These days, when I open my social media feeds, it’s a strange mix of things. I get the uplifting articles, often with a spiritual bend (these are my people!). I get the political references, mostly about how we need to stop Trump, but also defending Hillary’s honor (as well as the opposite).
And then there’s the Stanford rape case.
Whenever a rape case makes national (or international news) I read many perspectives. I read from those who have experienced trauma and want justice. I read from those who think the man “just made a mistake” and is actually a “really good person.” I read the spun news articles. I see academics, TV personalities, and activists all give their opinions.
Here’s the grim reality about rape: it is notoriously difficult to successfully sentence a rapist. Without solid evidence such as recordings, and or witnesses, it is a case of he-said-she-said as far as the law is concerned.
Psychological states don’t count as evidence.
Wounds that you carry in your heart for the rest of your life aren’t evidence in the court of law.
To add insult to injury, most people in the community will side with the rapist when there is “no evidence.” It is too painful for community members to admit someone they know and loved could violate someone in a way that scars them for the rest of their life. It’s better for them to maintain the superficial state of a “whole community” filled with “good people” who only do “good things” than face reality and shatter their identity.
That’s just the surface issues. That’s just in the average rape case.
The flash point with this Stanford case isn’t the rape, so much as the privilege a white man attending Stanford has – the privilege of status, wealth, position, and perceived potential – that allowed him to have his yearbook picture splashed across media outlets instead of a mugshot. When he was sentenced, it was as if the rape never happened – a mere slap on the wrist – at six months jail time, which likely will be reduced to three.
In a case where there was clear evidence of wrong-doing, the perpetrator emerged with what feels like a “stern talking-to.”
Justice is not served by wealth and consequence (click to tweet). Justice has nothing to do with wealth and consequence, but with the action – the violation – and the social penance required for balance.
Men of color carrying the burdens of poverty, are imprisoned longer terms for lesser crimes. There is a clear bias for men of lighter skin and wealth across all criminal acts in the justice system, which only compounds the frustration in a case of rape – where a conviction is so difficult to secure.
I wrote a letter too.
“When I read your email, I wept. I wept day and night. My heart ached.”
I wrote an email to my rapist (you can read more about my experience in my memoir here). The college therapist asked me if I wanted to report the crime. I considered all the possibilities as I understood them. There was no proof of what happened, except the invisible mark I carried with me. There were no witnesses in the study room that night. There was no guarantee anyone would believe me – but there was the possibility the college community would desert me.
I took justice into my hands. I did what I do best – I knew him well enough to know what words to use to break through to him, to force him to empathize with me. I knew exactly how to scar him back.
And I did.
Some might wonder how this is possible, and I cannot explain without unmasking him, so I will not. I achieved what I wanted. I got justice better than many could hope for – I got remorse. I got a sincere apology.
I knew from his response and subsequent actions that he understood what he did and felt genuine remorse. I got a heart-felt, essay length apology begging for forgiveness.
I didn’t have to forgive him, but I did because of his remorse. I didn’t reconcile with him – I had no interest in speaking to or seeing him after that. Forgiveness was enough. His remorse gave me what I needed to bring closure to the experience, and move on.
I carry that experience with me, as I do all experience. This weighs a bit heavier, and requires me to do some things that others do not. It requires a kind of inner strength to face the world, and even more to trust other people, especially men.
If my rape saw a courtroom, justice would have been taken from me. My control over my justice was what allowed me to move on with my life and continue to thrive despite any trauma. My depression from the experience was gone in a matter of months. I continued to do all the things I wanted to while in college. For the most part, people didn’t know what happened. From the outside, I think most people thought nothing had changed for me. I got my work done early. I maintained my participation in clubs. I was inducted to honor societies.
I don’t know how common my situation is. From the stories I read online, it appears to be rare. I think justice for rape victims – outside the court or in it – is rare. Forgiveness is rare. Having functional and enriching relationships with others after trauma is rare.
It is possible remorse is rare.
But they are all possible. Justice is possible. Resolution is possible.
Justice can happen in a number of ways. Those who have been traumatized can find resolution through unconventional paths when laws do not allow it. The key is allowing those traumatized to regain control.
Have you found resolution through unconventional means? Has an apology changed your life? Leave a comment below!
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