Confronting one’s alleged rapist is difficult under any circumstances, and even more difficult for the victim if she is just a teen. But should a girl be sent to juvenile detention for refusing to show up in court to testify? That’s the question surrounding a California case being debated, where law enforcement officials have detained a 17-year-old girl who has twice missed court appearances where she was needed to testify against her attacker.
According to the New York Times, the girl, who was 16 years old at the time, was abducted from a light rail stop and raped. Prosecutors say her testimony is necessary to keep her attacker, who has been accused in other cases and has an extensive criminal history, off the street. To get her to testify and to not keep deserting foster care, they’ve placed her in a juvenile detention center until she shows in court.
Needless to say, her lawyer isn’t happy. “She’s afraid of confronting her rapist, and she doesn’t want to testify…By imprisoning her it’s just punitive, punishing her for not wanting to testify…She’s being bullied because she doesn’t want to do what the D.A. wants her to do. She’s having a horrible time in there. She’s in a place where they put criminals.”
Law enforcement claim that since she is a key witness, it’s necessary for the “greater good.” But he has been accused of a different attack, and the prosecutor says that DNA from the attacker was found on the victim. Does she really need to be there to testify against him, too? Especially if she is so reluctant to do so that she has run away twice?
When is “public good” greater than protecting a young woman who is obviously terrified of her attacker?
Photo by Olek Remesz (wiki-pl: Orem, commons: Orem), via Wikimedia Commons