could to maintain anonymity, and only told two people–beyond my family and the cops–hat I was attacked. But…I did it for attention, which was why I didn’t tell anyone? I’m just sneaky like that, I guess!). Accusations, threats, anger, pounding the table, over and over and over.
The detective looked at me. His whole demeanor changed; he tried to seem kind, avuncular. “Tell me you made the whole thing up. This whole thing will disappear. Nothing will happen to you. You can leave, if you just tell me you made it up. Tell me you made it up and you’re sorry for lying, and I’ll let you leave.” I tried to hold out–but I didn’t last long. Honestly, at that point, all I wanted in the entire world was just toget out of that room. There are very few things I wouldn’t have done, if I could only leave. So I looked at him and lied. I said, “I made the whole thing up. I’m sorry.”
To his credit, the detective was true to his word. (I now realize he could have been lying, and since I wasn’t under arrest or being interrogated–technically, I could have left any time, even though I didn’t know that–my words could have been used in court.*) That was all. He let me leave. Well. He made me give him a hug before leaving, but I was allowed to go. A very pissed off rape counselor and my very broken looking father were in the hallway just outside.
(At the time, I thought the rape counselor hated me, thought I was a liar like everyone else. She didn’t; she was pissed at the detectives, but I didn’t know that until I ran into her two years later at an event. But at the time, I thought she wouldn’t want anything to do with me, and so I lost the one person who was really helping me recover.)
So understand: I am a “false rape allegation” statistic. When they wrote their reports, sent the numbers off to the justice department to compile the information, I am down as a liar, a false allegation, even though no charges were ever filed against me. (Don’t know if that’s because they didn’t think they could make a case against me, or because they didn’t want to put a cop’s daughter on trial.) And you know what? I am not the only person. It is horrifying, the number of women that I have met in support groups and activist meetups who experienced very similar things. They too, are false allegation statistics. We were all raped.
So just keep that in mind, when you quote the 6-8% “false allegation” statistic. I know we have to rely on the only information we have, and I use the statistic in conversations, as well. But I always remember that number is certainly not an accurate representation. (Maybe it should always come with an asterisk?)
Please, remember my story when you see “false rape” statistics. Remember my friend, who admitted to a false report charge in order to keep her veteran benefits after being discharged (her rapist’s good friend and direct superior handled the case; a discharge was inevitable.) Remember the middle-aged woman I met, still traumatized, who, as a teenager, recanted her story when her rapist (and stepfather) threatened to kill her family. And the many, many others, all unknown, all forgotten–even in the bare statistics, which are often the only testament to our experiences. And we’re denied even that. Instead, our stories, our traumas, are used to stigmatize and further traumatize new victims. It makes me sick to know MRAs can take our numbers and use them to justify their “bitches be lying” stance. I can’t put into words how devastating that is.
Are there false allegations? Of course. Jason, in opening up about such a difficult topic, has explained exactly that. And no one hates truly false allegations like a rape survivor. But we should balance that with the knowledge that the “official” numbers are not an accurate representation of the truth.
Thank you for listening. I’m sorry for the length. I honestly tired multiple times to shorten this, but I feel that this story needed to be told, this needs to be added to the discussion about false allegations. And thank you, Jason, for such brilliant writing, honesty, and compassion; also, thank you for hosting these discussions.
* This is why you never talk to any police officer under any circumstances without a lawyer. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been arrested, charged, or read your rights. I could have put myself in jail with that lie.