The Victims of Sexual Assault and the Legal System

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours

Victims of sexual harassment all around the world face difficulties as a result of a flawed court structure that benefits the suspect more than the victim. The number of women who have been raped by people they meet is growing. A woman was assaulted by a man she met and loved on April 5, 2014. About the fact that she was afraid of being assaulted again by the attacker, she wanted to approach him in her vehicle. As a result of the increased threats of death, the woman agreed to contact the police in an effort to resolve the situation. She then issued a statement on what had transpired done by most victims as pointed out by Randall (2010). The police later collected available evidence and told the lady to visit the hospital for a rape kit, as is protocol in such incidences. After some time, she received a call from the police notifying her about the arrest of her attacker. Although the ‘justice’ felt good at first, it resulted into months of psychological prosecution, each time making her be re-traumatized after encountering her attacker. Moths passed and the result of it all was dropping of the case due to lack of enough evidence. The only incident which benefited her after the loss of huge amounts of money to the Attorneys’ offices was a restraining order. This instance presents how the legal system is not doing enough to protect victims of sexual assault in different countries. The legal system should therefore enforce stricter laws to better protect victims of sexual assault and rape.

Factors Contributing to Sexual Assault

Poor Legal System

Legal systems in many countries do not exhibit strong laws to prosecute perpetrators of sexual assault as well as protect the victims. For instance, in 2015, Brock Turner who was then a student of Stanford University was sentenced to in prison after sexually assaulting a woman who lay unconscious behind a dumpster (ABC News, 2017). Although sexual assault is a criminal offense, Turner was only sentenced to six months in prison. The efforts by the case prosecutors to recommend a minimum of six years were not fruitful. The case was criticized since it was viewed to be very lenient; nevertheless, the judge’s declaration was final. After serving for only three months, Turner was released from prison and the presiding judge in his case was blamed for not treating sexual assault case with seriousness (ABC News, 2017)

The legal system is also exhausting for the victims who pursue justice since it is designed to protect the rights of the accused as pointed out by Avegno, Mills and Mills (2009).It is also evident that many sexual assault perpetrators are not strangers but friends known to the victims. This makes it hard for the victims to establish an argument in a court of law and the processes involved are usually draining to them. Police interrogations with regards to the investigations are usually associated with stigma on the victim’s side due to memory on the incident.

Due to the poor legal system that does not fully address the crime of sexual assault, many of the victims do not report the cases. It is estimated that in Australia, less than 25 percent of sexual abuse victims are reported to the police (ABC News, 2017). According to the National Violence against Women Survey, at most 19 percent women who are raped after the age of 18 years report the crime as pointed out by Avegno et al. (2009). The reporting rates of sexual assault in different countries are lower than other crimes. This is because most of the people have embarrassment and fear of shame in addition to viewing sexual assault as a minor case. Even the police bearthe perception that rape cases are not important as asserted by Küçüker (2008).

Most of the victims who report and cooperate with the police as well as prosecutors face skepticism of their allegations. In addition, most of the criminal justice officials often question the credibility of the victims. The police must first begin the process by determining whether or not the crime really occurred and if it the perpetrator should be arrested. In case the arrest is successful, most of the cases are ruled in favor of the criminal leaving the victim devastated as pointed out by Randall (2010). The charging decision of the prosecutors in sexual assault cases are intensely determined by the relevant factors that are legal including the seriousness of the crime itself, criminal record of the victim as well as the strength of the evidence presented on the case as pointed out by Laxminarayan (2012).The reasons for the dismissal of the cases are usually lack of enough evidence to convict the victim.

The filling of cases also highly depends on the characteristics of the victims as asserted by Avegno et al. (2009). Attributes such as age, occupation as well as education highly matter in determining the credibility of the victim’s allegations. If the victim is associated with activities such as alcohol and drug abuse, her reputation is gradually destroyed. These characteristics are in most cases likely to affect the decisions of charging. For instance, if the suspect and the victim are acquaintances or intimate partners, the decision made by the justice is in the favor of the perpetrator. If the justice system is able to establish a fact about prior relationships of the victim and the perpetrator, it is more likely that the criminal will not be jailed. Most legal systems across the world do not consider a crime to amount to sexual assault if the victim and the accused were married or in a close connection.

The legal proceedings have a psychological effect on the side of the victim because of the steps taken by the police and the prosecution as pointed out by Laxminarayan (2012). Occasionally, the proceedings make the victim to feel ashamed of herself when she remembers the assault. At times, the victims are also afraid of how the public will view them because they are expected to issue details of what transpired before, during and after the assault. All these proceedings may happen immediately after the assault and this greatly affects the victim who is in trauma most of the times.

Laws and policies that are related to gender-based violence are in most cases discriminatory. This makes the danger to women’s security because most of the time, their rights are not adequately respected. In more than sixty countries worldwide, women are not given equal rights as men (Randall, 2010). In those nations where men and women have equal rights, many cases are ruled in favor of the males. Nationality and social classes, as well as race, also plays a big role in determining the relevance of the case. For instance, the human rights that protect black American women in cases of rape are not adequate in the court of law. Randall (2010) asserts that many women from the minority groups and immigrants are at a greater risk of experiencing violence due to discrimination and suppressing of their human rights by the law.

If the attacker ends up serving the legal time for sexual assault crime, then most victims would feel motivated to report crimes as pointed out by Littleton et al. (2009). This would also significantly reduce sexual assault cases because the perpetrators would be assured of a strong legal system that does not favor them but rules fairly on both sides of the prosecution. In addition, this would change how different people view sexual assault victims. When a case is dismissed either due to lack of evidence or the victim being accused of lying, her image is destroyed in the society and she continues to be blamed. Therefore, if stricter rules were enforced to cater for the rights of the victim, then women would gain the courage to increase the number of reported cases from the current low rate.

Cultural Discrimination

Cultural discrimination is another reason as to why sexual assault cases are not effective in courts. Cultural attitude toward women is a problem in most of the countries and women get blamed even though they are victims. There are prevailing patriarchal attitudes in most of the countries which make men feel as if they are entitled to violate the rights of women. In a survey conducted by the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women in 2013, most of the people in Australia have a negative approach towards the victims of rape cases as pointed out by Murphy, Banyard, and Fennessey (2013). A big portion of the country exhibits attitudes that minimize as well as trivialize rape cases. This leaves the victims at the mercy of the courts.

There are widely held societal norms globally at the attitudes towards violence against women (Jones et al., 2009). For instance, many still believe that it is not a big ordeal for a woman to be raped. If the victim was a close friend of the perpetrator, the society does not really view it as a rape case but they discard it. There is also a notion that when women say no, they actually mean yes. These cultural norms place women at risk because even if violence occurs, the perpetrator is not blamed for the act. There is also a concern about how people view rape cases. Most of the times, a woman will be accused of leading the man to perform sexual assault on her.

Victim Blaming

Another reason for the increased sexual assault around the globe is the blaming of the victims rather than the perpetrators. In a culture that excuses and trivializes sexual violence, the responsibility is often shifted from the perpetrator to the victim as pointed out by Littleton et al. (2009). In fact, others argue that most victims of sexual assault have a lot to do with the crime. Most cultural norms blame women for either seducing men or making them to willingly assault them. In such kind of a society, organizations, as well as communities, are not likely to respond positively to the cases of sexual assault. This makes men feel as if they have the right to behave in a disrespectful manner towards women because they realize that the community will not take the case seriously.

In a culture that does not take rape seriously, the victims are always afraid to take action since they are unsure of the response they will get from the community as well as the justice system. Institutions such as the police and courts are also influenced by the cultural norms of the community and they are therefore thinking the same together with the rest of the community. This poses danger to most of the victims since their cases are mostly dismissed. In this kind of an environment, rape becomes prevalent and sexual violence is normalized as well as excused by popular culture and the media. Therefore, the culture continues to be perpetuated by the use of misogynistic language, glamorization of sexual violence, as well as the objectification of the bodies of women as pointed out by Murphy, Banyard, and Fennessey (2013). This creates a society that does not regard the importance of the rights and safety of women.

The reason as to why most people blame the victims of sexual assault rather than the perpetrators lies in the fact that they want to distance themselves from the occurrence thereby confirming that they are vulnerable to the risk (Jones et al., 2009). Many people especially women don’t believe that sexual assault is evident in the society and they believe that the victims provide the right environment to attract the violence. In this case, they continue to hold the belief that they would never be victims of sexual assault until they face it themselves. When they try to explain to the community and the justice system their grievances, they face the same problem since just a few people believe them.

Victim blaming becomes dangerous since it makes it very hard for the survivor to come forward and report the abuse as pointed out by Perilloux, Duntley, and Buss (2012). When the victim understands that she will be blamed for the abuse, they do not trust anyone in the society and end up staying with the wound themselves. They do not trust the society or the legal system to fight for them. This, in turn, will reinforce the attitude that it is always the fault of the victim. Statements such as “she must have triggered him into abusing her” are heard every day. This statement assumes that the victim has an equal share in being blamed as does the perpetrator. When people such as family members suggest that both the victim and the perpetrator need to change, they are in most cases supporting the abusive party suggesting that the victim should have done more to prevent the assault.

Recommendation to fix Sexual Assault

There is not much that can be done to fix the problem of sexual assault if the legal system does not change first. Since most legal systems rule in favor of the perpetrator, there should be stricter laws and regulations that govern the rights of women of all kinds (Mic.com, 2017). Research has indicated that minority groups including African Americans and native women face the challenges of sexual assault because their human rights are not enforced like those of the whites. The legal system should, therefore, ensure that women of all kinds are protected equally, regardless of class and race. The rights of those in detention and military should also be enforced because in most cases, victims of sexual assault fear for their lives and end up not reporting the crime.

The government through its legal system should encourage the reporting of sexual assault cases. This could be done by taking these cases seriously and using the available evidence in the prosecution. Most of the prosecutions end up with inadequate evidence leading to the dismissal of the cases (Mic.com, 2017). The survivors should also be encouraged by letting them know that it was not their fault by enforcing rules that respect the personal space of individuals.

The culture also needs to change and members of the community should change their attitude towards sexual assault cases as pointed out by Perilloux, Duntley and Buss (2012). Community members should avoid using a language that would intimidate the victim and discourage the victimization of the survivors of the assault. The society should also hold the abusers accountable for their crimes and discourage the perpetrators from blaming the victims or other circumstances such as drug and alcohol abuse in order to justify their behavior. Stereotyping is another problem that generalizes all the victims. It is a fact that some victims could have facilitated the assault in ways such as poor dressing but the community should avoid stereotyping and treat each victim individually.

Conclusion

The legal system in most countries does not support the victims of sexual assault but rather the perpetrator in most cases (Mic.com, 2017). This causes the number of reported cases to decrease and the victims retain the wound for a long time. When the case is reported, the proceedings may at times be emotionally exhausting to the victim who becomes devastated over time due to emotional trauma. Societal culture has a lot to do with the blaming of the victims which also influences the justice system. In cases of imprisonment, many are only jailed for a minimal time while others do not even finish their sentence like in the case of Turner (ABC News, 2017). Therefore, our legal system should enforce stricter laws to better protect victims of sexual assault. This, in turn, will enforce the virtue that the rights of the victims are respected and protected.

References

ABC News. (2017). How the justice system lets sexual assault victims down. [online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-02/brock-turner-justice-system-sexual-assault-victims/7801784 [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].

Avegno, J., Mills, T. J., & Mills, L. D. (2009). Sexual assault victims in the emergency department: analysis by demographic and event characteristics. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 37(3), 328-334.

Küçüker, H. (2008). Analysis of 268 child and adolescent victims of sexual assault and the legal outcome. The Turkish journal of pediatrics, 50(4), 313.

Randall, M. (2010). Sexual assault law, credibility, and “ideal victims”: Consent, resistance, and victim blaming. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 22(2), 397-433.

Murphy, S. B., Banyard, V. L., &Fennessey, E. D. (2013). Exploring stakeholders’ perceptions of adult female sexual assault case attrition. Psychology of Violence, 3(2), 172-184.

Laxminarayan, M. (2012). Procedural justice and psychological effects of criminal proceedings:The moderating effect of offense type. Social Justice Research, 25(4), 390-405.

Jones, J. S., Alexander, C., Wynn, B. N., Rossman, L., &Dunnuck, C. (2009). Why women don’t report sexual assault to the police: The influence of psychosocial variables and traumatic injury. The Journal of emergency medicine, 36(4), 417-424.

Mic.com. (2017). How the Criminal Justice System is Failing Sexual Assault Victims. [online] Available at: https://mic.com/articles/37597/how-the-criminal-justice-system-is-failing-sexual-assault-victims#.2lkalqTc9 [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017].

Littleton, H., Axsom, D., & Grills‐Taquechel, A. (2009). SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS’ACKNOWLEDGMENT STATUS AND REVICTIMIZATION RISK. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33(1), 34-42.

Perilloux, C., Duntley, J. D., & Buss, D. M. (2012). The costs of rape. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(5), 1099-1106.

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Let a professional writer get your back and save some time!

Hire Writer

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price
Hi!

Can’t find the essay you need? Our professional writers are ready to complete a unique paper for you. Just fill in the form and submit your order.

Proceed to the form No, thank you
Can’t find the essay you need?