While I was out, there’s been a bit of a brouhaha over a Sun report the fact that “since 2004, Baltimore has led the country with more than 30 percent of rape reports marked ‘unfounded’ by detectives, meaning police believed the victim was lying.”
And though I applaud Bealefeld for his generally sensitive handling of this issue, forcing officers to call a detective or a sergeant whenever somebody utters the R-word isn’t really going to help matters.
It’s not politically correct to say so, but of course many supposed rape victims in Baltimore are not, in fact, raped (more on that below). Certainly that’s no solace to those who are raped and not taken seriously by the police, but I suspect false reports of rape are related to Baltimore high level of poverty and heroin use more than anything else. Perhaps that is why Baltimore’s stats are so out of sync with other cities. I’d bet--if rape stats were reliable across jurisdiction, which they’re not--that false rape claims would be directly proportional to poverty levels, drug addiction, and thus the number of women turning tricks. Of course you could turn those stats around and say that cops just don’t care about poor drug-addict rape victims.
It’s certainly true that some patrol officers cops are probably horrible at dealing with rape claims in the city. What can one really expect from some poorly paid 22-year-old macho guy straight out of the suburbs and the academy? And certainly a few cops can’t fathom that a prostitute on the job can be raped. And yes, most cops will do their best to talk everybody, potential rape victims included, out of going to the hospital because of the inevitable hours of waiting involved.
But all that said, what too many non-police don’t realize is how many lies and how much gray exists in the work police deal with every day. That’s the real, un-politically correct world cops know all too well and navigate all the time.
One time when I was police there was an actual stranger on young-woman-walking-down-the-street-going-to-work kind of rape. It’s the only one like that I can remember from my brief time on the street. I was surprised at how all we normally cynical cops swung into action and worked hard to catch the bad guy. At the time, I asked a few in my squad why they suddenly cared so much about this rape as opposed to all the others “rape” victims we deal with. “Because she really was raped,” was the generally answer. And the fact she was a working girl and not a “working girl” also mattered.
So if this woman was “really raped,” what does it mean to be “not really raped”? The obvious example is a woman turning tricks who isn’t paid. She’s pissed off and says she was raped. It’s like the guy buying drugs, who gives money, gets nothing, and calls in a robbery. How often does this happen? Quite frankly, a lot. There may have been a crime, but it’s not what the call came out as. And it doesn’t help matter than the “victim” has also committed an arrestable offense.
The “failure-to-pay” victim doesn’t really want to go through the rigmarole of being a rape victim. Hell, she wasn’t raped. She consented. She just wants her money. Short of that, she wants the guy who stiffed her to spend a night in jail. It’s a reasonable request morally, but not legally. What is the cop supposed to do?
Another problem is that some women, at least in Baltimore’s Eastern District (especially those who are familiar with the system) simply don’t want to deal with hassle of being a rape victim. Going to a hospital to get examined and going through the ordeal of a “rape kit.” What’s the point? Especially if your attacker was an intimate or a John. These women want justice, but it’s not a kind of justice police can provide.
Let’s say you’re having an affair and don’t want to leave. And then on the way home to your main man you sober up and realize your fling is going to talk. How often does this happen? More often than you probably think. Or let’s say you really are raped. You have a drinks and make out a little with your ex. When you want to leave but he says no and forces you to have sex. Either way you call police and an officer shows up.
The officer asks some tough questions because the officers assumption is that you’re not telling the whole truth. Why? Because nobody tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s the officers job to figure out some version of the truth. And when this happens, you, the rape victim, have a decision to make.
Option one is to officially become the rape victim. You’re going to have to answer police questions, get intimately tested at the hospital, and then go through the criminal justice as a victim. Option two is to talk with friends or family or a councilor, maybe have a stiff drink or three, cry, and then take a very long shower and try and get some sleep. Which would you choose? Which is the better option? I have no idea.
And when I was a cop, after I presented option one, I didn’t think it was my place to criticize a woman for choosing option two. If a woman says she doesn’t want to go through with testing and criminal prosecution, who was I, a young man, to tell her otherwise. What do I really know about such matters?
What can or should the police do in these cases? It’s not police’s fault successful prosecution demands a rape test. It’s not police’s fault that crimes have to proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s not the fault of police that people sometimes lie.
I may provide an interesting example tomorrow.