Specialists: Lawmaker rape case illustrates survivors’ trauma

BOISE, Idaho — When a legislative intern got here ahead with rape allegations in opposition to an Idaho state lawmaker final 12 months, she was subjected to months of on-line harassment and abuse.

She later testified in regards to the assault at an ethics listening to, and among the lawmaker’s supporters filmed her and chased her via the Statehouse.

This week, the younger lady took the stand to testify in his legal trial and have become so distraught she fled the courtroom.

Solely a couple of third of sexual assaults are reported to police, in line with to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest Nationwide Community, and solely about 5% of assaults lead to an arrest. Convictions are even rarer, with solely about 2.8% of sexual assaults leading to felony convictions.

Put one other approach, about 972 of each 1,000 perpetrators of sexual assault won’t ever face a conviction, in line with the group.

“It actually implies that we aren’t superb at prosecuting it and that the survivors very hardly ever get the specified outcomes,” stated Elizabeth Jeglic, a professor of psychology at John Jay Faculty with the Metropolis College of New York and an skilled in sexual assault prevention and public coverage. “We have now to essentially deal with prevention. I believe that’s the place we’re going to see the biggest change.”

Von Ehlinger, a former Republican state lawmaker, was discovered responsible of rape and faces wherever from a 12 months to life in jail when he’s sentenced this summer time. The jury acquitted the 39-year-old on a second depend of sexual penetration with a international object.

Von Ehlinger maintained through the trial that the 2 had consensual intercourse. His legal professional Jon Cox didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The decision got here after a dramatic trial wherein the younger lady fled the witness stand throughout testimony, saying “I can not do that.”

Fourth District Decide Michael Reardon instructed the jury to ignore her statements because the protection could not cross-examine her. He then requested the protection in the event that they wished to request a mistrial — a step that may have compelled a do-over for all the trial — however protection legal professional Jon Cox declined. Cox hasn’t stated if von Ehlinger intends to enchantment.

The Related Press typically doesn’t establish individuals who say they’ve been sexually assaulted, and has referred to the girl on this case as “Jane Doe” at her request.

Doe was 19 and interning on the Idaho Statehouse when she met von Ehlinger and agreed to go to dinner with him.

However the evening of March 9, 2021, was not the networking alternative she anticipated, she later instructed investigators. As an alternative, she stated, von Ehlinger introduced her again to his condominium underneath false pretenses, overpowered her and compelled her to carry out oral intercourse whereas he straddled her chest, pinning her arms together with his knees.

Doe reported the assault to her supervisor on the Statehouse on March 11, adopted by police. She underwent a sexual assault examination, which revealed DNA that matched von Ehlinger.

Survivors should weigh the chance of not being understood or believed once they report, Jeglic stated, in addition to the intrusiveness of the investigation course of.

“Whereas a lot of the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurses are well-trained, having somebody contact you and have a look at your non-public elements and ask you intimate questions instantly after can really feel like one other violation,” Jeglic stated.

For von Ehlinger, the assault report triggered a legislative ethics investigation, and a legislative committee required Doe to testify through the listening to. A black cloth display protected her from view throughout her testimony within the packed public listening to, however as she tried to depart the Statehouse a few of von Ehlinger’s supporters chased her, filming her as she sunk to the ground, distraught.

The ethics committee really helpful von Ehlinger be banned from the Statehouse, and he resigned.

For Doe, the report triggered an avalanche of extra trauma and harassment. Supporters of von Ehlinger doxxed her by releasing her identify, photograph and private particulars about her life in far-right blogs and social media posts. One individual even wore mocking costumes to political occasions with a sash emblazoned together with her identify. Whereas some lawmakers lauded her braveness in coming ahead, others questioned her integrity or referred to as her names like “honey lure.”

“The fixed assault on her actually prevented her from beginning the therapeutic course of,” stated Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Legal professional Katelyn Farley, who argued the case in opposition to von Ehlinger. “Hopefully it doesn’t occur once more to future victims, however it’s one thing that occurs on a regular basis at this level.”

Information from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics exhibits that as many as one-fifth of sexual violence survivors who selected to not report their crimes to police cited the worry of retaliation as a main motive.

“This was a really public case, so folks acquired to see type of a real-time view into why folks do not report sexual assaults: What a troublesome journey it’s, and the scrutiny they face, and the continued trauma of getting to retell your story and have folks assault you consistently,” stated Annie Hightower, director of legislation and coverage with the Idaho Coalition In opposition to Sexual & Home Violence. The group helps survivors navigate legal justice system and gives civil authorized companies, and is representing Jane Doe.

That trauma was evident when Doe took the stand on the second day of the trial. She struggled to remain centered on the prosecutor, her gaze shifting between the exit doorways, the packed gallery and the protection desk the place von Ehlinger sat. She haltingly described the primary moments of the assault earlier than abruptly standing up, saying “I can not do that,” and speeding out of the courtroom.

It isn’t unusual for survivors to expertise signs of post-traumatic stress dysfunction when recounting an assault, stated Jeglic, with signs like elevated coronary heart fee and sweating.

“If the trauma is overwhelming you would possibly see signs of dissociation — the place they appear like they house out. They may really feel jittery or have issue concentrating. The battle or flight reflex is activated at that time, as a result of it appears like they is perhaps again in that scenario,” Jeglic stated.

Watching Doe go away the trial was “heart-wrenching,” Farley stated. However deputy prosecutor Whitney Welsh, who labored with Farley on the case, famous that it was additionally an indication of Doe’s company.

“I believe it’s vital that she determined to stroll within the room, and she or he additionally determined to stroll out — these had been her decisions,” Welsh stated.

Profitable prosecutions in circumstances like von Ehlinger will help the general public higher perceive the dynamics of energy and management in sexual assault circumstances, Jeglic stated.

“I believe one of many points that we face as a society is the understanding of consent, what a rape appears like, and the way energy differentials come into play,” she stated. “The extra success we now have in prosecutions, and the extra we will forestall these items from taking place to start with, the higher.”

The conviction was a bittersweet second within the midst of a troublesome journey, stated Hightower.

“The main target must be on my consumer and her therapeutic — what occurred immediately doesn’t heal her, proper? However the workforce introduced some little type of justice immediately,” Hightower stated. “I hope it will assist survivors — different survivors who perhaps did not come ahead, or are considering of coming ahead — to assist them know that folks consider them.”

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