Maryville Sheriff Is Mishandling Rape Cases

The Sheriff that oversaw the Maryville rape case displayed gross incompetence in handling the victims.

Maryville, Missouri

The Nodaway County Courthouse in Maryville, Missouri, where prosecutor Robert Rice dismissed two rape cases following what was likely political pressure and incompetent case handling by the Maryville Sheriff's Office.  (Image Source:  Kansas City Star)

The nation has erupted over the Kansas City Star's exposé over a rape case in Maryville, Missouri, in which two teenage girls were raped by a prominent high school football player, and a victim's family had their old house burnt down after they moved out.  In response to the development, hackers under the Anonymous banner went after the Maryville Sheriff's Office, as well as the office of Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice.  While the heat has been primarily on Robert Rice, who may have been politically pressured to drop charges by the Maryville and possibly an influential Missourian politician, Maryville Sheriff Darren White has also taken some flak for handling the case, and has become increasingly dodgy in his response to press reports on the rapes.

The situation with Sheriff Darren White involves how he treated the victims of the Maryville rape case.  Of particular note, Sheriff White claims that Daisy Coleman (one of the victims who has publicly identified herself) refused to cooperate with police after invoking her Fifth Amendment rights twice about the alleged rape.  Given the circumstances surrounding the rape, it is likely that Coleman invoked the Fifth over being drunk that night, which is prohibited by state law, rather than about the rape itself.

The problem with questioning rape victims, especially minors but rape victims of any kind, is that the standard procedure of police questioning cannot apply.  The reason is that they do not work: Rape victims cannot respond normally to questions about their behavior and what they were doing, for they are trying to overcome an internalized shame that comes with being raped, and anything that brings up their behavior or actions only encourages that shame.  To them, what would be seen as standard forms of police questioning can be seen as a form of interrogation, as though they themselves did something wrong.  This is seen in police not as a normal reaction to being questioned, and thus a refusal to cooperate.

The Maryville Sheriff's Office, being in a small town in the northwest part of the state, likely do not handle rape cases all that much.  It is very likely that they treat their rape cases the same way they handle all of their criminal investigations: With standard police sternness and order, not taking into account a victim's well-being.  What likely happened is that Sheriff Darren White had his officers question Daisy Coleman like a normal crime victim, and treated her legitimate fear of being shamed by her actions as an inability to cooperate, and thus pushed the Prosecutor's office not to press charges.

This does not justify Sheriff Darrren White's actions, and in fact shows the incompetence of the Sheriff's Office in handling the Maryville rapes.  For all the insults that Sheriff Darren White has thrown at the hackers behind Anonymous, he seems to be more the coward in not owning up to his responsibilities.

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