Trying the victim: Ohio judge orders polygraphs for assault survivors
Cleveland, Ohio Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd is forcing sexual assault survivors to take polygraph tests before their attackers are sentenced. Before I go any further, I need to get something out of my system…….WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
First of all, forcing victims to take a polygraph test violates the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Secondly, this order may be violating the Ohio rape shield law which was enacted “to protect victims from undue harassment [and the] tendency in sexual assault cases to try the victims rather than the defendant.” And finally, polygraph testing can be intimidating for survivors who already have difficulty in coming forward; do we really want to add another, potentially traumatizing, hurdle for survivors to seek justice? Polygraph testing sends the message that survivors’ stories are not to be believed and, with rape being grossly underreported as it is, can we really afford to add another disincentive for survivors? [Ms.]
In an interview with Ms. Magazine, Ashleigh Klein, an L.A.-based sexual assault prevention educator, says that polygraph testing would only discourage survivors from reporting even more. She continued, “… 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…A very small percentage of women would voluntarily go through this invasive process and not be telling the truth.”
Ordering assault survivors to take a polygraph test, just as their alleged rapists are, sends the message that they are viewed the same; they are both viewed as being untrustworthy. Similarly, it sends the message that the victims they are more concerned about are the victims of false reporting, not the victims of sexual assault.
False reporting makes up only about between two to eight percent of reports. TWO TO EIGHT PERCENT. [National Sexual Violence Resource Center]. Is this number higher than it should be? Absolutely. Is it high enough to require polygraphs? Is it high enough to discredit a rape testimonial? Is it low enough to ignore? No — to all of these.
False reporting is a problem, but it is not an epidemic. Sexual violence is.
One in six women, and one in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime; this is the problem we need to eradicate. College aged women are four times as likely to be sexually assault; this is the problem we need to eradicate. Only 39 percent of sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement; this is the problem we need to eradicate. Only 94 percent of rapists will never see a day in jail; this is the problem we need to eradicate [RAINN].
These problems are where our efforts need to be focused, and we do this not by creating more blockades, more hurdles, more barriers for survivors to overcome in reporting an assault, but rather through streamlining the criminal justice system in a way that sends the message “we are here to help” not here to question, judge or disbelieve.
Posted in The F Word