A woman who reported being raped on the Back Cove walking trail but later recanted her story was charged with filing a false report on Thursday.

Police ordered Sarah Dodge, 34, of Bridgton, to appear in court on the misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Because she was issued a court summons, she was not arrested.

“There’s no question this reported crime had a negative impact on the perception of safety in the city of Portland,” Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Thursday. “We’re going to react to defend our citizens and in this case that included bringing criminal charges for filing a false report.”

Police launched an extensive investigation based on the report, including using canine teams to search the area for evidence and interviewing numerous hikers and joggers that frequent the area. Sauschuck said the department had expended “extensive staff hours” during the two-day investigation, but said there is no intention of trying to recoup those costs.

Police said they have not determined why Dodge made up a story about being assaulted in broad daylight on the popular walking trail.

The rape was reported Aug. 12 and prompted police to increase patrols in the area and issue safety recommendations to residents. Dodge told police she was attacked near the half-mile marker behind the soccer field and adjacent to Interstate 295 around 12:15 p.m.

Police conducted a follow-up interview with Dodge on Aug. 14, in which she was questioned about contradictions between her account and that of witnesses who were in the area at the time, leading her to recant her allegations.

Dodge had gone to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment after the alleged rape and filed a police report afterward.

Dodge’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 1.

Her criminal record has one entry, according to the State Bureau of Identification: a charge of misdemeanor theft by unauthorized taking or transfer in Westbrook on March 10, 2014.

Police and advocates for sexual assault victims expressed concern that the high-profile fabrication would make it more difficult for victims to come forward and could reinforce the misconception that many sexual assault reports are false.

The charge of false public alarm or report is a class D crime.

Dodge does not have a listed telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Mainehenchman


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