A woman who was brutally beaten and raped on a first date with a man she met on Match.com has testified about how she faced additional humiliation from defense attorneys who tried to use her Google searches as evidence against her.
Jennifer Bennett was 23-years-old when she was attacked in the apartment of Thomas Bray, a 37-year-old anesthesiologist, and she decided to go public following the attack in hopes of encouraging other sexual assault victims to report their attacks.
Though she expected to be questioned by police and interrogated by Bray’s prominent attorney, she did not expect that they would try to use her own Google searches against her in an attempt to diminish the seriousness of the attack.
Defense attorneys believed that this would help support Bray’s story that their sexual was rough but consensual, and Ms Bennett regretted it after the fact so she was looking for a way to argue her way out of it.
Victims advocates, however, decried the move. Meg Garvin, director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute said ‘it’s subjecting them to re-victimization by the system’.
The filing for the search results was the first of its kind in Oregon, and though the both the county judge ruled that the order was justified and the state supreme court ruled that too much time had passed to appeal, the district attorney did not comply with the order.
Google also refused to turn over their user’s information as protected by the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act unless she agreed, which she did not.
In the end, Ms Bennett didn’t turn over her searches or her journals, but the sympathetic judge did not react with a contempt of court charge.
‘I chose not to because I didn’t think it was fair or correct,’ Ms Bennett told The Oregonian.
Instead of penalizing the victim, the jury sentenced Bray to spend the next 25 years in jail as he was found guilty of rape, sodomy, strangulation and assault.
He was also facing charges that stem back to an alleged sexual assault of a prior girlfriend, but her claims were dismissed since the judge found them to be less valid because she continued to date him after the incident took place.
He will also have to pay a $112,000 fine, and $50,000 of that money will go the Ms Bennett, who moved to Oregon just months before the attack after accepting a job as a research chemist at Western Washington University.
Aside from the unusual invasion into Ms Bennett’s privacy, the story of the attack is becoming a disturbingly familiar trend as there have been many instances of sexual assaults during dates that came to fruition via online dating sites.
In Ms Bennett’s case, she met Bray at a drink at a bistro in downtown Bend, and they then went together to Bray’s condo which was directly across the street for a glass of wine.
Very soon after entering the condo, Ms Bennett was beaten, raped, and strangled until she passed out. She said that the abuse took place over the course of several hours.
After reporting the crime to police, she suffered scrutiny from both internet trolls and local news reporters, who published the police report and highlighted her bra size. She has since moved to Seattle.
‘Yes, I was raped. It doesn’t make me a bad person. I didn’t make poor choices. I was not the criminal,’ she told The Oregonian.
‘(Bray’s sentencing is) the one nugget that I could hold on to through all of this– that a dangerous criminal will be off the streets.’