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Jeffrey Marsalis: Proof That Sexual Assault Still Isn't Taken Seriously

Illustration for article titled Jeffrey Marsalis: Proof That Sexual Assault Still Isnt Taken Seriously

We've covered the sickening case of serial rapist Jeffrey Marsalis before, but Self magazine has followed up and given it a little more context. That context is, of course, that date rapes remain extremely hard to prosecute or get convictions on, as 8 of Marsalis's 10+ victims already know... and hopefully one more is not about to find out.The results from a study of jury trials in rape cases are pretty stark.

Until now, it’s been impossible to know exactly how many of these cases collapse in court, because no prosecution data was being collected. But the research and training group End Violence Against Women International in Addy, Washington, just completed a four-year study across eight states and has allowed SELF an exclusive early look at its conclusions. Of all the rape cases that come across prosecutors’ desks, stranger-rape cases have the best courtroom odds, with 68 percent ending with a conviction or guilty plea. But when a woman knows her assailant briefly (less than 24 hours), a mere 43 percent of cases end in a conviction. When they know each other longer than 24 hours, the conviction rate falls to 35 percent. Even fewer, 29 percent, of intimate partners and exes are punished. “And keep in mind, the cases that come through the prosecutor’s door are the strongest ones — strong enough for the police to have referred them along in the first place,” notes EVAW International research director Kimberly Lonsway, Ph.D.

And, that doesn't even include the women who choose not to report to the cops who serve as the gatekeepers for referring winnable cases to the prosecutors.

According to government estimates, a mere 19 percent of rapes, including stranger rapes, are ever reported in the first place. As Valliere notes, women who have been sexually assaulted find so many reasons not to call police, including denial, shame or their hazy grasp of the facts due to drugs or alcohol. Many survivors assume they won’t be believed. Still others, such as Marie and Leigh, are mortified into silence by what they see as their complicity in their own attacks.


And, if that's not depressing enough for you — because, notably, it doesn't mention whether those acquaintance rapes involved violence or not — the reasons why are even more so.

“To a juror, a rapist is a guy who jumps out of the bushes and throws a woman to the ground,” [Lynn Hecht Schafran, director of the National Judicial Education Program of Legal Momentum] explains. “She has terrible injuries, and she leaps up and reports it immediately to the police. Anything that falls short of that story is questionable.”


So, basically, if your rapist isn't violent enough, you're going to have trouble securing a conviction if you're even one of the 1 in 5 women who goes to the police in the first place — which might be part of the reason plenty of victims don't. Since we last wrote about Marsalis a year ago, he pled no contest to "unlawful restraint" charges in an 11th sexual assault case in Philadelphia that hadn't been part of either of his first two trials —- in exchange for prosecutors agreeing not to pursue another trial on one of the rape charges on which the jury had deadlocked in his second trial. After fighting it for the better part of a year, he was finally extradicted to Idaho in August to face charges of raping a co-worker there in 2005. That trial is expected to begin in January of 2009, 4 years after he sexually assaulted his victim. Whatever the results, he will eventually have to return to Pennsylvania to serve out the remainder of his 10-21 year sentence on the 2 sexual assaults prosecutors managed to actually convict him of. Marsalis is a walking reminder of the statistics: having known most of the 12 victims in these 4 cases more than 24 hours, at best, he'll be convicted of assaulting 33% of them. Date Rape Cases Still Hard To Win [Self, via MSNBC] Related: Marsalis Removed From Pa. Prison, Sent To Idaho For Another Rape Trial [Philadelphia Daily News] Attorney Alleges Perjury In Marsalis Rape Case [Idaho Mountain Express] Earlier: How To Rape 100 (Cute, Educated, Upper Middle-Class) Women And Get Away With It Can Rapists Get You Off? Our Questions About How Serial Rapist Jeffrey Marsalis Got Away With It, Answered

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"To a juror, a rapist is a guy who jumps out of the bushes and throws a woman to the ground,"

In my Criminal Law class in law school, that idea was completely reinforced by the students (at one of the more liberal campuses in the country). I remember one case we read where a small woman (5', 100 lbs) was dragged off her bike in a park and [stranger] raped by a much larger (6'2", 250 lbs) man, and the jury still acquitted because she hadn't shouted for help. To which a woman(!) in my class replied: "Well, if she was really fighting him, she would have at least gotten a broken bone."