Thursday, October 29, 2009

Can the legal system be changed when it comes to rape?

I've written about rape a number of times, but I've yet to really get into the legal side of the issue: prosecuting rapists and other sexual assault criminals, such as those who sexually abuse children. I don't have the energy to really get into it now either (sorry!), but this story reminds me, yet again, why this topic needs discussed and the desperate need for improvements to our justice system in this area.

Basically, this guy, who is 19 years old, is charged with raping a 16-year-old girl. When the police went to look for the guy, they found he was already in jail, for violating probation -- probation that he received as sentencing for pleading guilty to gross sexual imposition in February. In that case, he was originally charged with kidnapping and rape, but then plea bargained down to the gross sexual imposition charge. And his sentencing was three years probation. Zero time in jail. He did have to register as a sex offender, but ... no time in jail? You can read the legal definition of gross sexual imposition here. Doesn't the 1A line sound an awful lot like rape? And as far as I know, gross sexual imposition is a felony. Throw that on top of the original charges of rape and kidnapping, and it sure sounds like some jail time would've been appropriate. Try as I might, I cannot find any information on this case from February, so I have no idea if the evidence wasn't there, etc., to try and figure out what happened.

Now, this guy hasn't yet been convicted of raping the 16-year-old in this current case, and I'm not saying he's guilty of raping this girl. But if it was him, it sure is hard not to think that this rape case would've been prevented if he were in jail.

Check out these statistics (taken from a comment on this blog):

  • 61% of rapes/sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Those rapists, of course, never serve a day in prison.
  • If the rape is reported to police, there is a 50.8% chance that an arrest will be made.
  • If an arrest is made, there is an 80% chance of prosecution. If there is a prosecution, there is a 58% chance of a felony conviction.
  • If there is a felony conviction, there is a 69% chance the convict will spend time in jail.
  • So, even in those 39% of rapes that are reported to police, there is only a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison.
  • Factoring in unreported rapes, about 6% – 1 out of 16 – of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 15 out of 16 will walk free.

What can we do? How do we change this? Where do we even start the conversation?

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