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Law Students Aid Rape And Sexual Assault Victims

April 24, 2002-- For victims of rape or sexual assault, deciding to pursue a conviction of their attacker can mean facing a daunting series of hearings, depositions and medical examinations. A new student organization at the University of Virginia School of Law helps rape and sexual assault survivors navigate the legal system while educating the community about sex crimes.

Founded in February by first-year law student Nick Lewin and run by a group of law students, the Rape Crisis Advocacy Project has 80 members who have volunteered more than 550 hours of legal work. "Rape is a crime of power and can leave its victim feeling helpless and out of control," Lewin said. "This disempowerment is frequently compounded by the legal systems treatment of survivors. The system is confusing, imposing and often terrifying. We use our legal training to support and empower survivors. Our goal is to help them find justice."

The law students believe that the most effective response to rape and sexual assault is a collaborative community response. With the help of their partners, including the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, Charlottesville’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, U.Va.’s Sexual Assault Education Office and adviser and mentor Anne Coughlin, a law school professor, project members help rape survivors through a variety of approaches.

Students work on the SARA hot line to provide victims with guidance for their immediate needs, including legal advice, mental health and medical care. These student advocates, who receive 40 hours of training, also accompany survivors to court, pretrial hearings, the emergency room and interviews. The Civil Litigation Project works with pro bono and legal aid attorneys who represent victims of sexual offenses seeking avenues of recourse other than criminal prosecution.

Partnered with Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault, RCAP’s Legislative Advocacy Project helps improve the legal system’s treatment of victims though advocating legislative reform. RCAP also has a group working on publications for survivors and a Community Education Project that plans events and sponsors speakers.

Contact: Nick Lewin, (434) 244-2630

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Top News site edited by Dan Heuchert (dnh6n@virginia.edu); maintained by Karen Asher (kac@virginia.edu); releases posted by Sally Barbour (sab4w@virginia.edu).
Last Modified: Wednesday, 24-Apr-2002 12:43:24 EDT
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