Case Study: Woman allegedly raped as a teenager calls for change after ‘horrendous’ trial

Woman allegedly raped as a teenager calls for change after ‘horrendous’ trial

Reasons why charges do not proceed to trial (Terms of Reference).

The case of Isobel Goatcher is a tragic illustration of the shortcomings in the legal system when it comes to situations involving sexual assault. Goatcher, now a 23-year-old woman, claimed that an elderly man sexually assaulted her in 2016 when she was just 16. Shame, distrust of the reaction of family and friends, and lack of confidence in the Police are the main reasons resisting women reporting their sexual assault (Unnithan, 2013). Due to such reasons, Goatcher trusted her best friend to disclose the incident and informed her mother about the incident a year later.

The incident that occurred in 2016 was not reported at the time, but after receiving therapy from a therapist in 2019, Goatcher reported the incident to the police in July 2020. The perpetrator was charged officially in April 2022, but unfortunately, the court trials did not begin until seven months later. The significant delay had a negative impact on Goatcher's emotional and mental well-being. In addition, Goatcher found the legal procedures and the entire court trial period to be extremely distressing and has stated that she never wants to go through it again. Prior to the trial, she was subjected to an investigation that made her feel as if she was the perpetrator rather than the victim, in order to determine the veracity of the evidence and facts.

Goatcher was compelled to grant permission to the authorities to thoroughly examine her medical records dating back to her primary school years. It felt as if the authorities were searching for any evidence of her involvement in a similar incident in the past, which only added to her pain of not receiving timely justice. Despite this, she does not hold the authorities responsible, acknowledging that it is the ongoing legal system that should be criticized.

Throughout the trial, Goatcher did not receive significant support, and she was not even allowed to communicate with her family since they were witnesses for the prosecution. Johnson in his article ‘Limits of a Criminal Justice Response: Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assault’ clearly illustrated the flaws in the legal systems and the facts that refrain rape victims particularly women to get justice. According to Johnson (2012) defining and talking about experiences of sexual violence is a difficult process for women. The prosecutor's ruthless cross-examination subjected Goatcher to significant emotional and mental anguish.

According to Johnson (2012), there is a common misconception that "real rape" occurs when a virgin woman is assaulted by a stranger, suffers severe physical harm, and immediately reports the assault to the authorities. While this belief may aid in certain court cases, it can also hinder the pursuit of justice and cause victims to lose faith in the legal system, particularly in cases of different forms of sexual assault. As a result of this belief, the prosecutor asked Goatcher personal questions related to the rape incident, insinuating that she had pursued the perpetrator and was energetic and lively at the age of 16.

Eventually, after going through a prolonged dilemma of emotional and mental suffering, Goatcher’s case ended in a hung jury. Though Goatcher was offered a re-trial option, which she really wanted to avail but considering his all over experience and mistrust over the legal system she did not avail the option.

Case Study Source:

Sinmaz, E (2023) ‘Woman allegedly raped as a teenager calls for change after ‘horrendous’ trial’, The Guardian, 12 March 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/mar/12/isobel-goatcher-allegedly-raped-teenager-change-trial.

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