Survivors of rape may never fully recover from the trauma they experienced. While survivors can sue their attacker for monetary damages, the investigation process required by the criminal justice system can be extremely invasive and uncomfortable. Many complainants choose to drop out, but pushing forward can sometimes help bring justice to light.
Deciding to take the case to court
Trauma affects people in different ways. Many survivors find it difficult to relay their stories and respond to questions. Reporting rape can be terrifying, but taking legal action can be even more frightening. Understandably, a long time may pass before a survivor decides to go to court.
During the trial
The survivor will act as a witness and testify in court under oath in front of a judge and, in some instances, a jury. A prosecution attorney will help relay the facts of the case by questioning the witness in a direct examination.
A defense attorney, a lawyer on the side of the alleged perpetrator, will then interrogate the witness as part of the cross-examination process after.
The witness must honestly answer any question the lawyers or the judge may ask. However, answering questions only when asked can be limiting. The survivor has the right to submit a victim impact statement, which allows them to describe how the incident has affected their lives.
Taking the stand
It can be challenging to answer sensitive and complex questions. If the survivor has any concerns about testifying, it could help to discuss them with the prosecutor or a victim advocate. During the trial, the survivor may ask the attorney to repeat or restate the question if it is not understood.
Survivors may also request anonymity from the court if they do not want their identities revealed to the public. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the public to crucify or demonize survivors for speaking out.
After the trial
The court may find the alleged perpetrator guilty or not guilty. Anyone found guilty of rape may face several penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and registration as a sex offender.
The complex nature of the criminal justice system may leave survivors feeling helpless. However, they are free to take legal action if they so choose. Before filing a lawsuit, it may be beneficial to hire a lawyer familiar with the unique requirements of such cases.