Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rape Victim jailed in Florida

This is a horrific story about a young woman who was raped near the University of Tampa campus. She reported the crime to the police, who proceeded to check their records.

Question 1: Why check a victim’s crime record as first priority?

In any case, a warrant for her arrest was on the books, for failing to “pay $4,585 restitution after a 2003 juvenile arrest”. The police immediately handcuffed and jailed her.

Question 2: Why should a 4-year old minor charge (the woman claims the fine was paid and the warrant is a clerical error) result in a procedural decision to jail a rape victim?

But now surreal turns nasty. A direct quote - “A jail worker with religious objections blocked her from ingesting a morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy”. This is such a chillingly repulsive abuse of power for religious motives; it would have been turned down by scriptwriters as too unbelievable.

Question 3: What is the appropriate response from the state of Florida? Is sacking the jail worker and paying the woman enormous damages enough? Necessary, but probably not enough. Widespread reform of police procedure is probably also required, but I think that’s still only addressing a symptom. The reaction has to include some level of public awareness raising that “personal religious convictions” are just those – personal. Keep ‘em to yourself and don’t inflict them on others.

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