While some have been shocked by lenient sentences in rape cases that have made headlines recently, Texas put a new twist on injustice for a rape victim when it jailed her for one month because she broke down on the witness stand. While in jail, the woman was then assaulted by a corrections officer and another inmate. She is now filing a lawsuit for her victimization by the legal system, according to Cosmopolitan.
The unidentified woman, who suffers from bipolar disorder, filed suit after she was jailed at Harris County jail in the general population for one month during the trial of her assailant, who was housed at the same jail. In addition to her allegations of being assaulted by a corrections officer and another inmate, the woman included claims of being denied medication in her lawsuit.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson posted a videotaped statement trying to justify the actions that have caused public outrage after the story went viral. Anderson clarified that the victim was sent initially to a private psychiatric facility, but she could only be held there 10 days. Then she was released, and as she was homeless, mentally ill, and had threatened not to return to testify, they decided jailing her for her own good was the only alternative.
The irony in Anderson’s statement is that she discussed how the actions taken by the court were done to protect her.
“It bears repeating — this was an extraordinarily difficult and unusual situation. There were no apparent alternatives that would ensure both the victim’s safety and her appearance at trial.”
Unfortunately, the very actions that were supposed to protect the victim created further trauma due to the alleged assault by the corrections officer and fellow inmate, not to mention losing her freedom and being jailed for being a victim and having a difficult time testifying.
Newstalk released details from some of the court documents in the lawsuit, identifying the victim as Jane Doe.
“Jane Doe found herself hopelessly trapped in a bizarre plot pulled from a Kafka novel… imprisoned in the hellhole of the Harris County Jail for no reason other than being a rape victim who struggles with a mental disability.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the victim was classified as the perpetrator of a sexual assault rather than the victim while she was in jail. As one might expect, the victim’s attorney, Sean Buckley, doesn’t agree with the reasoning being used to justify the treatment of his client and Anderson’s claims it was necessary to jail a rape victim.
“As a rape victim, the psychological trauma she experienced was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness. And if you take out the sexual violation itself and you look at the underlying psychological trauma, this is exactly what these defendants did to her again while she was still in recovery for her rape.”
The 20-year-old woman had testified against her attacker, Keith Hendricks, who choked and raped her and has been subsequently sentenced to two life sentences. But relaying the story in court caused the woman to break down into tears and run from the courtroom. At that time, the prosecutor requested the woman be jailed after medical treatment to ensure she would return to finish her testimony. Approximately a month later, the woman returned and completed her testimony against Hendricks, yet she was detained in jail another three days after her last testimony, according to AOL News.
Do you agree with the prosecutors having the victim jailed to protect the case and make sure the man they called a “serial rapist” was brought to justice? Did the ends justify the means in this case? Comment below.
[Photo by iStock]