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Sexual assault victim advocate responds to Tuesday's state Supreme Court rulingSubmitted: 07/22/2014
Story By Lauren Stephenson


RHINELANDER - The state Supreme Court made a ruling Tuesday that could impact what evidence can be used in rape cases.

It reversed the decision of a state appeals court in a 2011 case.

A defendant argued evidence of a previous consensual relationship with the victim should be allowed in court.

But the Supreme Court said evidence of a previous relationship falls under the state's rape shield law.

"The sexual assault victim is protected from any of her past being brought in that would disproportionately sway the jury like, 'Oh, well, that must have been it. It must have been what she was wearing,' or they might not approve that she had multiple partners, things like that," said Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault executive director Shellie Holmes.

She believes this is a good reminder to victims that they are protected and can come forward even when they're frightened.

"Sexual assault victims are rightfully traumatized, frightened, they don't know what type of response they will get from any of the systems that they may go to. The main question is: 'Will I be believed?'" Holmes explained. "And so what this decision does is that it says to victims, 'Yes, we are still upholding your rights and it is important that you come forward.'"

Tri-County Council serves about 100 people seeking help for sexual assault issues each year.

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