Complete Investigations Used As Justification To Not Have Complete Investigations

Yesterday at my home blog, Abyss2hope, I blogged about a rape case where the woman who was originally viewed as the victim was charged after forensic evidence indicated self-inflicted wounds rather than a stranger assault as she claimed. Today I read about a new case where another woman who reported rape faces similar charges as reported by the Pocono Record. This charge resulted from another type of contradictory evidence. A verified alibi.

Police arrested a Pocono Pines woman after they say she admitted lying to investigators when she accused her ex-boyfriend of assault and rape. Elissa Easterling, 27, is accused of lying to Pocono Mountain Regional Police, and falsely accusing a man of beating and raping her. […]

During the course of a month-long investigation after she told police she had been assaulted, police corroborated the man’s alibi and determined that Easterling had fabricated her reports.

Not surprisingly, this case has already been highlighted by several anti-feminists who see the case as supporting their pet theory about lying women.

What these anti-feminists don’t want to acknowledge is that the collection of evidence which cleared the accused man in this case is a direct result of the very thing these people are attacking. The full and competent investigation of all rape reports.

But full and competent investigations take time which many anti-feminists view as an injustice even if the investigation exonerates the suspect. Rape victims might have to wait months or years to have their rape kits processed, but rape suspects shouldn’t have to wait even a single month.

A frequent source for this view is False Rape Allegations by Eugine J. Kanin, 1994. A key flaw in this study is revealed on page 2 under method.

First, its police agency is not inundated with serious felony cases and, therefore, has the freedom and the motivation to record and thoroughly pursue all rape complaints. In fact, agency policy forbids police officers to use their discretion in deciding whether to officially acknowledge a rape complaint, regardless how suspect that complaint may be.

Second, the declaration of a false allegation follows a highly institutionalized procedure. The investigation of all rape complaints always involves a serious offer to polygraph the complainants and the suspects. Additionally, for a declaration of false charge to be made, the complainant must admit that no rape had occurred. She is
the sole agent who can say that the rape charge is false.

The police department will not declare a rape charge as false when the complainant, for whatever reason, fails to pursue the charge or cooperate on the case, regardless
how much doubt the police may have regarding the validity of the charge. In short, these cases are declared false only because the complainant admitted they are false.

Notice that all full investigations of rape included in this study involved either the use or suggestion of polygraph tests. This indicates to me that investigators in that city lacked the skill or the will to do rape investigations without the unreliable crutch of the polygraph which current murder suspect Gerald Pabst passed twice before his testimony helped convict another man. Recent DNA testing contradicted Pabst’s polygraph results.

Since investigators were not given the power to use their discretion about whether or not to investigate a rape case, investigators who didn’t want to investigate had a clear motive for pushing those women they didn’t believe into recanting ASAP. The polygraph would have been a handy lever in achieving this goal.

In the rape cases over 9 years of the study investigators succeeded at getting 41% of those who reported rape to recant. That rate as a measure of verified false reports is invalid for 2 reasons. 1) Polygraphs are often used to induce confessions which turn out to be false and all rape investigations included the use or mention of polygraphs as standard procedure. 2) This methodology of investigation would likely intimidate many genuine rape victims away from reporting in the first place.

Not one of the allegedly false rape reports in Kanin’s 9-year study resulted from investigations and evidence which independently proved these women’s reports to be false. That is highly significant, but this fact is ignored as if it were insignificant.

Rather than showing a verified rate of false reports at 41%, Kanin’s study shows a verified rate of false reports at 0%.

With the permanent taint which lack of competent and reliable investigations leave behind, the only practical reason for people to oppose full and competent investigations of all rape reports is to protect the guilty not the innocent.

When it comes to false reports and gender, I’ll quote Kanin:

If rape were a commonplace victimization experience of men, if men could experience the anxiety of possible pregnancy from illicit affairs, if men had a cultural base that would support their confidence in using rape accusations punitively, and if men could feel secure that victimization could elicit attention and sympathy, then men also would be making false rape accusations.

So what do these punitive men currently do to women instead of filing false rape reports against them?

At least one of them, Clinton Lewis, kidnapped his estranged wife, a Fort Bliss soldier, and allegedly raped her, leaving a nasty crime scene behind which made her family fear that she had been murdered. In these types of punitive actions a great outcome is the survival of the woman targeted.

Too many people make what happened to Easterling’s ex (false claim of rape) equivalent to what happened to Lewis’s estranged wife (assault, kidnapping, rape).

I don’t agree — which results in my being labeled by some people as irrational or hateful.

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12 Responses to Complete Investigations Used As Justification To Not Have Complete Investigations

  1. kaylagrrl says:

    Not only are you right about the flawed methodology of the study and the overall problems with using polygraphs in general, but the 2005 federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act EXPLICITLY FORBIDS the use of polygraph exams on victims. This document: does a pretty good job of further explaining both the prohibition AND the reasons why it’s not okay to ask (let alone force) a victim to submit to polygraphing to “prove” their victimization.

  2. sailorman says:

    But full and competent investigations take time which many anti-feminists view as an injustice even if the investigation exonerates the suspect. Rape victims might have to wait months or years to have their rape kits processed, but rape suspects shouldn’t have to wait even a single month.

    As I have written on myself–on my blog and yours–you are right on target on this. Better investigations improve accuracy. And accuracy helps EVERYONE, from rape victims (who are more likely to see the guilty party punished, though the conviction rate is still extraordinarily low) to the innocent (who are more likely to have their alibis substantiated.

    Re this:

    But full and competent investigations take time which many anti-feminists view as an injustice even if the investigation exonerates the suspect. Rape victims might have to wait months or years to have their rape kits processed, but rape suspects shouldn’t have to wait even a single month.

    I don’t know whether you’re making a judgment call or whether you haven’t read the arguments which distinguish between harm caused by delay of conviction versus delay of substantiating alibi. But while I agree with your conclusion, I think you’re missing the strongest target.

    The argument of the anti-feminists is that the primary harm of rape is a “lost cost;” the women has already been raped. In that view, a delay in prosecution, while it may have a negative effect on the woman at issue, is not significantly going to change her status. Conversely, the harm to an innocent accused who is actually innocent of the charges is ongoing: a delay in substantiating his alibi will actually have a large effect.

    Interestingly enough, this argument may be at least somewhat accurate, at least for the limited number of situations in which is applies (note my italics above.)

    The issue that they miss, though, is who gets helped or hurt. The delay in prosecution may be a small effect on an individual basis, but it is universally applied to the group of all rape victims. That’s a large effect en masse.

    Conversely, holding an innocent out there as a rapist is a large effect on an individual basis. But it applies to a much smaller percentage of people: only to cases where the women involved 1) go to the police; 2) get listened to; 3) file charges; 4) identify an attacker; 5)who gets caught; 6) and who is actually innocent.

    I think that’s a much stronger argument, though you may disagree.

  3. montauk says:

    I just want to thank you for posting this. I belong to a listserv which routinely brings up false rape accusations (“Up to 90%!”) and I can’t tell you how useful this information is to me. And thanks in advance to all the commenters – like Sailorman – whose additional nuances will improve my arguments and awareness regarding this topic.

  4. SoE says:

    I recently read a very interesting article about the research on false rape and abuse claims. There seem to be some patterns for those. False accusations often occur when someone wants attention or tries to cover up some sort of mistake. The accuser’s intention is not necessarily to have someone prosecuted but it usually starts when another person is shocked by the story and starts to get the story out. And that’s where it’s getting tricky because out of shame the accuser is rarely going to confess the lie and starts repeating it until he or she actually believes it.

    Am sorry I’m running out of time now but fast and thorough investigations by trained investigators are going to prove better than just declaring all women hysterical liars again.

  5. Alara Rogers says:

    False accusations often occur when someone wants attention or tries to cover up some sort of mistake.

    Interestingly, I would suspect that if you could actually analyze the pattern of false accusations, it would be *opposite* to the biases held by average citizens and the cops/court.

    For instance, I believe that a woman who has had plenty of consensual sex with multiple partners in her life is much less likely to lie about being raped than a Christian teenage virgin, not because I think the teen virgin *is* likely to lie about being raped — I don’t — but because if I knew for sure that one of them was lying, the one who will face enormous social stigma if she admits to having had consensual sex seems more likely than the one who is open about having and enjoying consensual sex. I mean, what benefit is there to a woman in lying about being raped? If she had consensual sex, and then said she was raped, what would she be trying to achieve? Escaping social stigma if she belongs to a subculture that would despise her for consensual sex *might* be a cause to lie about rape, but if she wouldn’t suffer any social stigma (or at least none she cares about), then why lie?

    Prostitutes seem *very* unlikely to lie about being raped, to me. Voluntarily entering the legal system, which you *know* treats you like shit because you’ve been through it so many times already, because a guy didn’t pay you? Bullshit. You don’t think the cops will protect you from anything, and certainly not that they’ll recover your property for you. A prostitute who says she was raped almost certainly was, unless there are complicating factors like mental illness, because you’d have to have been through something super-traumatic to be willing to subject yourself to the law after the law has tormented you so badly.

    The only cases where society thinks that a woman is probably lying where I agree she has motive are also ones where I believe the men have unusually high motive to rape. For instance, if there is a contentious custody case or a divorce or accusations of child abuse, the woman might say she was raped in order to have legal ammunition against her ex, or the ex might rape her to punish her for attempting to escape him or take “his” kids. A woman might claim a celebrity raped her in hopes of getting a financial settlement, but a celebrity might rape her because he thinks he’s above the law and can have any woman he wants. A mentally ill woman might be delusional and believe she was raped when she wasn’t, but a rapist might prey on a mentally ill woman because he knows she’s less likely to be believed. So I think in any case where a woman *does* have a motive to lie, and society imputes that motive to her, the likelihood that she actually was raped is also greater.

    Short form: if a woman had motive to lie, the man had motive to rape her, unless her motive to lie was escaping cultural stigma against consensual sex, in which case fundamentalists of monotheistic religions and married women are much more likely to lie than prostitutes and women who are open about multiple consensual liaisons. But our society assumes that the fundies and respectable married women are *less* likely to lie than the “whores and sluts”, and that just because a woman does have a reasonable motive to lie means she must actually be lying, overlooking the fact that if the guy did rape her he has a better motive for lying than any woman who complains of rape could possibly ever have. (Lying to prevent oneself from going to jail > lying to get revenge on someone/get money.)

    Even shorter: Women are almost always telling the truth about having been raped.

  6. SoE wrote: “False accusations often occur when someone wants attention or tries to cover up some sort of mistake. The accuser’s intention is not necessarily to have someone prosecuted but it usually starts when another person is shocked by the story and starts to get the story out.”

    The problem with any formal or informal study about when false accusations occur and what is behind false accusations of rape is that most of these studies don’t ensure that what’s being studied are only genuine verified false accusations.

    Many times what are labeled as false accusations are true accusations which were recanted or which someone wrongly labeled as false for some reason.

    The explanation about a friend reporting what turned out to be a false accusation could also fit a case where a real rape victim wasn’t ready for her rape to be handled by the criminal justice system for whatever reason and someone else, like a mandated reporter, contacted law enforcement. The real rape victim’s truthful disclosure then gets spun into some false destructive attention-seeking action.

    Trying to cover for mistakes — like underage drinking — often causes rape victims to not report or to stop cooperating because those mistakes will likely be highlighted during a trial and may be broadcast by the rapist and the rapist’s allies in order to slander the rape victim.

  7. TempAnon says:

    I flunked a polygraph test once, and in the process ensured that particular employer would never ask employees to take a polygraph test as part of a theft investigation again.

    Very large item went missing during business hours. Entire staff asked to take polygraph tests. Expert solemnly informs business owner I was the thief, based on the test results. Not ‘she knows something about it’ but ‘she was actively involved in the actual theft and probably acted alone’.

    The problem is I was not at work that day. The second and larger problem is I was doing an off site job, for the employer, and the employer had been there with us all day. This is leaving aside such minor details as the fact I could not shift the very large item without help.

    Employer fired polygraph expert and was ever after a vocal opponent of polygraph testing.

    Using polygraph testing to steer investigations is a scant step up from scrying in entrails.

  8. Raincitygirl says:

    Wow Temp. The scariest part is what would’ve happened if you HADN’T been off site that day.

  9. dananddanica says:

    it is difficult when talking about false rape/assault allegations to differentiate between someone who is lying or someone who is mistaken. That being said, people dont just use rape allegations to cover up an act or to gain attention, it is also used as a weapon in divorce and/or custody proceedings or to discredit someone. For me its similar to rape only in that I dont care what the stats are, how often or how rarely it happens, it should be punished very, very severely yet this almost never happens. I don’t get that. As far as discussing rape stats or more specifically false rape accusation stats, I also don’t get why some people want to hold on so tightly to either the 2% stat (a lot of feminists i talk to) or the 50+% stat (a lot of anti-feminists I talk to). One has never been actually researched and the other is generally derived from that study in the 80’s which i dont put much faith in (cant remember the researchers name).

    Is some of the op’s argument covered at least a little by the old sentiment of letting 10 guily people go free rather than one innocent person go to jail? It seems that is something that resonates with a lot of people.

    Would it also be wrapped up a little in how fucked up law enforcement and especially the prison system is?

    i like that quote from kanin but the thing is, rape is a commonplace (though not AS common as for women) experience of men, worldwide, its only that in the US the men who it happens to are othered, as they are prisoners and dont account for much in our society, heck its the only place or people left that you can make rape jokes about (unless youre mccain).

  10. Dananddanica, as a rape survivor and someone who was falsely accused of a non-sex crime, these 2 experiences are not similar and should not be compared. This comparison between the 2 minimizes the reality of rape.

    Besides the false comparison between being raped and being falsely accused of rape, the main problems with the call for severe punishment for false rape claims is the number of unfounded and false accusations made by rapists, witnesses and police against real rape victims. The potential for wrongful conviction of real rape victims is made even higher because those who report rape are not given the same legal protections given to rape suspects.

    I see this call most often from those who want to minimize the reality of most rapes while amplifying the trauma of those who claim to be falsely accused.

    Dangerous police interrogations can stop rape investigations and lead to charges against a real rape victim where there is valid DNA evidence. One such situation was highlighted in the book, Cry Rape, where only the rape victim’s determined battle with the city of Madison, Wisconsin led to the real rapist’s conviction.

    If or when all of the systemic problems related to rape victims and rapists are solved, then talk to me about greater punishments for those who file false police reports.

  11. Pingback: Ways to End the World › The justice system as a way of knowing.

  12. perry mason says:


    Read your Constitution, the right to a speedy trial is in there. King George could throw you into to the slammer for a long time in the old days. Or Gitmo.

    Want those days again?

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