July 16, 2007 – (Washington, DC) – RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, issued the following statement today regarding the Nebraska rape case, in which the judge banned attorneys and witnesses from using words such as “rape,” “victim,” “assailant,” and “sexual-assault kit.”
Our judicial system has many important protections for defendants in order to ensure a fair trial, through rules related to the selection of jurors, trial procedures and jury instructions. Thousands of accused rapists have received fair trials through these protections. However, “Judge Cheuvront has ignored longstanding practices and decided to make up his own set of rules. By banning basic descriptive words, such as “rape,” that are necessary to describe the alleged crime, he’s not only done a disservice to the English language, he’s made a mockery of the criminal justice system,” said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN.
“Many victims keep silent about their rape — in fact, only 40% of rape victims report the attack to police,” said Berkowitz. “But here we have a victim who was willing to come forward, who wasn’t afraid of the system, who was willing to endure the long, arduous process of investigation and prosecution. And instead of giving her a chance to tell what happened, the judge slapped a gag on her.”
“Judge Cheuvront has...decided to make up his own set of rules...he’s not only done a disservice to the English language, he’s made a mockery of the criminal justice system. ”
Nationally publicized cases, such as this, can result in other sexual assault victims being afraid that they won’t be believed — or won’t have an opportunity to voice their story — and may discourage them from coming forward. Speaking to this point, Berkowitz said, “We hope that Judge Cheuvront will reverse his ban on talking honestly about the alleged crime and allow a fair trial to proceed. And we hope that judges across the country will stick to the rules that are already in place to guarantee fair trials, rather than making new rules that prevent victims from telling the whole truth and discourage them from pursuing justice.”
Victims of sexual assault can seek free, confidential help through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE). To report a sexual assault to the police, call 911 in most areas.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) in partnership with 1,102 local rape crisis centers across the country. The hotline has helped more than one million people since its start in 1994. RAINN is now piloting the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline, the first secure web-based crisis hotline providing live and anonymous support. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual assault, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.