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Court Discusses Rape Trauma Syndrome

A 19-year old woman received a phone call from a male friend who told her that he was very upset and wanted to talk to her in person. The 19-year old borrowed her mother’s car and went to the parking lot where she agreed to meet her friend.

As she was waiting in her car which was parked, a man approached her car. Thinking that the man was her friend Paul, she unlocked the doors of her car. The man came into the car and held her at gunpoint. The woman recognized the man as a man who lived in their neighborhood whom she saw everyday and whom she knew by name.

A New York DWI Lawyer said he then told her to drive to a beach. When they got there, he sodomized her two times and attempted to rape her. This sexual assault lasted for three quarters of an hour. The man then told her to drive back to the parking lot.

The 19-year old went home, woke her mother up and told her of the sexual attack. She said she was afraid for her life. The mother called the police and the police arrived shortly. By the time the police got to their house, the woman was sobbing and she was hysterical. She was able to describe her assailant to the police.

The police officer who responded drove the mother and the 19-year old to the police station. On their way to the police station, the police officer took the 19-year old and her mother to the exact same spot where she parked and the police officer was able to elicit from the woman the license plate she remembered that the man’s car had. A New York DWI Lawyer said the police officer tried to retrace the route that the woman drove to get to the beach when she was ordered by the man to drive at gunpoint.

At the police station, the woman was interviewed and her interview was recorded by the police. She told them how phone calls lured her from her house and how the man held her at gunpoint and made her drive. She gave details of the rape although the details were not in chronological order. She repeated some details, she remembered some details more clearly than other details; she was highly emotional as she was recounting the events. The police officer asked the girl if she knew her attacker and she said she did not know him. The police officer then turned off the tape recorder.

The police directed the woman to a changing room and asked her to remove her clothes so that her clothes can be used as evidence. After she finished changing, her mother asked her if she could remember any more details that could help the police and the woman just blurted out the name of the guy and she said after blurting his name that it was that guy who raped her.

The police then took the woman and her mother to the hospital where a nurse assisted her. A Nassau County DWI Lawyer said the nurse testified that the 19 year old was distraught, pale, disheveled, and she stammered when she spoke.

The defendant was arrested later. He was identified by the 19 year old in a line-up as the man who raped her. The charged with sodomy and attempted rape but the first trial concluded when the jury was hung.

The defendant asked that the case not be tried in criminal court but in the Supreme Court of the county instead because of the obvious bias and prejudice against him. He also asked that the district attorney be disqualified and a special prosecutor be assigned to prosecute his case. He also asked that the police officer be reprimanded for having destroyed the tape recording of the interview of the 19 year old immediately after the rape.

During the second trial, the People presented a psychiatrist who testified as an expert witness. She gave an explanation as to why the 19-year old failed to state the name of the man who raped her and only remembered his name hours after the rape had occurred.
The expert witness testified that most rape victims suffer from rape trauma syndrome. She testified that rape trauma syndrome comes in two phases: the first stage is the acute stage which comes immediately after the attack. This lasts for a few weeks. The second phase is also called the reorganization phase where the raped woman is recovering from the rape and she is attempting to move on with her normal life.

The psychiatrist also testified that there are three patterns of reaction to a rape which is typical of raped women: first a woman undergoes a behavioral stage where she may either be hysterical or unusually calm and quiet; the second reaction is when the woman experiences real physical pain and physical symptoms such as burning and itching while urinating, stomach upset, nervous palpitations and restlessness. The third reaction is the psychological stage where the woman is gripped by specific fear of the rapist coming back to rape her again if she brings a complaint against him.

She also testified that the 19 year old rape victim’s immediate recollection of what happened during the rape that had just occurred may be disorganized because of the emotional upheaval and anxiety she feels.

The People presented the expert testimony to explain to the jury why the woman could not at first recall the name of the man who raped her. The defendant opposed the admission of the expert testimony into evidence. The accused contended that the expert’s testimony propped up the victim’s faulty and incredulous testimony.

The question before the Court is whether or not the expert testimony as to the rape trauma syndrome was correctly admitted into evidence.

The Court in upholding the trial court’s order admitting the expert testimony into evidence held that expert testimony may be admitted in the sound discretion of the court if the testimony can clarify issues for the jury which require professional or technical knowledge that the jury (made up of average men and women) cannot have in their daily experience.

The Court held also that not all rape victims react the same way as the expert testified: the shame guilt or fear of each rape victim is unique. Because each rape victim has a unique reaction to rape, the experts have investigated these reactions scientifically. The jury would not be able to understand the prevalent reactions of rape victims as they may not have come across rape victims in the ordinary course of their experience.

The Court also held that the expert merely testified as to what the common reactions of victims of rape have and she also explained that in her opinion, the 19 year old woman here suffered from the rape trauma syndrome. The presentation by the prosecution of an expert did not prejudice the jury against the accused. The accused was given the opportunity to cross-examine the expert presented by the prosecution and the accused was also free to call in his own experts who can give an opinion that the 19 year old was not suffering from rape trauma syndrome.

The conviction of the accused was upheld.

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