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Awful New Trend: Victims of Sexual Assault Getting Arrested So They’ll Testify

Awful New Trend: Victims of Sexual Assault Getting Arrested So They’ll Testify

A woman who has been victimized in a sexual assault, especially a violent incident that involved kidnapping, may be understandably reticent about the idea of discussing the crime or being involved in the process to put her attacker behind bars. But when police deem her participation necessary, she could find herself being held against her will again. This time, though, her captors are the people who are supposed to be protecting her.

The rape victim, a Washington area woman who was allegedly kidnapped, taped naked to a chair and then sexually assaulted, has now been further victimized as area police arrested her for not showing up to pre-trial meetings, forcing the prosecution to delay the case. The judge in the proceedings has issued a “material witness warrant” to ensure she showed up for her court date, a warrant that allowed the police to take her into custody and hold her over night in preparation to take her to the meeting.

Although she made her appearance, she’s still under the orders of the police, who have ordered her to appear weekly for meetings, and more often if necessary, as well as stay in place at the home of her parents, with the threat of being returned to jail if she refuses. “If the prosecutors try to contact you and you’re not there, there will be another warrant out for you, and you’ll be going back to jail. And this time you’re not getting let out,” threatened Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning, according to The Daily News Online.

“There’s a sensitivity chip missing in the brains of each and every person involved with this decision,” writes Rebecca Rose at Jezebel. “It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the devastating impact of sexual assault that victims often have a hard time going through the process involved in bringing a rape charge to trial. Of course she didn’t want to go to your ‘pre-trial meetings.’ Of course she doesn’t want to sit and room and discuss—relive—the trauma that happened to her that night.”

The use of warrants to force rape victims to be involved in their own trials are rarely used, according to the article, but we know such a thing has happened before. In 2012, a 17-year-old girl was thrown in juvenile detention for refusing to go to court and testify against her rapist. The prosecution justified the actions toward the girl by deeming her testimony key to getting a repeated rapist off the street, and that the greater good of getting the accused off the street was worth any emotional or physical harm the teen was going through either in jail or by facing him.

Prosecutors said similar in a 2003 case in Ohio, where a woman was jailed for four days to “teach her a lesson” about why she needed to testify against her attacker. The rape victim claimed she didn’t come to testify because her neighbors were threatening her, but the judge dismissed her fears and put her behind bars to “send a message that people have to cooperate with the justice system, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

Do rape victims lose their rights as a result of being attacked? Is it truly a “greater good” to jail someone who has been harmed in order to force them to testify against a criminal? Our legal system seems to think so. In believing that, they really show that they have no issues with victimizing a victim of a sexual attack over and over again.

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Photo credit: thinkstock

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158 comments

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9:37AM PST on Mar 7, 2014

Here we have a vulnerable person, a recent victim of a horrible crime and what do they do? Victimize her some more!!!!! I cannot envisage ANY circumstances that would make this action appropriate.

5:22AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

Unfortunately any victim who does not do their bit to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice is leaving other potential victims open to the same abuse. There must be a better way than jail but, compassion or not, there has to be a level where a victim should have the social responsibility to tell their story.
One thing that should be banned is the adversarial approach from barristers / lawyers representing the alleged perpetrator. They should not be allowed to impugn the character of victims and only be allowed to question facts of the matter. Video testimony has to be a big step forward - as happens in the UK for victims of child abuse.
Yes, I am a man and so many will think that I have no right to an opinion, but I also have experience where a failure to provide evidence led to abuse continuing for longer than would otherwise have been the case: it is those avoidable victims for whom they have to step up.

5:21PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

justice still under the power of men who have no empathy ???

12:56PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Why not make the compromise that the victim's testimony be videotaped in a safe location? Notice that all these arrestees have been WOMEN; why aren't males who have been sexually assaulted treated in such a humiliating manner?" When a rape victim refuses to testify in a public courtroom, her fear is the humiliation of doing so, AND the very real fear for her personal safety from further attacks from the perpetrator or his associates.

6:51AM PST on Mar 4, 2014

So unbelievable - disgusting

1:26AM PST on Mar 4, 2014

So awful

7:18PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

This is what it means, for those who don't understand. When I say this can't be fixed, I mean it. Women will always be regarded as property in this country.

This is the judge's line of thinking as he makes his decisions: she had the nerve to accuse a man of a crime when he was just following his instincts as far as the judge is concerned. Now that she has made the accusation and badly damaged this poor man's reputation, she doesn't even have the courtesy to show up and face him.

Remember, we live in a country where marrying the girl you rape is an appropriate punishment to some judges (see my previous post).

6:10PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Thanks Robin for the very insightful article. The actions of the judiciary and the police are unacceptable. The victim should have received counseling to provide emotional support in preparation for the trail proceedings, not jail time.

5:56PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Only a Neanderthal could come up with this idea! You'd have to be a sadist to think this was a good idea! Honestly, there are times when I think that people who insist on cruel and vindictive policies like this, should be transported to some island in the middle of nowhere and left to their own devices where they can be as mean and as domineering and senseless and brain-dead as they like where the rest of us sane folk don't have to rub shoulders with them! WHAT ARE THEY THNKING????!!!

3:44PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Noted

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