A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong- Feature and Review


Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists tell the riveting true story of Marie, a teenager who was charged with lying about having been raped, and the detectives who followed a winding path to arrive at the truth.On August 11, 2008, eighteen-year-old Marie truthfully reported that a masked man broke into her apartment near Seattle, Washington, and raped her, but within days police and even those closest to Marie became suspicious of her story. The police swiftly pivoted and began investigating her. Confronted with inconsistencies in her story and the doubts of others, Marie broke down and said her story was a lie. Police charged her with false reporting. One of her best friends created a web page branding her a liar.

More than two years later, Colorado detective Stacy Galbraith was assigned to investigate a case of sexual assault. Describing the crime to her husband that night--the attacker's calm and practiced demeanor, which led the victim to surmise "he's done this before"--Galbraith learned that the case bore an eerie resemblance to a rape that had taken place months earlier in a nearby town. She joined forces with the detective on that case, Edna Hendershot, and the two soon realized they were dealing with a serial rapist: a man who photographed his victims, threatening to release the images online, and whose calculated steps to erase all physical evidence suggested he might be a soldier or a cop. Through meticulous police work the detectives would eventually connect the rapist to other attacks in Colorado--and beyond.

Based on investigative files and extensive interviews with the principals, An Unbelievable Story is a serpentine tale of doubt, lies, and a hunt for justice, unveiling the disturbing reality of how sexual assault is investigated today--and the long history of skepticism toward rape victims.



  A False Report: A True Story of Rape in AmericaA False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller, Ken Armstrong is a 2018 Crown Publishing Group publication.

In the United States, there’s no saying how many women have been accused of making a false claim of rape, only to have the claim later proved to be true. There is no such statistic kept. But even Marie’s case- the extreme example where persecution becomes prosecution, where a victim is not only accused of lying, but criminally charged with it- does not stand alone. At least three other cases like it have surfaced in media reports since the 1990s.

This book is absolutely harrowing, maddening, and sad. Don’t approach it if you have hypertension because you may find your blood pressure shooting through the roof!

Marie’s life had been difficult, and by eighteen, she had already suffered much. Things got far worse when she became a rape survivor and was brave enough to report the rape to the local authorities. But, after repeating her experience several times, the police noticed her story was not exactly the same every time. Not only that, those who were supposed to stand up for her, doubted her story as well. Finally, after much pressure, Marie recanted her story, then found herself charged with filing a false report.

Meanwhile, one of the most clever, sick, and diabolical, serial rapist was on the loose in Colorado. Thankfully, Edna Hendershot and Sarah Galbraith were tenacious and very thorough. However, this case is an all too familiar accounting of what really goes on once a rape has been reported.

It should not be necessary to add a trigger alert here. The rapist’s habits and state of mind is detailed and it is absolutely sickening, chilling, and very disturbing.

But, the focus of the book is on the investigation, which nearly reads like a police procedural at times, and on the way law enforcement meets a report of rape with instant skepticism, the indignities so many women must endure AFTER a sexual assault. The statistics were startling, the investigation riveting, and the approach to interviewing rape survivors is appalling.

The authors did a great job at fleshing out what was initially a long form newspaper article. Both men are Pulitzer prize winners, and T. Christian Miller has written for ProPublica, one of very favorite investigative publications. Naturally, the work is very detailed, well researched, and organized.

While what happened to Marie and the idea that if she had been taken seriously, if her account had been believed, then it may have spared others, had me fuming, and feeling incredibly frustrated, this is a very important book, one that shines a hot spotlight on the difficulties women face in reporting a rape.

Hopefully, this book will help draw attention to how those who have been sexually assaulted are treated by some members of law enforcement, the stigma, the traumatic procedures women must endure, and the consequences of doubting anyone who comes forward to report a crime.

Marie’s story is infuriating, but, I’m glad she finally found redemption and absolution, although it took irrefutable proof to obtain it.





Ken Armstrong is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and Edgar Award-winning author who has worked all over the country (Colorado, Idaho, California, Alaska, New York, Virginia, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington), at papers big and small, from the Valley Courier to the Chicago Tribune. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton. In 2009 he won the John Chancellor Award from Columbia University for lifetime achievement. He now works at The Seattle Times, where he has written exposes about hundreds of illegally sealed court files and a community's complicity in protecting wayward athletes, among other subjects. In Chicago, he co-wrote an investigation of the death penalty that helped prompt the state's governor to suspend executions and eventually to empty Death Row. Armstrong has won the George Polk Award twice and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award five times. With co-writer Michael Berens he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for "Methadone and the Politics of Pain," a three-part series published in The Seattle Times. Before that he was a Pulitzer finalist four times, in the categories of public service, investigative reporting, national reporting and explanatory reporting. In 2010 he shared in the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting, which was awarded to the staff of The Seattle Times for its coverage of the shooting deaths of four police officers. That same year Armstrong and a fellow Seattle Times reporter, Nick Perry, published "Scoreboard, Baby: A Story of College Football, Crime, and Complicity." The book, about a football team's rise and a community's fall, won the Edgar Award for non-fiction.

T. Christian Miller is an investigative reporter at ProPublica, an independent, non-profit news organization dedicated to writing about stuff that matters. In more than twenty years as a journalist, Miller has covered four wars, a presidential campaign and reported from more than two dozen countries. Miller has published investigative projects in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, This American Life, ABC News 20/20 and PBS' Frontline, among others.​

Miller has spent much of his career covering the military, criminal justice and multinational corporations. He has won accolades for his work in the U.S. and abroad, including the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting with Ken Armstrong and two Emmy Awards for a documentary with PBS' Frontline, Firestone and the Warlord. The Washington Post called his first book, Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives and Corporate Greed in Iraq, one of the "indispensable" books on Iraq. His second book, with co-author Armstrong, is A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America. Author Susan Orleans called it "a deep, disturbing, compelling, important book." One reviewer described it as "an instant true-crime classic, taking its rightful place beside Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and Dave Cullen’s Columbine."

Miller is a big believer in the power of investigative reporting. He serves on the national board of Investigative Reporters and Editors, teaches data reporting at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, and was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University.​

Miller, who goes by "T," a family nickname, does a few interesting things besides journalism. He likes to garden with California native plants, go abalone diving in the cold slate gray waters of Northern California and longboard on smooth, gently sloping surfaces. Miller graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with highest honors. He lives in Kensington, California, with his wife, Leslie, their three children and a goldfish named Goldie.

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