A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

A False Report

T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

A False Report is a serpentine tale of doubt, lies, and a hunt for justice, unveiling the disturbing reality of how sexual assault is investigated today.

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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 reported that a masked man broke into her apartment near Seattle, Washington, and raped her. Within days police and even those closest to Marie became suspicious of her story: details of the crime didn't seem plausible and her foster mother thought she sounded as though she were reciting a Law & Order episode. The police swiftly pivoted and began investigating Marie. Confronted with inconsistencies in her story and the doubts of others, Marie broke down and said her story was a lie—a bid for attention. Police charged Marie with false reporting. One of Marie’s 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, A False Report 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.


Advance Galley Reviews

Quite an interesting book which narrates an unbelievable and true story. Both authors performed an incredible investigation about the people, detectives, and police departments involved. It was certainly a book I didn't want to put down, except for when I needed some time to process the detailed descriptions of the rapes performed by such a hideous man.

This book was, at all times, compelling and terrifying.  You hear the statistics, you see infographics, and you see chatter online all the time about women and rape cases.  But this book brings it all home.  T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong have made those women who are doubted, and the ones who are believed, REAL in their book, A False Report: A true story of rape in America. The book follows, very closely, two lines of investigation into rape.  The tale of a young girl who was raped in Washington state is so heartwrenching and terrifying.  It's easy to see why reporting statistics are so terrible.  Who would want to go through that?  Miller and Armstrong are able to report with a fairly neutral voice (though it feels like a bit of disdain for the Washington case handling leaks through) on all aspects of these cases. Despite the fact that this book is about specific investigations, Miller and Armstrong delve into the general history of rape in America (and the UK).  The terrifying fact that precedents and advice given by a judge nearly 300 years ago are still held up as relevant makes me despair for justice.  The investigators in the Colorado case give me hope.  The back and forth between the way a case should be handled and police work should be done (with cooperation and not competition) and the way it should not be done (with dismissal and disbelief) really creates a startling contrast. I have nothing but praise for this book, its authors, and most importantly, the survivors and victims that came forward to the police and to the reporters.  I hope that these cases and this book is one more GIANT step forward to seeing fair prosecution and representation of rape in the courts of America.

This was a really fantastic book. That seems a bit strange to say for a book about rape in America, but it was very well written and hard to put down. At times shocking, it was an eye-opening true story about a series of rapes tied to one perpetrator and the perpetuation of the myth of high percentages of false rape reporting by women. Very well written and researched, I highly recommend this read to anyone, particularly those who have an interest in forensics and criminal justice.

A False Report is the story of multiple women who are survivors of the same serial rapist, including one who was pressured to recant her story, and the police departments and detectives who investigated the crimes. I read A False Report much more quickly than I normally read non-fiction, despite the subject matter (then again, I am also one of those people, like those described in the book, that watches shows like Criminal Minds and Law and Order). It felt like it hit the right balance between statistics on rape and sexual assault, background stories, and the narrative, story-telling elements. It's not overly technical or procedural, but easy to read and fast-paced. The retelling of the crimes did not feel gratuitous to me. It's an important topic to cover in light of current events and culture. This will appeal to fans of true crime and investigative journalism.

I loved this book. It did a wonderful job of showing how ambiguous rape cases can be, and how even the most meticulous investigation can still be full if red herrings.

This book was not what I expected. The focus was on specific cases in Colorado and Washington. I thought that it was going to be a broader investigative piece, and place the specific cases in a larger cultural perspective. The big picture was only 20% or so, while the other 80% was a description of specific crimes that belongs in the true crime category. If True Crime is a genre that you enjoy, this book may appeal to you more than it did to me. It's impossible not to feel something for these victims and law enforcement officials as the events are presented to the reader. I am a bit put off by the amount of salacious details, similar to an episode of C.S.I., or S.V.U., or Criminal Minds; followed by a quote by an admitted rapist criticising people who watch these kind of shows. It seems to me that the authors are trying to appeal to this same kind of sensationalism to tell the story. I have so much empathy and respect for the assault survivors whose stories are told in this book. It's infuriating to read the statistics and historical references to how rape reporting has been handled for centuries. I appreciate the book for those reasons. At the same time, I'm appalled by the details and the suspenseful buildup of the narrative... we do not learn the suspect's name until the officers get their break in the case. It's a little too dramatic for me. We are given glimpses of what compels the monster that caused so much pain and suffering, which is interesting to hear what the megalomaniac rapist was thinking when he did unthinkable things... but I am not particularly moved to hear about a human side of someone after learning of the lives that he has hunted and haunted. Thank you to Penguin's First to read program for providing me with an advance copy for review.

Wow, I really liked this book. That being said, it did take me longer to finish because of the subject matter. This book looks at two states and how they handled the capture and the investigating of a serial rapist. The part that was hard for me was the dismissal of Marie from Lynnwood WA. How because of her lot in life she was really dismissed when she started to get her story mixed up. The authors did a fantastic job of making this red like a fictional account. It was engaging and fast paced. I was not aware of the historical details of rape in the 1700's that still colors some attitudes to this day. This was a well written and fascinating look at how sexual assault victims can still be in this day and age, not believed.

I recalled hearing about this case from when it was featured on This American Life. The story of a rape victim being treated like a criminal, until proven innocent years later was troubling and intriguing. I'm glad the authors pursued the story for this book, bringing much more detail, as well as the unsettling perspective of the serial rapist. Rape, and the reality of how victims who report their assaults are often viewed and treated, makes for difficult subject matter. Though face-paced and well-written, it was hard to read at times, simply because of the painful subject. But the authors have written an engaging and important book that I hope others will read. I especially appreciated the historical details that help explain how present day rape investigations and attitudes toward sexual assault victims have evolved. This book is a true-crime journalism stand out.

I really enjoyed this book. The title is certainly appropriate. It's kind of a dual accounting....of a real rape(s). The two authors give voice to bungled efforts of one department, & also the dogged pursuit of the crime(s) of another department. They describe the 'back story' of all involved, & all the techniques/science used. Luck & cooperation play an important role too. This reads like you're watching a good documentary....it moves right along following the timeline of events. It's so easily readable that it's hard to put down & easy to pick up where you left off! I'll definitely recommend this book to others! I did receive this e-ARC from a Penguin First-To-Read giveaway program, in exchange for my own fair/honest review. All opinions are my own.

This was a difficult read due to the serious subject matter. I had to take multiple breaks along the way to read something cheerier. It's a necessary book, though. It's well-researched and well-written. It's a sorry state of affairs when police treat rape victims as suspects and focus their energy on discrediting them rather than on looking for the rapist. This is an important book on the subject and it belongs in public libraries next to Missoula by Jon Krakauer, and on reading lists about rape and police response to rape.

There's no deny A Fale Report is a work of fierce journalism. As a fan of true crime, I must admit it painted a disturbing picture of a rapist. It brought up some feelings that I was forced to examine. The material in this book is devasting to read yet necessary. I kept reading and I felt bad for Marie. There was a point I didn't believe her but then I read the chapters from the rapist's point of view and then I knew. I am glad O'Leary is locked up. The part when he couldn't face the female officer shows what a coward he is. I don't blame his mother. At least she acknowledged where she went wrong. I was also shocked at the number of rape kits not filed. I think the authors did a thorough job in exploring this topic. I approve

At times a very difficult book to read because of its subject material, A False Report nonetheless represents both outstanding journalism on the part of the authors and exemplary investigating by law enforcement officials in Colorado and across the country. Miller and Armstrong started their reporting on separate sides of the story: one looking at an investigation gone wrong in Washington, while the other focused on a successful example of cooperation between police departments in the Denver, CO area. Combining both narratives into this one book (which grew out of a Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica article) emphasizes the story's most important aspects, drawing a series of chilling anti-parallels in how different agencies pursued someone who turned out to be a serial rapist. Miller and Armstrong treat the material with a perfect balance of tact and detail. They explain their methods further in an afterword, outlining how much thought went into how they would handle such a sensitive topic. Any reader concerned at seeing two men as the authors of a book on sexual assault should rest assured that they have done a diligent and respectful job. A False Report is a quick read. Sometimes, in the chapters concerning Marie's case, hurt and indignation drive you forward in search of a happy ending. In the chapters focused on the growing collaboration in Colorado, a sense of urgency permeates every phone call, every e-mail, and the discovery of every lead. The authors manage to capture a tense mood without condescending into a tawdry, tabloid recollection. It might not be quite accurate to call this an enjoyable read, given the subject matter, but it certainly is compelling. Some of the most interesting passages in A False Report are those that give background into the history of investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases. They trace skepticism in the legal system towards rape victims as far back as a revered 17th century English judge, whose views were upheld well into the 20th century, as well as to Thomas Jefferson. Learning how deeply this suspicion is embedded in our culture offers little comfort compared to the frustration over its persistence. On a somewhat lighter note is the anecdote about how the modern "rape kit" came to exist. Developed by a victim's advocate and Chicago crime lab technician, the first batch of kits was produced thanks to a $10,000 donation from the philanthropic arm of Playboy. These small diversions into the history of the American justice system provide important context to this particular case. The skepticism that informed decades of law enforcement and interrogation training is in no way an excuse for the behavior of some detectives; knowing where this skepticism began and how it was fed over time, however, can help us better understand how to combat it. A False Report works exceptionally well on two different levels. On the surface, it provides a captivating portrait of wildly different investigations linked by one perpetrator. Anyone who enjoys the true crime genre will be pleased at the meticulous break-down of both the Washington and Colorado cases. At a deeper level, though, A False Report examines how rape culture has permeated the very institutions that victims should be able to rely upon without question: the police and the justice system. We cannot solve problems if we refuse to be aware of them, or to discuss them; while it is a harrowing read at times, A False Report is also an essential look at just how right (or wrong) sexual assault investigations can go.

This is easily one of the best First to Read books I've gotten in a long time. As a feminist, I knew this book would be right up my alley--and it absolutely was. The book is obviously meticulously researched and incredibly well-written, which is a must when dealing with such sensitive subject matter. As each story comes into the fold of the larger narrative, you begin to realize the complicated, gnarly issues surrounding rape in America today. This is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in rape culture and/or sexual assault as they intersect with American culture. This will be my first highly recommended read of 2018!

A False Report: A Review This would not normally be the type of book i would pick up, especially around the holidays due to the subject matter and i was a little worried that I would get bogged down in the content and not be able to finish the book (I struggle with dark subject matter) however the account was so well written that I finished it in surprisingly short time. Yes it deals with very serious subject matter but in a clinical way that does not dwell on the darkness while not down playing the severity of the subject. At times it does read like fiction which helps break up the significant data presented of statistics of rape and false reporting in this country as well as expert speculation on whether these are true statistics and why they may or may not be. It was both heart breaking and satisfying to see Marie finally be believed and get some closure and also see how things have changed (or in some cases not changed) because of her story. That being said here are a couple things to be aware of: 1) there are a LOT of characters in this book. The authors did their homework and interviewed almost everyone who had any part in any of these cases and gave back up bios on them. That causes you to still be meeting new characters more than half way through the book. It also becomes difficult to keep them all straight especially if you set the book down for a couple days between chapters. 2) This book gives a lot of stats about rape from reporting to conviction. These stats are sprinkled throughout the book. I think it would have been an even more interesting read if the stats had been more dense in the beginning and less after the arrest. At that point you are hungry for some justice and instead you are back to statistics about conviction rates and sentences. 3) this is one element that i noted that there isnt really any thing anyone can do about but it did take me out of the story a little. The authors make a big deal about how few women are in law enforcement and how they tend to stick together once they form contact with each other. The statistics across the country are provided and disappointing though not exactly surprising. However when it comes to this case almost all the law enforcement personnel interviewed were women. So either Colorado is doing better than the statistics in providing gender diversity in the workplace or the statistics are off somehow. Furthermore the only case that did not have a woman on it was Marie's leading the reader to believe that if there had been perhaps it would have been handled better, which i do not believe was intended by the authors. Plenty of men in the police force investigate sex crimes well and with training and compassion. Overall I give this book 4/5 stars as an engaging read that was well written and well presented on a topic that desperately needs more coverage. Bravo! The First to read program provided me with an advanced copy of this book

This book hooked me from the first chapter. Admittedly a book about a serial rapist is not something I'd typically read over the holidays, but from the moment I opened this book on an airplane, I couldn't put it down. I found myself wanting to leave my family so I could go back up to my room and read it. An engrossing tale of the detectives who failed a victim and the team of law enforcement officials who tracked down the real culprit, A False Report is a timely and necessary book. At times it read it like fiction, because it was so captivating. I didn't want to believe it was real, but it very much was. These things happen and, as the book shows, there is a history of police officers and lawyers trying to discredit rape victims and claim that they "made it up" or that they "wanted it." The two male authors treat this subject delicately. I was impressed to see their note about using the word "victim" versus "survivor." I plan to recommend this book to many others.

Wow. I did not expect to get sucked into this book the way I was. I started A False Report and finished it in one sitting, unintentionally. Absolutely riveting and disturbing. Easily one of the most important books I've read to date. It was fascinating to simulatneously read of a total botching of investigation into a rape case by the police in one area of the country, and read of how the police was working across jurisdictional lines and doing exactly what you'd hope they would do for a case, all against the backdrop of issues humans have always been exploring-- crime, honesty, sexism. A powerful book. I received a digital ARC of this book through Penguin's First to Read program. This review also appears on Goodreads.

Wow. This book held me entranced from beginning to end. The choice to write it the way they did created a natural tension to the story that fit the subject very well. I found myself caught up in each individual's story much more than I would have had it been more traditionally told. This is the hallmark of great writing: to tell a story that pulls you along while engaging you with the human element. Seeing the story alternately from the eyes of the victims, the police, and the perpetrator was unsettling but effective. I never felt like I was able to get too close to the people involved, which fit, considering who they were and what had happened. Each person's story both brought you in and held you at a distance, an eerie dance with intimacy, the search for truth, and self-protection vs violation from each of the points of view. Great investigative story, and some hard truths to stomach. Kudos to the police departments involved for their part in facing up to the need for change.

**Thanks to First to Read for providing me a complimentary copy of A FALSE REPORT: THE TRUE STORY OF RAPE IN AMERICAN by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong in exchange for my honest review ** In 2008 in Washington state, eighteen year old Marie, a former foster child, is raped in her home. Afterward, everyone in her life lets her down. Two of her former foster mothers decide she’s lying. Her best friend creates a My Space page branding Marie a liar. Even worse, the police force her to plead guilty to filing a false report. Three years later detectives in Colorado arrest a serial rapist who has pictures of himself raping Marie. A FALSE REPORT: THE TRUE STORY OF RAPE IN AMERICAN covers other victims and the investigation of the rapist. I’m too saddened and angered by Marie’s story to think about the other facets of the book. I can’t imagine how abandoned and alone she was, first surviving a four hour rape ordeal in her own home, then treated like a lying criminal and finally the abandonment of every important person in her life. I don’t know how she survived and wish she’d write her memoirs about the experience. Miller and Armstrong wrote A FALSE REPORT: THE TRUE STORY OF RAPE IN AMERICAN in such a readable manner I often felt like I was perusing a novel. Even more important than the investigation and capture of the rapist is commentary on how rape victims are sometimes treated by untrained and/or uncaring cops. I’m a rape survivor and unfortunately familiar with the failings of the justice system. Marie will stay with me long after the rest of the story.

 


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