The (in)Justice System

Reflections on rape convictions in the wake of Weinstein: Justice withdrawn and justice withheld.

Six-and-a-half years ago, a Southern Christian Nationalist politician and former state Supreme Court Justice named Roy Moore was in the news for revelations of multiple sexual assaults, including multiple assaults of minors. The Evangelical community rallied around him, much as they did around the then-recently-elected sexual predator American president a year earlier, and just as they would in defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh a year later. Polls showed that Moore’s support actually intensified amongst Evangelical-identifying voters after the allegations went public. For many, myself included, this news was one of many media stories that was, in the true clinical sense, highly triggering.

I remember my impassioned Facebook posts about this and the sense of continued betrayal of the faith that had raised me in choosing once again to side with the predator over we, the prey. I remember with acute anguish the fallout with family who saw only my anger and none of my pain. The heartbreak of loved ones reacting to a perceived attack on their faith and not grasping the underlying betrayal and re-opened trauma and the real sense of feeling unsafe that rises up again like embers stirred to life by hot breath. I reckoned with the reality that keeping secrets burns you from the inside – but doesn’t stop there. That holding truth inside doesn’t quell the flames that will burn everything that matters if you don’t tend to the fire.

That moving away from the past in space and time doesn’t leave it behind – not really.

It seems to me that particular familial relationship changed then, in the faltering of my courage to speak the truth of the source and depth of my outrage, and has never been the same since.

This week, the Hollywood rapist Harvey Weinstein’s conviction for sexual assault was overturned on a procedural technicality. And for a hundred million Americans, old wounds are scratched, cut, or ripped open. We watch as a system designed to protect the powerful does just that, and justice is limited once again. (Fortunately, he remains incarcerated due to another sentence for yet another rape, and his health indicates he will not outlive those 16 years – even as he receives federally financed healthcare the totality of the American population is not privy to.)

Less than 1% of rapes lead to felony convictions. Only 3% lead to any charges at all, a rate three times lower than other crimes. And that reflects only rapes reported, which is estimated to count for just 30% of all rapes perpetrated. And then, with full evidence of the crime committed, this bullsh!t happens, and it is no wonder we are so reluctant to report at all. Why put ourselves through all that trauma for … what? This?

And so rapists go free and continue their haughty entitlement to our bodies, forcibly impregnating women in a nation in which lack of reporting is equated by legislators to consent to the life-altering and life-risking experience of pregnancy. “Just close your legs,” they troll us. As if it were that easy.

I don’t have answers this week, my friends, my sisters and brothers in solidarity. I write simply to acknowledge your pain, our outrage, the perpetual injustice. To give voice to it and just to say, I get it. We’ll continue to band together, to support one another, to fight, and to rise. And as we do so, go ahead and scream, and cry, but also breathe deeply. Release your fire mindfully so it doesn’t burn you down from the inside or burn down that which you love all around.

Because that is the last and ultimate freedom that we won’t let the Weinsteins and Moores and Kavanaughs and Nygårds and Trumps and the (in)justice system that protects them take from us: the freedom to choose how we respond, and how we heal.

So notice your inner response. Acknowledge it. Lovingly embrace it, whether it be rage, grief, fear, or something else. Send tender compassion to that part of you that remembers in vivid detail and that reignites in excruciating flames on days like these. Whisper words of reassurance and acceptance. Sit with it. Your feelings are valid. They don’t have to be silenced or go away. But also know that nothing stays the same forever. You will get through this, and a great company of sisters and brothers stand in solidarity with you all around. Even when we can’t see each other, when we are too afraid to self-identify, we are there. And we are one.

No matter what they do in marbled halls, we will heal, and we will rise.

If you need someone to talk to, consider reaching out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline by call or text: 800-656-HOPE, or go to www.rainn.org for further resources.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *