Missoulian, Missoula Police Department Make Reporting Rape Even More Difficult

It’s incredibly difficult for anyone to come forward when the victim of sexual assault. Victims are often unwilling to come forward because of social stigma, fear that their claims will not be believed, fear of further victimization, shame and other reasons. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network says over 60% of sexual assaults are unreported.

The challenge of reporting rape makes the actions of the Missoula Police Department and the Missoulian almost impossible to understand.

On the day after the Missoulian reported that a UM football player has been charged with rape, the newspaper is giving top of the page attention to a story titled “Research varies on rate of false rape reports,” giving credence to the misogynistic, damaging idea that women are likely to manufacture claims of sexual assault.

The entire framing of the story is almost unimaginably insensitive. There’s been no public defense from the accused asserting he is the victim of a false claim. There’s been no evidence to suggest that women are making false claims about rape in Missoula.

Rather than focusing on the fact that a Missoula police officer was merely “counseled” for telling a woman reporting a rape that women make false claims to avoid “trouble with their boyfriends,” the story lets Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir justify treating rape victims as criminals:

When Muir visited in person with that woman and another who’d filed a sexual assault complaint, "we had a discussion here in my office about the fact that there is false reporting that does take place," he said. "There are studies that have shown numbers are closer to 40 to 50 percent."

Later he emailed the woman a 2009 article about those studies, two of which used polygraph tests. One of those examined 1,218 reports of rape on Air Force bases in the 1980s and subjected 546 of those making allegations in "unresolved" cases to polygraphs.

"Twenty seven percent of these complainants admitted they had fabricated their accusations just before taking the polygraph or right after they failed the test," the Forensic Examiner article said. That study combined the finding with other results to come up with a false accusation rate of 45 percent.

The officer who made the remark should be exposed and disciplined, rather than protected by his boss and the media. Chief Muir should either make it clear that he doesn’t believe 50% of women who report rape are lying—or he should resign, because Missoulians—both men and women—deserve to know that the police will help them when they are victims of any kind of assault.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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      • I can’t think of anything better than going round and round with you in some never ending battle of words. It’s like the winner is the one judged only on the number of responses and the length and perplexity of sentences.

        And to what end? In all these discussions have you softened your positions? Just the opposite. Your cheerleading outfit has given way to goth. Against everything and embarrassed to provide what really are your solutions concisely.

          • If voting mattered, you’re right. But if it did matter, people would be going to jail for trying. As it is, your Republicans and Don’s Democrats matter as much as the uniforms on the backs of professional athletes. It’s all about the money.

            • Too funny. It’s also a complex mathematical theory – or the word invented to describe it. Check Wiki. Conservopedia probably has your definition.

              I agree that I leave you bewildered, you and Don both. I see you as continually applying the same solutions to a problem, and having no success, and then doing it all over again. This is the definition of insanity, but neither of you are insane. It is simply, I think, an expression of bewilderment on your part. If elections do not fix our problems ,what does?

              I agree. It is very difficult. That is where you both stop thinking and rinse and repeat and hit me with the “stop repeating!!!” argument. I have thought long and hard about the problem, but am no genius, so I have only concluded that the answers are quite simple, but implementation nearlyimpossible due to the hold that money has on our politics. Because we are not democratic, democratic solutions cannot be applied. Most of our relief has to come outside the electoral process. Mere electioneering will be the last process to rescue, but is not part of the bigger solution.

              Answers: Remove private bribery from elections, remove advertising from campaigns, remove lobbying from the legislative process.

              It’s that simple. And impossible. I only assure you that replacing Tester with Rehberg achieves exactly nothing, and keeping Tester in office ditto. Since we are not democratic, neither of these men can affect change. Rehberg might be more proactive in our desctruction, it appears, but Tester is like a giant iceberg, 90% concealed, so that we cannot know if he is not too wanting to accelerate destruction too. It’s a waste of time.

  • Reading about these events in the Missoulian for the past few weeks, it’s been my impression that if it wasn’t for the Missoulian’s pretty darn solid investigative reporting on this issue, UM never would have went forward with the independent investigation that directly resulted in the recent arrest of a UM football player on charges of rape. So hopefully justice will be served. In my opinion anyway, it seems like the Missoulian deserves some thanks for their dogged reporting holding UM’s administration, and the Missoula Police Department, accountable….something that’s not too easy for a newspaper to do in a small, college town. I would certainly imagine that the victim of this crime, and their family, appreciates what the Missoulian has done to help bring about justice in this case.

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  • There are some attention-grabbing closing dates on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There’s some validity but I’ll take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

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