Judith Palfrey yesterday asked the Criminal Sexual Assault Task Force of Virginia to change the state's rape laws because "I don't want any other woman in the Commonwealth to go through what I went through.
"I was first raped in private," she testified, "I was then raped . . . by the state."
Palfrey testified at an all-day hearing in Fairfax, that after her rape two years ago she was treated insensitively by a doctor who failed to examine her for bruises or ask how she was.
"The first question the first doctor asked me is if I had submitted willingly," Palfry said.
Two months later, when she saw her assailant shopping at Landmark Shopping Center, she said he was arrested only after she spent 45 minutes demanding police action.
Palfrey, herself a member of the task force, became visibly angry as she recalled the questions about her previous sex life asked at the preliminary hearing.
The defense attorney "asked me to explain sexual intercourse four times . . . despite the fact that I've been married twice and have a child," she said. "He also asked me what I was wearing that night. He said I'd been coached by the prosecution and called me a damned liar."
"You're not treated as a human being," she said later. "Your body is just regarded as evidence." Palfrey told the task force preparing recommendations for the State Crime Commission that her assailant jumped bail and left the country two days before trial. He now is living in a foreign country, she says, and she recently received a threatening phone call from him because she is trying to get him extradited to stand trial.
"I've waited six weeks to sign extradition papers, which they claim are still not ready," she said.
Although many witnesses at hearings across the state are calling for changes in the state's rape laws, the Fairfax commonwealth's attorney testified yesterday in defense of Virginia's existing legislation.
"Virginia's rape law is as good any," he said. "Other states are crying for provisions like ours," including one that allows convictions based on a victim's uncorroborated testimony. "Cases are lost on fact," Horan said, not because of an inadequate law.
Jewel Poor, representing the Virginia Committee on Sexual Assault Reform, however, asked the task force revamp the state's law, which carries penalties ranging from five years to life.
The committee's proposal, would provide varying penalties based on the severity of the crime, the use of a weapon, the age of the victim, and the number of assailants. It would also apply to male victims.
"Like Bob Horan said, all rapes are bad but some are worse, said Ann Warshauer, a task force member and advocate of the Sexual Assault Reform committee's proposal. "We're trying to prevent a situation where a so-called 'garden variety' rape gets life and the most horrendous crime gets five years."
Other testimony yesterday dealt with offender and victim psychology and rehabilitation. Several witnesses noted that Virginia has little in the way of rehabilitation programs for sex offenders.
Horan said "Most rapists make parole like clockwork . . . because many tend to be model prisoners."
Palfrey says she will ask the 40-member task force to change Virginia law to prevent introduction of any evidence about a victim's sexual past. If the task force recommends new legislation and the Crime Commission concurs, a new rape law could be introduced at the next session of the legislature.