“For years, female victims of sexual assault in Austin and Travis County have been denied equal access to justice and equal protection of law,” the lawsuit says. “In short, the women of Travis County have been failed by the people sworn to protect them — the government officials and actors who have instead disbelieved, dismissed and denigrated female victims of sexual assault, failed to have DNA evidence tested for years at a time, and refused to investigate or prosecute cases of sexual assault against female survivors because juries purportedly do not like ‘he said, she said’ cases.”
The lawsuit claims that the city and county officials promote a culture of not believing or ignoring female rape victims and that their practices are unconstitutional and discriminatory.
The counts against Austin and Travis County are:
Violations of equal protection
Violations of the Fourth Amendment
Violation of the Fifth Amendment
Conspiracy to violate civil rights
Jennifer Ecklund, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit was filed to ensure that other women are protected and that rapists are held accountable.
“We would like to see change in the governmental departments we have sued, the ways cases are investigated and the ways women are treated,” Ecklund said.
The three women are seeking an unspecified amount of damages and want Austin and Travis County to:
Properly train and supervise governmental employees handling sexual assault cases/ evidence
Submit, test and analyze all sexual assault kits
Prosecute cases even without DNA evidence
Inform victims of the likelihood and timing of their kits being tested
Treat sexual assault cases with the same urgency as other crimes
Treat female victims with the the same respect and attention as male victims
Smith, one of the plaintiffs and survivors, was a student at the University of Texas when she was raped in 2008. Her case was active for years, despite the presence of a rape kit, and the charges against her perpetrator were dropped.
Smith did not attend the news conference to keep her identity private. The News does not typically identify victims of sexual assault unless they come forward.
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