Sexual assault is considered to be a violation of mind, body and soul, and more than 70% go unreported. The act itself is traumatic, and some victims relive the trauma when forced to report it. Oklahoma law requires medical personnel treating a victim to contact law enforcement immediately, and they are supposed to arrive while the victim is being treated. However, a Senate bill would change that. If it becomes law, victims of rape would be able to deal with law enforcement on their own terms.
Some say that it's hard enough for victims of rape to get medical treatment that includes tests, questions, and even more questions, just moments after an attack. They say it can be overwhelming and often keeps women from reporting a rape at all.
Women's Haven Executive Director Teresa Biffle says it isn't easy to convince victims to seek justice. "Many victims will close up and not seek help," she said. She says once someone has been raped, the trauma doesn't end there. "When they're at the hospital it's very traumatic, exam and so at that point there's a lot of emotional trauma that they're are going through."
While the victim is scared, and angry, she says sometimes they just need time to think through what they want to do legally. "At that time it could be their boyfriend, it could possibly be their husband," said Biffle. She says that is why she supports Senate Bill 894, and if it becomes law victims would have more time to seek counseling and come to terms with what they should do. "By law they won't have to report it immediately, it will be up to the victim to report at their discretion," she said.
If it does become law, Biffle says victims would have more time to seek counseling, and even though they may not report an incident right away, they wouldn't forfeit the right to use evidence later. "The medical evidence will be collected at that time, and those victims will be able to report when they feel like they are ready to report to law enforcement."
Biffle says that of the 16% of rape victims who do decide to press charges hesitate to go to court. District Attorneys say they have a hard time getting them to follow through because they don't realize how difficult the court process can be.
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