Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rape Victim Jailed After Reporting Then Denied Prescribed EC

Fox Tampa Bay (hat tip Feminists to the rescue)

TAMPA - A young woman was walking back to her car after the Gasparilla parade on Saturday when she says a man dragged her behind a building and raped her near
the intersection of Howard and Swann. She managed to get away and called 911. Police took her to the hospital and began a routine rape investigation.

When they started checking the victim's background, they discovered she had an arrest warrant out for her. It was from an arrest when the woman was a juvenile and she was accused of not paying restitution. The woman says she was not aware there was a warrant out for her, and her attorney says it appears to be a paperwork error.

Since the issue that came up in the background check wasn't one of violence, there is no excuse for this treatment. The article doesn't say but I hope they at least waited to handcuff her until after the rape kit was completed. The evidentury exam is stressful enough without being treated as if you are worse than a rapist.

Still, the woman was put in handcuffs and taken to jail. She was not allowed bond, and the medical staff at the jail refused to give her the Morning After Pill even though it had been prescribed at the hospital.

"The medical supervisor would not allow her to take the pill because she said it was against her, the supervisor's, religion. So, here we have a medical supervisor imposing her beliefs on a rape victim," claimed the victim's attorney Virlyn Moore. "As a human being, how someone could be so violated by this monster and then the
system comes along and rapes her again psychologically and emotionally - it's
outrageous and unconscionable."

The medical supervisor at this jail should be fired or at the least demoted if she inserted her religious beliefs in dispensing medicine. One of key issues when dealing with someone who has recently been raped is to be respectful of their autonomy and their humanity. This medical supervisor failed utterly at both.

"At this point, we're very concerned about the welfare of this young woman," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "There's a lot of unanswered questions about exactly how this unfolded we are going to get to the bottom of it."

McElroy says there is a policy in place where anyone who is suspected of a misdemeanor is not taken to jail if they're the victim of a sex crime. She says while it's nearly impossible to draw up a policy that addresses every situation, this may be a case where department policy should be reexamined.

Setting a policy for this situation isn't anywhere close to being nearly impossible. If the alleged sex crime victim isn't a known or suspected violent criminal, then the police should take no action against the alleged victim during the rape exam or during the police interview and/or initial investigation.

Pursuing violent criminals and helping victims of sexual or physical violence must be the highest priority.

Then there is this from the Tampa Tribune:

The police department in 2002 issued a legal opinion under then-Police Chief Bennie Holder that advised against arresting victims of violent crime on outstanding misdemeanor warrants. "The goal of the policy is to avoid further traumatizing the victim of a serious crime," Assistant City Attorney Kirby Rainsberger wrote at the time. Officers should use discretion to balance "the severity of the injury suffered by the victim compared to the seriousness of the crime specified in the warrant," he wrote.

It shouldn't take a genius to figure out that unpaid restitution is less serious than rape.

The policy does not advise whether police should arrest crime victims wanted on felony charges. "It's rare in police work that someone isn't arrested on a felony warrant, but you always want to have compassion for a victim," police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said Monday. "This may be a case where we need to revise our policy."

May be? There's no may about the need to change their policy. It must be changed. Period.

Police supervisors did not learn the woman's circumstances until early Monday, after inquiries from the media and the woman's attorney, Virlyn "Vic" Moore III of Venice. At that point, police worked with Circuit Judge Walter Heinrich to grant her bail: $4,585 that a Sarasota County court said was unpaid in a 2003 auto theft and burglary case, McElroy said. Moore disputed that the money was unpaid, calling it a "technical violation." The woman thought the matter had been resolved, he said.

That last part about police supervisors not learning until Monday morning that a woman who called 911 to report a rape on Saturday has been sitting in jail without the ability to post bail is unacceptable. The rape case was, or should have been, an open and active case. To let the alleged rape victim sit forgotten in jail as if she weren't an alleged victim is flat-out wrong.

The statement that the rape investigator didn't go see the alleged victim in jail because whatever evidence she had to provide wasn't time sensitive is nonsense. If you have a victim of violent crime sitting in jail and you are supposedly trained in dealing with sexual assaults there is no excuse for not notifying the police supervisors so they know the extra trauma a rape victim is suffering.

The message this action -- and the failure by the police to give a full and absolute apology for the way this woman was treated-- sends the message that certain rape victims shouldn't bother calling 911. Believe me, rapists are paying attention to these messages and are fully willing to exploit the police department's failures.

When it takes an external force such as media attention for the police to correct a horrible injustice done to one individual victim then major changes are needed for the sake of all victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 3:39 PM   7 comments links to this post


At January 31, 2007 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, if a convicted rapist who has paid his debt except for some restitution to the victim sustains hospitalizing yet otherwise minor injuries as a passenger in a car accident, the police should let him go?

At January 31, 2007 7:57 AM, Anonymous joe said...

I disagree with you when you wrote:
The medical supervisor at this jail should be fired or at the least demoted if she inserted her religious beliefs in dispensing medicine.

I think it should be
The medical supervisor and their boss at this jail should be fired or at the least demoted if she inserted her religious beliefs in dispensing medicine.

The quicker way to get policy changed to is affect the people that create the policy and manage the people that administer the policy. Not just the adminsiter.

It could be argued that the supervisor was just doing what they were told was acceptable. It wasn't acceptable. But let's drive this up the chain of command.

Just so we're clear, I think the supervisor should be fired also.

At January 31, 2007 8:22 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, there is a huge difference between the trauma of being in an auto accident and the trauma of being raped. That you attempt to compare the 2, and further make the auto accident victim a convicted rapist, speaks volumes about your moral character.

At January 31, 2007 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That you find a difference speaks volumes about your bias.

At January 31, 2007 9:02 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, I admit it. I am biased against rape and don't care who knows it.

At February 05, 2007 2:03 PM, Blogger scott said...

i think no one should be able to deny a prescription anyway the medical staff at the jail are usually not a doctor just a practitioner and who in there right mind goes to one of them when your sick not me.i say fire those staff and make tampa bay accountable and if they want to hire someone who will deny medicine especially to a rape victim over beliefs i believe they should hire a real doc. not a fake with spiritual values that dont belong in the workplace

At July 13, 2007 4:00 PM, Blogger Ericka said...


She already said that there should be an exception for violent criminals. Rape is a violent crime, regardless of whether weapons were involved or whether it came to blows.



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