While victims suffer, rapists live free

Three out of four women will be victims of at least one violent crime. Every ten minutes a woman is raped, and in the last month alone, there have been four high profile rapes in the metro area. Rape is everywhere, and it is a vile side of humanity that our society condemns — or does it?
Ninety percent of rapes go unreported, leading one to ponder this statistic and ask why the victims of such an established heinous crime do not come forward and seek justice. The answer: Society does not comfort the victim and our legal system does not condemn the rapist, thus the victim is left alone without an ally.
Myth connotes that the victim’s reluctance to press charges is the reason so few rape cases make it to court. Many victims, though, find they want to prosecute, but are denied the right by the district attorney’s office, which has the burden of proving that the sexual act that took place was non-consensual. In 1999, four victims, out of 14 total, reported sexual assaults and wanted to press charges but were denied by the Hennepin County district attorney. This refusal to prosecute leaves the victim with the option of prosecuting in the civil courts, but the expense then rests entirely upon the victim.
Even if there is not enough evidence to convict, the message the district attorney sends by refusing to believe the victim is in direct contrast to rape education programs and advocacy groups like the University’s Program Against Sexual Violence, which urge victims to press charges. When we do not financially and legally stand behind rape victims we diminish the ideological severity of rape and indirectly express that rape is okay.
With so few victims pressing charges and even fewer convictions, it is no wonder we have rapes occurring in broad daylight and in supervised areas. The three St. Paul Central High School students who allegedly raped a girl in school recently probably did not expect to be caught — even though the rape took place on campus, the victim was an acquaintance and they committed the crime undisguised.
While it is difficult for victims to have the strength to press charges and endure a trial during which a defending attorney attempts to discredit their reputations, it is even harder for a jury to convict and sentence a rapist. According to the Program Against Sexual Violence, a woman juror — who one would expect to empathize with a woman victim — ironically is less likely to be compassionate, instead feeling that she would never have gotten herself into such a dangerous situation. Proving that sex was non-consensual can be difficult, and when it is a matter of “he said, she said,” the jury is likely to let the alleged victim suffer internally, rather than ruin the life and reputation of a man who may or may not have committed the crime.
As a society, we condemn the act of rape but refuse to support our condemnation, and yet we wonder why so few rapists are convicted. Eighty to 90 percent of rape victims experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the incident, and, rather than comfort them, we run them through a course of harassment in the interest of finding the truth. It is hypocritical to define a crime and refuse to aid enforcement. The district attorney should fight for victims regardless of the expected verdict. By not helping a victim face a rapist, they do nothing but allow this heinous crime to continue.