By Peter Rizzolo
After being raped at a party during her senior year of high school, Laura decides the best way to move on is to truly move on. In the middle of the school year, she moves out on her own and starts a new life for herself. Several years later, after she has already shut the door on her past, Laura is thrown back into panic attacks, nightmares and PTSD when she discovers she cannot have children because untreated gonorrhea has scarred her reproductive system so badly she is unable to conceive. Laura knows she contracted gonorrhea from the assault, and needs to prove to herself that her perpetrators are at fault. She attempts to collect her own evidence to be sure her case is strong enough to go to the police, but ultimately decides to pursue a civil suit rather than criminal charges. Throughout the court battles, Laura is supported (and judged, and questioned, and so on and so forth) by her steadfast husband and infallible lawyer. Laura struggles with the decision to pursue charges or accept a settlement, aware that her past and future hinge on this decision, and knowing that possibly, just possibly, her case might have some small impact against the silent epidemic of sexual violence.
“Judging Laura” by Peter Rizzolo is a work of fiction that traces the medical, evidentiary, and legal aspects of pursuing criminal charges against perpetrators of sexual violence. Having worked many years as a doctor before taking up the hobby of writing fiction, Rizzolo expounds on the process of in vitro fertilization, the possibility of extracting DNA samples, and the bureaucracy of hospital administration. He also demonstrates the drama of the courtroom, capturing the unfortunate reality that cases addressing sexual assault are less likely to be based on whether the evidence proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt than who is more convincing in the story of “he said, she said.” In the midst of all this, Rizzolo portrays the emotional rollercoaster of PTSD (even with its lingering effects years later) and the critical component of social support in achieving some degree of healing and recovery in the aftermath of sexual assault. Though somewhat fantastic (particularly in regards to gathering DNA years after an assault), Rizzolo shows one path of many that may lead to establishing a sense of healing and wholesomeness.
I enjoyed this book for the attention it gives to everything that happens behind the scenes when someone chooses to pursue legal action, criminal or civil, after sexual assault. Rizzolo gives in-depth information about the physical, mental and emotional impact of sexual violence, and describes the lengthy and emotionally exhausting process of building a case strong enough for prosecution. He conveys the need for social support throughout the process, as well as the high cost (financial and otherwise) of pursuing charges. The topic might not appeal to all audiences, but for those that are remotely interested, this is a quick and readable book.