• Still from Sentencing the Victim

    Still from Sentencing the Victim

The Film

On June 17, 1988, Joanna Katz and another woman were abducted at gunpoint, taken to an abandoned house in Charleston, South Carolina, and brutally raped, beaten and tortured by five men for more than five hours. Sentencing the Victim is the story of how a blood-soaked 19-year-old was able to walk away from her attackers, save her friend from certain death, and continue fighting for the convictions of her assailants — and for the rights of crime victims everywhere.

Under South Carolina law, felons convicted prior to 1996 can eventually be considered for parole every two years. Despite their 30-to-35-year sentences, Katz's attackers were eligible for parole after serving only a fraction of this time. And in a particularly cruel twist, criminals in South Carolina who participate in a group assault receive separate parole hearings on separate days. Victims who wish to oppose parole for their attackers must subject themselves to an emotionally agonizing experience that must be repeated year after year. In order to ensure that her attackers would remain behind bars, Joanna Katz had to travel more than 100 miles from her home numerous times every year to attend separate parole hearings for each of the men who assaulted her.

The hearings continue until the criminals are either paroled or complete their sentences and are released back into the community. Each hearing reopens old wounds. With each hearing, Katz wonders who was really sentenced: was it her attackers, up for parole after serving a minimal sentence, or was it her, forced to relive her trauma over and over again?

The Filmmakers

  1. Liz OakleyProducer/Director
  2. Joanna KatzProducer