Recently there has been a lot of coverage of sexual assault in the national news. Last week the charges against the Pittsburgh Steeler’s quarterback were dropped – he had been accused of sexually assaulting a young woman in a Georgia nightclub. Sexual assault generally refers to any unwanted and offensive sexual touching and can range from groping to attempted rape to sexual penetration with a person who is incapacitated or under the age or 14.
Proving Sexual Assault Can Be Difficult
Sexual assault allegations are very difficult to prove. The burden of proof is upon the alleged victim or the District Attorney to show that there is physical evidence backing up the accuser’s claim. The woman who brought the sexual assault charge against the quarterback was treated after the alleged attack at a local hospital, where a sexual assault evidence collection kit, or “rape kit,” was administered. The kit gathers and preserves DNA evidence to show that sexual penetration occurred and documents any signs of struggle such as bruising, hair and skin under the fingernails, abrasions, etc.
Apparently in this case, the results of the examination were inconclusive – there was DNA but not enough to identify it and some indications of vaginal bleeding and scratches but not enough to definitively say a sexual assault had occurred.
Dropping a Sexual Assault Charge
You may be rest assured that if that Georgia District Attorney had any chance of proving sexual assault against the Steeler quarterback, he would have filed the charges. Media reports indicated that the woman told the District Attorney’s office that while the allegations were true, she did not want to pursue the charges. The fact that the victim was reluctant to pursue the matter should not have been, and probably was not the determining factor in the D.A.’s decision. The alleged victim does not control whether or not there is prosecution. Sufficiency of evidence is the deciding factor. Without witnesses or sufficient physical evidence, it is difficult to prove that a crime occurred. As such, no charge.