When you press charges, the attacker will be jailed, then in all probability released on bond. He'll be given a couple of hearings in which a judge will formally tell him the charge, assign him a lawyer if he can't afford one, and determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to a grand jury.
If the case goes forward, the grand jury will decide whether the evidence warrants an indictment. At several points in this process, the accused will have an opportunity to enter a plea; he may opt to plead guilty, perhaps to a lesser offense, in exchange for a lighter sentence.
If the case does go to trial, you will probably have to testify in open court. However, this isn't as degrading as it once was. Most states now have laws that prevent the defense attorney from bringing up the victim's sexual history in an attempt to discredit her, and the law in general seems to be growing more sensitive to victims' rights.
That is definitely not to say that you'll have an easy time. It is the defense attorney's job to try to convince the jury that his client'your attacker'is innocent and should be released without punishment. In doing so, he may insist that you consented to have sex; that you were at fault because you did something "wrong," such as going back to the man's apartment or having too much to drink; that you are blaming his client for something someone else did; or that no sexual activity occurred.
Rape can be hard to prove. You should understand that if the district attorney declines to prosecute, if the case is thrown out of court, or if your attacker is found not guilty, it doesn't mean you weren't raped or that you did something wrong. A "not guilty" verdict doesn't prove the rapist's innocence; it simply means the prosecution didn't have enough evidence to meet the level of proof required for a conviction.
You may also be able to sue your attacker in civil court for damages (mental and physical) that he has caused you. Talk to an attorney about your options. Many states and counties have referral services that can put you in touch with a lawyer if you need one.
Copyright © 2006 Thomson Healthcare.