A New York City weatherwoman who has appeared on “Good Morning America” has confessed to lying to police about an attempted sexual assault. This November, Heidi Jones, 37, of WABC-TV reportedly claimed that two months earlier she had been jogging in Central Park when a Hispanic man in his 30s or 40s grabbed her, dragged her to a wooded area, and threatened to sexually assault her. She said her screams attracted the attention of two passers-by, which scared the potential rapist off, and that two NYPD officers refused to take her statement. She also told police that around the time of her report, the same alleged Hispanic man found her outside her apartment and told her, “I know you went to police.”Sources told The New York Daily News that the NYPD police chief personally reached out to Heidi Jones to apologize for the officers’ allegedly ignoring her statement and promised to investigate the matter internally. For three weeks, NYPD detectives gave Heidi Jones around-the-clock surveillance (presumably out of fear she had a stalker) and accompanied her to work, to flea markets and movies, and out walking her dog. But detectives realized there were holes in her story by listening to her recount the alleged attack on her cell phone. Furthermore, surveillance video taken in Central Park didn’t give any indication of an attack happening. After cops brought Heidi in to ask more questions, she admitted she’d been lying all along because she wanted sympathy for problems in her personal life. WABC has suspended her from TV indefinitely. The NYPD issued her a ticket for making a false report and, if convicted, she faces up to a $1,000 fine.
Generally, I am not inclined to write about women who make false reports of rape. (Though I have done so before.) Focusing on false reports of rape — rather than, oh, the appalling backlogs of “rape kits” collected from actual rapes — further inflates the falsehood that women lie about rape all the time. In fact rape, attempted rape, sexual assault and incest are under-reported crimes because there is so much victim-blaming and stigma attached. But I think it bears repeating that stories like Heidi Jones’ are not the norm. You can read more about that here and here.
I’m also dismayed by some of the coverage in The New York Post that said cops doubted Heidi Jones’ story from the get-go because it had taken her two months to report it. It may be kind of a moot point because she was lying about it anyway, but there is no “correct” time to report an attempted assault or an assault. Some people report the next day, some people report two months later, and some people never report. Ideally, people will report immediately, but everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do. (For example, if a college student is raped over orientation week but doesn’t report it to police until she is pushed to do so by her parents over Thanksgiving break, does that make the assault any less real?) Dismissing a victim’s claims because she isn’t behaving like the “right” or “good” victim hurts all potential victims. What if you or I were to be the next person to be victimized and we are not believed because we weren’t a “good” victim?
In any case, we can probably assume Heidi Jones has problems to deal with that led her to continue with a lie like this. I hope she gets the help she needs and I’m grateful no men were falsely accused (that I know of) as a result of her deception.