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Officer incorrectly asserts 80-percent are false claims (It’s 5 percent)
Also asserts Dr. Ford lied, despite offering no evidence
JONESBORO, Ark. – Maybe one of the reasons so many sexual violence victims won’t come forward is because this is the type of mentality they must deal with.
That’s the message from several in the community who were shocked when Jonesboro Police Department Officer John Shipman claimed Thursday 80-percent of rape allegations are “false.”
This claim is completely false. A 2017 study utilizing FBI data from 2006 to 2010 concluded only 5-percent of rape allegations were deemed false or baseless. Furthermore, a 2016 analysis of seven studies, together, estimated 5.2 percent of rape allegations were false.
Shipman’s concerning comment was posted in the NEA Report Insiders Facebook group in response to a clinical neuropsychologist who said, after watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, that she was telling the truth. In response to the expert’s post, Shipman first responded that “80 percent are false.” Perhaps he realized the err of his initial comment because it was deleted as of this publication. Several other replies blaming the alleged victim remained.
The Jonesboro officer, who once ran for sheriff but had to withdraw after his son, a Jonesboro police officer himself, was found with child porn, made an assertion no one in congress made after Thursday: Dr. Ford was lying. Not that she was incorrect or that she remembered wrong, but that she was intentionally misleading the public, or lying. Shipman tied this assertion to his expertise as a law enforcement officer, saying he’s “taken many reports.”
In contrast, President Trump said Friday he found her testimony “very compelling.”
But what Shipman, and others who think like him, fail to see is how many sexual assaults go unreported. Sexual assaults are the most under-reported form of crime and a majority of rapes, attempted rapes, and sexual assaults go unreported. Often, even when they are reported, police never make an arrest.
Assistant City Attorney Jessica Thomason said comments like Shipman’s intimidate victims from coming forward. She said a common reason why victims do not report sexual assault is they fear no one will believe them.
“Often times sexual assault isn’t perpetrated by a stranger,” Thomason. “Sexual assault often occurs with people you know, trust, have a relationship with. And when a victim says “I’m going to report this’, the abuser says, ‘No one is going to believe you. I will tell them all these bad things about you. No one will believe you.’ I think that’s a common worry for victims. We see that a lot in our office with domestic assault.”
There’s still a lot of victim blaming that occurs. People ask questions about why the victim was in the location when the rape occurred, whether she’d been drinking, what was she wearing. We’re still battling those types of questions instead of “Why did he rape the victim?” – Vicki Gestring-Crego, Executive Director, NEA Family Crisis Center
While misdemeanor cases would go through the city attorney’s office, felony cases would be handled by the Second Judicial District Prosecutor, Scott Ellington. We asked Ellington his response to hearing a law enforcement officer assert that 80-percent of rape reports are false. He was in disbelief.
“Really? Somebody actually said that?” Ellington said in awe. “An attitude like that is exactly why many victims don’t feel comfortable coming forward and reporting a sexual assault.”
Shipman’s incendiary and incorrect comments drew the ire of several online. In addition to some making posts and urging survivors not to report their experiences to this individual officer, several group members replied to the officer to correct his false assertions.
Curiously, Shipman seemed to believe there must be a witness for a rape report to be true. We reached out to him for comment several times but haven’t heard back as of this publication. We did hear back from the Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott who said he first learned of the comments this morning. He wasn’t happy.
“That is not the department’s stance,” Elliott said. “I was not happy when I saw that.”
The police chief indicated a longer statement would be issued later today by the city in regards to the comments. He also said an internal review began this morning but more importantly, Elliott seemed genuinely surprised by an officer believing 80-percent of rape cases were fabricated. He said he didn’t know where Shipman had gotten that number.
Executive Director of the Family Crisis Center, Vicki Gestring-Crego, talked to NEA Report on Friday and said she had spoken earlier in the day to the police chief. She felt confident in his response and was pleased with his assurances to handle the situation, she said.
“He listened to what I had to say as far as why this wasn’t good for this information to be circulating from one of our very own police officers,” Gestring-Crego said. “I feel like I got a very positive response from Chief Elliott and assurance that he would look into it.”
The NEA Family Crisis Center, which includes the only standalone rape crisis center in Northeast Arkansas, serves the region with both a domestic violence shelter and a sexual violence/assault shelter. The rape crisis center can even perform forensic exams without the need for an emergency room visit. The goal is to make it easier for victims to come forward and to put less barriers in between a victim of sexual violence and justice. But when Gestring-Crego read these comments Friday morning, she said both she and her staff was very upset.
“It is very very difficult to explain to people the type of trauma that occurs in the brain of the victim of sexual assault,” Gestring-Crego said. “We’re working very hard to educate the community, to educate the general public about that sort of trauma. It’s frustrating to people because they don’t understand sometimes why it may take a victim of sexual assault a long time before he or she says anything about it. There’s still a lot of victim blaming that occurs. People ask questions about why the victim was in the location when the rape occurred, whether she’d been drinking, what was she wearing. We’re still battling those types of questions instead of “Why did he rape the victim?” It’s a question of shifting the way we’re handling rape cases. I don’t understand, and a lot of people don’t understand, why we’re not asking other questions about rape culture.”
870-933-9449 is the 24-hour NEA hotline for sexual assault or domestic violence victims
As the “Back The Blue” organizer, Shipman attained fame by appearing on Ellen to highlight his work through the organization within the community. However, a series of stories by this reporter in The Jonesboro Sun showed Back The Blue was a for-profit organization Shipman had misrepresented to the public as being a non-profit charity. Shipman was running for sheriff in 2016 on the laurels of his work with the group. His campaign continued even after the series of negative stories.
It wouldn’t last for long, however. The campaign could not survive after the revelation of his son, also a JPD officer, being in possession of a stolen phone, steroids, and most shockingly, child pornography.
“…I’m going to be a voice for mental illness and the underprivileged, I promise you,” Shipman said in August, 2016.
At 2:56 PM, NEA Report received the following statement from Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott:
“This social media post was brought to my attention today. We have opened an internal affairs investigation. We have a full complaint process and full investigative process, and if something like this comes up, it’s best to have this turned over for investigation. Then I will determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate.
“These posts contradict departmental and City policy, and are not a reflection of the practices that we utilize or advocate. We teach our officers to go into every situation with an open mind and to listen and determine facts based on what they see and hear.
“Everyone has a right to an opinion. But as a JPD officer, opinions on certain matters do not belong on social media because they can negatively impact the credibility of that officer, and therefore the department.” – Rick Elliott, Police Chief, JPD