‘You are the cause, I am the effect’

‘You are the cause, I am the effect’

June 11
12:59 2016

The Editorial Board

In the United States, our justice system makes sure some words go unread. Voices frequently are trampled.

“I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.”

Those are the words of a 23-year-old woman who was raped, written to a California judge who let a 20-year-old man walk with merely six months to serve behind bars — after a jury found him guilty of three counts of sexual assault.

“I was not ready to tell my boyfriend or parents that actually, I may have been raped behind a dumpster, but I don’t know by who or when or how. If I told them, I would see the fear on their faces, and mine would multiply by tenfold, so instead I pretended the whole thing wasn’t real.”

Raped behind a dumpster, but the man who did it was deemed unworthy of due punishment. Judge Aaron Persky ruled the man, a swimmer whose name is not worthy of our ink, should get off easy because he’s too privileged.

“I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone. After work, I would drive to a secluded place to scream. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone, and became isolated from the ones I loved most.”

Twenty minutes of action, as the swimmer’s father put it, is OK. And so is the lifetime of pain this woman will endure.

She is forced to live in her body, drained and isolated, while the assaulter gets to dive back into the pool. Cases like this undermine confidence in our justice system. What’s more haunting, is in this woman’s letter, she predicts the outcome.

“He’s going to settle, formally apologize, and we will both move on. Instead, I was told he hired a powerful attorney, expert witnesses, private investigators who were going to try and find details about my personal life to use against me, find loopholes in my story to invalidate me and my sister, in order to show that this sexual assault was in fact a misunderstanding.”

There is not much about sexual assault that is confusing. It’s illegal, immoral and shouldn’t be tolerated. The judge did the swimmer a favor, but he violated the victim even more.

Like the sexual violation at Baylor University, let this be a reminder to UNT administrators, faculty and staff: do not try to conceal sexual violence; please continue to be advocates for victims.

“I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.”

She had to fight — again — to prove there was a problem. This should call out to you, to remind you of how imperfect we are as people. And how much of a damn shame our justice system really is.

The swimmer had his privilege stamped, and he boarded a train to a life of those who can afford big attorneys, Stanford tuition and swimming lessons. That is a violation, though we’re not surprised. To be outraged by rulings in 2016 is so normal that frustration seems to be the new status quo.

“To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by Swedes for reasons unknown to you is appalling, is demented, is selfish, is damaging. It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity of validity of this suffering.”

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