Sexual assault victims to get better treatmentOne young female plaintiff was asked by the defendant’s attorney, “Why did you follow and establish a relationship with your teacher?”
The 17-year-old rape victim was unable to hold back her tears recalling the interrogation process on Nov. 17 in the Daejeon District Court. She regretted agreeing to testify after pressing sexual assault charges against her former homeroom teacher, the defendant, who had assaulted her for a year.
She was in fifth grade when it happened.
Her nightmare only got worse. Before the trial, waiting in a chair in the hallway to give her testimony, she faced the teacher that she never wanted to see again.
The victim further confessed, “I testified for an hour, but it felt like the judge, the prosecutor, the lawyer, everyone did not believe me,” and admitted that after the trial, she had been receiving treatment from a psychologist. In an attempt to avoid further trauma for victims standing testimony for a court proceeding, the Seoul Central District Court announced yesterday that the first national witness counseling program for sexual assault victims will be introduced starting from next month.
In June, a female victim who was sexually assaulted and testified in court stated she “felt humiliation in court” and committed suicide shortly after.
According to the court, “Not only adult women but sexual assault victims that are children and disabled feel shame and a considerable amount of stress in the process of testifying, according to studies,” which lead to the decision by the court to run a witness counseling program, especially to prevent such incidents as the woman who committed suicide.
Through the new witness program, geared especially towards women and children, the victim will receive an explanation of court procedures from a “witness guardian,” an expert trained in sexual assault psychology counseling in the waiting room. The witness guardian will then speak with the victim at eye level and explain the questions that will be asked by the prosecutor, lawyer and judge.
When the victim is ready to testify, in order to prevent an encounter with the assailant, the victim will testify in a videotaped interrogation instead of the courtroom, and family or guardians will be allowed to be present in the room.
The trial will proceed through a monitor in the courtroom with the judge, prosecutor and lawyers. Once the ruling has been decided upon by the court, the results of the trial will be sent to the victim. Afterwards, if the victim or the victim’s guardian desires, the program will assist in filing a damage suit or civil suit against the assailant and provide counseling and treatment for the victim.
By Kim Hyun-ye [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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