Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Have the Right to be Heard

No one ever expects to become the victim of a crime. But in the unfortunate case that it happens you need to know that you have rights.

Victims can face significant hurdles when seeking justice, especially victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. A story posted by Amanda Hess details one of the worst hurdles; the occasional police officer who prevents a victim from being able to file a report. The story Amanda told was about an officer who did not believe a girl was actually raped, and therefore, did not let her file a report. I find it sad to say, that I have heard similar stories from people I have actually met.

These hurdles are part of the reason only 6% of rapists ever see a day in jail. Having heard about such cases can also prevent women and men from wanting to even file a report which contributes to over 60% of all rapes never being reported.

In honor of National Crime Victim’s Week, which is coming up next week, I thought I’d review some important rights.

The Department of Justice has a list of victim’s rights on their website, including, your right to be reasonably protected from the accused.

However, one we may think of less frequently, but still very important to remember is:
The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.
This means an official does not have the right to blame a victim of sexual assault for being raped. And if you are the victim of domestic violence, under no grounds can an officer of the law refuse to take your report of the incident.

For your protection, you have the option to have an advocate present for several parts of the process, such as filing a report with the police or any physical examination. Organizations, such as the National Center for Victims of Crime, are great places to get assistance finding these resources.

For more information about becoming an advocate for victims of crime, you can contact your local police department or the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

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