Twelve-year-old “Donitra” was enticed out of her home by three high school seniors, taken to a remote spot and sexually assaulted. When she reported the crime, she was mercilessly attacked on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. VRCCT identified those responsible, threatened suit and the posting stopped. Many posts were removed. The team also represented this victim in the criminal court, protecting her privacy and keeping the judge focused on the actions of the offenders rather than the victim.
“Jill” offered a room to her step-brother when he was down and out. She awoke to find him masturbating and his finger inside of her on her own bed. Police, and then prosecutors, treated this sexual assault as though it was “no big deal.” The prosecutor charged a minor “touching” offense rather than than the felony offense that was committed. The offender could apply for a diversion program that would result in no criminal conviction. Where was justice?
“Jill” and VRCCT each presented compelling arguments to prove that the crime was in fact a big deal. “It would be a big deal if it involved your sister, or your mother or your child,” we argued, “Why are they treating Jill like just a number?” The judge listened, denying the program to the offender, and confirming that a crime was committed. The judge could not change the prosecutor’s charge but he could validate the pain and trauma caused to the survivor. The offender plead guilty to the reduced charge, which will now serve as a warning for his next possible victim.
VRCCT has helped several victims of college sexual assault navigate the college disciplinary process. Specific facts might identify the victims, so we cannot disclose those facts here. We advised them on whether to report to the school and/or to the police, helped them deal with the bureaucracy of college disciplinary proceedings, and represented some of them as victims in the criminal courts. College responses to sexual assault and harassment range from enlightened to abusive. Student victims need knowledgeable advisors to cope with the many choices available and the trauma of dealing with those systems.
“Sonya” was raped by the maintenance man in her apartment building. The police investigation stalled. Our client was unsafe but the landlord would neither return her security deposit nor fire the offender. Without the deposit, she could not secure a new and safe place to live. VRCCT persuaded the landlord both to return the security deposit and also to pay the cost of moving to a new apartment. The team also consulted with the police to move the investigation forward.
“John” cooked for years at the same restaurant. After a change in supervisors, a fellow employee began to touch him inappropriately on a regular basis. His complaints were sent into a bureaucratic black hole. As the harassment continued, he brought a formal complaint. It went ignored. He left work, complained to the police, and was fired. The restaurant claimed he had quit and should be denied unemployment. The VRCCT team represented him in successful labor board hearings and helped him file a CHRO (state job discrimination) claim. Together we pursued a monetary recovery from his employer soon thereafter.
Convicted of sexual abuse of his 11 year old daughter, “Ronald” filed in family court seeking to force his younger daughters to visit him. Their mother tried to navigate the confusing court system but was getting nowhere after many court dates. VRCCT represented the younger children and convinced the court to deny visitation permanently. The family was able to leave the state. “You literally saved our lives,” the mother wrote, “My children are so happy.”
VRCCT has seen six cases like this one in just a year. In most of these cases the police have failed to make an arrest, doubting the child’s report only because the offender denied the crime. In each case, child protective services has found the children credible yet the father still tries to gain custody.