I feel sick to my stomach that six months was considered an appropriate sentence for the attacker. I feel sick to my stomach because it’s not anywhere close to a deterrent for the next guy who decides he’ll assault someone and he knows he can get away with it.
My heart aches for this young woman because of all she has endured — including the trial, the questions about her life, the treatment of her by the probation officer, and so much more.
I have been in her shoes, minus the trial and national exposure. I didn’t go after my attackers because of who one of them was. I wish I had as I later learned there were more victims of his. I don’t know what happened in the other guy’s life and don’t want to know. In fact, my heart says it’s best for me not to know anything about either of them.
Just like this young woman, I was lucky to have had some incredibly supportive people in my life. They helped me through the first year of recovering from the attack. And for all those who continued to help me long after, I can only say thanks. The memories never go away completely, but they do blur around the edges and they don’t have power over me as they once did. When I read about how this young woman (and many others) have suffered, a part of me feels their pain, the panic, the anxiety that follows. I wish I’d had their courage when I was attacked. I didn’t. But I do have a bit now and am no longer ashamed by any of it. I’m hoping anyone in a similar situation understands how important it is to realize they have nothing to be ashamed of. Their attackers should be ashamed, while the victims should be supported by family, friends, and the community.
As long as there are foolish judges handing out lenient sentences, parents who obfuscate the truth and try to raise pity for their criminally convicted children, and a society that tries downplay the seriousness of sexual assault cases, these stories will continue and the victims will continue to feel ashamed for something in which they had no choice but to endure.
Your mother, sister, daughter, wife, cousin, best friend, next door neighbor…She is the one who carries this weight and this pain when the rest of us don’t give sexual assault cases the utmost care and gravity they deserve. It’s time to stop victimizing the victim over and over again, somehow turning them into a villain for expecting justice. It’s time to stop downplaying the attacker’s role and turning him into some sort of misguided, lost soul.
We need to educate our children so they understand the difference between right and wrong, teach them to take responsibility for their actions — regardless of the consequences. If they do the crime, they do the time. It’s not negotiable. Rich or poor, boy or girl, black or white or purple, famous or not. At some point we must stand up for victims and stop allowing the perpetrators to control the narrative, stop giving them nonstop media coverage. Let’s remember the victims could be our family, friends, or even ourselves.