DENVER — Identifying a survivor of sexual assault, as this article does, is an unusual practice for any journalism organization and a decision that comes with a great deal of responsibility, debate, and reflection.
“Brittany” initiated contact with FOX31, expressing a clear desire to publicly address her concerns about how, she says, the justice system in Denver treats the majority of women who step forward to file sexual assault complaints.
Brittany’s hoping by appearing on television, in full view of the world, she can inspire other rape survivors to seek counseling, hold the district attorney’s office accountable for its low conviction rate on date rape, and prove to herself she has nothing to be ashamed of.
Our investigative team vetted the facts attached to Brittany’s criminal complaint, reviewed police reports, rape-kit medical files, and either interviewed or attempted to interview those who knew most about this event.
We also found it important to put date rape cases like hers into context, spending months tracking how Denver police and the Denver County district attorney handle such allegations.
Our reporters struggled with some of the most basic of principals. Is Brittany still a “rape victim” even though the local DA declined to charge the accused with a crime? The prosecutors concluded not that the man was innocent or guilty, but that there was little chance of winning a conviction should the matter go to trial.
As one employee of the Denver DA said, “Young women, partying in the LoDo district, too often put themselves in vulnerable positions and that makes successful prosecutions difficult.”
That blame-the-victim mentality doesn’t apply to Brittany (who was neither drunk, nor used drugs the night of her reported assault), but our journalists heard similar rationalizations more than once during the course of our investigation.
This project is intended to be a community forum on the growing number of sexual assault cases connected with dating apps and how local prosecutors deal with the “he said, she said” issue.
Our conclusions are troubling in more aspect than one. We can’t help but wonder how many victims of sexual assault will chose to remain silent if they know there is little chance they will be believed.