Not guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases can impact potential victims

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Sexual assaults are one of the most underreported crimes.  It's a difficult subject for victims to come forward and re-live their terror.  However, when juries return not guilty verdicts in cases like these it may have an impact on rape victims.

Last week's teen sexual assault trial made headlines when the defense achieved a not guilty verdict.

"The jury listened to the evidence and I guess decided there was reasonable doubt and acquitted the defendant," said defense attorney, Ryan Deaton.

Family and friends of the defendant stood on the courthouse steps celebrating the victory.

"We knew the whole time, Todd didn't do it," said family friend Carla Musick.

However, the mother of the defendant, although happy for her son, empathized with sexual assault victims.

"It's just that I feel really sad for those that have really been raped because its hard enough when you have been. I know," said Sytha Massoth-Turney.

And she has reason to fear potential repercussions of the trial and its verdict. A myriad of reasons make these cases difficult for prosecutors to get a conviction, but a not guilty verdict does not mean that an assault did not occur.

"It just may mean the prosecution failed to get enough evidence to prove a defendants guilt," said Assistant Director of the Family Crisis Center, Joann Black.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, sixty percent of sexual assaults are not reported, making it one of the least documented crimes.

"According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, it's under-reported because people try to avoid being re-traumatized by re-living the event," said Joann Black.

Victims are encouraged to ignore media coverage focused on sexual assault cases.

"Don't pay attention to what's out in the news whether people are guilty or not guilty. If you've been victimized you need to express that to someone. Make that outcry and receive the help needed to start healing" explained Black.

And if you're the one who hears the outcry - remember to listen.

"It makes it harder for those who really had it happen to them for anyone to listen," worried Sytha Massoth-Turney.

It's important for victims to remember that its never to late to heal.

"If it's later down the line, if it's an assault that occurred a long time ago, it still needs to be reported. Contact law enforcement," reminded Joann Black.

The Family Crisis Center offers many services designed for people who go through this type of ordeal and encourage victims to take advantage of them.

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