Name one time when a person went to the police claiming they had been victimized and they were not initially believed. I’m waiting…..

“Unlike any other crime I responded to in my career, there was always this thought that a rape report was a false report,”

When Tom Tremblay started working for the police department of Burlington, Vt., 30 years ago, he discovered that many of his fellow cops rarely believed a rape victim. This was true time after time, in dozens of cases. Tremblay could see why they were doubtful once he started interviewing the victims himself. The victims, most of them women, often had trouble recalling an attack or couldn’t give a chronological account of it. Some expressed no emotion. Others smiled or laughed as they described being assaulted. “Unlike any other crime I responded to in my career, there was always this thought that a rape report was a false report,” says Tremblay, who was an investigator in Burlington’s sex crimes unit. “I was always bothered by the fact there was this shroud of doubt.”

Tremblay felt sex assault victims were telling the truth, and data supports his instincts: Only an estimated 2 to 8 percent of rape accusations are false, according to a survey of the literature published by the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women. Tremblay also knew the victims felt as if they were being treated like suspects, and it affected the choices they made. Surveyed about why they didn’t want to pursue a report, most victims said they worried that no one would believe them.

This is rape culture in action. It puts the burden of proving innocence on the victim, and from Steubenville, Ohio, to Notre Dame and beyond, we’ve seen it poison cases and destroy lives. But science is telling us that our suspicions of victims, the ones that seem like common sense, are flat-out baseless. A number of recent studies on neurobiology and trauma show that the ways in which the brain processes harrowing events accounts for victim behavior that often confounds cops, prosecutors, and juries.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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