KCSARC releases The Long Wait


Category: Legal Advocacy, Policy, Survivor Voices, Uncategorized

Type: Blog, Legislative News, Press Mention

Press release

May 20, 2021


73% of charges involved in cases of sexual assault victims are child-related;
average delay experienced by victims extends almost 19 months

Among the backlog of cases awaiting disposition in King County Superior Court are 408 sexual assault victims who have been waiting an average of 563 days — almost 19 months — from the time the defendant in their case was arraigned, according to a new report from the nonprofit King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC).

The report, based on KCSARC client data pulled in January 2021, showed the median age of these victims was 16, while median age of the 319 defendants involved was 39.

KCSARC’s analysis also showed 73% of all charges involved in these cases were crimes committed against children, 38% of which were Class A felonies such as Rape of a Child 1, Child Molestation 1, and Assault of a Child 1.

“These cases involve serious crimes, and the majority of victims we’re talking about are kids and families who have been waiting a long time and without much information about what might happen next,” said Mary Ellen Stone, KCSARC executive director. “This is keeping victims from moving on with their lives, and potentially jeopardizing their safety, and mental as well as physical health now and down the road.”

And while the backlog of court cases pending in King County has been exacerbated by pandemic closures, the agency pointed out that long delays are just one of the long-standing barriers victims face when they seek accountability through the legal system.

Last year, the King County Auditor released a report that examined the handling of 2,571 sexual assault cases reported to King County Sheriff’s Office between 2015 and mid-2018. Of the 162 cases that resulted in a conviction, the majority took more than a year from initial report to

“Any plan that is developed to address the pandemic-related backlog must not only prioritize backlogged sexual assault cases, but it also needs to better respond to new sexual assault victims going forward,” Stone said.

“Well-intentioned moves to expedite these cases should not come at the expense of victim safety, nor should it discount their true experience. There must be transparency on how these cases are decided.”

“Not every sexual assault survivor chooses to engage in the legal system, and we help adult and teen victims make that decision for themselves. But rape and child sexual abuse are serious crimes,” Stone said.  “There is no question the criminal legal system has systemic problems that must be fixed. However, it is at this time the primary way that people who assault or rape others are held to account, and we have an obligation to make it work better for those survivors who put their trust in it.”

KCSARC recommends any plan developed to address the backlog also consider ways to be more trauma-informed:

  •  Keep victims better informed about timing, options and next steps in their cases as a means to restore some power and control many survivors lose during a sexual assault;
  • Ensure that victim experience and safety are prioritized in the process — for
    example, initial filings and plea agreements that accurately reflect what the victim experienced;
  • Ensure victim safety and impact when considering bond and release requests.

The full report is available here.
About King County Sexual Assault Resource Center: KCSARC is a 501c3 independent nonprofit providing comprehensive services to sexual assault survivors and their families in both English and Spanish, and prevention education to stop sexual violence from happening in communities
throughout King County. For immediate help or information, KCSARC’s 24-hour Resource Line is available at 1.888.99.VOICE.

KCSARC’s community-based legal advocates assist victims in the majority of sexual assault cases in King County Superior Court. The role of a legal advocate is to provide confidential support solely focused on the needs of survivors. Legal advocates accompany victims to interviews, keep them informed about their case to help them make decisions that are right for them, and help them remain engaged in their case. They stand with survivors as they navigate legal processes such as protection orders and safety planning. For more information, click here.

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