DA: A rape victim is entitled to the same consideration as other crime victims in terms of credibility
By MARIE SZANISZLO | Boston Herald
July 13, 2021
In a key decision, the Massachusetts Appeals Court rejected a child rapist’s argument that the testimony of his victim alone wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to convict him.
The court affirmed the convictions of Gustavo Gonzalez Santos, now 53, whom a jury found guilty of raping and indecently assaulting a 13-year old girl in Lawrence in 2016.
“This decision not only upholds this defendant’s convictions but also strongly affirms that the testimony of a sexual assault victim can be sufficient evidence of the facts asserted at trial,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in a statement. “Additional corroborative evidence or expert testimony is not required to support the testimony of the victim…a rape victim is entitled to the same consideration as other crime victims in terms of credibility.”
In November 2019, Gonzalez Santos was sentenced to 11 to 12 years in state prison followed by three years of probation.
On appeal, the defendant argued that prosecutors did not present any witnesses; physical, forensic or medical evidence; or expert testimony to corroborate the testimony of the victim, and her testimony alone was not sufficient to support a conviction.
In its decision, the court wrote, “Surprisingly, the commonwealth cites no case, nor have we found one, that simply states what we now hold: The sworn testimony of the victim of a sexual assault, including rape, is evidence of the facts asserted. The idea that long infected our legal system that the victim’s testimony in sexual assault and rape cases is less credible than the testimony of victims in cases involving other types of crimes –-an idea that reflected nothing more than sexism and an unwillingness on the part of our courts to treat sexual crimes as the gravely serious matter that they are -– has been rejected both by statute and by common law.”
Stacy Malone, executive director of the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, called the court’s decision “very significant” because the court system historically has treated victims of rape and sexual assault differently than other crime victims.
“This decision evens the playing field,” Malone said. “Victims of rape and sexual assault face this incredible hurdle of not being believed…What this decision does is say the words of a rape victim — the experience of a rape victim –are enough.”
Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for victims’ advocacy group Jane Doe Inc., said This ruling does not imply that survivors should be compelled to participate in the process or that a decision to pursue charges should be dependent on a survivors ability or willingness to provide testimony when other evidence is sufficient.
“But for those survivors who choose to participate in the criminal legal process,” Troop said, “this ruling is a welcome change.”