TAMPA, Florida (AP) — A college student who told police she had been raped was jailed for two days after officers found an old warrant accusing her of failing to pay restitution for a 2003 theft arrest.
While she was behind bars, a jail worker refused to give her a second dose of the morning-after contraceptive pill because of the worker’s religious convictions, the college student’s attorney said.
The 21-year-old woman was released Monday only after attorney Vic Moore reported her plight to the local media.
“Shocked. Stunned. Outraged. I don’t have words to describe it,” Moore said. “She is not a victim of any one person. She is a victim of the system. There’s just got to be some humanity involved when it’s a victim of rape.”
Moore said the young woman was not allowed to take the second emergency contraceptive pill until Monday afternoon, a day late, after reporters called police and jail officials.
Tampa Police Chief Steve Hogue said the arrest led to a new policy Tuesday that tells officers not to arrest a crime victim who has suffered injury or mental trauma whenever “reasonably possible.” The agency also apologized to the student.
“Obviously, any policy that allows a sexual battery victim to spend a night in jail is a flawed policy,” police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
The woman is not being identified by The Associated Press because she reported being the victim of a sex crime.
Tampa attorney Jennifer D’Angelo, who represents the jail worker, said Tuesday that her client is prohibited from giving inmates any medication without specific orders. The worker insists she never discussed religion with the woman who reported being raped.
“She was mortified at what was being reported in the press,” said D’Angelo, who declined to identify the worker. “She’s frightened for her job and she’s frightened about community backlash about these allegations.”
The employee, who has worked for a jail health care contractor for about six months, was placed on administrative leave, D’Angelo said.
Moore said it was too soon to say if his client would sue. Her priority is making sure detectives find her attacker.
“She is brave,” Moore said. “We are going to work with police to catch this monster.”
The woman was in Tampa on Saturday for Gasparilla, an annual pirate-theme parade that draws thousands of people. She said she was walking alone to her car when a man pulled her behind a building and raped her, McElroy said.
She reported the rape Saturday afternoon, and officers took her to a rape crisis center where she was given the first of two doses of the morning-after pill, McElroy said. The second dose is supposed to be taken within 24 hours.
Later, as she was riding in a patrol car trying to locate the crime scene in the dark, police found the warrant stemming from a 2003 juvenile arrest for grand theft and burglary. It said she owed $4,585.
“They stopped the investigation right there” and put her in handcuffs, Moore said.
Authorities arranged a special bail hearing Monday.
“When the chief’s office learned we had a rape victim in jail, we began working very aggressively to get her out,” McElroy said.
Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, wanted more explanation from the jail, saying the woman’s arrest “makes people think law enforcement doesn’t have a victim-centered approach.”
Moore said his client said she paid the fine for what he described as a childish mistake. He didn’t have details of that arrest. The woman has no criminal history as an adult, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
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