Review of A False Report

Review of A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America Written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
Rating *****

It all starts with the rape of an eighteen-year-old girl named Marie. That singular event sets in motion a story that could only have been told after years of investigative work and research by the authors. First, there is Marie’s evolving story. Then there is the story of two investigative teams: one team convinced that Marie is lying, and a second team that pieces together the evidence that points to one person. Lastly, there is the story of Marc O’Leary, the man eventually charged with Marie’s rape and the rapes of other women. The authors expertly distill all of this into a very readable examination of rape as viewed from multiple perspectives.

If you’re looking for a book that ties into the current #metoo trend dealing with sexual misconduct and assault, this is not that book. Instead, it is a 360-degree examination of the rarest types of rape – stranger rape. It is also a look at the difficulties women face when reporting rape and how they are often treated with suspicion. Was Marie raped? Or did she make the whole thing up? That question drives the narrative. Without giving anything away, Marie recants her story.

I’ve covered many false confession stories. They all have some common elements: long interrogations with no attorney present, threats, promises of leniency, untrue statements about evidence. What I did not know until reading this book was that a lot of the tactics investigators use that lead to false confessions derived from one individual – John Reid. Here is a guy who wrote the handbook on how to elicit a false confession. And he should know, having based his entire thesis on a false confession he obtained that resulted in one man spending decades in prison for a crime he did not commit.

One tool that many police departments have implemented to guard against false confessions is videotaped interviews. But in many cases the same video that is supposed to prevent false confessions has shown to be an unreliable tool. An edited version of the video containing only the false confession is hard for some jurors to discard even when the defense shows the misleading tactics that proceeded the confession. In the case of Marie, a videotape of her recantation would not have made a difference in the outcome.

There have been numerous books about rape, but few if any have included the viewpoint of the rapist. Marc O’Leary, as the authors wrote, was a student of rape. He treated it as his job. O’Leary scoured social media sites looking for victims. He entered homes and apartments ahead of time to search for weapons that could be used against him. Fantasies about rape consumed him. How does that happen? What forces would drive a person to have such evil thoughts? The authors provide a useful clue. Marc O’Leary’s obsession with male domination over women started when he was just five years old.

At the age of five, Marc saw the film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. There is a scene in the movie that depicts Princes Leia as a prisoner of Jabba the Hutt. She is wearing a metal collar around her neck, which is attached to a chain. She is scantily dressed. Marc says that the scene filled him with pleasure. That scene formed an imprint on his brain. From that moment on, pleasure and male dominance over women became intertwined.

The authors did not delve further into the topic of brain imprinting, but I feel that a lot of devious behavior is a result of this phenomenon. I believe it is possible that the moment a person first becomes sexually aware or aroused, that the brain is imprinted connecting whatever it was that sparked the arousal with pleasure. Once that connection is made, it is hard to break.

Anyone involved in sexual crimes investigation should read this book. There are cases on record where women have falsely accused men of rape. Their motives range from revenge to a simple need for attention. This book explains why every case deserves to be treated as true and to let the evidence prove otherwise.

This review is based on a prepublication version provided by NetGalley.

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