Her Story Illustrates Risks of Reporting Sexual Assault



Arica Waters never said she was raped. She never even denied that she had consensual sex with Jeremy Berman. She later told a police investigator that she was drunk and didn’t really know what happened, but she felt “totally taken advantage of.” Ultimately, Waters wound up facing a felony charge and 18 months in prison for “making false alarms.” As the New Yorker’s Rachel Aviv writes, most states have laws against making false reports, which were originally used against people who wasted public resources reporting things like nonexistent fires. Beginning in 1970s, however, the statutes were applied in rape cases, just as “the women’s movement was advocating for a broader understanding of sexual assault.”

Aviv reports that such cases often involve murky evidence and “she said, he said” allegations, and although there is little hard data to back the assertion, there is evidence that the practice discourages women from reporting assaults, particularly in tightknit small towns and rural areas. Waters was a rookie cop in the resort town of Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Berman was a well-connected, wealthy prosthetist, as well as a part-time detective who was paid a dollar a year to serve as “liaison” between the police and the island community. The fact that Put-in-Bay was nicknamed “Roofie Island” in 2014 after a spate of drug-related rapes is beside the point, as is the fact that Berman had faced allegations of sexual misconduct in the past. A judge found Waters to be innocent of the charges, but her story—like others Aviv uncovered—illustrates the risks and complexities victims of sexual assault sometimes face when they turn to police for help. Read the whole story here. (Read more false alarm stories.)

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