After surviving a brutal rape, an anonymous Texas woman found herself remanded to jail — where she suffered beatings and psychological terror — because the possibly criminally-inept authorities weren’t in the mood to care for her over Christmas break.
Now, the rape victim is suing over what amounts to re-victimization due to incompetence by officials whose desire for worry-free vacation trumped responsibility to protect a state witness.
In court documents cited by NPR’s The Two-Way, “Jane Doe found herself hopelessly trapped in a bizarre plot pulled from a Kafka novel,” and “was imprisoned in the hellhole of the Harris County Jail for no reason other than being a rape victim who struggles with a mental disability.”
Jane, an obvious pseudonym employed to maintain privacy, suffers from bipolar disorder and, as NPR paraphrased court documents, in December 2015 experienced ‘a mental breakdown while testifying against her rapist, and authorities checked her into the general population at Houston’s Harris county jail because they feared she would flee before finishing her testimony.’
Jane had been raped in Houston in 2013, and cooperated with prosecutors to bring the violent criminal to justice until she sought mental health treatment at a local hospital — but when the judge ordered recess for the holidays, her situation exponentially worsened.
Documents state that authorities “did not want the responsibility of having to monitor Jane Doe’s well being or provide victim services to her during the holiday recess.”
Nervous she might flee before completing testimony, the complaint alleges the district attorney’s office procured an order for the Harris County sheriff to remand her to custody. But upon arrival at the jail, an unnamed employee inexplicably falsely identified her as the “defendant in a sexual assault case, rather than the victim.”
This egregious clerical gaffe directly impacted the way jail staff treated the rape victim, as the complaint sadly details:
“The Harris County Jail psychiatric staff tormented Jane Doe and caused her extreme emotional distress and mental anguish by further defaming her, falsely insisting to her that she was being charged with sexual assault, and refusing to acknowledge her status as an innocent rape victim.”
Torture of the already-traumatized rape victim didn’t end with the physical.
Unjustly branded the perpetrator — though still no justification for her treatment — Doe suffered beatings at the hands of other inmates and a guard, who proceeded to request sexual assault charges be filed against her “in an attempt to cover up the abuse.”
Worse still, according to the complaint, jail staff failed “to provide Jane Doe’s prescribed medications.”
In striking contrast, NPR noted from court documents, Jane’s “rapist was also an inmate in the same facility,” received more humane treatment, and “was not denied medical care, psychologically tortured, brutalized by other inmates, or beaten by jail guards.”
Somehow, despite all she’d been through, Doe managed to testify against her rapist; but it wasn’t until a month after being released from the Harris County Jail that the district attorney’s office ordered her released as a material witness and dismissed the charge of felony assault against her.
NPR did not receive a reply in request for comment from the office of the Harris County district attorney; but the Harris County Sheriff’s Office stunningly defended its actions in the vein of ‘just following orders,’ in a statement which reads:
“The request for detainment was made by prosecutors at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. When so ordered by the court, the Sheriff’s Office had no authority but to follow the court order to detain Jane Doe.”
No explanation expounded on the glaring error of listing Jane Doe the perpetrator, rather than the victim, of sexual assault.
Further, though the blunder of jailing Doe as a criminal might, for some, give justification for her treatment in custody, it’s notable the actual rapist received far better care at the Harris County Jail — a telling commentary on the cultural tendency to chalk up accusations against male sexual predators as overreactions or blatant lies by their female victims.
As evidence of this, hundreds of thousands of rape kits around the country languish in storage as if the brutal crime of sexual assault somehow isn’t worth police departments’ time, cost, or man hours to warrant thorough investigation.
Bingham County, Idaho, Sheriff Craig Rowland made the alarming assertion in March the state’s Legislature shouldn’t have bothered creating a statewide tracking system of such rape kits because, essentially, hysterical women don’t understand what constitutes rape.
“The majority of our raps — not to say that we don’t have rapes, we do — but the majority of our rapes that are called in are actually consensual sex,” Rowland, in all seriousness, told Idaho Falls station KIDK in March.
Tragically, Rowland is far from alone in his gross mischaracterization of the violent criminal act of rape.
As John Vibes previously pointed out for The Free Thought Project, while the resolution rate for rape cases stands at just 3 percent, if kits were actually tested, the number would dramatically climb since the majority of rapists are career criminals with DNA already on file.
Rampant victim-blaming and the trauma of having to undergo the procedure necessary to obtain evidence following a sexual assault means countless rapes go unreported — while evidence collected from victims willing to endure testing gathers dust in evidence lockers around the country.
It’s indisputably past time for law enforcement to make wholesale adjustments of their priorities.
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