Tanya Marceau, 20, faced a judge Tuesday, pleading not guilty to providing false information to a police officer. The St. Michael's College student is in trouble after reporting that she had been forced into her dorm room and sexually assaulted by a male stranger who covered her mouth with his hand. According to court documents, Marceau now admits to making the story up, saying she had met the man on a dating website, that she invited him in and that she wasn't attacked.
Tony Moulton works with survivors of sexual abuse at HOPE works in Burlington and says only about 2 percent of cases end up being false reports.
"It is so rare, falsely reporting an instance of sexual violence is so incredibly rare," Moulton said.
Legal expert Jerry O'Neill agrees and says false reports can tax an already strained system.
"The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations, which did the investigation in this instance, is highly trained and overworked. And so when you have a situation where there is a false report, they are going to waste some resources in the process," O'Neill said.
Moulton says false accusations in the headlines can also deter real victims from speaking up.
"One of the reasons people don't come forward or the primary reason people don't come forward is concern that they will be believed," Moulton explained.
O'Neill says they can also make the public think the problem is a lot more widespread than it actually is.
"The difficulty, of course, is that it then causes people to think when they hear reports of sexual assault, well I wonder of this is another false report," O'Neill said.
O'Neill admits he doesn't know the defendant in this case, but points to what may have been behind the alleged behavior.
"I think in many instances when you look into it, most of the time you are going to find people who make false reports they have some significant psychological injury, problem that cause them to make the false report in the first place," O'Neill said.
According to the police affidavit, Marceau told police, "I'm sorry, I think it was easier for me to handle it by making up a much worse story then that I had let him in and I let him into my room-- I shouldn't of..."
Marceau is due back in court Oct. 30. If convicted, she could face up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.
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