Police Make Amends for Fining Rape Victim $500

Last month, Ms. reported on a woman who had been fined $500 for “false rape reporting.” Police said the details of her story were “inconsistent.” Three years later, among an accused serial rapist’s snapshots of assaults in progress, her photo was found. Her account fit the M.O. of the other attacks.

The Lynnwood, Wa., police department reopened her case and returned the fee, but Ms. didn’t think that was good enough. So we started a Change.org petition demanding a public apology and assurances that the department would better handle rape cases in the future.

We received this response from the Lynnwood Commander of Police right away:

I appreciate you taking an interest in the welfare of our victim in this case, as well as future rape victims that may need our assistance. We were wrong in this case and every officer involved in the investigation of it feels terrible. We have apologized to the victim both privately and publicly. We are currently reviewing our policies and procedures to determine what we may need to modify. Additionally, we have dedicated a vast amount of resources to bring this investigation to the appropriate conclusion and to assist our victim in the recovery process through victim’s compensation, expungement of her case and access to advocacy and counseling services.

Our officers and detectives take the investigation of sexual assaults very seriously. We provide a great deal of training and have a variety of advocacy resources available for victims. These cases are prosecuted by a special unit within our county who also provides advocacy services to rape victims. Over the past six years we have investigated 46 rape cases within our jurisdiction. Of those 46 cases, 39 of them resulted in the arrest of a suspect or the case referred for charging. This particular case is a horrible anomaly.

Again, I appreciate your concern and want to stress we are doing everything we can to ensure this never happens again. I would also urge any victim of rape to report the crime to local authorities. Despite the errors made in this case in 2008, this victim will still see justice because she reported it. Her attacker is now charged for what he did to her and she can, hopefully, start the healing process.

Steve Rider
Commander of Police
Bureau of Field Operations
Lynnwood Police Department

His response seemed heartfelt. But we wanted to be sure that the department’s rape procedures matched that spirit, so we asked for details. Here’s what he told us:

  • When Lynnwood police get sexual assault calls, victims are taken to a local sexual assault center, where they are treated by specially trained nurses and immediately provided advocacy services.
  • Because of the mistakes made in this case, the department has reiterated to its investigations staff “the importance of conducting these types of cases professionally, thoroughly and with a great deal of sensitivity for the victims. We are all trained to do this anyway, but reality reminders are always important.”
  • A training for all officers and detectives by the county Special Assault Unit is planned; the department will let Ms. know when it’s completed.

Ms. will keep an eye on the department to see if it follows through. Hopefully this will serve as an example of how police departments can prioritize and properly handle rape cases–especially after public pressure. To put that pressure on departments nationwide, you can join the Ms. No More Excuses campaign.

Update, July 5: We are pleased to learn from Commander Rider that sexual assault training for detectives and patrol squads has been completed!

Update, June 6: Commander Rider contacted Ms. to let us know that trainings for officers and detectives by a local sexual assault center have been scheduled for the month of June and the criminal investigations training manual has been updated with details on sexual assault procedure.

Above: Photo of Marc O’Leary from Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

 

 

Comments

  1. Thank you Jessica!

  2. manderin says:

    I hope this poor girl sues the department and gets lots of money. Imagine going through a horrible ordeal like rape and having your rapist take pictures of you while you’re handcuffed and when you go to police you are called a liar and then fined! She needs to sue for millions.

  3. When you are raped you are a mess. Having inconsistencies in your story is common. How on earth could that be a reason to fine someone for a false report? You have to prove in court that the accused is lying about their innocence. Did the police prove she was lying? I really don’t understand how they could fine her if they didn’t prove she was lying. Not believing her was bad enough but the fine is horrific!

  4. GREAT POST! Thanks!

  5. Not only is it difficult to give an account of what happened, sometimes, as a natural defense, your mind won’t LET you remember everything that happened. And it may take a little while for those memories to resurface (commonly as horrible horrible flashbacks).

    I hope other police departments follow suit in making changes to how they handle these cases. The special victim unit that I reported to told me that I didn’t have a case – even though I did the rape kit and gave the detective my clothes, the guy’s jacket and the condom in a bag. I wasn’t offered victims services either.

  6. I received the same response and I agree, it seems sincere.

  7. stephanie says:

    I am appalled at how police handle these cases. I felt I had to prove that I was raped, and was asked in my initial interview if I was just having an affair, and trying to cover it up. I was not able to give a detailed account of the assault initially, because I was in such a fog! I was later accused of lying, because I came back, and gave more details. Something has to change. Victims should not be victimized by the very people who should be protecting them. Thank you for this article. I am so happy that this young lady finally got some justice, though I know that she will carry these wounds for the rest of her life. She is very brave, and I am so proud of her!

  8. Jennifer Torres says:

    I’m really glad that Ms. posted this story. Media constantly reports negative things going on in the world, and although injustice was done to this woman at first, it’s uplifting to see that the department did something about it. Thank you Ms. for posting a story that reflects the impact that feminism has had on the world today.

  9. Have these people NOT learned from the mistakes that the people in a Midwestern town did to a blind person?!?

    In case you may have forgotten, the blind woman had to sue this entire Midwestern City, its mayor and police chief for $20 Million Dollars and a public apology, because they DID NOT take a person with a disability seriously, when the blind woman was raped by a non-disabled man and they DID NOT take her seriously.

    In US District Court, the entire city, its mayor and police chief were found “Guilty and Liable” in causing this blind woman serious harm when she was NOT taken seriously when she was raped and they had to pay $20 million dollars and publicly apologize to her in front of 65 million viewers on CNN, by looking her in her blind eyes and apologize to her!

    And you want to know what happened to the mayor and police chief of said Midwestern City?!?

    They both got the Wyche Fowler treatment, which means that they were fired by the voters and as punishment for their crimes against the disabled, they both got sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital In Washington, DC, to be “scared straight” about their disabaphobia by John Hinkley, Junior himself and made them learn how it feels to have been locked up in the mental hospital, to suffer for the way our disabled brethern suffered for the crime of genetic innocence-Born With A Disability!

    DANGER WOMAN

  10. Angela Hommell says:

    On July 21st 1976, I was going to leave for work when I found two flat rear tires on my car. (I learned later they had been slashed). A week to 10 days previous to this date my ex-Husband Bob told me if anything is wrong with my car to contact Fred Waterfield. I had met Fred once before when Bob brought him to our home, but I did not know him. I called him and he came right over. He told me to get in his car and he would take me to work first and then fix the car. That seemed reasonable to me and I agreed. We began driving and he took a detour into the orange groves. I asked him what he was doing and he said he knew a short cut to the place where I worked, he said I was late for work and this would get us there on time. We got deeper into the orange groves and then he drove into a ditch and we were stuck. He said he needed to get help to get out and walked off to get his cousin Dave Gore. I stayed in the car because Fred told me, and I had no idea where I was. He came back with someone I had never met (he was David Gore). They held a gun to my head and took turns raping me. They were discussing among themselves how to kill me, cut me up, and feed me to the alligators. I told them my father was high up in the German government and they would never get away with killing me. I promised them I would not tell if the let me go. They let me go and I went to the hospital that night and reported the rape against me. They took pictures of me and showed the bruises and cuts that Fred and David had done to me. They went to jail for one night. I later was asked to do a polygraph test. Which I did, then they claimed I was lying. They said that it was consensual, I could be prosecuted for perjury and Dave and Fred could sue me for slander.
    I was literal forced by the sheriff’s dept. not to move forward with my case even with all the evidence that was in place. I learned later that Fred and Dave had an uncle working in the sheriff’s dept.
    In the early 1980’s Bob Stone the DA along with David Morgan came to my work and asked me to be a witness for the prosecution. I asked them if I could prosecute Fred and Dave for my rape. They told me the statue of limitations was up and I could not prosecute them for me. Yet, I was one of only two people alive who could testify. All the others had been killed. Bob Stone promised he would help me get child support from my ex-husband and I testified in court the story I just told you. I found it more than ironic, that now I am believed when before I would have been prosecuted for perjury.
    I testified to make sure these people would not be on the street. I never did get the child support I was promised.
    I read with disgust the following quote,
    Their first successful rape took place near Vero Beach, and while the victim notified police, she later dropped the charges to avoid embarrassment in court.
    This is not true, where did they get this? I see it quoted all over the internet. I never dropped the charges, if anyone should be embarrassed; it should be the sheriff’s dept. and the DA for not prosecuting Fred and Dave for my rape. I believe six innocent women would be alive today if the sheriff and DA had done their job in 1976 and I hold them culpable for the abduction, rape and the death of six women that we know of. Sadly there may be more deaths that we don’t know.

    http://www.tcpalm.com/search/?q=Hommell&t=&image.x=26&image.y=17

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