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Judge Threatens Alleged Rape Victim with Contempt and 90 Days in Jail if She Refuses to Testify

Posted Apr 8, 2011 8:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Advocates for rape victims are raising concerns about a Nebraska judge’s threat to jail a 24-year-old woman who is refusing to testify about alleged childhood sexual abuse.

Judge Paul Merritt Jr. of Lancaster County said the woman would be held in contempt of court and jailed for 90 days if she doesn’t testify, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. His order was stayed pending the woman’s appeal, which argues she will face disgrace and humiliation if she testifies.

The defendant, 62-year-old Glen Riensche of Lincoln, is accused of sexually abusing the woman when she was about 7 years old, the story says. The alleged victim cooperated with investigators last August, reportedly getting Riensche to admit to inappropriate touching in a recorded conversation, the Associated Press reports. In March, however, she refused to answer questions in a deposition.

Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, told AP that the judge’s order will make sexual assault victims reluctant to report the crimes. “It’s counterproductive,” he said of the order.

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