Rape victim wins right to sue guard that denied her prescribed contraception

Posted on August 5, 2012


Examiner.com, August 5, 2012 by Lou Colagiovanni

The woman whose name is only known via court records as “R.W.” was brutally raped January 27, 2007 by an unknown assailant. After going to the hospital she was arrested by police on a prior charge and sent to jail. While in custody a guard denied R.W.’s request to give her a contraceptive pill that was prescribed by the emergency room doctor, because it was against their religious beliefs. Now over 5 years later a court has ruled R.W. does have a right to sue the guard for violating her constitutional rights.

It is noted in the official court report that after being treated at the hospital R.W. was given two contraception pills, one to be taken immediately and the other 12 hours later. She was then escorted back to the scene of the crime to look for clues. It is at this time the report says it was discovered that R.W. had several outstanding warrants including a failure to appear, and a failure to pay court costs. Because of this reason she was arrested.

She was taken to Hillsborough County Jail and her possessions, along with the second pill needed to guarantee she would not be pregnant with her rapist’s baby, were confiscated. After being booked she was placed into a general holding facility until she could see a judge. This is standard procedure.

When twelve hours passed R.W. asked a guard named in the report as Michele Spinelli, who was in charge of distributing medicine, to allow her to take the medically prescribed contraceptive pill.

Spinelli declined her request, and said that it was because of religious reasons. R.W. pleaded with Spinelli to please allow her the medication, and every time she was told no.

The follow day R.W. was released from jail. She was given her possessions, and she immediately took the remaining contraceptive pill. She was absolutely horrified at the thought of having the rapist’s baby. If contraceptive pills are not taken exactly when prescribed, they can lose 80% or more of their effectiveness.

Because of the guard’s action, R.W. was now, therefore, 80% more likely to carry her rapist’s baby.

As it happens, tests later revealed R.W. never was impregnated by her rapist but this fact does nothing to repel the reality that her constitutional rights were violated while in custody.

The court documents state she is suing for the following reasons: “Bodily injury, pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, cost of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money, and aggravation of a previously existing condition.”

R.W.’s claim is seeking nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages.

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Posted in: United States