Rape crisis centers statewide outraged over pending local trial

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. - She went to a rape crisis center saying she'd been raped, but now that woman faces a criminal charge.

But investigators said Melisa Vistain of Jackson County, Illinois knew the story surrounding her sexual encounter wasn't true. They charged her with felony disorderly conduct for making a false report.

The sexual encounter in question between Vistain and another man happened over a period of days last year, from March 24th to the 26th, according to her attorney.

Court documents show Vistain reported a sexual assault to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department on March 31st.

The state's attorney filed the disorderly conduct charge against Vistain on May 3rd, 2012.

Her trial starts in less than two weeks and now rape crisis centers across the state of Illinois are speaking out in protest.

"We were shocked. It is something that is appalling," said Megan Jones-Williams, Rape Crisis Services Coordinator at The Women's Center in Carbondale.

The charges are in black and white and a first for Jones-Wiliams.

"We believe someone who makes a report of a sexual assault shouldn't be charged with a crime," she said.

Meanwhile, the woman at the center of it all, Melisa Vistain, said she can't stop crying.

"I'm willing to stand up for myself absolutely. I'm not going to go in there and admit to something I did not do," said Vistain.

Investigators claim the sex acts were consensual and later put online.

A legal response filed by Vistain's attorney Christian Baril states, "...The sexual encounter as described by the Defendant may have began as a consensual act but progressed into a non-consensual assault..."

Megan Jones-Williams believes a victim is being punished for seeking justice.

"We want anyone who comes forward, who makes a statement to have their story believed as well," she said.

And that's why 23 advocacy centers across Illinois sent a letter to the Jackson County State's Attorney asking that the charge be dropped.

Jones-Williams said some of them may stage a protest if the trial takes place.

Local 6 tried contacting Jackson County State's Attorney Michael Carr, but he informed us through his secretary he had no comment.

Vistain will be back in court on Tuesday, March 12th. Her trial is set to start March 18th.

WPSD Local 6 does not normally name a person making a complaint of sexual assault. However, Vistain has been charged with a felony, and her name was used in the letter to the prosecutor and in the accompanying news release from The Women's Center.

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