KyCIR Amplify: A Sexual Assault Survivor On Getting Justice

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It was Labor Day weekend and Cay was nervous. The 17-year-old freshman at the University of Kentucky didn’t have many friends, or any experience with alcohol. But she’d jumped at the chance to attend this house party, and soon she was so drunk she could barely stand.

She asked a man for directions to the bathroom, but instead, she said, he took her to his room, laid her down on the bed, and raped her.

Cay, who we are identifying only by her nickname, walked herself to the hospital to get a rape kit exam. She reported to the police and, eventually, saw the man she accused of rape arrested and prosecuted. He accepted a guilty plea for sexual misconduct and served seven-and-a-half months in prison.

Cay is now applying to law school, hoping to help rape victims like herself find justice in the legal system.

“I like to say that is my first legal win,” said Cay. “I know that so many people do not have the courage, or the ability, or even the safety to speak about what happened to them and I am really thankful that I do.”

This story contains descriptions of sexual assault. If you, or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE. 

Cay’s case is the exception: nationally, only about 25 percent of rape cases end in an arrest, and that number is lower in both Lexington and Louisville. Prosecution Declined, a yearlong investigation from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, found that only 15 percent of all rapes reported to the Louisville Metro Police Department in 2017 ended in an arrest.

In Louisville, police often defer to prosecutors to decide whether an arrest is made in rape cases, and KyCIR found that prosecutors decline far more cases than they take. That system leaves many victims confused about who is making decisions in their case.

Meanwhile, in Lexington, rape cases are handled like all other cases: police investigate and arrest, and then the prosecutor takes over. Cay said it was a long fight for justice, but she always felt like her detective had her best interests at heart.

“My detective never made me feel like justice wouldn’t come, or like the prosecutor wouldn’t take [my case],” she said. “I felt like he believed me.”

Our investigations seek to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens, expose wrongdoing and increase transparency.

Amplify brings you the voices of the Kentuckians who feel the effects of the failures we reveal and secrets we expose. Hear more.