Sex criminals love the moment they overpower their victims. They breathe it in, feel the rush, relish it. As the Miami Dade Police Department describes sex crimes, they are “ultimately about power, control or domination of the other person.” None of that ends when rapists walk away from their victims, withered and stunned. I know. I met Satan. He bound and raped me. I was 7.
For sex-crime survivors, the loss of control over our bodies was disempowering. The invasion burrowed soul-deep. Because most of us knew the perpetrators in advance, trusted them, allowed ourselves to be vulnerable to them, as I did, what we lose most in the aftermath is the ability to trust our own judgment as to who we are safe with or where we are safe.
That loss means we struggle to entrust even the fact of our most intimate loss to anyone, to trust that anyone will even believe us. As the International Association of Chiefs of Police has affirmed, “the two factors with the most significant positive impact on a victim’s well-being in the aftermath of a sexual assault are having someone to talk to and being believed.” To find faith to speak our truth, we need to know that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, again, will not be used against us, again. We need to be able to control who gets to know what we have suffered, how it feels, what it means to us.
But Florida law provides inadequate control for survivors over privacy and anonymity. Current law does little more than require the redaction of survivors’ names from police reports and certain court records in response to public records requests, meaning that anyone else, including rapists themselves and their friends, employers, and school officials, who learns the information can broadcast it as they wish with impunity. For many survivors, that means having to decide whether seeking help or justice is worth the risk of losing control over privacy and anonymity.
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