@%#& it Happened! What to Do and Expect.

What is rape? And what to expect at the hospital, from your local law enforcement, and the court proceedings. I understand all you want to do is get clean! However, wait until you go through hospital procedures. Keep cloths, and any evidence the police may need.

Definitions of rape:

Although the legal definition of rape varies from state to state, rape is generally defined as forced or non consensual sexual intercourse. Rape most often is accomplished by fear, threats of harm, and/or actual physical force. Rape may also include situations where penetration is accomplished when the victim is unable to give consent, or is prevented from resisting, due to being intoxicated, drugged, unconscious, or asleep.

Sexual assault is a broader term than rape. It includes various types of unwanted sexual touching or penetration without consent, such as forced sodomy (anal intercourse), forced oral copulation (oral-genital contact), rape by a foreign object (including a finger), and sexual battery (the unwanted touching of an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal).

The term “drug-facilitated sexual assault” is generally used to define situations where victims are subjected to nonconsensual sexual acts while they are incapacitated or unconscious because of alcohol and/or other drugs and are therefore, prevented from resisting and/or are able to give consent. Myth: the body is so traumatized that you are unable to conceive a baby. Not True!

At the Hospital

What to expect at the hospital:

  1. A sex assault patient may have to wait a long period to be seen if there are other patients with life threatening injuries. The hospital should give a private waiting area to protect anonymity.
  2. Hospitals may notify law enforcement when a sex assault patient arrives in the emergency department. The patient has the right to refuse to speak with law enforcement.
  3. If the assault has occurred within the last 72 hours, a forensic exam (a.k.a. the rape kit) will be performed to collect evidence. While 72 hours is a guideline for the forensic exam, that time maybe extended depending on the circumstances. The responding officer needs to talk to the patient to authorize the forensic exam and to file a report. However, the patient may decide later not to press charges.
  4. The patient’s written consent is needed in order for the forensic exam to be completed. The exam should be explained to the patient before written consent. The patient can refuse any single or multiple steps of the exam even after written consent has been given.
  5. In addition to the evidence collection, injuries will be treated and STD and pregnancy preventive medications may be offered.
  6. It may be helpful for the patient to have a friend or family member there for support.
  7. Be prepared to give your clothing to local law enforcement, Hospitals may have clothing however, try to bring your Own.


What to expect with the police investigation:

If a victim chooses to report to law enforcement s/he might be interviewed several times throughout the investigation.

Law enforcement will ask many questions, some of which may seem intrusive and/or embarrassing. This information is necessary for the investigation. If the victim does not understand the relevance of a question, it is acceptable to ask the officer for further explanation.

It is important to know that the offender may not be arrested even though the crime has been reported.

If there are any cuts or bruises as a result of the assault, the police may ask that pictures be taken. Because physical injuries may heal quickly, pictures can be important evidence for the prosecution if the case goes to trial.

Law enforcement may have to collect evidence from the crime scene so it’s important not to disturb the area.

The victim may be asked to name the offender through a photo or live line-up. The victim will not be seen by the offender during this process.

It may take weeks or months for law enforcement to investigate a case and to decide whether an arrest will be made.

When law enforcement completes the investigation, the case is presented to the District Attorney’s office. The District Attorney determines if there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction. Unfortunately, many sex assault cases, especially ones in which the victim knows the offender or drugs and alcohol are involved, are difficult to prosecute. Lack of prosecution does not imply that the District Attorney does not believe the victim.


What to expect with the prosecution process:

If the District Attorney accepts the case, the state is the prosecuting party. The victim is considered a witness for the case. The prosecuting attorney makes all critical decisions about the case but typically consults with the victim.

An advocate with the District Attorney’s office is assigned to the case. The advocate helps explain the legal process and is the main point of contact between the victim and the prosecuting attorney.

Once charges are filed, the defendant is advised of them and the preliminary hearing is scheduled.

During the preliminary hearing the Judge decides if there is probable cause. Probable cause indicates that enough facts exist to prove the defendant committed the crime. The victim may have to testify at the preliminary hearing. If the Judge finds probable cause, the defendant will be scheduled for an arraignment. If a not guilty plea is entered at the arraignment, a trial date will be set. If a guilty plea is entered, a sentencing date will be set.

Not every case results in a trial. Instead, a plea bargain is sometimes offered to the defendant. A plea bargain is an offer for the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge. This offer is a means by which a defendant is convicted and punished, without having to go to trial.

If a defendant refuses a plea bargain, a trial by jury will follow. Once the jury is selected and sworn in by the Judge, the prosecution and the defense present their case. The victim will most likely have to testify at the trial. After all evidence has been presented, the Judge will read instructions to the jury. These instructions contain the laws the jurors must follow when deciding whether to convict the defendant.

If the defendant is found not guilty, the defendant is released and the case is dismissed. If the defendant is found guilty, then a sentencing date is set. At sentencing, the Judge will impose a penalty on the defendant. The victim will have an opportunity to tell the Judge, either verbally or in writing, how the crime has affected his/her life.

Note: the decision about whether to continue to prosecute is made several times during the progression of the case. There are many factors the prosecuting attorney takes into consideration, such as: whether there is enough evidence to convict, the probability of conviction, the nature of the crime, and the character of the offender.

Preparing for court

Look after yourself

Eat well and get enough rest. Plan something special for when the trial is over, whatever the outcome.

What to wear and what to bring

  • It’s best to wear conservative clothes in court-something neat and businesslike (it doesn’t have to be a suit). Make sure though that whatever you wear is comfortable, as you will probably be sitting for most of the day.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Bring a jacket; courtrooms can be cold.
  • Get your clothes ready the night before so you don’t have to worry about it on the day.

Some people bring refreshments, or books, magazines, crosswords or cards and you may like to bring an object that means something special to you. You may find it helpful to visit a courthouse before the case so you can familiarize yourself with it.

Your statement

Make sure you have a copy of the statement you made to police. It’s your right to be given a copy. If you don’t have a copy, ask the police or the prosecutor for one. Read over your statement before you go to court to refresh your memory-it may be a long time since you last read it. The prosecutor will probably want to talk to you about your statement before going into court. When you are in court you normally won’t be allowed to read from your written statement, although in some circumstances you may be asked to refer to it.

Interpreters in court

You have a right to an interpreter if English is not your first language. You can ask for a woman interpreter, though a woman may not always be available. If you are going to need an interpreter, let the DPP or police officer know well in advance so they can make sure that one is available on the day of the hearing. The courts use professional, qualified interpreters provided by the NSW Community Relations Commission. They are not allowed to talk to others about the case unless the court requires them to do so and have to take an oath promising to properly interpret what is said. Generally, courts don’t allow friends or relatives to act as interpreters during a hearing, except to pass on simple information when no other interpreter is available. The interpreter is there to interpret your words, not to give advice or tell you how to present your evidence. If you are deaf or hard of hearing you have the right to have a signer in court, or to have access to a hearing loop.

If you have a disabilityIf you have a disability such as a speech impediment that makes communication difficult, you are entitled to an interpreter in court. The courts may also use computers or amplifiers to help you understand what’s going on or to give evidence. The court pays the costs for these services.

Waiting to go to court One of the most frustrating and anxiety-provoking things about going to court can be waiting for your case to be heard. The courts have a heavy workload, and it may take months. Most cases do go ahead on the scheduled hearing day, but they don’t always. Sometimes the day arrives and the hearing is cancelled-because, such as, a witness, the judge or the defendant is ill. Or the court may just run out of time to hear your case on that day. Expect cancellations, adjournments and delays-but also be ready to go to court on the set date and give your evidence.

One out of every for women have been raped, and one out of every six men have been raped in the USA and the successful conviction rate is only 11%. try not to rehash it if it does not work out sometimes there is just lack of evidence or in my opinion a bias society. Never stop getting help until it works! <3

Michelle McMaster

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