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Dry Ice Review by Dr Ros Burnett
Comments on Dry Ice by Dr Ros Burnett, Senior Research Associate in criminology, Oxford University.
I enjoyed reading this book but I really should not have done. It is a chronicle of shock, anger and despair; one man’s story of his experiences after being falsely accused of raping, years ago when she was 13 years old, a woman he’d never met. Yet it is written with wry humour, and a kind of baffled detachment as the author tries to take in what is happening and to take appropriate steps. In my research on the impact of wrongful allegations, I’ve often been reminded of the striking opening lines of Kafka’s novel The Trial, which capture that frightening yet absurd moment when a man is arrested and has no idea why. Peter Joyce brings a more recent echo of that, when after his own shock visit from the police, he recalls the lyrics of a song by The Doors: ‘Strange days have found us, Strange days have tracked us down, They’re going to destroy Our casual joys’.
The book intertwines diary entries with excursions into the laws and policies driving the way that sex crime allegations are now dealt with by the police and prosecution services and victims’ services. ‘What? Aren’t they after the truth? he asks, when advised not to pass a note of dates and places to the investigating police. Then, ‘I’m starting to learn just how much my naïve optimism makes me a lamb that’s slipped into the alligator pond, and how often an action that seems instinctive and honest could actually turn me into lunch.’ (p.24). As the weeks roll into months he expresses his increased sense of frustration and anger about the way he is being kept waiting by the police for news of an outcome to their investigations. He’s told ‘it’s a complex case’ but is sure he is being fobbed off ‘by a detective who can’t find a needle in a box full of needles’; he knows that police and prosecutors have to boost their sexual complaints clearance rate, and wonders if he and his wife, and all the other falsely accused and their families ‘have become victims of a police image makeover’.
He has what he calls ‘attacks of common sense’. He questions everything. Like the day when he saw a billboard outside a shop with a thought for the day: ‘Truth is more important than facts’ and walks inside to tell the staff that the statement is ‘baloney’. You could say he became obsessed. But who wouldn’t be after being hit by an out-of-nowhere false allegations missile? It is troubling that without his persistence in finding out more and trying to hold the police to account, the outcome may have been different. If I have a criticism it is that the author seems to have drawn the conclusion that his accuser is a malicious liar in pursuit of compensation, although he does not know her, and in seeking to understand why false allegations are made he does not make sufficient differentiation between lies, false memories and mistakes. Joyce uses the word anger many times throughout the book, but at one point stops to ponder what he means by that, and decides that the main emotion he is experiencing is ‘sustained exasperation’ or ‘an attenuated sense of violation’. No doubt, many falsely accused people can relate to that.
With lucidity and admirable candour Peter Joyce vividly articulates what so many others falsely accused are likely to have thought at times during the interminable experience of being accused of despicable crimes they did not commit. Drawing on his forays into the research, he shares his understanding of what should and what does actually happen in such cases, crisply revealing the flawed logic that errs on the side of believing accusers when there is no evidence beyond their words that a crime occurred. The informative sections, some great comic lines, and occasional recourse to apposite song lyrics that resonate with the pathos or absurdity of his situation, make this one of the best among a new genre of misery memoirs, those focused on victims of wrongful allegations of sexual offences.
So well written I couldn't put it down. After a lifetime as a teacher in a country town in New Zealand, the author was accused of the historical rape of a woman he could prove he had never met. Written as a diary, it traces a journey from shocked disbelief and disillusionment, through anger, to deciding to go public.
THE TRUE STORY OF A FALSE RAPE COMPLAINT Peter Joyce's settled life was disrupted when a woman he had never met accused him of historic rape
Dry Ice: the True Story of a False Rape Complaint
Print ISBN 978-0-473-37701-4
Kindle ISBN 978-0473-37891-2
Epub ISBN 978-0473-37890-5