The horrifying but legal way an Oregon sexual assault victim wound up in jail
In Oregon, a sexual assault victim is sitting in prison, waiting to testify in the trial of a man she accused of habitually coercing her into sex.
If that sounds in all ways counter-intuitive, that’s because it is — in what world does the victim land behind bars for a crime committed against her? And yet, it happens, thanks to a seldom-employed maneuver called a material witness hold or a material witness warrant, generally reserved for cases in which the prosecutor needs, but cannot count on, a very important witness to testify.
Material witness holds must be ordered by a judge, but rarely are — and it’s rarer still that the witness is a sexual assault victim. Still, it happens, and it’s damaging, both to the criminal justice system and the survivor.
“I think when you’re looking at crime victims, it’s a particularly horrible idea to try to use the material witness order,” Sandra Park — senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project — said in a phone interview…