My name is Rachel, and like far too many, I am a victim and survivor of a violent crime. You may remember hearing part of my story from this video, but there is so much more to my story.
11 years ago, a stranger broke into my home. After sexually assaulting me at gunpoint, he took me to an ATM where he robbed me of every penny I had. It was the scariest, and most traumatizing, thing I have ever experienced.
As someone who has experienced the court process firsthand, I can tell you a victim’s suffering does not end with the attack. Rather, it continues as we navigate a complicated system which works for the criminal, but not the victim.
I’ve been a supporter of Amendment 6, Marsy’s Law for Florida, since it was first introduced because I believe victims and their families should have the same exact rights and protections as those accused or convicted of a crime.
I believe these rights and protections should exist in the state’s most powerful legal document so there is no question as to what rights victims are entitled to and whether or not they are enforced.
What is in the constitution right now is not enough –
- It is ambiguous and leaves too much up for interpretation.
- Statutes can easily be changed from one legislative session to another.
- The accused have specific protections outlined in the U.S. Constitution, crime victims only receive a single vague sentence in our state constitution with no real means of enforcement.
Amendment 6 presents an opportunity to strengthen these laws, by:
- Ensuring crime victims, or their families in the event of a tragic loss of life, are afforded similar constitutional protections to the accused.
- The rights of the accused would not change or weaken, however, the two parties will finally be considered equal in the eyes of the law.
This means everything to crime victims. We deserve to be seen as those with real emotions who went through a painful ordeal we did not ask for, rather than simply evidence in the case.
My story would have been different had Marsy’s Law been in place.
By acting as his own counsel, my attacker was afforded access to all of my personal information as well as those of my witnesses. He not only stole my identity but made harassing phone calls to me and my witnesses from jail, in the attempts of scaring us out of testifying against him. There was nothing anyone could do – the state attorney and sheriff’s departments’ hands were tied. As wonderful as they were in handling my case, they were only as strong as the law allowed them to be and that meant his right to identify his accuser trumped my right to privacy and to be free from intimidation.
Marsy’s Law would also provide crime victims with a voice, which is something I wish I had in the court process. After all, I certainly didn’t have a say in being attacked, so shouldn’t I at least have one in deciding what happens?
My attacker was originally given four consecutive life sentences given the violent nature of his crime. Recently, though, his sentence was reduced to just 50 years, and he will now be eligible for parole one day.
I was not notified when he was appealing to the Supreme Court. I was not asked if scheduling the re-sentencing hearing on my birthday was a convenient day for me. And my input was not taken into consideration at the hearing, even though the court’s decision directly impacted my safety and the safety of others.
Crime victims all across the state have similar stories. All we are asking for are the same rights given to criminals, nothing more and nothing less.
Crime victims deserve to be protected under our state’s most powerful legal document, just as a person accused of a crime does. Amendment 6 would provide Florida crime victims with many fair, common-sense protections, but there are a few things this law would NOT do.
This law does not guarantee outcomes. It does not interfere with prosecutorial discretion. It does not add a burden to the system. And, it does not infringe upon the numerous protections afforded to those accused or convicted of a crime.
What my attacker did to me was horrific, but I certainly do not believe my rights should outweigh his.
All I want is to be viewed as an equal party, to know that I have a voice, and that my voice matters.
I implore you to remember my story and stand up for past, present, and future crime victims when you go to vote this election season.