When is a rape victim legally a victim of rape?
According to a Georgia state representative, the term “victim” should be applied only after the accused has been convicted.
State Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) recently introduced a bill mandating that not only victims of rape be re-classified as “accusers,” but victims of stalking, harassment, and family violence should as well.
If passed, the legislation [PDF] would amend state criminal law “in the context of a number of statutes making reference to circumstances where there has not yet been a criminal conviction; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”
Critics said that they feared Franklin’s bill would decrease reports of rape, which is itself already an underreported crime [PDF], according to the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“To be classified, off the bat, as an accuser instead of as a victim places one more barrier to reporting the crime to the authorities,” Amie Newman of RH Reality Check wrote recently.
Jennifer White, an attorney for the Family Violence Prevention Fund, told The Huffington Post that convictions of rape crimes are very tough to attain.
“I think it’s a sad reality that for some reason, it’s easier for society, in some respects, to believe that a victim would fabricate this type of crime than to believe that a person is capable of committing certain atrocities,” she said.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee pointed out that Franklin’s bill ignored a similar reclassification among a wide range of crimes pertaining to people’s private property.
“Burglary victims are still victims. Assault victims are still victims. Fraud victims are still victims,” the DLCC said in a advisory last week.
It continued, “But if you have the misfortune to suffer a rape, or if you are beaten by a domestic partner, or if you are stalked, Rep. Franklin doesn’t think you’ve been victimized. He says you’re an ‘accuser’ until the courts have determined otherwise.”
Newman, who called the bill “utterly misogynistic” and “hateful,” noted that Georgia ranks 11th in the nation for incidences of forcible rape, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“You might want to focus on how to best protect those who live in your state – including young people, who are the most likely to be victims of sexual assault and rape – rather than protecting the ‘accused,’” she said.