Charlie Made The Whole Thing Up: How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Lesbian Faking a Hate Crime?

charlie rogers, arrested for false reporting

It happens so quickly, in the aftermath — the gathering of the community, the vigils, the facebook tribute pages, the fundraising for the medical bills. We are good at this, lesbians: we are good at gathering, at empathy, at selflessness. We are good at unconditional support and automatic embraces. We have been good at this for decades. We’ve had to be, because nobody wanted to hear our stories, because nobody believed the stories we told about our lives, especially the hard ones, the violent ones, the tragic ones.

But are we ever too good at this?

When news broke that 33-year-old Charlie Rogers, a lesbian from Nebraska and a former college basketball star, had been attacked in her home by three masked men — that they’d tied her arms and legs together with zip ties, carved “dyke” and other hateful words onto her skin, spray-painted “we found u dyke” onto her basement wall and then attempted to light her home on fire — I admit I didn’t believe a word of it. Not because I don’t think hate crimes happen, obviously, but because the facts of the case didn’t add up and her testimony was full of holes. I had the same feeling about Charlie that I’d had when Cheyenne Williams made the news in 2009 for allegedly being attacked by her friends on National Coming Out Day, a story that turned out to be a lie, albeit a lie I could more easily fit into a coherent narrative than this one.

But I am a skeptical and jaded person. Working and living online for so long has often exposed me to numerous “fakers” and introduced me to one liar in particular who tore my life apart — after you’ve helped your friend mourn the loss of an entirely-fabricated newborn child and composed a eulogy for a dead mother who never existed, nothing is sacred and any lie is possible, any lie at all. I’ve immersed myself in research about Münchausen syndrome (also, by proxy and the “by internet”) and “compulsive liars” and scam artists and the people who believed the liars and there’s a certain pattern and form these situations take and they become recognizable to the jaded eye. I also watch way too many crime shows on television.

I just need you to understand that this is where I’m coming from, this very subjective place, before we go any further. We’ve been talking about this all day, me and the other Contributing Editors, and it’s clear to me that our reaction to this story is deeply wedded to “where you’re coming from.”

This case left me conflicted because, perhaps like you, I put aside my skepticism for cases involving hate and women and a gay woman especially. It’s our responsibility in this community to believe and listen, and I would’ve been outraged to see Rogers’ testimony challenged on a mainstream website. But I wasn’t sure how to feel when a commenter on Fonseca’s article about the attack was verbally massacred for, essentially, questioning what I saw as a very questionable situation.

“I believed it,” Kate said. “The first thing you’re trained to do [when you do survivor support work] is to believe the victim, because so many people won’t.”

“I split myself in two,” said Fonseca, who emailed with Charlie’s girlfriend and the vigil organizer to write her story, “I didn’t believe it, but knowing what Kate does about supporting survivors, I presented the case as it was.”

Yesterday Lincoln police reported that the only person being charged in the Charlie Rogers case is Charlie Rogers, a determination which has been supported by four Nebraska gay-rights groups following the case, who released a statement commending the police “for conducting what [the gay rights groups] believe was a balanced and thorough investigation.”

Fonseca caught up with the Vigil organizer she’d spoken to for our original piece and the Vigil organizer said she “regret[s] nothing.” Furthermore, she recalls, “one month ago I started a Facebook event that called our LGBTQA community together to light candles and fight the darkness of hate. No matter what happens with Charlie, that fight is a real one, one that must continue.  I will not let the news of today cloud my vision in my quest for tolerance and equality, nor will I let it extinguish the inspiration that was ignited in me when I looked over a sea of hundreds of candles.”

 

There were elements of her basic story that raised a lot of questions for me at the time: it seemed convenient that the attackers took an unnecessary field trip to the basement (the attack allegedly occurred upstairs) to spray-paint her unfinished basement wall in super-neat handwriting rather than vandalize the painted and wallpapered upstairs walls. It’s unusual that a seemingly pre-meditated crime of this nature wouldn’t be accompanied by sexual assault or theft. The small fire causing only $200 of damage in her kitchen? The fact that carving “Dyke” in somebody’s skin with a blade is kinda… sensationalistic?

So let me dig into the specifics of this case for a second.

Forensic evidence has revealed numerous holes in Rogers’ story. Rogers claimed she awoke to three men in ski masks standing around her bed who undressed her and held her down while one man cut derogatory words into her arms, stomach, thighs and shins as well as a cross on her chest area, yet police found no sign of a struggle or any blood on the bed where she claims she rolled around after being cut. Furthermore, Rogers sent a friend a photograph of the cross carved into her chest far before the crime occurred: “Initially, (Police Chief) Peschong said she told police the assailants carved the cross. Then later, she said her father had carved it into her chest and the assailants cut it again. She also claimed her father had abused her twice before, a claim police said was unfounded.” An FBI forensic pathologist determined the cuts, which were superficial and symmetrical, seem to be either self-inflicted or administered with consent. They were too straight to have occurred during a struggle, and were all in areas that could’ve been self-inflicted.

A hardware store clerk has testified (and bar codes confirm) that Rogers was the woman who’d purchased the white knit gloves, red box cutter, zip ties and extra blades Rogers claimed were used against her by her attackers.  Rogers’ DNA, and the trace DNA of another female, was the only DNA found on the gloves, which are the only item of those aforementioned Rogers still denies purchasing. There was no evidence of a break-in and she had no idea how they entered or left her house. Rogers deleted all text messages she sent and received the night of the incident before turning her phone over to police.

Rogers reported that while she was on the bed, she heard “splashing” that she believed was gasoline being thrown around her house and that she was able to hop to the door at which point “she observed a match light, and then an ignition and the door was blown shut.” Her neighbor didn’t see any fire or smoke, and when firefighters arrived there was no active fire. Only $200 in damage occurred. Rogers reportedly told initial responding officers that there was graffiti in the basement, but later in her statement said that she didn’t know about the graffiti when she initially left the house.

graffiti in Charlie Rogers’ basement

Like many in Nebraska, Charlie was riled up by the debate over the “fairness ordinance” that would ban discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people — it was passed by the City Council, but opponents had gathered enough signatures to put it up for a popular vote. Four days prior to her attack, she “outlined in a Facebook posting what investigators believe was her motive for faking the July 22 attack” when she wrote: “So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me.”

In her interview with a Nebraska ABC News Affiliate, Rogers stated, “for people to think this doesn’t happen here, it does. It did.” Using (not always accurate) Statement Analysis techniquesRogers shaky testimony can be parsed out by analyzing that interview she did in July, which contains many linguistic red flags, like her eschewing of first person or any sensory details and the removed manner in which she addressed people who questioned her: “The idea that people think it’s a lie is so hurtful. It’s understandable… Intellectually I understand that people have a hard time wrapping their heads around what happened, as do I. But I’m a person, with feelings, with concerns…and it’s just so…it feels like a punch in the stomach, like a betrayal.” The blog Eyes for Lies, which analyzes videos like these for potential veracity, notes that her overall behavior, facial expressions and phraseology are inconsistent with a victim of the crime she claims to have survived.

Furthermore, had her story been true, it would’ve been an unprecedented combination of unlikely factors, considering her gender, her relationship to the alleged attackers, the location of the attack (hate crimes are far less likely to occur at the victim’s home than nonhate crimes), the number of attackers and the usage of ropes/restraints, according to statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs and the U.S. Department of Justice.  Had her story, which claimed these strangers probably targeted her because she attended a Gay Pride event, been true, it would’ve been the first time in recorded history these circumstances combined in this fashion. The case of Teresa Butz’s murder (and the rape of both her and her partner) is the closest thing to the crime Rogers claimed was committed; a man whom the couple had never interacted with before broke into their home and attacked both of them. But even that case was much more typical in that sexual assault was committed, and there was only one attacker — looking at how indescribably horrific the crime was, it seems inconceivable that he could have convinced anyone to be an accomplice, let alone two people.

The Police Chief told the press that a hoax is “really the last thing on our mind” when they approach a case: “The physical evidence, you know, almost always corroborates what you’re being told. When the physical evidence isn’t consistent with what you’re being told, then at that particular point in time, investigators start asking themselves why or why not.”

In light of the warrant issued yesterday, the police have assured the public that “the case will not affect his department’s trust in crime victims, saying people shouldn’t hesitate to report crimes. He said the department spent thousands of dollars investigating the case. Police don’t know what may have motivated her, but have encouraged her to consider counseling.”

When I talked about this today with other contributing editors, there were two major threads of thought: the first is what I’ve already presented here, more or less. The second is, as Carmen said, “even though this woman was lying, let’s be honest, hate crimes are still a big deal” and, as Ali said, “I feel like it’s always the best policy to believe something someone says… I hate it when people assume that I’m hysterical or that I don’t know what I’m talking about based on the fact that I’m a woman.”

Kate asked, “What if we had written an article that questions all the facts, that delves into the details and doesn’t believe the story? What happens when a survivor reads that article? What happens when she’s already doubting herself and hating herself, and she sees her own community doubting and questioning someone’s story? I always, always think of that survivor. That’s who I put first. and if she’s unwilling now to come forward and tell her story, to feel safe, to feel like she will be believed when every single other person and institution in her life has wanted her to PROVE it to them, then we have failed her and ourselves.”

Kristen summed it up thusly: “I questioned it, watched the video, cried and then kicked myself for being a mean asshole.”

But there is anger, too. Malaika: “When a friend of mine was raped what did the police do? Nothing. And are stories of women faking attacks going to help women who really need it? No. So why should we give her publicity. Let’s save it for someone who deserves it.”

Hansen echoed those views: “I think it’s really upsetting to see that this woman was lying. It puts such a negative light on so many abuse victims.”

Like all crimes, there will always be fakers, and that includes anti-gay hate crimes. She’s not the first to lie about an anti-gay hate crime this year, unfortunately. In June, a lesbian couple who had claimed that anti-gay vandals had spray-painted “Kill the Gay” on their garage and left a noose on their doorstep in October 2011 were sentenced to probation and community service for falsely reporting a crime and in July, it was revealed that Central Connecticut State University student Alexandra Pennell had lied in March about receiving threatening notes at her dorm room attacking her for being a lesbian. The student body had even held a rally to support her when the accusations first broke.

“I hate it when things like this happen,” Malaika added. “Because it gives more popularity to sexist ideas that women usually lie about rape and abuse and damages the credibility of women who actually need people to believe their stories and help them fight and survive.  ”

“I make these things personal but I can’t help that, and I feel like every survivor will take it personally too,” said Kate. “I’m furious at this woman for doing what happened. I’ve read the details and it makes me upset and terrified, but I also need my safe space to have believed her from the start.”

As I said earlier in this post, I would be outraged to see an article picking apart her story on a mainstream website, reinforcing stereotypes and damaging assumptions about victims. But is that a safe conversation to have here? I’m consistently impressed by how quickly and effectively we rally around LGBT victims of violent crimes, but I’ve also been consistently conflicted about how quickly and effectively we shut down dissent and eliminate room for nuanced questioning in favor of this speedy and unconditional support and allegiance to the only story we’re allowed to tell.

But who are these vigils really for, anyhow? Are they for Charlie Rogers or Cheyenne Williams or Alexandra Pennell or are those just names we use to justify gathering to mourn the longer list of names nobody ever wrote down, the longer list of LGBT people who have been left for dead and never mourned, the longer list of an entire generation of gay men killed by AIDS, the longer list of queer youth who died on the streets after being kicked out of their homes, the longest list of transgender women who have been murdered as the world watches their killers go free? Were we wrong to attend vigils and donate to Charlie’s recovery fund, or were we wrong to mask our doubt? How do we talk about Charlie Rogers?

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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44 Comments

  1. TO. MANY. FEELINGS.

    This eerily reminds of a couple stories about white women faking kidnapping and Nancy Grace being all over that shit only to find they faked it.

    I feel so conflicted about the implications due to the real violence against women and at the same time how those like Nancy Grace ignore other women of color who go missing *not faking it* and the news media ignoring those stories.

    This feels so familiar, I don’t know how to talk about it because there are so many dimensions with this story, it’s reporting, hate crimes, crimes against women, everything.

    • I would add that women of color are ONLY mentioned when they’re faking it. That’s the truly shitty part. Whenever a member of a disenfranchised community fakes their assault, it automatically becomes a commentary on the entire community rather than an isolated case of mental illness or psychopathy or whatever the motivation is.

  2. This is unfortunate in the sense that others may not be believed or may not think that they will be believed. However, all cases need to be investigated on their merits and the results reviewed publicly to ensure that real incidents do not go undetected and real aggressors do not go undeterred. All crimes against persons are “hate” crimes, regardless of the specifics of the perpetrators and their victims, singling out any number of personal characteristics as a reason for any attacks. Unnecessarily drawing attention to one’s self serves as an invitation to some, somewhat like walking the streets after dark with money hanging out of pockets. Nevertheless, there are those who crave attention to the point of doing what Charlie did or painting hackenkreuz graffiti or various other selfish acts because of some “need.” Then the vicious circle starts, the debating on whether to believe or be believed. Declaring persons deemed perjurers “personae non gratis” might be a step in the right direction, recalling other unfortunate times when people had “A” characters sewn on their clothing or identified as witches. In the end, responsibility has to instilled in people, sort that obviates the need for society to become unnecessarily aroused about what a person does on their own time. Discretion seems to be a dead concept.

  3. Wtf wtf wtf. I’m trying to separate out the anger and frustration of falling for a lie from the situation but it’s hard when the lie is so big and so harmful to people who have actually suffered hate crimes.

  4. Here we go again. People… STOP REPORTING CRIMES THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN!!! You’re setting back the whole women’s rights movement when you lie… Now, yet again, women look nuts! I’m so disappointed in her :(

  5. This has torn me in to pieces several times in the past day. I still can’t really answer any of those questions.

    I still maintain the idea that safe spaces–like this one–should be characterized by both empathy and skepticism.

    And as someone whose default agenda is a gay and liberal one, I’m automatically in the wrong. So siding with alleged survivors until the final judgment call is something that is not so difficult to do.

    It’s just disheartening when that final call is one of fabrication.

    • This sums my feelings up pretty much perfectly.

      I can say with some certainty that the rest of my life will be spent fighting and advocating for the discriminated and marginalized people and trying to put more love in the world than I take out, so right now I feel upset and frustrated but also used.

      • Feeling used is a perfect way to describe my feelings too. Used and manipulated because our community has such empathy and support for victims of hate crimes, and it’s basically well-known that we’re going to rally behind these people. So all that support garnered all this publicity for this case, which is what this person wanted, and now our community’s supportive nature is being called into question, and people will say we are too quick to take sides and believe the victim. It’s just so frustrating that anyone would lie about this.

  6. (TW: discussion of animal abuse)

    The whole “carving words into skin” thing seems really sensationalist and such and that girl who claimed she was attacked by Obama supporters in 2008 immediately came to mind, but I also thought of that real case back in January in Arkansas where a Democratic campaign manager’s cat was killed and the word “liberal” was written on its corpse. (I didn’t provide a link because that story upset me enough when I read it the first time, but Google it if you want) It was writing, not carving, so not quite the same thing, but as ridiculous as that particular tactic sounds it DOES happen in real-life sometimes so that’s why I wasn’t inclined to dismiss it right away. Although I do remember thinking when this happened “this sounds like something that could easily have been faked.” The idea of breaking into her home was the weirdest to me….why would they have followed her all the way home? If their issue was that she was at a gay rights parade, wouldn’t they have attacked there?

    • Crime scene staging often has markers like this case does. That is, minimal damage done, treasured items spared, and the like. Oftentimes the person stages what they think a crime would be like, rather than what is commonly observed. I’m guessing that’s where the group of attackers following her home thing came from. It reminds me of when people try and fake mental illness, because they often go for the television version of whatever disorder they’re trying to fake. Obviously that bears little resemblance to the actual thing, more often than not!

      • Yeah, the minimal damage is what really makes it obvious to me, in retrospect. I guess in their mind, they want to cause some damage so that it looks like a crime was committed, but not have to buy hundreds/thousands of dollars of belongings or do major home repair for a faked crime? But in truth, it would almost make more sense to just not destroy anything. Damaging stuff, but taking care to keep it under X money amount is just not something that an actual criminal with no regard for your personal safety would do.

        • It’s amazing how often people make mistakes like pulling all the drawers out of their dressers the way they imagine a robber would, yet leaving obvious valuables on the countertop that any criminal worth their salt would snatch first thing.

    • i totally agree about the weirdness of the home break-in… it’s not like she was featured in a pride event or pride had even happened that day or week… the likelihood that they’d pick her randomly, of many random people who happened to be on the streets during pride, and then find out her name, where she lived, and then made a plan to invade her home and attacking her three weeks later… just seems beyond unlikely.

      but i feel like carving into a live person’s skin and writing a word on a dead cat are really different things — i think when you look at behavioral criminal science, criminal acts that seem similar on a basic level can actually indicate radically different pathologies. slight deviations in weapons choice, even. these days i think carving is rare but generally associated with nazis or kkk members…

      • That’s why the cat thing came to mind for me, though. While perhaps not a “hate crime” because I don’t think your political affiliation makes you a protected class, it clear was done with the intent to intimidate and say “we don’t want liberals like you in our town.”

  7. I have all the feelings of betrayal and anger and sadness that we all have here, but I’m not sure I have much to add to the conversation.
    What I would like to say however is that the way you have written up this article is a wonderful way to deal with a terrible situation. The sense of community that it gives to the reader, a big conversation is a great way to suggest the wider discussion that needs to happen here.
    I feel like maybe one of the things that this points to is a lack of mental health help and resource out there and social care for people like Rogers. Surely this constitutes pathological lying? and that’s something that should have been noticed earlier? eg when she claimed her father abused her?

  8. To me the important point about situations like this is how a crime about a white (perceived middle class) victim becomes a story with flash coverage, a funnel for profound outrage and widely reported in both the gay and mainstream press while, since then, a number of African American trans women have actually been murdered with virtually no press coverage in gay and lesbian press (and minimal highly disrespectful coverage in mainstream media). Yes, we do place very definite values and rankings on perceived victims in this culture and we owe it to ourselves to permit the self-examination and honestly to delve into that.

    I feel bad for her. She’s obviously got some emotional issues she needs to deal with. (a similarly leaky, dubious story happened in the trans community about 2 years ago and was also widely reported until proved false). Far more crucial is why this story was so much bigger and seemingly important than those about poor women of color in Chicago and Baltimore recently found dead? Does “folks like us” somehow justify interest and credulity?

  9. My perspective is rooted in the study of people like this, and in a lot of personal anger so consider yourself warned.

    Some people are psychopaths, have other and frequently concurrent out of control personality disorders, use abuse and suck people dry of energy, money, love, and sometimes, life. Pretending these people don’t exist doesn’t help the LGBT community. Pretending they can be magically changed or fixed helps no one.

    I also have to disagree with the idea that questioning questionable assault stories hurts survivors. Letting those stories go UNquestioned hurts survivors. It hurts me, to see these fucking people co opt what happened to me, to so many other queers, to so many other people of all kinds, for whatever attention they think they need. We should absolutely help people and rally around them but we can’t lose perspective, either. It’s insulting and demeaning and frankly does far more damage than never, ever pointing out something that doesn’t fit.

    I am not saying this woman is definitely a psychopath but I will say that this is how they operate. They paint themselves as the victim and take advantage of entire communities. We rally around them because we are good people, good queers, we know what it is to be silenced. Then when the holes in the story come up, we can’t reconcile that with how we perceive ourselves so we perpetuate the lie. So many of us can’t deal with the fact that we’ve had the wool pulled over our eyes, that we’ve been manipulated, so instead we get more and more prickly, hostile, and aggressive to those who point out the problems. She goes on to use and abuse another day, because we couldn’t bear to put our cynicism glasses on for ten seconds.

    That’s no way to live. Not everyone is a “good” person and many people never will be.

    • I feel you on the anger, Tiger. What gets me is that she seemingly faked this bullshit in order to, based on her statement about “being a catalyst,” draw attention to Lincoln’s ‘fairness ordinance’ and discrimination against the GLBT community in general? As though staging a fake hate crime is a great way to highlight the heinousness of real hate crimes?

      Also I get the feeling her gf was in on it, which makes me even angrier because it means that TWO people thought this was a good idea.

      All of it – the “I’m gonna be a catalyst” thing (in particular the words “Watch me” at the end of the sentence), the complete disregard for the potentially disastrous impacts this could have on the community, the appropriation of survivors’ experiences for the purpose of re-centering herself in that narrative . . . all of it just screams narcissist to me. “I’m a person, with feelings, with concerns…and it’s just so…it feels like a punch in the stomach, like a betrayal.” You don’t say.

      Also she has crazy eyes in that first picture.

      • Exactly. It strikes me as the same delusional shit people write before they climb clocktowers and gun down innocent civilians. I already see people bending over backwards trying to excuse her somehow and while it’s important to recognize mental illness, personality disorders and/or psychopathy are entirely different ballgames. They aren’t considered mental illnesses as such, with one or two exceptions, and only one is really treatable, at least off the top of my head (borderline).

        It is insane how someone can be so self centered as to think this will help a cause in any way. I am not advocating that she receive no treatment, if there is any that can help her. Obviously I am just speculating as to her diagnosis so maybe there is something to be done. But I am not holding my breath. I know that the impulse in the LGBT community is to present a certain perfect front to the majority, for valid reasons, but more and more lately I feel like we should be turning our focus inward towards our communities, making them strong, making them safe from people who would do this sort of thing, building each other up instead of fighting so damn hard to get acceptance from a mainstream that largely hates us.

        Then again, maybe that’s the less helpful and pissed off part of me talking.

    • i also think it’s worth mentioning that it’s really easy to say “we should always believe a survivor” when no suspect has been named. the justice system systematically denies violence against women, but it also systematically incarcerates poor people and POC for crimes they didn’t commit. usually when somebody lies about a crime, there is an actual victim — the accused — and then condemning the liar seems to come more easily.

      so yeah, i’m with you that i believe it’s important to question, that’s where i’m coming from, as a person who is almost insanely vigilant about avoiding ever having ‘the wool pulled over my eyes.’ but i also can respect where kate etc were coming from as well.

      • In my town there was a child molestation scandal that was basically a witch hunt for poor people of color, some of whom were also developmentally delayed. It was clear to any rational person that none of this abuse had actually occurred. (descriptions of the “abuse” included things like being flushed down toilets and being used in Satanic rituals). There were huge, huge issues with the investigation. For example, the girl who made the initial accusation? Yeah, her stepdad (I believe he was a step parent) lead the investigation. Juuuust a little problematic. People lost years of their lives in prison for nothing, all because it was a highly emotional issue and the accused were disenfranchised.

        Just recently in the post about the trans woman accused of molesting a kid, people were ready to hack her to pieces on nothing. There was no discussion of evidence, iirc, in the article. It was so new that no one could possibly determine whether she had anything concrete against her or not. Yet so many were willing to give up on innocent until proven guilty because of the nature of the accusation. Personally, that isn’t the way to handle the fact that so many people are silenced when it comes to assault. It’s already so, so easy for the justice system to condemn a poor trans woman, and especially on a molestation charge since people are quite sure that trans people of all kinds are scary instruments of rape and destruction.

        To me it’s both. Every person I meet, after years of study on psychopathy, murder, and assault, I treat like they’re a basically good person. But in my mind, I never forget that it could all be an act. We have to hold both acceptance and skepticism in our minds and hearts. Believe, but don’t be afraid to look for glaring inconsistences like the ones in this story.

  10. I’m gonna take a wild (but probably correct) guess that people in every demographic have lied about crimes.

    People are saying that what this woman has done is going to set women and queers back or perpetuate stereotypes…hopefully not

    Like we have to be perfect citizens just to get the same rights as everyone else…and everyone else certainly isn’t perfect. This might be the sad reality..and I think it’s what sucks the most about all of this.

    I came really really close to donating to the victim’s relief fund for her..I am still upset to find out the attack was probably fake, but I’m taking the empathy route

  11. This article was written so thoughtfully. I love how it responds to such an emotionally charged subject with dialogue and respect for a variety of views and reactions, allowing the door to be opened to further fruitful discussion. Thank you.

  12. The story was ridiculous from the start, especially when rape was not a part of the attack. I never believed it, I felt bad for never believing it. I usually tell friends and family about the latest hate crimes, but I never shared this one. It sounded too incredible, and the evidence proved that.

    Comparing a person with clear mental issues to the survivor of a real attack just isn’t right. Someone was crazy in this equation, given the scarification, and it turned out to be Charlie.

  13. Beautifully thoughtful post, Riese. While I agree that listening seriously to such reports is essential at first, the more sensational, the more we should be on our guard. One clue I see here is the elaborate planning needed for this crime supposedly commited in a state of homophobic rage. All the zip ties and paint they had to buy, the carving when rape and beating would have been much easier. I was doubtful when I first saw this story because it all just seemed like too much work and too much publicity.

  14. Do we know anything about her motivation for doing this, has she made any comments? (Since the video I mean, now that it’s emerged what really happened.) Even in general too, are there trends regarding what motivates people who have done similar things? In other cases, for example, has there been evidence that those who made such false claims believed – to any extent – that these things really happened? They’d have to, right? Or else how could they let it get so far?

  15. thanks for writing this reise.
    so i’m super relieved the crime didn’t happen. but i can’t stop thinking about the ‘fairness ordinance’ that was up for a vote in the town & charlie’s facebook post that she was willing to be a martyr. inequality leading to an “us vs.them” mentality mixed with a little bit of crazy is scary.

  16. All I can think is that if Charlie Rogers was trying to prove that hate crimes happen against LGBT people, she just did the opposite. So many homophobes deny that hate crimes even exist, and this adds fuel to their fire that LGBT people are mentally unbalanced. The whole time I was reading about this, I kept thinking about those poor young lesbians in Texas who were shot execution style in a park, and wondering if that has been labeled as a hate crime?

    What I do think is that crimes against LGBT people are going to get a lot worse if we don’t all band together and vote for the only president who has ever made an attempt at giving LGBT people the same rights as married straight people…The alternative is pretty scary to think about. If you haven’t seen the website Mitt Gets Worse, you might want to check it out. Pretty big eye opener for me.

  17. I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t have any doubt. It never occurred to me that she could be lying. When I saw the graffiti on the basement wall, I was definitely confused, but… I still didn’t question it. I’m kind of mad at myself for not going that extra step now.

    I think it’s good to be aware that this kind of faking happens. But I don’t think we were wrong to offer unconditional support. I’d rather we were gullible, loving fools than suspicious, wary critics of “victims'” reports, even if our doubts turn out to be founded in fact. I like our lovingness. And I don’t think we should let someone like Charlie Rogers take that away from us.

  18. Yeah, I feel like an idiot too. I’m at work so I may have missed a part of the article, but what happened to all the money that was donated to her because “she didn’t have health insurance”?

    It sucks that this woman felt so desperate for help “for the community” that she had to lie, and, in turn, make things worse for everyone. It just really, really sucks.

  19. [warning for discussion and description of abuse] I read somewhere that the tiny minority of rape reports which are actually false (as in, no rape was committed at that time & place, not that the police found the wrong dude) are often reported by women who have been raped and/or abused a long time previously. I’m not sure what’s going on in their heads, but it could be because no-one is believing that their father/uncle/first boyfriend raped them, but they know they need support and closure, they try to find a different way. It’s not cool but they deserve help, not blame, and certainly not prosecution.

    I’d put money on this case being one of those. The idea that her father didn’t cause those scars because they look so neat there must have been consent is total BULL. If a man pulled out a knife and said he was going to carve stuff into me, I would lie still. Struggling could go so badly wrong! Lying still is not consent – surely we know this by now? That’s if I was in control of my body – most women, when being raped or abuse, freeze up from fear like a fox in headlights. And that’s definitely not consent.

    I can see how conservatives/the police are going to read this case and use it as a justification not to believe women and other LGBT folk. But in reality, the social forces making people disbelieve us are HUGE – the contribution that women like this make is tiny in comparison. We shouldn’t blame her – we should blame her dad, blame the society which failed to protect her as a kid, the others down the line who’ve failed to believe her or offer her adequate mental health support, and the social forces which continue to disbelieve women like her day in, day out.

  20. Obviously it’s on a different scale, but this reminds me of the “Australian Costance McMillen” story just a couple of years back. Just after the McMillen story made headlines around the world, an Australian girl with a highly connected lawyer father went to the press saying that she was being discriminated against because she supposedly couldn’t take her girlfriend to the school formal (prom). She kicked up a fuss and Queerty, the Age and many queer sites ran with the headline “Australia’s Constance McMillen”. As it turned out, there was no discrimination because it was Yr 11 dance meant for only Yr 11. She was in Yr 11 and her gf was in Yr 10. The school said that reason she couldn’t go was because then students who dated someone in the grade above them would be able to essentially have two Yr 11 dances when everybody else only had one.

    I remember finding out and feeling angry about it because of the story they had hailed her fight and held her up as Australia’s Constance. Since Constance was humiliated in such an awful and disgusting way not once, but twice, it really was a blow that this was all just a staged thing and had no real similarity to McMillen’s ordeal.

  21. I really have to agree with people saying there’s obviously something going on with her, whether it’s an actual mental illness or serious need for counseling. It’s really messed up that someone’s personal problem (whether mental illness or whatever) is not what this will be blamed on. That is, the root of the problem is not what will be blamed. Her identity as a woman will be blamed, and her identity as part of the LGBT community will be blamed. So, as a woman and as an LGBT person, she’s going to get crap from those two communities, in addition to the mainstream, for her mistake. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve a certain amount of crap, I’m just saying that if it were a straight man lying about a crime, the well-being and integrity if two entire communities wouldn’t be riding on his shoulders. So that sucks for her a lot and is unfair, mostly because I believe that whatever made her lie about it isn’t entirely her fault.

    But also, an identity that doesn’t get blamed in this way is the fact that she’s white and is displaying some serious white-savior complex that is pretty common. Only this is a pretty extreme example as far as I can tell. Anyway, I don’t think simply calling it psychopathic behavior or only being pissed off at her is the answer. Whether it is that she really has some sort of mental need or that she needs to understand her whiteness more or whatever, getting to the actual root of the problem is probably what’s best for everyone.

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