When Police Fail to Believe Rape Victims, Can The Police Be Sued?


OMAHA, Nebraska. Imagine a nightmare in which you are woken in your sleep, are raped, and then, when you report your rape to the police, the police fail to believe you, even reading you your Miranda warnings, claiming you can face charges for false reports. According to the New York Times, this very scenario happened to one woman who was raped and was then not believed by the police. What recourse does a victim have in this scenario?

According to the Times, in some cases, victims pursue lawsuits against the police. In the case of the woman who was not believed, she won $190,000 in a lawsuit. Yet, sometimes victory in a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean victory in the public eye. Later, when the person who committed the crime was identified, the community turned against the woman, because they couldn’t believe such an “upstanding” member could commit such a crime. They reasoned that the woman was trying to cover up an affair, just as the police had assumed. Rape victims face scrutiny not just from police, but from their communities.

Victims of sexual assault face unique challenges. Not only is there the real risk that they won’t be believed, but state statute of limitations on rape charges can make it difficult to pursue charges if police take too long to identify an assailant. States have been updating their laws to either extend the time victims have to come forward or extending the statute of limitations on sexual assault indefinitely. However, many of these changes to the law, don’t apply retroactively. They only apply to new cases of rape. In the case of civil courts, extensions do apply retroactively. This means that is your state extends how long you have to sue for sexual assault, you can pursue a claim even if your rape or assault happened before the extended deadline was made a law—if your state permits it.

Victims of sexual assault not only suffer the trauma of the assault, they may face additional trauma when police fail to believe them or when the person who committed the crime tries to disparage their character in court. Police may be more inclined to disbelieve sexual assault victims, even though false reports are rare. Worse, police may try to pin the blame on the assault victim by asking them about what they were wearing or doing when the assault took place. This is wrong.

In recent months, however, victims of rape and sexual assault have been believed and have finally been able to see significant victories. In one case, a woman was awarded a $1 billion settlement against a security company, according to the Times. While the woman isn’t likely to see the billion dollars because the company isn’t worth that much, the settlement sends a strong message to organizations and individuals. Rape can lead to lawsuits and victims can win—sometimes significant settlements.

If you or a loved one was hurt or assaulted, you may have important rights under the law. Rensch & Rensch Law are personal injury lawyers in Omaha, Nebraska who work closely with victims to help them seek justice. Visit us at https://www.renschandrensch.com/ to learn more about how we can help you.

Rensch & Rensch Law

7602 Pacific Street,

Suite 102

Omaha, NE 68114

Rensch & Rensch

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