Legal Rights for Sexual Assault and Rape Survivors

Sexual harassment and assault are some of the most underreported and under-prosecuted crimes in the United States. For any victim of sexual assault, reporting the crime is an incredibly difficult action to take. Besides the trauma that comes from these attacks, the intense social stigma that still clings to sexual harassment and assault tends to cast or put the blame on the victim, rather than condemning the actions of the attacker.

According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, fewer than 25% of rape survivors report their attacks to the police. Unfortunately, even fewer of those reports lead to prosecution and convictions. This is a nationwide problem, one that’s present in Minnesota as well. Out of a study of 1000 rape cases reported to the police, roughly 75% of them never made it to a prosecutor.

Difficulties in Prosecuting Sexual Assault Cases

Some of the difficulties that relate to prosecuting rapists stems from the very same stigmas that infect our culture. Many times, the public will make excuses for why a victim was raped, often in relation to how he or she dressed or acted. These biases tend to lead to doubt when victims report their cases, which can lead to outright dismissal by law enforcement.

Sometimes, that doubt leads to incomplete investigations and poor handling of evidence. A rape survivor who reported her case to the police ultimately learned that the officers had determined that her case did not need to go to a prosecutor. She has yet to receive proper handling of her attack, which occurred in 2015, though her attacker received convictions for other rapes.

Of the fraction of reported sexual assaults in Minnesota that make it to prosecutors, even fewer end in convictions. Survivors face harsh questioning about the details of their attacks, which are often painful to relive. Many survivors also experience fragmented memories because of the trauma, making it difficult to answer questions from judges and the defense. Often, the legal system does not take into consideration the level of difficulty required for a victim to speak about his or her assault.

Why Survivors Shouldn’t Lose Hope

The state of the legal system can be incredibly disheartening for a survivor of sexual assault. In addition to possible judgment from family and friends, the lack of compassion from law enforcement can easily lead to a survivor never reporting their attack at all. Since most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, it can be an even more harrowing experience to speak up.

However, changes are steadily occurring. Movements like the #MeToo awareness campaign have started to increase knowledge about sexual harassment and assault, which is having an impact on the justice system. People are learning that rape is not a rare occurrence, but instead an all too prevalent problem in our society – and one that needs a new approach to better handle investigations and victims of cases.

New developments have also been appearing on the technology end of the investigations process. Newer DNA tests are leading to conclusive results, making it easier to determine attackers’ identities and prosecute cases. With these advances, more reported attacks can end in convictions, giving survivors closure and preventing future attacks.

Contact a Good Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered from sexual assault, it may feel daunting to report your case to the authorities. However, it is by reporting cases and fighting for justice that we can start to reduce the rate of these assaults. Both the social reform and developments in DNA technology are contributing to a world where it’s possible for survivors to report their cases – and win.

If you find yourself in the difficult situation of learning how to confront your attacker, we advise that your first step be seeking legal advice from the compassionate personal injury attorneys at Knutson + Casey law firm. They have the experience and skills to give you the best information on how to move forward. Call our Mankato office at (507) 344-8888 or fill out a form online and an attorney will contact you.