Sadly, we write fairly frequently about victim-blaming and refusal to believe rape survivors on Care2. Our society’s general unwillingness to take rape seriously stands squarely against the facts – only 2 percent of victims report rape falsely, the about the same, statistically, as any other crime. One judge, however, seems even more likely to disregard this. The Plain Dealer, a Cleveland newspaper, reports that Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd has ordered four teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault to take polygraph tests.
Yes, you heard that right. Floyd has refused to comment after she ordered victims in separate cases to be examined after she had found their attackers delinquent, the Juvenile Court equivalent of guilty. She also ordered the teenage boys who were accused of rape to take the lie detector tests, as part of an “assessment” before the teens were sentenced.
Everyone involved seems puzzled and upset by Floyd’s action, which is fairly inexplicable, especially since she refuses to clarify her reasoning.
“The situation made no sense to us,” the mother of a 16-year-old victim said in a message relayed through Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Director of Advocacy Ashley Hawke.
“I believe even more damage was done by the judge letting the perpetrator know she was ordering the victim to take the polygraph. He apparently took this to mean the judge did not believe her and he used this to tell their peers that the judge did not believe her and was ordering her take a lie detector test,” the mother wrote.
“It felt like the blame was back on her and she was being victimized, by not only him [again], but by the system as well.”
This is extremely well put. Robin Palmer, the director of the Mokita Center, a group that contracts with the court to do polygraph testing, says that she doesn’t recall these tests being done without the victim’s request. And the prosecutor has filed two briefs, asking Floyd to stop ordering rape victims to submit to polygraph tests.
It’s hard to see how this could be interpreted other than to undermine the conviction of the perpetrators and to call the integrity of the victims into question. And let’s just remember that these are teenage girls, who have already been through an immensely traumatic experience. The last thing the judge should be doing is giving the idea that the system doesn’t believe them.
Photo from Nigsby's Flickr photostream.