The following is a very personal post that I felt was necessary to write after seeing my Facebook feed literally flooded with posts about a specific trial in Palo Alto and its conclusion this past week. We live in a culture that despite all its good things still has so much imbalance.
When I turned my step-father in for sexual abuse way back in 1985, I had total “white knight” syndrome. I thought that since the secret was out, things would get “better”. In many, many ways the three years after my step-father was arrested were worse than the three years he was committing the abuse.
One of the most horrible parts about the whole experience was the “justice” system. While there was little physical evidence of the abuse, other evidence was pretty overwhelming and for various reasons my step-father decided to plead guilty to what he did. He had a really good lawyer and they were able to work out a pretty sweet deal with the prosecution that significantly reduced almost all the charges against him — and his culpability.
I never understood how this was allowed to happen and for years I was quite angry about it.
Today, unfortunately, my Facebook news feed is filled with Facebook shares of a similar story. You can read about the sentence here, but the synopsis is that a wealthy, white boy with a good lawyer was somehow able to convince a judge that even though he had been found guilt of three counts of felony sexual assault, he only deserved 6 months in “jail”. Given California’s jail over-population issue, it’s likely he’ll probably not even serve the entire 6 months.
This story has literally made me physically ill. I feel so much empathy for the young lady who will not only have to deal with the after effects of the assault for the rest of her life, but will also have to deal with knowledge that this judge put her attacker’s worth over her own. The judge said he feared for the attacker’s safety in prison and didn’t feel he deserved a prison sentence given that it was his first offense.
The woman at the center of this case, known as “Emily Doe” to protect her anonymity, delivered a really powerful statement post-sentencing that you can read here. What she said at the end was this:
“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”
To that I would add that I am here too. It’s now been 30 years since my own “trial” with the judicial system. I am proof that regardless of the injustice, life goes on.