Sexual assault is a difficult crime to prosecute. It relies heavily on eyewitness accounts and proof of sexual assault. Rape kits are used to obtain physical evidence. These rape kits, along with interviews with authorities and sometimes a psychological evaluation create stress and difficulties for the alleged victim. In fact, many people who have been sexually assaulted, mostly women go without reporting the crime or have their cases dismissed because of lack of evidence or refusal to testify. Therefore it is important to understand what goes behind sexual assault eye witness accounts and how it psychologically impacts the victims who report it.
The psychological toll on a sexual assault victim is quote often too much for the victim to bare. Many go through long-term mental distress and even attempt to commit suicide or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. Sexual assault is a vicious and violent crime occurring throughout the world to many people. Men, women, and children have been sexually assaulted throughout the history of humankind. One is left to wonder how the victim feels during and after the crime is committed.
Sexual assault or rape is when a person forces another person to perform or engage in sexual activity. It can range from oral sex, anal sex, vaginal intercourse, or even molestation. Most victims are women ranging from the ages of 14-35 though many cases have involved children and some cases have involved men. Of the many that report sexual assault, many more do not report it. Many cultures often view rape as the fault of the victim and if a person reports being sexually assault, may face shame and embarrassment from testifying against the perpetrator or perpetrators or worse yet, having the case be dismissed or seeing the perpetrator get off without fair punishment.
Although rape kits provide a fair amount of evidence for alleged sexual assault victims, sometimes they are not used, therefore making it difficult to form a case against the alleged criminal. When a person gets sexually assaulted, they lose trust in people. They lose a sense of security and well-being and feel depressed, scared, and worried that it may happen again or that they are ruined in terms of relationships and life in general. Rape victims who are seen as rape victims may sometimes be deemed untouchable or tainted as men especially, want virgin or "respectable" women for marriage. When a woman for instance, is raped, she becomes less than in a man's eyes.
"Less than" is a term often used for women who are raped. Some even go as far as to think they asked for it or deserved it. Depending on the situation, most sexual assaults occur with someone the victim knows. The most common sexual assault occurs in the form of a "date rape." A date rape is when a person the victim knows goes out with them, possibly drugs them, and forces them into sexual intercourse. Another form of sexual assault occurs within the home where family members may rape a family member, such as a daughter, niece, or sister. In these situations it becomes even more problematic and troubling for the victim to come clean and report the grievance.
Guilt, a feeling commonly associated with sexual assault, may play a part in contributing to the psychological turmoil experienced by the victim. As previously mentioned, people often blame the victim for the incident. These thoughts of could have they prevented it or stopped it could drive a victim to feel great emotional distress. Self-blame, public shame, and inability to control the situation may all be factors in how the victim responds to the overall experience. Most victims of sexual assault do not expect this form of crime to happen, let alone to them. The reality is, sexual assault happens more than seen or expected. For anyone to truly understand the impact of sexual assault, they have to witness the aftermath.
The aftermath of sexual assault can be tragic. Some victims have gotten pregnant and given birth to children conceived from the rape. Some have gotten abortions. Some have been killed from being raped, known as honor killings, in order to preserve the honor of the victim's family. So many factors contribute to how a victim of sexual assault feels and what they do after the crime happened. As previously started, fear plays a big role in the psychological impact as many perpetrators of sexual assault do not face justice and let free to commit the act again. Worse yet, the ones who do not get charged with the crime of sexual assault may commit the same offense on the person again without fear of prosecution.
Evidence is important in determining if a sexual assault transpired. Eyewitness account provide some evidence and help the justice system not only identify the perpetrator, but also provide a record of the events and crimes committed. Eyewitness accounts however cannot provide all the evidence and there have been instances where witness have lied. Alleged victims of sexual assault have been discovered to fabricate such crimes to seek revenge on a significant other. Many cases have gone to trial where alleged witnesses have recanted their statements because authorities discovered they were not sexually assaulted.
Eyewitness accounts can also happen with testimonial coming from someone who was not sexually assaulted, but witnessed the crime take place. These are taken more seriously and provide more weight. Eyewitness accounts help prosecutors determine what the perpetrator looked like, at what time it took place, and who the victim was. Sometimes it may be difficult to determine the accuracy of eyewitness accounts as sexual assault may happen when the victim is intoxicated, drugged, or the crime occurs in a dark place.
Sexual assaults that happen to a person that is incapacitate by either being knocked out, drugged, or intoxicated, make it hard for the victim to give an accurate description of the perpetrator. Accurate descriptions of the perpetrator are necessary to identify the criminal and pursue a case. When a rape happens to someone who does not know the perpetrator, without proper identification, the case often does not go any further than written statements. People often fail to realize the importance of eyewitness accounts and sometimes dismiss crimes victims because of the quality of their statements and testimony.
Sexual assault is hard crime to take to court and eyewitness accounts along with rape kit evidence is usually the only evidence courts have to go by. The process of delivering an eyewitness account is sometimes difficult and stressful for the victim or witnesses. They have to provide oral and written statements to authorities as well as possibly testify in court. Court proceedings may at times be lengthy and the person giving the eyewitness account may forget some details or descriptions throughout the time period of the trial.
People often have bad memories when it comes to traumatic events and some even force or block the memories to avoid feeling additional psychological trauma. This is not to say eyewitness accounts are not normally accurate. However, many factors come into play when relaying information describing a traumatic or stressful event. In an article by Lindholm & Christianson (1998), they surveyed males and females in relation to eyewitness testimonies. "It is suggested that females may have more elaborated categories for person information than males, which should facilitate female accuracy in person memory. Alternatively, the present findings may reflect a more general female advantage in episodic memory performance" (Bidrose & Goodman, 2000, p. 323). Their findings suggest that females have better memory and give better, more accurate eyewitness testimony. Most victims of sexual assault are women, so the article suggesting women have good memory in relation to eyewitness testimony gives some insight into how valid eyewitness accounts…