Oregon Woman Convicted of Acting Insufficiently Traumatized

By Barry Deutsch of Portland. Barry is a freelance cartoonist and wedding coordinator. He blogs regularly at "Alas, a Blog."

A young Oregonian, who says she was gang-raped by three men, has been convicted of filing false rape charges by a Beaverton court, because she failed to act "traumatized" enough. From the Oregonian:

After a day-and-a-half trial, Municipal Judge Peter A. Ackerman on Friday convicted the woman of filing a false police report, a class-C misdemeanor. Ackerman explained his decision, saying there were many inconsistencies in the stories of the four, but that he found the young men to be more credible. He also said he relied 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.

People familiar with the case have said that The Oregonian's coverage is accurate. If so, then this ruling is appalling.

The Judge seems to believe that there is a typical way in which all rape victims must behave, and women who fail to behave that way must be lying. But that's nonsense. There is no "rape victim script" that every single rape victim follows. In effect, the Judge's decision criminalizes failure to conform to stereotypes of how rape victims behave.

False accusation is a serious crime, and ought be punished. But not when the accused can't be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And the reasons Judge Ackerman found the defendant guilty - that the alleged rapists tell a different story, and that the defendant did not act traumatized enough - are far from enough to overcome reasonable doubt.

Furthermore, Judge Ackerman's decision could have a chilling effect on rape victims deciding whether or not to report their rapes to authorities. Rape is already an extremely unreported crime (according to Heather Huhtanen of the Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, only 10% of Oregon rape victims report to police). How much lower will it be if rape victims worry that they could be sent to jail for not acting traumatized enough?

Judge Ackerman, City Attorney Alan Rappleyea, and assistant City Attorney Ted Naemura should all be ashamed of their behavior. Old-fashioned and frankly sexist stereotypes about how rape victims should behave, should not be any part of the reasoning for a guilty verdict.

Blogger Shakespeare's Sister has more information on this case.

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