Judge Orders Rape Survivors to Take Lie-Detection Test

File this under “For Real?!”

Cleveland, Ohio Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd is forcing sexual assault survivors to take polygraph tests before their attackers are sentenced. To date, at least four teenage girls have been ordered to do so. All have refused.

According to reports from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, even prosecutors see the problem. Ordering sex crime survivors to undergo polygraph testing exceeds judicial authority over victims, says Assistant County Prosecutor Nicole Ellis.

Plain Dealer reporters Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi write that Judge Floyd also “ordered the teenage boys who were accused of rape and other sex crimes in those cases to undergo polygraph examinations as part of an assessment done before the teens would be sentenced.” Although the defendants have not objected, this raises procedural concerns about due process for teens in the legal system.

But back to the sexual assault survivors. Still not sure what the problem is? Here’s the breakdown:

• The judge’s order may violate Ohio’s rape shield law, which is intended to prevent courts from effectively trying the victim instead of the defendant.

• Forcing victims to take a polygraph test violates the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

• Polygraph testing can be intimidating for rape survivors who already have difficulty in coming forward. Cleveland Rape Crisis Center president and CEO Megan O’Bryan tells Ms.:

We want to create a culture where survivors are supported in coming forward. Forced polygraph testing sends a message that survivors’ stories are not believed.

This sort of order contributes to the fact that sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) indicates that a mere 39 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement agencies.

Of those assaults reported, even fewer lead to convictions, partly because of extreme delays in testing rape kits. Yet, according to a 2009 publication by researchers from The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, false reports of sexual assault are only between 2 to 8 percent. Ashleigh Klein, a Los Angeles-based sexual assault prevention educator, points out that polygraph testing adds to problem of discouraging reporting and encouraging misinformation. She tells Ms.:

In my work I repeatedly hear the myth that women lie about rape to get back at men or because they are embarrassed by what they have done. We know that this just isn’t true. Reporting a rape and having a rape kit exam done can be extremely devastating to someone who has just experienced trauma. A very small percentage of women would voluntarily go through this invasive process and not be telling the truth.

Clearly, when it comes to sexual assault, what’s needed is more streamlined criminal justice procedure, not further blockades to victim support. We hope Judge Floyd gets the message.


Photo from
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chewie/ / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Comments

  1. Are you kidding me??! This is absolutely absurd. It’s despicable and infuriating. What could the judge’s motivation possibly be for doing this? It’s bad enough that victims face so much scrutiny in the media and in most communities, and the legal system is supposed to be a safe haven for survivors. It’s shocking that a judge would be so incompetent, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Hopefully this story will wake people up to the reality of rape survivors’ experiences and the countless factors that currently work against them.

  2. Great article! What kind of dystopia are we living in?

  3. It is a shame that a women will not believe another woman that she was raped. The shame a woman feels after a rape is horrendous and not to be believed is a crying shame. Shame on the FEMALE Judge. She ought to be dismissed for doing what she does.

  4. Looks like a new form of blaming the victim. I’d like to see that judge order cops in all cases, investigators, prosecutors, and her honorable take a lie detector test too. No, not really. Lie detector tests are highly unreliable.

  5. I’m also fairly certain that polygraphs are actually inadmissible in court because of the test’s level of fallibility.

  6. I am at a loss for words.

    This article was well written and referenced. Thank you for taking the time to include those facts.

  7. Thank you for highlighting this unacceptable order from this judge. If it were valid to require victims of violent crimes to undergo polygraphs then this must be ordered for all victims. The selective nature of these actions shows that this is not only a wrongful practice but a targeted wrongful practice.

  8. For real! Can you imagine a judge ordering the victim of, say, burglary, car theft, or street violence to prove they’re not lying?

  9. Well it seems to me that not only these juvenile victims of sexual assault themselves are jeopardized by this particular Judge, but the Violence Against Women Act and Ohio’s Rape Shield Law are themselves targets. It appears to me these actions by this Judge are a direct challenge to these two pieces of legislation, and the Judge is attempting to orchestrate a “legal” way to undermine their effectiveness as equalizing legislation for women.
    Also, rape and sexual assault are not too difficult to understand in this and other societies. Women are not legally equal to men – that is something we are still in the process of achieving. Our unequal status has an effect on our personhood in the legal system. We have never achieved constitutional equality… some areas of the law still do not apply equally to us, and the APPLICATION of the law, especially as shown in this case, is not always equal and is often biased. It is not a case of sex crimes against females being “misunderstood” so much as Judge choosing not to permit female victims – even juveniles – an opportunity for equal protection and justice under the law, in an area of the law where she is already very vulnerable, even though there is equalizing legislation in place to eliminate some of this bias and injustice. Like other legislation that would have an equalizing effect for women legally, the VAWA and Rape Shield Laws have enemies.

  10. anonymous says:

    I’m glad to see this post, and no “MRA” trolls in the comments. It has gotten very hard to find any discussions on rape without those types flinging around the discredited numbers on how one-third to one-half of rape accusations are lies, plus the usual misogynist nonsense about “regrets” and the “what about the men” whining.

  11. Chylene Doney says:

    this kind of s**t is bull it is insulting for them think a woman is lying if she has been raped it is a mans word against a womans and that is just stupid. my ex bf has an internet friend down somewhere in the southern states that got raped on saint patricks day and the police wont do squat about it because the guy told the police that it was “consentual” she cant even get a restraining order against the guy! and this is just wrong

  12. Interesting post. This is shocking, but sadly seems to reflect an attitude which is widespread. Here’s a really good article about this very phenomenon: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/feb/19/blame-the-rapist
    It’s about people’s tendency to blame the victim rather than the criminal.

  13. Not to mention that polygraph tests are highly unreliable and easily fooled. Using them as evidence is ridiculous.

  14. I have seen a lot of stupid decisions come from judges who don’t understand life as it really is in America. Seems here we have combined stupidity with ignorance to get a judge.

  15. suetiggers says:

    I am a longtime feminist/activist and I do not believe that most reports of rape/sexual assault are lies. But all females are not the same. There really are girls and women who do lie about this. And if we care about our fathers, sons, and brothers etc. as much as we care about our daughters, we should care about being fair. For too long, rapists got a legal slap on the wrist but now, I think the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction….not everywhere, but in some places. The sex offender laws are an example where MOST on the registry now are not dangerous, and especially not dangerous to children…and it helps HIDE the ones who are truly dangerous. If you can be objective about this, you will see this is true. http://www.reformsexoffenderlaws.org/index.php

  16. As a victim of rape in Cleveland, this policy does not surprise me in the least.

    After several months of being torn about reporting the event, I managed to get myself to the police station to report the crime. The officer listening to my case rolled her eyes on several occasions and shifted to believing me when I recounted details of the following morning.

    She let me know that it would be hard to prove my case, and that I could try to press charges “if I wanted”.

    It’s easy to say that rape is not a problem if we don’t encourage people to come forward or if we require lie-detector tests.

  17. RoyStone says:

    Can someone please explain what a rape "survivor" is? So "non-survivors" are not required to submit to a lie-detector test?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Polygraphs are unreliable, what needs to be done is offer protection for the accused until it's proven without a reasonable doubt that he is guilty. It really angers me that someone can be accused of rape and has to prove their innocence..it's supposed to be the other way around.

  19. Gunner Retired says:

    I wonder how Gary Dotson would feel about accusers having to produce some form of evidence of the crime they are alleging has occurred…

  20. Great writing…

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