Justice

Maybe it’s a bit cliche that I would write about Brock Turner. Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should stop writing right now. Maybe, since I am who I am (or more accurately, “was who I was”), I don’t have the right to comment on this situation. Maybe it’s in poor taste that I write anything about it. Perhaps? But what if I had something relevant to say? What if it wasn’t what someone would expect? Is it assumed that I’m immediately going to leap to the defense of the “offender” since that seems to be stagnant pond of shit where my reputation evidently marinates.

(CLICK HERE if you don’t know who Brock Turner is or what he did).

brockturnerBut about him specifically, I only have one thing to say: By all indications, his crime has not changed him. When I stood at my sentencing hearing, I fully admitted to what I did and could only beg for the forgiveness of all those impacted. Not him. From the beginning, his story changed repeatedly and the many versions of his assault on an inebriated unconscious woman only attempted to further vindicate his actions. The feelings of guilt and repentance that paralyzed me don’t seem to be phasing him at all. I hope, for his sake, he has a change of heart and is willing to admit fault, but it doesn’t seem that this will happen anytime soon.

Admittedly, my opinions on this story were not at the level they are now, until yesterday. I mean, shit like this happens so often, it’s second-nature in the media (though this one has gained substantial traction), so as far as I was concerned, it was just another story. But that changed when I read the transcript of the Victim Impact Statement that his victim read aloud in court.

(CLICK HERE to read it.)

To preface my statements, here’s a brief summary of what Brock Turner did: After a night of drinking, he sexually assaulted a 22-year-old woman while she was intoxicated and unconscious, behind a dumpster. Two men passing by saw him, chased him, and held him until police arrived.

A significant part of her Victim Impact Statement recalled her experience following the assault, detailing her experience with the “Justice System” as they questioned her, investigated, poked, prodded, tested, retested, and interrogated. And her experiences in court were even worse as she was forced to relive the experience (which she didn’t remember in the first place), and listened to the defense call her entire life into question. And when that was all over, Brock Turner still refused to admit his crime.

So as I read her statement, I had one immediate feeling: Relief.

After seeing, in her own words, what she went through and how it made her feel, I was filled with an immense sense of relief that, in the summer of 1998, I never told anyone that I was sexually assaulted by a (former) friend while I was intoxicated and nearly unconscious. My impression of her experiences with the “Justice System” was that being forced through the investigative and judicial process was equally as horrifying and intrusive as the assault itself.

Being sexually violated (as I wrote in “Scandal“) is a horror unlike any other – indescribable. I mean, I’m a writer; I use words to paint pictures, convey ideas, and build thoughts; no words I could ever string together into a cohesive sentence could ever adequately describe the feeling of sitting in a room, alone, trying to forget what it was like to be sexually violated. The words just don’t exist.

However, the closest thing I’ve ever heard to what it feels like was almost perfectly conveyed in this Victim Impact Statement. “I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.” I read that sentence and it felt like my heart stopped. I knew that feeling. I felt that feeling. But I felt that as I sat in my bedroom, alone – she had to feel it as she was surrounded by nurses and police. And my heart broke for her. “I felt too empty to continue to speak,” she said, referring to how it felt when her sister picked her up from the hospital. I knew that feeling too.

In 1998, I did not report that I was sexually assaulted. In fact, I told absolutely no one until 2014. And over the years, part of me has always wondered if I should have. But now, after reading the Victim Impact Statement of Brock Turner’s victim, I am exceedingly glad I didn’t. I can only imagine the horror I would have had to experience as a part of that process – the “Justice System” has convinced me that I did the right thing by seeking “justice.” And the added variable of me being a guy, and my assailant being a guy as well, there would have been an added crippling sense of humiliation and emasculation as well – of this I’m certain. And I still haven’t told anyone exactly who it was, although nearly anyone who has known me since high school, knows him.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t report these things. Logistically, they should. But what I am specifically saying is that, in my situation, I’m glad I didn’t. Of course, perhaps everything in my entire life would have been different if I had immediately spoken-up. But I didn’t. And as of now, for me, I’m glad I didn’t.

That’s not right. The “Justice System” shouldn’t victimize victims a second time with the process itself. Brock Turner’s victim was violated twice: Once by Brock Turner and again by the process. And when it comes to my situation with my “former student,” I am glad – for her sake – that I didn’t fight the charges against me. I knew what I’d done, and I was insistent that she not be put through anything else. Maybe, on a deep level, I knew what the victim chair felt like, and I didn’t want to make it any worse for her. I knew what we’d done, and neither of us wanted to relive it. But Brock Turner had no such consideration. His high-priced attorneys did everything they could to minimize the situation and reduce his assault victim to nothing more than a faceless drunken floozy. I do not wonder why people hate lawyers.

I don’t know how to fix the system. But I do know that I handled the situation correctly, the two times I was faced with it: I did not report it when I was sexually assaulted (because I didn’t want to experience the horror of that process), and I did not fight the charges against me when I had a relationship with my former student (because I didn’t want her to experience the horror of that process).

As I see it, it is less traumatic for victims to not seek justice. The “Justice System” is populated by elected officials, so it is driven by statistics, rates, and results – not compassion, fairness, or genuine justice. I am eternally thankful that I did not seek justice. Because the “Justice System” is just another broken, callous, and careless process.

God Bless America…

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