Talk about blaming the victim

Oregon woman who never recanted found guilty of filing false rape charges.

By Lynn Harris
Published December 7, 2005 10:01PM (EST)

Broadsheet's admittedly a little late with this one, but not as late as the reaction -- or, at least, further investigation -- it should be provoking everywhere. As reported in last Sunday's Oregonian: A Beaverton, Ore., municipal judge "found a 19-year-old woman guilty Friday of filing a false police report after she said she was raped by three young men. Even though the woman never said she lied or recanted her story, city prosecutors say they took the unusual step of filing charges against her because of the seriousness of her accusations. The woman's attorney and advocates for rape victims say the prosecution sets a dangerous precedent and could discourage others from reporting sexual assaults."

You think?

The woman was 17 at the time of the 2004 incident. The three men she accused of the assault -- her boyfriend and two friends -- say the acts in question were consensual. The Washington County D.A.'s office declined to prosecute, saying they didn't think they could prove the case in court.

Not having a case more concrete than her word against theirs is one thing. But does that mean her word is false?

Evidently, according to the judge, who said he relied in part on "the testimony of a Beaverton police detective and the woman's friends who said she did not act traumatized in the days following the incident." Perhaps needless to say, her sexual history seems also to have been deemed relevant.

Note to rape victims who, even after hearing this, still plan to press charges: Be sure to be visibly traumatized! Denial, guilt, confusion, bizarrely clear-headed calm and other more complex reactions don't count! Also, don't have had any sex before, ever.

More from the Oregonian: "Kevin Neely, spokesman for the Oregon Attorney General's Office, said it was rare for alleged sex crime victims to be charged, much less convicted, of filing a false police report. 'Our concern is always with the underreporting of sexual assaults,' he said, 'not with false reporting.'" According to Heather J. Huhtanen, Sexual Assault Training Institute director for the Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, "a Portland Police Bureau study estimated that 3 percent of its rape cases were classified as unfounded. Portland police, Huhtanen said, found that 1.6 percent of sexual assault cases were falsely reported, compared with 2.6 percent of auto theft reports."

"And now," as Shakespeare's Sister writes, "women have one less reason to come forward -- the possible horror of watching their attackers go free while they are found guilty."

Yet somehow, this story doesn't seem to have made it out of the blogosphere. There's only one sense in which that is good. The fewer rape victims who hear about it, the better.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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