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Brave Iowa woman goes public with rape: ‘I want people to know this happens to regular people’

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An Iowa woman has decided to go public and file civil charges against former Muscatine police officer Tom Tovar for raping her.

Shari Martin told WQAD that she decided not to take advantage of Iowa’s Rape Shield Law that would have allowed her to file the lawsuit anonymously because she didn’t have anything to be ashamed of.

“I want people to know this happens to regular people and I’m done,” she explained. “I don’t want to be a victim anymore. I want to come out and say I have nothing to be ashamed of. I did nothing wrong, and I was not able to consent.”

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In 2013, then-Officer Tovar had pulled over Martin’s boyfriend’s car for OWI after the two had been out drinking on Valentines Day. According to court and police records, Tovar had taken Martin back to her hotel room while her boyfriend was being booked into jail.

Martin said that she didn’t even remember being in Tovar’s patrol car. And when she woke up several hours later, she realized that she had been raped.

“I realized I was naked. I don’t sleep naked. I started having a flashback. I came to and said, ‘Oh my God, there was a police officer laying on me,’” she recalled.

A police investigation later determined that Tovar’s DNA matched sperm found on Martin’s hotel bedding and inside of her jeans.

Tovar told investigators that he spent 13 minutes of unaccounted time going to the hotel front desk to get a new room key because Martin’s was broken. He said that she was so “drunk he had to help her carry in all of her items.”

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“He admitted that he had lied about the room key, but did so because he thought it would be funny,” a criminal complaint against Tovar later pointed out.

In his defense, the married officer eventually admitted that he did have sex with Martin, but he insisted that it was consensual.

WQAD reported that Tovar’s attorney had filed a motion in the criminal case to admit evidence that Martin had sex with her boyfriend that night before she was allegedly attacked and the next morning.

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“I expect they are going to do their best to make it look like a female vixen kind of thing,” Martin lamented.

Martin’s attorney, Leanne Tyler, said that the civil suit was seeking damages to send a message.

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“It’s a suit seeking personal damages for what happened to my client, it also seeks punitive damages against Thomas Tovar,” Tyler explained. “Those are damages sought because what happened is so egregious. It’s sort of like a punishment, a message. It’s very important that people in positions of authority, and positions of trust, are held accountable for a significant breach whether that be physical or sexual assault.”

The lawsuit was filed just eight days before the statute of limitations would have run out this month.

For Martin’s part, the memories of that night still make her “sick.”

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“I remember a dark haired officer laying on me. I don’t remember anything else. Just that,” she said. “I feel sorry for his family, but my family’s been through hell, too. I hope he never takes advantage of anyone again.”

Watch the video below from WQAD, broadcast Feb. 23, 2015.

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