A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong. Crown Publishing Group, 2018. Hardcover. 304 pages.
Quick word of caution: If rape or sexual assault in any form is a difficult subject for you or something you try to avoid, then please be aware that both this book and this review will discuss these topics. I will not be writing anything detailed about sexual assault, only about the book itself, the subject itself, and how it is so often poorly handled in a legal sense--however, it still may be uncomfortable if this subject is a difficult one. The book does go into much more depth and has the potential to be much more unsettling, with descriptions of what occurred to the women and how they felt.
A False Report was a book that I didn't expect to like nearly as much as I did. The summary of this book implied that it would mainly focus on the issue of people not believing the validity of rape victim;s claims. This book does cover this issue in great depth, but at the same time it reads as a bit of a true crime story as well. This aspect tells of the victims and investigation into a serial rapist that targeted women in Washington and Colorado. I won't say who the rapist is that they are talking about because the book does not mention the man's name until the end, and I feel that this is part of how the book is meant to be told. Knowing that everything that happened in this book was true only added to the horror of each situation.
This book was hard to read, but also one that I could not put down. What happened to these women was not only truly horrifying and terrible, but also occurred in a very different way than the majority of rapes occur, which made it hard for people to believe, and so some of these accounts were met with great skepticism. This, as the book aims to show, is a common problem with victims who come forward with claims of rape. There is often so much doubt and so much that they have to go through to prove it happened, that many are discouraged from ever coming forward in the first place for fear of being arrested for false reports or simply having their life ruined. The authors do a great job of both explaining this issue while covering the investigation and rapes of each woman, including the injustice and struggles of each step of the investigative process. The victims had to retell their stories multiple times to multiple people, investigators had to go through their apartments in meticulous detail, take their clothing, and then the women still had to endure an invasive and (traumatizing) examination for more evidence that may have been left on their bodies.
It was so informative--and horrifying--to read about how so many rape victims are treated. Many are interrogated rather than objectively interviewed because of how much doubt people have for their stories. One woman in this book, Marie, is so intimidated by the police and those around her that she ends up completely recanting her statement, a truly distressing event that was so hard to read. Can you imagine going through one of the most traumatizing events of your life, only to discover that the police don't believe you, your friends don't believe you, and even the people you love and trust the most in the world don't believe you? It's truly a nightmarish scenario, but it happens every day.
The setup of the book was a little confusing at first, but I soon got the hang of it and was absolutely sucked in. The book begins by alternating chapters between a few of the victims--for example, we start with Marie's rape in Washington, then explore another in Colorado, and go back and forth between these cases. Within these chapters, the authors also delve into the investigators leading these cases and provides a bit of background on their own lives and how they became investigators. Eventually, the chapters begin to include ones that focus on the rapist as well. These delve into the psychology of the rapist, his background, why he did what he did, everything. It was really pretty crazy stuff, but certainly provides for some interesting insight.
I was so impressed with how much time and detail the authors obviously spent in putting this book together. They track every step in the investigation into each rape, every lead, every dead-end--and there were a lot of those--and how the various investigators were so determined in each case and all of the work they put into to finally capturing this monster.
In the very last portion of the book, the authors delve more deeply into the history of how rape investigations were handled and viewed, and honestly... it was pretty infuriating to read about. So many men throughout history have viewed women who "cry rape" with extremely skeptical views, and felt that a woman could not be taken seriously unless it had been proven beforehand that she was mentally fit and not seeking out any revenge on a man or looking for attention. Even Thomas Jefferson wrote that rape should be treated with great skepticism, as women could be claiming "on account of the temptation women would be under to make it the instrument of vengeance against an inconstant lover, and of disappointment to a rival." This is one of the many, many things in this book that made me furious.
I was so impressed with how much time and detail the authors obviously spent in putting this book together. They track every step in the investigation into each rape, every lead, every dead-end--and there were a lot of those--and how the various investigators were so determined in each case and all of the work they put into to finally capturing this monster. This book also showed how we, as a society, need to do better for victims of these crimes. Overall, I've given A False Report five stars and I highly recommend this one!
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