For Rape Survivors, The Judicial System Can Feel Like A Second Attack

Susan Macdonald

For rape survivors, the judicial system can feel like a second attack. How rapes are investigated and prosecuted varies widely from state to state. Amanda Nguyen, founder of the group Rise, is trying to correct that. In an interview with the New York Times, Nguyen talked about her work advocating changes in both state and federal law.

"The greatest injustice I have ever faced was not the act of rape itself, but rather, the subsequent denial of my rights... As a survivor, I learned that not all are equal in the eyes of the law."

The website Mother Jones explained how rape laws vary from state to state. Indiana has no statute of limitations for Class A Felony Rape, but a five year statute of limitations for Class B Felony Rape. In Minnesota, the statute of limitations is only three years. Kansas eliminated all statutes of limitations for rape in 2013. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jon R. Zug of Charlottesville, Virginia, explained to the University of Virginia Law School that rape is one of the most difficult types of cases to prosecute.

Using DNA tests can help convict rapists and clear the falsely accused. Unfortunately, rape kits only work if they're actually used. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for rape is fifteen years, but rape kits are thrown out after six months unless the rape survivor requests otherwise. In Memphis, Tennessee, over 12,000 rape kits are waiting to be tested. WREG Channel 3 reported that some are so old that the accused rapists are asking to have the cases thrown out. Adding insult to injury, Slate reports that 13 states charge rape survivors for the testing fees for rape kits.

Nguyen is working with bipartisan legislators, including former Attorney General Martha Coakley, Boston Council President Michelle Wu, State Rep. Farley Bouvier, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and former RNC Co-Chair Ann Wagner, to change the laws, so that rape survivors in any jurisdiction will have the same rights, and so that the judicial system won't make rape survivors jump through a series of vaguely-defined hoops in order to find justice.

Rape survivors have already faced one horrendous experience. Why does the judicial system make rape survivors face another one to bring their rapists to justice?

[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]