Crown New York 2015
On August 11th, 2008, eighteen-year-old Marie reported that a masked man broke into her apartment near Seattle, Washingon and raped her. Within days police and even those closest to Marie became suspicious of her story. The police swiftly pivoted and began investigating Marie. Confronted with inconsistencies in her story and the doubts of others, Marie broke down and said her story was a lie – a bid for attention. Police charged Marie with false reporting, and she was branded a liar
More than two years later, Colorado detective Stacy Galbraith was assigned to investigate a case of sexual assault. Describing the crime to her husband that night, Galbraith learned that the case bore an eerie resemblance to a rape that had taken place months earlier in a nearby town. She joined forces with the detective on that case, Edna Hendershot, and the two soon discovered they were dealing with a serial rapist; a man who photographed his victims, threatening to release the images online, and whose calculated steps to erase all physical evidence suggested he might be a soldier or a cop. Through meticulous police work the detectives eventually connect the rapist to other attacks in Colorado – and beyond.
Based on investigative files and extensive interviews with the principles, A False Report is a serpentine tale of doubt, lies and a hunt for justice, unveiling the disturbing truth of how sexual assault is investigated today – and the long history of scepticism toward rape victims.
A hard hitting piece of true crime that while being informative, cannot avoid also being a depressing read in terms of its stark reminders of how rape continues to be viewed and investigated. In this investigation the tenacity of several detectives is to be admired but this is in contrast to how quickly one victim Marie, was not believed and to add to her trauma she was charged with wasting police time. Marie is the pivotal point of this book, which is helpful as a number of heinous crimes are discussed, all linked, but told around Marie’s story.
The book highlights frankly alarming statistics regarding the under reporting of rape, plus antiquated police guidance siting the caution required in investigating rape and what amounts to the malicious and vengeful nature of women who can ‘bring down a man’ with one false allegation. Positively times are changing and the book highlighted the work being done across America to change responses and attitudes towards women reporting rape. This is depressingly slow though and on a global scale there is still much to be done.
Whilst reading this book I coincidentally attended a course through work run by Rape Crisis (England and Wales), the course successfully highlighted the gender stereotypes that guide our thinking about rape – what she wore, what she said, how she reacted which was all reinforced in this book which referenced lots of commentary about consistency of accounts and how she presented to the police. For one victim the rapist was nice to her and despite what he was doing, it struck me how confusing that must feel. Another sentence emphasised how difficult people find it to talk about sex, but this is not considered when thinking about rape and the expectation that someone reports immediately and then may be expected to recount it again and again.
In Ireland this week a teenager’s thong has been used against her in an alleged rape case and I hang my head in despair. And that is why this book is an important read. It explores the entire investigation into a serial rapist – the evidence required to convict but also how easy it can be for someone to be disbelieved. As with lots of true crime there are an immense number of people in this book and a lot of detail- reflective of the number of crimes and investigators. It was not always easy to follow specifically who was doing what and which crime was being referenced however the narrative was strong and the message depressingly clear.
Thanks as always for reading and thanks to Janel @keeper of the pages for passing this book to me.