Date Rape Cases Hard to Prove

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

November 20, 2006

"So I went to the party, um, and we were basically on a date...and then it was one of those things, the next thing I knew, I woke up to being raped."

University of Virginia graduate, Annie Hylton's story isn't at all unfamiliar, date rape.

But, thousands of cases like this never make it to court. The problem is with the law. It doesn't know how to deal with cases where the accused and accuser know each other.

"People have a hard time accepting how it can go so wrong," explains Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman. "They were together, they knew each other, why would someone hurt someone that they knew?"

Chapman says; in cases of date rape the evidence that is allowed in the case, can actually work against the victim, by upholding jurors' biases that they have about date rape.

"People bring with them prejudices that they have grown up to have and that includes prejudice against people who have put themselves in a vulnerable position," Chapman explains.

Date rape cases often involve alcohol, flirting, and sometimes promiscuous dress. All of which are evidence that many believe would lead to consensual sex.

But Claire Kaplan, a sexual assault counselor at UVA says, it doesn't matter what events lead up to the moment of consent...if a woman says no, she means no.

"Permission to kiss doesn't mean permission to do other stuff," says Kaplan. "Until people understand that we are entitled to our own body rights, there is going to be a struggle there."

To work with the evidence permissible in court, a victim must act fast to get her own evidence.

"There is no substitute for an early report for law enforcement. That gives law enforcement time to find out what the facts are and preserve fragile evidence," Chapman points out.

If you are raped, the first thing you probably want to do is shower, but don't. Instead, go immediately, in the clothes you were wearing at the time of the attack, to the hospital. There they'll do a recovery kit, and call police.

"Quickness of acting is what shows up in a trial," Kaplan advises. "(People will think) Well, you waited two weeks to report to police, why did you wait so long?"

Such evidence will help a victim in a trial, and the more date rape cases that are prosecuted successfully, the less cases like Annie Hylton's they'll be.

"It was just one of these things," confesses Hylton. "I have to do something because other women can't go through it the way I went through it."

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