Georgia rape case dismissed because of victim’s sexual history?

Valena.jpgValena Beety is an attorney and a board member of Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), an organization that works to empower students and hold colleges accountable for sexual assault in on- and off-campus communities.
Melanie Ross thought Daniel Day, her college classmate, was fun and a decent date – until they were having sex and she told him he was hurting her. She asked him to stop – and he didn’t. After that, Ross broke up with Day, and avoided him.
Unfortunately, because of events a month later, Ross is now suing Day for civil sexual battery.
Her lawsuit against Day is now on appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, in part because of the victim-blaming actions of the trial court judge. Judge Phillip Brown, despite a Georgia rape shield law, compelled Ross to disclose every person she had ever dated, or engaged in any sexual activity with, including their names, dates of interaction, and contact information. This evidence was supposedly to show “consent;� the actual purpose was to humiliate the victim and discourage her and other victims from pursuing these cases. Under Georgia state law, and federal law, a victim’s sexual history with third parties is supposed to be irrelevant. The result of this case is that any victim who brings a civil claim for sexual battery in Georgia must be prepared to discuss all of her previous sexual partners. The judge ultimately found Ross was not raped in part because, as all that testimony showed, she was not a virgin.
The trial court judge not only dismissed Ross’ claims – he ordered her to pay $150,000 for the court costs of her attacker. The judge found there was no evidence to support her claims of rape, in large part because Ross did not remember anything from the encounter: “There’s no witnesses in there. There was no evidence. It’s a closed door. And there’s no possibility that there could be any proof that there was rape…â€?
This was after the judge had dismissed the evidence: Ross could have received lacerations and redness documented in a rape kit from shaving, and “[b]ruises can come with a bump into furniture or from other causes.� As far as the claim that Day gave Ross a rape drug, defense counsel responded, “neither Day, nor anyone else for that matter, would have to use any type of drug to convince Plaintiff to participate in sexual conduct.�
The judge found that since Ross and Day had previously had a sexual relationship, Ross should have known her claims were “frivolous… there was no reasonable belief that a court would accept Plaintiff’s claims…â€?
The nightmare of this case, for Melanie Ross and for all future rape victims in Georgia, is that she was forced to discuss in elaborate detail her sexual past, and then she had her claims dismissed in part because she wasn’t a virgin. Moreover, not only did Ross lose her case, the judge fined her $150,000 for bringing it in the first place – a fee sure to dissuade other victims from coming forward with their own claims. This case is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia, which can choose to hear it or not – let’s hope they right this wrong before it hurts more victims.
NOTE: As noted by some of the comments in response to my posting on a Georgia state court case, I want to confirm that Daniel Day was charged with sexual battery, a civil charge, rather than criminal rape. Day was not charged with criminal rape, and has furthermore not been found guilty of civil sexual battery.

Join the Conversation