All six defendants in this matter were Portuguese Americans. At this time, the Portuguese community made up 60% of New Bedford. Many from the Portuguese community organized protests to question the charges against the six men, feeling as though their community had become the scapegoats. Araujo’s credibility and character were called into question. What she was wearing, why she had left her children at home alone, and the overall narrative that she was “asking for it” permeated throughout the town.
As if this case was not already big enough, the presiding judge allowed for it to be the first ever televised rape case. It is widely known amongst courts and journalists across the country that the names of sexual assault victims do not get disclosed. Many States have laws prohibiting the disclosure of this information as confidentiality is vital to the protection of the victims. To ensure her protection, it was decided that Araujo’s face was never to be shown on camera. But, when Araujo later took the stand, all of this changed. Keeping to their agreement with the judge, the media did not show Araujo’s face on camera. Unfortunately, no one (including the judge) had thought about the fact, that the victim would be saying her name and address on the stand. And that this would be filmed and recorded live. When Araujo took the stand, her name and address became a part of the public record. The trial was sensational with news outlets such as CNN airing it for three hours a day! Everyone across the country, particularly the New Bedford community, knew who Cheryl Araujo was.
The four defendants charged with aggravated rape were found guilty. The other two men charged with watching the rape and not stopping it were acquitted. However, of the four men put away for raping her, none of them would serve more than six years.
For Araujo, this changed her life forever. She was forced to move out of New Bedford. Just two years after the trial ended - at only twenty-five years old - Araujo tragically died in a car accident. Despite the fact that her trial had been so widely publicized, her death received next to no media attention.
The legacy of this case is far-reaching. Following this case, there was a significant decline in rape victims willing to come forward. In addition to being criminalized and blamed for her own rape, Araujo’s case also displayed the dangers of televised court proceedings as her confidentiality and safety were lost in the process.