The Tennesean Supports State Ban on Polygraphing Rape Victims

In an editorial titled, “Don’t accuse rape victims,” The Tennesean voices it support for legislation that would outlaw the wrongheaded police practice of requiring those who report having been the victims of rape to submit to a lie detector “test” before investigating the complaint:

Monday, 05/01/06

Don’t accuse rape victims

A rape victim shouldn’t be victimized yet again by the process of seeking justice, and the legislature is on the right path in asserting that principle.

The House voted 77-10 to approve a bill prohibiting law enforcement officials from requiring an alleged rape victim to take a lie detector test in order to proceed with an investigation. The vote follows the 27-1 approval of a similar bill in the Senate. The House bill would still allow law enforcement to request such a test. An agreement between the two versions should be easy to achieve.

One House member who voted against the bill said that without a polygraph test, there would be no way to determine if the alleged victim was telling the truth. But police don’t require people who report car thefts, burglaries or other types of crimes to take lie detector tests. They assume the person reporting a crime is telling the truth unless evidence to the contrary surfaces. Why should rape victims be any more likely to lie?

Traditionally, victims of rape and abuse have been reluctant to come forward, talk to the police and press charges against an attacker. Requiring a lie detector test of the rape victim would be a huge deterrent to reporting a crime. Any law enforcement official who would force a victim to take a polygraph test would be placing an undue burden on the victim. The bill stops any chance of that happening.

At every turn, victims should feel security in reporting crimes. The legislation shows that lawmakers understand that need, and the bill should become law. •

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  1. This happened to me in 1993 when I reported my violent rape and assualt to local police at which time both myself and the purpetrator were given lie detector tests. Because I was so traumatized I went on antidepressants which cause sweating which is also the major indicator in a lie detection test. This test was run by 2 state policemen. After the test they were in my face with fists screaming that I was untruthful for a good 2 hours. The rapist was also found to be untruthful. I have been traumatized for 13 years by this experience and will never fully recover. I see a therapist who specializes in PTSD. As I understand now many rape victims have suffered this same victimization of the victim. I would be interested in discovering similar stories from other women.

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