Start by Believing

Start by Believing

Two days ago a story was posted on Seattle news station KOMO’s website that has ignited a firestorm of comments, A young woman leaving a bar claims that she was followed a short distance home by a police officer and sexually assaulted. Other news sources say that the officer claims he was off duty when it happened and thought she was “pretty” (as if that excuses the assault in any way).

I’ve been taken aback by the number of comments attacking the alleged victim. She is pregnant and says she had a glass of wine at the bar. People are quick to attack her credibility based on those two points as if that means she made the story up, can’t possibly be believed, or her lifestyle should prevent a full and impartial investigation being done. Others are quick to defend the police, pointing out that this officer hasn’t been accused of anything like this before.

Initially I didn’t want to argue with the people who claimed that they could “tell” she was lying or “know” this type. Some have said she’s out for money or doing this for attention. Others claim to know exactly how police procedures at this department are supposed to work, like claiming that a female officer should have done such a search (without questioning if the stop was legal, if her rights were violated, or that a search, handcuffs, following this women, etc. should have been done in the first place).

So I posted a link to a website that literally everyone should be familiar with given the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in our society, Start by Believing. To start by believing means that when someone reports rape or sexual assault, you take them seriously first and go from there. It disgusts me that people are so quick to pass judgment on rape and sexual assault victims.

Someone else on KOMO’s site said how they felt it was unlikely that a cop would do this and another person called them on it. To that person I said:

You’re right. There are allegations of misuse of power and control by cops in the news every day. and are two sites that track such allegations. With family and friends in the profession I’m not a cop hater, but there are cops who hide behind their badge to commit crime against others.

 I’d refer those who are quick to tear this woman’s story apart to

The comments are continuing to fly and one person asked why the victim-attacking frenzy was going on.

Oldster70, this is why people are afraid to report rape and sexual assault– they get torn apart rather than the perp. Their life gets put under the microscope and everything they have to go through in the legal system can be like being victimized a second time. The chances of a conviction are startlingly low and the chances the suspect will be incarcerated even lower (no more than 2 in 100 actual rapes according to EVAWI). You may continue to be in danger from the person who assaulted you for years, especially if they are enraged that the assault was reported and it could affect their employment or income.

 In this case her lifestyle may make her vulnerable and more attractive to a predator. Maybe he thought he’d have a better chance of getting away with it because of the circumstances. Having a glass of wine, being pregnant, her boyfriend, her car, her bar, whatever– why should any of those factors affect whether or not an objective investigation be done? People make it sound like she should have to be a bicycle-riding nun to be taken seriously. If the criminal justice system functioned on initial snap assessments of the credibility of victims rather than focusing on the criminal and deviant behavior of the alleged perp, we’d be back in the Dark Ages.

 Just because this officer’s never had a complaint before doesn’t mean he hasn’t done something like this before– think of similar cases where other victims came forward after one finally stood up and sought help. If she’s lying, she can be charged with filing a false report. If he’s guilty, there needs to be professional and legal consequences. But he’s the one on the hot seat here, not her.

The bottom line is that these allegations need to be fully and impartially investigated. Yes, sometimes people do make up or embellish incidences of mistreatment by police. In this case I don’t see what this woman has to gain by lying, especially since there are rumors she has miscarried and lost the baby.

She has revealed highly personal details of a sexual assault to try to achieve justice and has done so in spite of the questions that would be asked about her own character. But some are automatically treating her like she’s the suspect, not the officer, reminding me why victims in a majority of sex crime cases don’t come forward.

Start by believing. Strive for objectivity and truth. Achieve justice. And pray that we someday have a society in which all sex offenses will be prosecuted and punished accordingly.


Update 6/24/13: KOMO News is reporting that the police officer suspect in this case has pleaded guilty to fourth degree assault: That doesn’t mean he’ll be punished accordingly; he might have to go to “treatment” or only get a slap on the wrist.


The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. –Albert Einstein


©2013 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

3 thoughts on “Start by Believing

  1. I don’t know anything about the incident BUT there is another important point you indirectly raise. News websites that allow comments (I own and operate one) have a responsibility to set and enforce civility rules. On our website, “blaming the victim” is expressly not allowed. While our country’s rules call for presuming suspects are innocent until and unless proven guilty, we must hold the same for victims in crime cases as well. This is our rule even for something as simple as a story about a car prowl in which an item left in a car was stolen. Yeah, we know people shouldn’t do that. The victim no doubt realizes that too. No need to pile on.


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