Ohio judge forces rape victims to take polygraph tests

The Plain Dealer in Ohio is reporting that Cuyahoga Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd has ordered at least four teenage girls, all victims of sexual assault, to submit to lie detector tests.

It is unclear from her orders what Floyd’s intention was in having victims take polygraph exams or what questions would be asked of them.

“The situation made no sense to us,” the mother of a 16-year-old victim said in a message relayed through Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Director of Advocacy Ashley Hawke.

“I believe even more damage was done by the judge letting the perpetrator know she was ordering the victim to take the polygraph. He apparently took this to mean the judge did not believe her and he used this to tell their peers that the judge did not believe her and was ordering her take a lie detector test,” the mother wrote.

“It felt like the blame was back on her and she was being victimized, by not only him [again], but by the system as well.” (Emphasis mine)

Exactly. And I have to wonder how many robbery victims Judge Floyd orders to take lie detector tests. I’m guessing none. By making these young women submit to polygraphs, the judge is sending a very clear message: I don’t trust you, the system doesn’t trust you, and you won’t find justice here.

The office of prosecutor Bill Mason has filed briefs asking the judge to stop ordering rape victims to take polygraph tests, arguing that Floyd doesn’t have authority over victims and that the orders violate Ohio’s rape shield law.

In the meantime, you can find Judge Floyd’s contact information here.

Join the Conversation

  • Heina

    Polygraph tests are not lie detectors and should never be given false credibility via use of that term. They measure biological responses to particular situations, people, and words; that reaction could be a result of anything. It adds insult to injury that these women are being subjected to a lie of a test.

  • SamLL

    Polygraphs are nearly to completely worthless under just about any circumstance already, right? (See http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/polygraph/ota/index.html or http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/polygraph.aspx)

  • SaynaTheSpiffy

    This is obviously awful for the message it sends, but I’ve got to ask this, too: Do polygraphs even work? If so, how well would they work on somebody who was crying and having flashbacks?

  • Doug S.

    Not to mention that polygraph tests don’t work

  • rissa523

    This makes me ill. When are we going to stop re-victimizing victims? I was raped a number of times a child and threatened by my abuser, a close family friend, that if I told anyone, the police would take me from my parents…which when I finally did tell someone at age 11, that is exactly what happened, at first. I was returned within 8 hours but not after regretting my decision to “tell”. After that it was 3 years of stressful trial, depositions, discovery, and interview after interview. One officer even went as far as to say, “If you’d told us sooner you could have avoided a lot of these events.” Yes, telling an 11 year old that its her fault for not telling sooner is really helping the victim. Now forcing them to take lie detector tests? I had officers twist my words over and over during my interviews as a child to the point that I knew they were trying to catch me in a lie. How would a child make these things up is all I can ask myself now. My heart goes out to these and all victims that aren’t assisted by the system but rather continuously abused by our rape condoning culture. Is it hard to believe and accept what happens to these girls? Yes, but denial isn’t what justice needs to be using as a crutch.

  • c-kow

    Letting the prosecution know that she was requiring this test was a mistake. However, as I am sure they are not lying, having their reports ratified with a polygraph test can only strengthen their case, and prove more conclusively that the idea that false accusations of rape are made and are allowed to slip through the legal system is asinine.

  • supremepizza

    Are there any more facts available here? It appears the judge ordered the tests for everyone involved, both accused & accuser. Is there some question of credibility that she’s trying to get to in this case? It seems odd that this would be her everyday practice.

  • Jeniann

    Even if polygraph tests could be relied on to work (which they can’t) all they do is measure your bodies response. The response of a stressed teenager who’s been raped and doesn’t think anyone believes her would probably be off the charts.

  • AuntieMay

    First of all, polygraphs aren’t truly admissable.
    Second, forensic evidence should be gathered to determine if an actual rape was committed.
    Third, believe the victim!
    Why would any woman lie about being raped? It makes no sense.

  • MishaKitty

    First of all, these “lie detector” tests prove nothing and are totally unreliable.
    Secondly, as a rape survivor myself, I don’t know if I’d be able to “pass” one of these tests. Yes, I know for SURE I was raped. But these tests would bring back a lot of terrifying memories for me and I’m sure my nerves would go a bit haywire. I don’t know what that test would end up saying. If I get really anxious before I said I was forcibly held down and made to give my rapist a blow job making me almost pass out because I couldn’t breathe…would that be read as me telling a lie? What if I started crying? Uncontrollably sobbing? How does it read that? What if I started shaking so much at the thought of all this and had to take a break? Is that allowed?
    Thirdly, what a horrible horrible horrible thing to do to these rape survivors! Hey, let’s just re-victimize them all over again as much as possible! This trial isn’t enough, let’s hook them up to a machine and make them as uncomfortable as possible. Let’s make them think that the system doesn’t trust and believe a word they say. Awesome.
    This makes me sick.

  • Pantheon

    There are several things wrong with this, but one of them is that polygraphs don’t work all that well. They mostly measure stress levels, and I’m sure being questioned about being sexually assaulted would be stressful whether or not you were lying.
    If polygraphs actually worked as reliable lie-detector tests, we’d be having everyone taking them in almost all court cases (or we’d be having a major battle over whether or not to do so). If they actually worked, we could give a polygraph to both the victim and the accused and then we’d be done with it. But, they DON’T WORK. So this is stupid, not to mention cruel.
    Incidentally, to work for certain branches of the government you have to pass a polygraph, but since they are so unreliable, you get unlimited chances to pass it, so you can practice. What a waste.
    [On the topic of comments: when I first tried to post this, it said I was signed in. But then it gave me an error message saying I wasn't signed in. So I had to sign out, and sign in again, in order to post this. And now, I'm guessing it won't even appear on the site in time for any sort of conversation about this issue. Just more reasons why its a waste of my time to comment here, and I'll probably have to just remove feministing from my rss reader so that I can save myself this frustration of trying to comment on something interesting and having it turn into far more trouble than its worth.]

  • Pantheon

    I have now read the original article. I still strongly disagree with the judge’s decision, but I think it was incomplete to post this without mentioning that she also ordered the perpetrators to take polygraph tests. It doesn’t make the decision much better, but I’m frustrated that I can’t trust the reporting here to be complete and accurate.

  • SaynaTheSpiffy

    It is kind of bad to leave out the fact that they were both tested, but that’s not the issue. The problem here is that a(n alleged) rape victim is going to be subjected to a test that isn’t accurate and will be incredibly traumatic. To that test, someone who is sobbing and having PTSD flashbacks is going to look more “stressed” than somebody who has no issue forcing someone to have sex. Even if that’s not the case, the judge is still using an unreliable test in an effort to try and scare the victim.

  • SaynaTheSpiffy

    The problem, though, is that a polygraph test is not an objective measure of whether someone is lying or not. It tests the body’s physical responses to stress. Someone who is having to re-live the details of a traumatic event is very likely to be extremely distressed.

  • Jessica

    I don’t think it was incomplete AT ALL not to mention that the accused were also ordered to take polygraphs – that’s not the story. Accused criminals take polygraphs routinely, rape victims do not. There is nothing inaccurate about only reporting the part of the story that’s relevant to our readers – if I hadn’t linked over to the full information, perhaps that would be true, but you had access to all of the information I did.

  • Jessica

    Sorry about the sign-in errors! I imagine that’s very frustrating. The good news is that we’re in the midst of a redesign that will dramatically change (and improve) our sign in system, so you only have to be frustrated a little while longer.

  • Brianna G

    Some women do lie about being raped. Usually either they have mental problems or are particularly malicious towards the person they are accusing, and have no actual understanding of what it means to be raped or the consequences of their false accusation (both on the one falsely accused, and on society and other rape victims as a whole).
    That said, we should always assume a victim was, in fact, raped until we can offer concrete evidence that she was not and prove her false allegation. But to say no woman would lie about being raped is absurd; there are occasional cases where the woman will be caught because she’ll brag to her friends about getting the guy arrested, or where video evidence proves she was somewhere completely different at the time.
    And of course, since this measures emotional responses, it is ridiculous and worthless to use on a victim of an emotionally disturbing crime.

  • kt

    I’d have to think that even if the polygraphs did work, for the accused, sometimes the rapist may not have even been thinking he did anything wrong, and could pass a polygraph anyway.

  • missmelancholy.myopenid.com

    This article brought up memories of my past.
    When I was assaulted in 2008, a polygraph taken by the rapist was used against me even though there was evidence from the PERK that I had been assaulted. I hear all the time how polygraphs aren’t used in the court of law but apparently they are and so this guy got away. Also, because I cried instead of shouting “no” that was held against me. I was too stunned to do anything but cry but apparently its totally okay to have sex with someone who’s crying and obviously upset. Because I have been raped before, that was also held against me because the police decided I must have some vendetta against all men and I’ll do anything to put one in jail (this is not true!) I wish I could have taken a polygraph to counter his polygraph because it would have shown I was telling the truth but they wouldn’t let me because they believed him. I have no idea how he passed it, he must have believed his own lies so much.
    Because I’ve been through the PERK twice (I have survived too much sexual violence) and both times I had issues with the police and the law, when I was in an abusive relationship I never reported it because I didn’t want to go through the PERK again and I felt that the cops would assume I was lying since this had happened twice before. I really hope I am never raped again, but if I am, knowing that a judge could possibly order me to a lie detector test ON TOP of another PERK, it definitely doesn’t make me want to go to the police really for anything. They’re just going to assume I’m lying.

  • Athenia

    Such is blog culture…*sigh*

  • cattrack2

    You’re right, it was at least misleading.
    I doubt that this is the judge’s common practice. The paper doesn’t report it as such at least. And if it is her common practice, I’d have to disagree with her. I suspect that if the details of the case were known, there would be much more to this story. There may be a credibility gap, or inconsistencies that need to be addressed. I’ve seen people–especially minorities–railroaded by the criminal “justice” system so I’m always open minded about getting to the truth. In the Hofstra case (which also involved young minority men) it was only the cellphone video which saved them from prosecution (it didn’t save them from being charged & landing on the front page of the NY Post).

  • Pantheon

    I think relying on polygraphs at all is stupid because they are simply not accurate. However, is it true that accused criminals are routinely REQUIRED to take polygraphs? I don’t know how it varies by location, but what I’ve read indicates that accused people sometimes volunteer to take a polygraph to try to prove their innocence, but that they can’t be forced to (or aren’t usually forced to) because it isn’t admissible in court. I’m surprised that the judge would require polygraphs at all, but at the very least requiring them all around is better than only requiring them of the victims. I think the victims will be more traumatized by this than the accused, but since one of the specific complaints was that this makes it look like the judge doesn’t believe the victims, I have to say that it also makes it equally look like she doesn’t believe the accused.

  • Pantheon

    I should add that I’ve now seen this story posted a few other places and pretty much everyone also left out the part about the accused taking the tests also. Perhaps it IS common to order accused criminals to take polygraphs, but that surprises me since they are expressly inadmissible. I thought they were only taken when the accused volunteers, and even then not given much weight. Its ridiculous to order anyone to take them, especially for something this important.
    Also, apparently the court expects rape victims to pay for their own polygraphs, which makes it even worse.

  • nikki#2

    You made it sound like the judge was singling out the women and left the men alone. It paints a VERY different narrative. But I am not surprised as I have come to expect this sort of thing from Feministing. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it sort of kills my faith in the reliability of the reporting here. And your not seeing how that could be a problem further lessons my faith in your objectivity.

  • Opheelia

    If I’m understanding correctly, the polygraph given to the offenders shouldn’t have been asking about this particular crime. They were already found “delinquent.” If it’s used as part of rehabilitation, I think it’s supposed to address inappropriate sexual desires in order to assess what type of intervention/sentencing is preferred or needed.
    Giving one to the victims after the defendants were found “delinquent” but before they’re sentenced is deplorable. It sends a message that if they don’t pass it, the offenders will get a lighter sentence.

  • Opheelia

    I am so sorry that you went through all of that. The justice system is supposed to hold offenders accountable; too often, it only serves as another abuser. I hope you’ve found other avenues to recover and heal.

  • Opheelia

    Or, it might not be off the charts. Some rape victims respond with a completely flat affect, or an emotional response deemed inappropriate by social norms. What would the person administering the exam and analyzing the results think of a seemingly emotionless or laughing victim?

  • qtiger

    That said, we should always assume a victim was, in fact, raped until we can offer concrete evidence that she was not and prove her false allegation.
    Mildly off topic, but I always go with the standard of assuming that the victim was raped, but not assuming that the accused is a rapist. It might seem hypocritical or illogical, but it comes down to ensuring that the victim gets the care and support that he or she needs without throwing out due process or the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

  • Opheelia

    I tried to post this before, but maybe second time’s the charm…
    There have been a lot of comments about PTSD triggering crying, nervousness, and high levels of emotion. However, not all rape victims respond that way. Flat affect or reacting inappropriately have been used against rape victims in the past, and both are common reactions to trauma. How would someone administering or analyzing a polygraph report on someone who showed no emotion, or laughed at questions? What about victims who simply tell the story as though it happened to someone else?

  • LadyPolitik

    Not that I agree with this type of action 1. violating a lot of legal protections that protect the victim but 2. polygraph tests are flawed. VERY flawed.
    Also, if you read the whole article, Judge Floyd also forces the perpetrators to submit to polygraph tests.

  • dawn_of_the_bread

    I know I’m going to get flamed for this but it needs to be said.
    Isn’t it the role of the court to determine if someone is or is not a victim? What is wrong with applying a degree of scepticism to a claim of criminal acts made against another person – in this case a group of teenage boys? If we automatically believe the “victim”, shouldn’t we automatically believe the accused as well, thereby giving their testimony equal weight? Shouldn’t the court and society just attempt to be neutral?
    I don’t believe lie detectors should be used because I understand them to have false positives, I’m just making a broader point here.

  • Newbomb Turk

    They work about as well as Ouija Boards, seances and squeezing the testicles of a goat.
    Polygraphs are nothing more than the Good Cop/Bad Cop scam, with the polygraph machine as the “Bad Cop”. It’s a con game to get stupid people to confess.

  • TabloidScully

    I don’t agree the role of the court is to determine if someone is or is not the victim. The role of the court is to dispense justice, with ultimately juries or judges deciding whether a crime took place based on evidence.
    So, what’s the problem here? Polygraph tests are completely inaccurate and they’re not even admissible, which means they are not, even in the loosest of interpretations, evidence. Given that they are not admissible, the judge is really stretching her powers and completely ignoring the rules of evidence, which means even if these boys are convicted independently of polygraphs, she’s likely giving them grounds for an appeal.

  • dawn_of_the_bread

    Your second paragraph is correct, but that’s not why Jessica was complaining about the polygraphs. She said:
    “By making these young women submit to polygraphs, the judge is sending a very clear message: I don’t trust you, the system doesn’t trust you, and you won’t find justice here.”
    My point is that, with respect for people’s sensitivities, we shouldn’t automatically trust that the victim is indeed a victim, or that the accused is guilty. Nor should we assume they’re lying, naturally, and people who claim to have been raped should be treated humanely and with respect for their trauma.
    Notice however how both the original article and this blog post called the girls victims before it has been established. I would argue that’s a clear example of bias. If a man I knew were accused of rape, I wouldn’t want the accuser to be called a victim before the crime had even been established.

  • Pantheon

    Thanks, that’s what I was trying to say. Clearly there is still something very wrong with this decision, but by making it sound like the judge is only ordering polygraphs for the girls, it puts a different spin on it than saying that she ordered polygraphs for everyone involved. That makes it sound like the judge is an idiot who doesn’t understand how polygraphs work, but it doesn’t sound as much like she is specifically trying to damage rape victims.
    I still think the main issue is that polygraphs just don’t work. IF we actually had a completely reliable truth serum or something, we’d have to re-do our whole justice system, since we’d always know who was telling the truth and who was lying. It would have major impacts on society.

  • Pantheon

    Imagine a lie-detector that was 100% accurate, in that it detected whether or not the person thought they were lying. It could still be passed by someone delusional, with hallucinations, etc. And it could be passed by an unrepentant rapist if the only question was “did you commit rape,” but if you asked more specific questions, you could still get an accurate answer even if they didn’t think they did anything wrong.
    However, we have no such magical lie-detector.

  • Pantheon

    You have a valid point. If a magic lie-detector actually existed and worked, it would make sense to apply it equally to victims and accused. (It would also have far-reaching effects throughout our society– I’m sure there’s a lot of speculative fiction along those lines). That’s why I think its relevant that the judge ordered it for everyone, not just the victims. It makes me think that the judge doesn’t understand the science behind polygraphs, not that the judge wants to pick on rape victims.
    Since the polygraph isn’t really a magic lie-detector, it has a lot more to do with subjective impressions than with science, and the perceptions that come from the polygraph are often more important than the polygraph itself. Given that situation, its especially irresponsible to order victims to take a polygraph.
    If it actually measured truth instead of bodily stress responses, we might all have a different opinion (and different lives).

  • Pantheon

    I thought they had already found the boys guilty, so you can legally call the girls victims?

  • Colleen

    I don’t trust you, the system doesn’t trust you, and you won’t find justice here.
    This is so insanely frustrating in so many ways. Just the other day, in regards to the assault accusations directed towards a member of the Steelers, a close friend of mine said the girl filing assault charges just had a “drunken whore moment” and “woke up the next morning regretting what she did.” I used to hear the majority of this “she’s lying” crap from men, but I’m finding more and more women who don’t believe each other. My old roommate, and a member here, even blogged about how I was lying about sexual harassment at my former job. (I wasn’t lying, in case this needs to be clarified.) What the hell do we have to do to be trusted in these situations? No one gets a rape kit for shits and giggles.
    Anyway, my point is, we should be trusting the victim and condemning the rapists, but it seems to continually flip itself around and become the victim versus everyone else. The justice system doesn’t seem to be serving any sort of justice.