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"One year ago, I locked my door and went to sleep; like we all do on any given night. Unfortunately, this night was like no other before and was one I will never be able to forget. I woke up that night to a co-worker who had undressed himself, crawled into my bed and raped me. "
Kathleen, rape survivor

Rape is a crime, talking about it isn't. SPEAK.

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Reporting the crime to the police and the judicial system.

        The judicial system sometimes appears unsympathetic and even hostile to a victim of sexual assault, especially when the rapist is her husband or lover. The legal definition of rape varies from state to state; and in some places a man cannot legally rape his wife. Though the law may not always have a definition for marital rape, it most certainly does occur often together with other types of violence and emotional abuse. Regardless of your relationship to the attacker, you always have the right to say no to sex.

       Many advocates for rape victims believe that everyone who is sexually assaulted should report the incident to the authorities. You've probably heard of women who have followed that advice and feel as if they were raped all over again by the judicial system. Others say they just want to get on with their lives, and telling and re-telling their story to investigators, attorneys, and jurors keeps them from putting the experience behind them. Nevertheless, making a police report may be the best course for the sake of both your personal safety and your emotional well-being. If you decide to report the crime, it's best to do it soon after the attack. The police may even come to the emergency room to talk to you and collect evidence. They will ask you to give information about yourself, the person or people who assaulted you, and the place where the rape occurred. Be sure to tell them whether you think your assailant will attack you again, so they can set up a plan to protect you.


       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.

 

This site is offered for support of other rape and sexual abuse survivors. It is not meant to be a substitute for any kind of professional help.
If you are in a crisis situation we urge to contact your local rape crisis center or health care professional.

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