A 17-year-old sexual assault victim named Savannah Dietrich — who has given permission for her identity to be made public — has been held in contempt of court and faces a potential jail sentence and fine for tweeting the names of her assailants. Dietrich did not make a false allegation, or even an unfounded one; in fact, her assailants pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism last month. But they are juveniles — like Dietrich, who they victimized — and therefore their “confidentiality” is considered of the utmost importance, and a court order had been issued for her to not speak about the case.
Frustrated by what she felt was a lenient plea bargain for two teens who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her and circulating pictures of the incident, a Louisville 17-year-old lashed out on Twitter.
“There you go, lock me up,” Savannah Dietrich tweeted, as she named the boys who she said sexually assaulted her. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”
Now, Dietrich is facing a potential jail sentence, as the attorneys for the boys have asked a Jefferson District Court judge to hold her in contempt because they say that in naming her attackers, she violated the confidentiality of a juvenile hearing and the court’s order not to speak of it.
A contempt charge carries a potential sentence of up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine.
“So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys,” said Dietrich, who waived confidentiality in her case to speak to The Courier-Journal. Her parents also gave their written permission for her to speak with the newspaper.
“I’m at the point, that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it,” she said. “If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me … as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.”
Dietrich’s very interview could also be considered contempt of court on the same grounds that her tweet of the boys’ names likely will be:
The boys’ attorneys, however, have asked the court to continue the order barring Dietrich from speaking to the media about the assault case or allowing the newspaper or anyone else to witness the contempt hearing.
Emily Farrar-Crockett, deputy division chief of the public defender’s juvenile division and one of Dietrich’s attorneys, said her client was advised that her interview with the newspaper could “potentially” be a violation of the judge’s order.
“But she feels it’s important to speak out and chose to do so,” Farrar-Crockett said.
This is how defense attorneys and criminal courts work — to revictimize sexual assault survivors in order to protect rapists.
Dietrich’s assailants not only sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious at a party, they also took photos of the attack and spread them around to their and Dietrich’s peers. While enacting sexual violence against her, documenting it, and joyfully sharing it, they most certainly were not concerned with her “confidentiality.” But now theirs has been deemed of the utmost importance — at the expense of the right of their victim to publicly name what they did to her.