Sara Reedy was 19 when the man entered the petrol station near Pittsburgh where she was working to pay her way through college and pulled a gun. He emptied the till of its $606.73 takings, assaulted her and fled into the night. But the detective who interviewed Reedy in hospital didn’t believe her, and accused her of stealing the money herself and inventing the story as a cover-up. Although another local woman was attacked not long after in similar fashion, the police didn’t join the dots.
Following further inquiries, Reedy was arrested for theft and false reporting and, pregnant with her first child (by her now ex-husband), thrown in jail. She was subsequently released on bail, but lost her job. More than a year after attacking Reedy, the man struck again, but this time he was caught and confessed to the earlier crime.
When the charges against her were dropped, Reedy sued the police and has now won a marathon legal battle and a $1.5 million settlement against the detective who turned her from victim into accused. The payment was agreed earlier this year, but can be revealed only now because of a non-disclosure clause that was part of the settlement.
Now 27, Reedy talked exclusively to the Observer to announce the settlement and speak out about how she hopes her vindication will change the way the police investigate rape. “I’m relieved that people will be able to see now that I was telling the truth,” she said. “Although mine is an extreme case, I’m not the first – and I won’t be the last.”
Reedy’s story is dramatic, but it comes against a backdrop of problems across the US, with accounts of police ignoring or neglecting rape reports, while bullying victims and scrutinising their behaviour rather than the suspect’s.
“There is a national crisis,” said Carol Tracy, of the Women’s Law Project, an advocacy group in Philadelphia. “We’re witnessing the chronic and systemic failure of law enforcement to properly investigate crimes of sexual violence…”
Reedy’s victory has gone down in legal history. During her battle she testified in Congress, and this helped persuade the federal government this year to change the definition of rape to include forced oral sex and the rape of men.
RTFA for the story of a brave woman who wouldn’t give up until she cleared her name and forced the government that backed a corrupt cop to begin to compensate her for the pain they caused.
I don’t know if the money is sufficient – and the so-called detective who declared she was a thief instead of a victim still has his job. But, her courage fighting for herself and others who face the same brutal treatment by incompetents is worth praise.