If a person who has been kidnapped and raped in front of their children doesn’t deserve basic Constitutional protections – then, who does? Carissa's Story

I have been a New Hampshire resident for nearly 25 years and I’m a proud Granite Stater – I’m also a survivor of sexual assault. I’m a survivor who knows from firsthand experience that statutory rights are insufficient in making sure victims’ rights are upheld and respected.

In 2000, I was kidnapped and raped by a stranger while out for a walk in Weathersfield, Vermont with my two young children. My oldest was three and my youngest was just fourteen months. I was threatened with a tire iron and sexually assaulted in front of my two children. I somehow managed to convince him to let us go and I immediately reported the assault to law enforcement.

Following his capture and indictment, my rapist accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to ten years in prison.  All I ever asked for was notification when he would be released from prison, and which towns I could reasonably expect him to have access to – so I knew where to avoid.

In 2014, I knew that his release would be coming up and I reached out to the prosecutor to find out the specifics of his release – it took three months for anyone to get back to me.

Finally, after three months, my phone call was returned. To my horror, I found out that he had been released three months earlier and given permission to move to New Hampshire.

For three months the man who violently raped me in front of my children was living just a few towns over and no one notified me.

These are things that victims experience in a criminal justice system where their rights aren’t respected at the same level that a criminal’s rights are.

Can you imagine a convicted criminal not being notified when they are up for parole? Can you imagine them not being told they have a right to an appeal? Can you imagine them not having a voice in the criminal justice system? The answer is no.

I have read the argument that constitutional protections are only critical for those accused and convicted because their liberty is at stake. I would like you to stop for a moment and think about what that means. It means you’re not acknowledging the harm that was inflicted upon me during the rape itself and you’re ignoring the potential harm that can be inflicted throughout the system.

When a case goes to trial the life of the victim is just as much under scrutiny, if not more.

I needed the protection and the weight of Constitution behind me – he had that right, I did not.

I have heard some say that statutory rights are sufficient for victims of crime and that enshrining these rights in the Constitution will not make them any more enforceable. If that’s the case, then why don’t we remove defendants’ rights from the Constitution and put them in statute? If statutory rights are sufficient for victims, then why aren’t they good enough for defendants?

When I was not notified that he was being released – I wasn’t given the opportunity to weigh in or speak to the impact that him moving to New Hampshire would have on me and my children. I needed the protection from the government, I needed the same weight of law that he had.

When you say that a person who has been kidnapped and raped in front of their children doesn’t deserve basic Constitutional protections – then, who does?

Please don’t tell me that statutes are enough. I’ve lived through the system and I can tell you that they’re not.