A Fredericksburg jury was unable to decide whether an 86-year-old man sexually abused a teenage girl he picked up March 29, 2010. John William Sinnett of Spotsylvania was charged with sexual battery and abduction with the intent to defile. The latter charge carries a potential life sentence. A judge dropped the abduction charge during Sinnett’s trial in Fredericksburg Circuit Court, leaving the jury to deal only with the misdemeanor sexual battery charge. After deliberating several hours, the jury announced that it could not reach a unanimous verdict, and Judge H. Harrison Braxton Jr. declared a mistrial.
Sinnett was on home electronic incarceration at the time of the incident for a sexual battery conviction in Spotsylvania, but had gotten permission to go get a tire for his lawn mower. The jurors were not told about Sinnett’s criminal record, which includes sexual battery convictions in Spotsylvania, Westmoreland and Arlington.
There are no adequate words to describe what the courtroom was like. It was surreal. So if it is surreal for the advocate, can you imagine the impact to the victim? The perpetrator had a great deal of support in the courtroom, he was able to have his church community rallying behind him for support. Yet, the victim had few people there to support her. This is a real life unbalance in cases of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is oppressive and demeaning in nature and is best described as a sexual expression of aggression, control, and/or power inequality. Victims are extremely concerned about people finding out and finding reasons to blame them for the assault. Victims are often reluctant to report a rape because they are afraid that others will blame them, their families and other people will find out, details of their lives will be disclosed, their names will be made public by the news media and yes, the court proceedings may add even more trauma to an already traumatic situation.
The effects of trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. The objective of recovery is to empower the client and establish new connections. Having an advocate in your corner can greatly assist with this part of healing process. The more the client learns to trust and find support in the advocate relationship, the more the client will have the capacity and strength to work through the assault and move forward.
An advocate can offer a relationship—free of judgment, coercion, and betrayal—to each client. The unique advantage of victim advocates is that they can maintain an exclusive focus on the safety and well-being of their clients. Research has found that assault survivors who had the assistance of an advocate reported that they experienced less distress after their contact with the legal system (Rebecca Campbell, 2006).
If you need Advocacy for a Sexual Assault case call RCASA for more information: 540.371.6771