Sometime in 2016 I found a list of best long-form reporting stories of the past year. Deep into the list, I clicked on this story from ProPublica and The Marshall Project, about a young woman who reported being repeatedly raped over many hours by a masked man, in her apartment, and the nightmare scenario which unfolded as she was accused of making a false report, then arrested and forced to go before a judge to plead guilty for her “crime.” The story was embedded into my memory for many reasons, but the illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook (some of which appear in this review) so perfectly captured the degradation, isolation and persecution endured by the victim, that the story stuck with me.
When A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America was published in 2018 it immediately went into my library hold queue. T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong have fully fleshed out the story of a serial rapist, who stalked and attacked women in multiple states, and the truly abominable way in which one of those women was treated after she reported her assault. If she had been believed, it’s possible other women could have been saved from suffering the same anguish and torture inflicted by this rapist.
It’s no secret that the justice system sucks for women who are raped or assaulted, and A False Report makes this point over and over again. A majority of police are not well-trained in listening to victims or understanding how trauma can affect how, when and why someone will report their attack. If it had not been for (women) police officers sharing information, and believing their victims’ reports, Marc O’Leary might never have been caught. As it is, he’s serving 327 years in prison.
Miller and Armstrong deserve huge praise for reporting on this story. A False Report while not a fun read, does deliver a punch for its deeply-detailed yet respectful coverage of the investigations which led to the arrest of O’Leary. For fans of non-fiction crime stories like I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, A False Report is a must read.
Illustrations by Wesley Allsbrook for ProPublica.
Tagged for CBR10Bingo: Cover Art (with permission)